Monday, December 17, 2007

Brad Pitt's New Green Housing for New Orleans

Combining philanthropy with a genuine love of innovative home design,
the actor's interest in architecture and love of New Orleans has led him to commission 13 firms to design 150 homes for areas devastated by Katrina, with restraints: 1,200-square-foot, flood-height-friendly homes for $150,000, and they have to be green, reducing upkeep costs by 75%. He promised that each model will match what residents want to see with what engineers need to provide to protect against climate change and future floods. “Our goal is to bring green technology to the affordable level and not have it look like a Prius,” Pitt said.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Foreclosure Scam Alert Flap

It has been on YouTube less than a week, but this scam warning has already drawn complaint from a YouTuber that "This is typical heavy handed democrat propaganda. Pure Bullspit! To portray a perfectly good pre-forclosure sale transaction as a scam..." Most viewers are defending Freddie Mac.
From Newsday online:
To reach out to homeowners in trouble, Freddie Mac has produced a two-minute video on how con artists can prey on delinquent borrowers.

Though it may not win any Oscars, the video shows how scammers can get copies of foreclosure notices at city hall or a county courthouse and then persuade borrowers to hand over their deeds in exchange for solving their financial problems. The con artists then use the deeds to secure new loans for themselves but let the new loan go into foreclosure, leaving the distressed homeowner out on the street.

Freddie Mac, one of the nation's largest investors in residential mortgages, took its message to the Web after conducting a survey that found one in four borrowers go to the Internet before their lender when they fall behind in their payments.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

How Green is Your Candidate

Grist has become a leading contender to be The NY Times of Environmental Web Sites. [We've just had honor of previewing their soon to be revamped site in a usability study.] Since today marked the conclusion of the pre-Primary debate season it seems like a good time to compare the candidates' green positions using their handy chart.You can also watch videos of some of the candidates speaking at the first-ever presidential candidate forum focused on climate change and energy policy, co-sponsored by Grist.

Grist also teamed up with Outside to interview the candidatesabout green issues. They've published Q&As with all of the Democrats and a number of the Republicans.

Monday, December 10, 2007


Want to get away from it all?
If you can find a home more secluded than these, let us know!
Dream on!

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Sustainable Downsizing

If you're looking to downsize into an eco-friendly home, leave it to the Canadians to come up with an economical and stylish solution. Two years ago, they introduced the concept of the prefabricated MiniHome. Now the folks at Altius Architecture are expanding their living space with new production modelas of their DuoHome models(click on photo to enlarge) starting at 149K.
The new DUO model resolves this integration by marrying an ADD-ON room at the Loft portion of the SOLO, giving a full 12′ ceiling - and this gives us some very cool overlook spaces from the Loft!
Based in Toronto, they even provide their own financing plans.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

NJ Subprime Woes Exceed US Averages

President Bush's latest attempt to ease financial pressures on subprime borrowers may be too little & too late for many NJ homeowners.

Late last week,The Federal Reserve Bank of New York released some sobering numbers that update the problems of subprime mortgages in New Jersey.

According to The Record:
Nine percent of more than 63,000 securitized adjustable rate subprime loans in the state were in foreclosure in August, according to the first-of-its kind report to track the condition of loans given to non-prime borrowers in New York and New Jersey.

Nine percent of 63,000 loans represents about 5,670 homes in foreclosure.

Payments on only 67 percent of the loans -- which totaled $16.5 billion in outstanding balances -- were up-to-date.

"More than 30 percent in arrears is a striking number," said Keith Gumbinger, vice president of HSH Associates in Pompton Plains, a publisher of financial information.

According to the report, the typical subprime adjustable rate borrower in New Jersey borrowed $262,000 and started out paying an interest rate of 8.12 percent. But after the rate adjusts over time they would pay about 11.42 percent on average over the life of the loan, the report said.

The foreclosure rate on subprime adjustable rate loans nationwide was 7 percent, compared with New Jersey's 9 percent.

For loans on homes in Newark, 14 percent were in foreclosure and 13 percent were 60 or more days past due.

Adjustable rate subprime loans are among the types of loans most likely to go bad because borrowers often have had trouble with debt in the past and because their monthly payments will rise over time. And in a real estate market where home prices are falling, it is often impossible for financially distressed borrowers to refinance or to sell at a price that would pay off the balance of the mortgage.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

EPA Grant for River Studies Thru MSU

The Passaic River basin will acquire a new crop of environmental stewards thanks to an environmental education grant awarded today to Montclair State University. At a ceremony in Branch Brook Park, EPA Regional Administrator Alan J. Steinberg presented a $39,888 check to Dr. Susan A. Cole, President of Montclair State University, and Dr. Kirk Barrett, Director of Montclair State University’s Passaic River Institute. The Institute is training teachers and high school students to study the ecology and quality of the Passaic River waters.

Under the Montclair State Passaic River Institute’s program, local high school teachers and students in New Jersey's Passaic River basin will study and monitor river-bottom plants and animals and test water quality in the Passaic River. Students will acquire the knowledge and critical thinking skills necessary to understand how rivers are affected by urbanization, industrialization and other causes of pollution. The