Monday, July 31, 2006

"Haunted" Ohio Property Owners Sue Bloomfield Marks

It's those Weird NJ guys making news again. Bloomfield vagabond journalist-editors Mark Sceurman and Mark Moran have both gone big time with a book of "Weird US" stories, and have expanded their franchise to other states, including Florida, Illinois, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, California and New England, and a TV series on the History Channel.

Now they're facing a lawsuit over a haunting tale in "Weird Ohio."
The family that has owned the historic Staley Mill since 1825 claims the book has created a 'stigma' and attracted trespassers and vandals.

The suit seeks in excess of $25,000 in damages plus more than $25,000 in punitive damages and expenses. Doesn't seem like a lot, but you can buy a decent home(non-haunted) in some Ohio towns for less.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Coasting the Remediation Highway

Dr.Robert Taylor(yellow tie), Montclair State's Professor of Environmental Management, confers with Nick Joanow from Bloomfield's ThirdRiverbank Association.

Our first visit to DEP Headquarters in Trenton on Friday, was at the above-titled conference for local officials, environmental commissions, and non profit organizations to learn about new developments in remediation and how to make remediated sites work for you.

The program was coordinated by NJ DEP by and for Municipal Officials, Environmental Commissions, and Non-Profit Organizations. Although most local officials were conspicuous by their absence, we were very impressed by comments by the Irvington town administrator, and the Mayor of Hamilton --which is now the 8th largest municipality in the state.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Avoid Using Home Equity to Pay Off Credit Debt

From The Mortgage Weblog
by Christi Lundquist

Many homeowners around the world are turning to home equity loans, and home equity lines of credit, and even their IRAs and 401(K) funds to decrease or eliminate their credit card debt. Partly fueled by the recent growth in home equity and home values, partially due to lower interest rates on home loans, thousands of people per day are shifting their debt from their cards to their homes. While in some cases this can be beneficial, there are some very real hidden dangers to be aware of when chosing an option that involves taking from your home equity.

One thing that many borrowers are not aware of - or are chosing to ignore - is the definite possibility of homes in your area experiencing a "leveling off" of home values. While over the past few years the equity seemed to grow at an unreasonable rate - without much effort on the part of the borrower, that same equity could essentially disappear just as quickly. In addition to leveling home values, most ARMs are scheduled to begin to reset as early as 2007, and many homeowners will find themselves with a much higher monthly mortgage payment. For those who have a large enough monthly income to compensate for the higher payments, the jump in interest rates may not have as severe of an effect. But most borrowers will experience payment shock - even without adding in the credit card debt, and have a hard time with the monthly payments.

If a borrower has a low monthly payment now, and a higher than normal property value - it can cause a false sense of security, and lead to choices that would not otherwise be made based on the equity in the home. One of the most important thing to remember, is that there are collectors paid to collect on the credit card debt, and by not making the monthly payments on the debt - you could have your cards taken away. When you struggle to pay your monthly mortgage payments, the price is much higher - you could eventually lose your home. Taking the extreme risk of paying off credit card debt may seem like a wise decision due to the difference in interest rates between credit cards and mortgages, but weighing your options as well as the risks may save your home. And the biggest danger of all?? Most Americans who use their home equity to pay off their credit card debt refuse to change their habits and lifestyles, and actually see their zero-balance cards as an invitation to go shopping - perpetuating the cycle. However, in this cycle, there is one detrimental factor - home values will probably not continue to experience the rise, leaving the borrower with very few recovery options for the future.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

How Heat Can Cool

Someone has finally figured out how to convert the excessive heat due to global warming into electricity. The basic idea is to use a synthetic fluid that boils at a very low temperature (58 F). Thus, the steam can drive a turbine. We're a little confused on how "Ambient cooling" can get the liquid back to 58 degrees if we are using to it air condition our house (presumably when it is warmer than 58 degrees).

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Rainy Day Policies

Like many Montclair homeowners, Gerri Willis, Money Magazine contributing columnist, was chagrinned to learn that her insurance policy had some major loopholes.

"Had the oak fallen on our house, our homeowners policy would have paid for more of the cleanup and replanting. But because our loss wasn't structural, my husband and I were looking at $20,000 in out-of-pocket costs. Now I know what most homeowners find out only after a disaster: My policy was no blanket. It was more like Swiss cheese."

To learn more about spotting gaps in your insurance, read "What I learned when my tree fell down"

Sunday, July 23, 2006

When Roofs Are Vulnerable

Paul Bianchina of the Inman News Service has some timely advice on insuring that your roof has a fighting chance aginst storms like we had last week.
"....During winter rain and snow cycles as the wood becomes saturated, the curling and warping becomes a little less noticeable, but during each summer's drying cycle it will become increasingly more pronounced.

Because the wood is no longer flat, the roofing is also very vulnerable to damage from impact. Even very small tree branches that come loose during windstorms can crack the shingles, and walking on them during the heat of a summer's day can do a tremendous amount of damage...."

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Suburban Archeology

The uprooted old-growth trees on Edgmont revealed a dumping ground for vintage household discards. This bottle was made in the Oranges -- labeled "...Decker &..."

Friday, July 21, 2006

Bloomfield's Share of Damage has had lots of great photo-coverage of Montclair and hundreds of comments. Our favorite Bloomfielder comment was by "glee":

It ain't just Montclair! Mountain Ave. in Brookdale is devastated as are many other areas in Bloomfield. Toffee-nosed Montclair received all of the media attention while scrappy Bloomfield picked up and carried on. Let's share this natural disaster, folks, not hog it all to ourselves. Anyway, tales of coincidence, irony, and good and bad timing abound concerning this storm. I'm with the tree huggers from another post. Don't blame the trees or use this as an excuse not to plant more. Disasters like this, thankfully, are few and far between in our area. The improved air quality, increased shade, greater aesthetic beauty (imho) of the streets and parks, and the increased living environment for birds, etc.... The energy of that storm was stupendous.
Click on images to enlarge. Mountain Rd. at Claremont
South end of Mountain Road
Garrabrant St
Oakview School
Parkview Rd along Brookdale Park
Mayor's House

Wednesday, July 19, 2006


The camera was buried in my bag at 10:05 PM Tuesday night, but we'll never forget the sight of those tree limbs attacking the hood of our tiny sedan as we ventured south of Broad St.near Yantecaw. After hitting a wall of trees, we backed up and manouvered around them minus a sideview mirror.The first group from Wednesday's shoot were all in Montclair.We're setting up a new site for Bloomfield pix.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Wayne, Edison, Parsippany Make Money's Top 100

The magazine named Fort Collins is the "Best Place to Live" in America for 2006, in a list that also included five New Jersey cities.

The magazine cited Fort Collins for its natural setting, vibrant downtown and the presence of Colorado State University. The city 60 miles north of Denver and not far from Rocky Mountain National Park also outpaced other places in "ease-of-living" measures such as commute times and recreation.

The monthly magazine's August edition ranks Fort Collins No. 1 among 745 places with populations greater than 50,000.

Five Garden State cities were also listed in the top 100: Parsippany, Cherry Hill, Edison, Middletown and Wayne.

Cities are ranked on a series of factors, including cost of living, employment markets, median income, property taxes and housing prices. Crime, congestion, public schools and climate also go into the mix, executive editor Craig Matters said.

The annual "best places to live" feature has appeared in Money for many years, Matters said. Last year the magazine focused on prime suburban areas. The rankings and associated data available online proved so popular editors decided to expand to small cities.

The goal was to highlight communities with fewer than 300,000 residents that are not dependent on metropolitan areas for jobs, art and entertainment venues and recreation, he said.

Last year, Fort Collins made Outside magazine's list as a "dream town" to live and work in part because of the area's abundant recreational opportunities.

National attention doesn't necessarily attract more people or businesses to those communities, Matters said.

"We are not a leading indicator, we are following," he said. "People already know these are great places to live."

On the Net:

Money magazine:

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Slippery Slopes redux

Remember Bloomfield's snow capped mountains from last winter?
They're part of a Liongate development tract that has been" frozen" in its tracks for over 5 years.
The partially remediated remains of the rubble that was once Scientific Glass was finally forced to cover up by the NJ DEP. The apparent intent was to protect the public from exposure to contaminants they found in the soil early in 2005.
The 6 mil polyethelyne makeshift cover appeared to be a collection of oversized garbage bags. The top photo was taken on "wrap day" during the first week in June. The middle photo was taken 3 days later. The bottom photo on July 16th. Maybe they should have hired Christo.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Bubblelicious Prose

from Michael Stetz
San Diego Union Tribune:

They are poets – poets of properties to be sold. Through their eyes, so many things – bathroom tiles, for instance – become “exquisite,” “enchanting,” “beguiling.”

They paint pictures: “As you enter through the gate, up the gentle meandering drive, you know you have reached a special place. . . . ”
Or: “Picture yourself at the center of downtown excitement. Catching afternoon rayson a sun deck high above the trees. Watching the sun set over the bay . . . .”
Man. Real estate people. They're hogging the thesaurus.

Not long ago, selling homes in San Diego was easy. The market was so hot that all you had to do was write something like this: “House. In San Diego. With, um, some windows.”

And you'd get 47 offers in nine minutes.

Now, though, with more houses being offered for sale and competition for buyers heating up, real estate agents seem to be on the prowl for any lilting adjective they can find. And little wonder.

It now takes 62 days to sell a house. In June 2004, it took 22 days.

Check out a recent edition of the glossy magazine Dream Homes San Diego. It's loaded with delicious digs and dressed-up sentences: “Right in the heart of our dynamic city, but radiating tranquillity and serenity, this expansive estate is located in a lush canyon with views of downtown and the bay.”
And it's only $2.2 million, by the way.
Real estate agents have a history of doing remarkable things with the English language, of course.

When they write “cozy,” they mean really, really, really, really, really tiny.

Views? They are sweeping. Or breathtaking. Or stunning. They are never, “Just kind of so-so.” Entrances? They soar. Or they're warm and welcoming. Never will an entrance be just a door.

Who writes this stuff?
Portia Smith, for one.
“I probably spend more time on them than I should,” said Smith, who has been in the real estate business only a few years and writes her clients' blurbs herself. “I laugh at myself. I can spend a half a day on them.”
Smith is good.
“Wake up to the 'Palace Amongst the Clouds!'” she wrote in Dream Homes San Diego, about a condominium in downtown San Diego. Check that. It's not simply a condominium, as Smith makes clear in the ad. It's also an “Urban Antique Penthouse.”
Smith thinks it's important to try to capture the feel of a home through words.
“I try to be original,” she said. “I try to make it sound exciting.”

Being bold and rich with description can be important, particularly now in the cooling housing market, said Charles Jolly, president of the San Diego Association of Realtors, who has 30 years in the business.

Take that line about the “gentle meandering drive.” If the ad merely said something bland, such as “long driveway,” it probably wouldn't spark the same interest, Jolly said.
The goal of all this gab is to grab a buyer's interest, Jolly said.
Check this out, about a condominium in Mission Beach, described on the Dream Homes Web site:
“See the ocean, breathe the ocean, live the ocean. . . . ” (If you breathe the ocean, won't you actually drown?)
If that doesn't knock your socks off, it's described this way, too: “From the moment you pass through the artful stainless steel doors, you will want to live at South Beach, San Diego Style.”
Hmmm. Sounds good.
So you decide to check this place out personally.
You stand out front, with the Pacific crashing right before you.
The sun is up.
The wind is warm and soft.
And . . . Oh no. The hyperbole is contagious. The only word that comes leaping to mind – “enchanting.”

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Cool It!

Summer is here and everything's looking up: temperatures, fuel prices, and electrical bills are all climbing. What can you do about it? The Sierra Club has some answers.Try these tips to save money and help the planet keep its cool.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Jersey County Among Best Places List?

Progressive Farmer is out with it's latest survey on The Top 200. We thought we might have missed NJ so we did a Find "Jersey" on the list. We found that number 162 was--oh well--Jersey County, Illinois. If it's any consolation, Delaware also got shut out. But New York had many counties selected including number 1.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Get Chuckie

After dealing with that rascally rabbit, Pat Kenschaft writes of her latest challange:
Some non-human is challenging me. The very morning after I wrote about giving left-overs to the food pantry, I noticed something had chomped off the tops of the mature lettuces that I was expecting to donate next week. Pride goeth before a fall. The next day the kohlrabi leaves were gone. Etc. This past Tuesday I caught a woodchuck, but on Wednesday I noticed some carrot tops were newly clipped, and the stone I had put to block the burrow under my fence was moved. Several things in the main garden were munched.

What will the garden look like next Saturday? Will I be humiliated by a woodchuck? Is it humanly normal to feel a sense of panic about a week before opening my garden to the public? Surely, there will be some tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, zuchinni, and Malabar spinach to show off -- maybe even some more Malabar seedlings to give away. But will there be great empty spaces where a woodchuck has kept my aspirations in check?

Anyway, I hope some of you do come check up on my garden next Saturday, July 15, from 9:00 AM to noon -- my first MORNING Open Garden. Two experienced gardeners at 51 and 56 Gordonhurst Avenue (Bob
McLean and me) have raised their vegetables for decades. There will be displays in my front yard. The rain and sun seem to be making many things grow rapidly, including weeds, and it will be interesting to see how much of my garden remains for humans. I suspect quit a bit will.

Happy summer!


Saturday, July 08, 2006

Higher prices, higher rates: The 1st-time homebuyer squeeze

It's never easy buying your first home. But in the past year, it's gotten a lot harder.

NEW YORK ( -- What a difference a year makes when you're in the market for a new home, especially if you're a first-time buyer.

Thanks to a combined jump in mortgage interest rates and home prices, a starter home in many areas of the country could cost you several hundred dollars more per month today than if you bought it last year.

Housing Don'ts
If total cost of owning each month exceeds by 25% or more the cost of renting, you may be better off renting.
Spend no more than 30% of gross income on housing.
Nationwide, median home prices rose at annual rate of more than 10 percent in the first quarter of 2006, according to the National Association of Realtors.

Meanwhile, rates on adjustable rate mortgages, the most common for first-time buyers, are up more than a percentage point.

The rate of home-price gains varies widely from market to market. In Gainesville, Fla., for instance, the median sales price of existing family homes rose 31 percent, or about $50,000, to $210,100 between the first quarter of last year and the first quarter of this year, according to NAR.

The percentage gains were more muted - but still high - in richly-priced markets like the New York City-Northern New Jersey area, where the median price rose 11.2 percent to $458,500, an increase of about $46,000.

So for the first-time home buyer in Gainesville or New York, those price and rate increases can mean an extra $400 to $450 in monthly payments to own a home. That assumes you put down the same amount this year on the home as you would have last year.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Larry Kramer, 1938-2006

Although he spent 14 years teaching Math, Science, and Social Studies courses in Montclair middle schools(preceeded by 4 years teaching at Nutley High), Larry is best known for his "post-retirement" effords to expand and enhance open spaces and a unique nature preserve in Bloomfield.

A former chemical engineer and science teacher, Larry Kramer was a
founding member of Friends of Clark's Pond and Third River, a local
group that has worked to restore Bloomfield's last remaining natural
pond. Larry was instrumental in establishing the nature preserve at
Clark's Pond, where he spent thousands of hours designing the native
plant restoration and the wildflower meadow and leading nature walks.
Larry's dream was to use the preserve as an outdoor classroom for Bloomfield school children. Born and raised in Montclair, he moved to nearby Bloomfield in the 90's when he found an apartment located steps away from Clark's Pond.

Larry participated in all kinds of community meetings from preservation groups to the Town Council. After listening to many of our impassioned comments he would calmly suggest an effective way to implement our ideas or offer his wisdom in a variety of ways. Often with wry humor:
At one of the packed planning board meetings, he questioned the architect of the proposed condos on a flood plain of the former Scientific Glass site. After looking at the drawing of the 3 story townhouses he quietly asked where on the roof tops would the rowboats be tied. This literally brought down the (town)house! Larry is one of the reason’s that--years later--the Liongate area is still open space.

His guiding passion was that we should all be stewards of our immediate wild spaces. Yes, he had his passions,
but I never experienced him raising his voice in anger.

Larry has helped make Bloomfield a more desirable place to live.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Locked Out

From floods to $$$. Trenton is still in Lockdown Mode.
We're off to Ohio.
See Ya!

Saturday, July 01, 2006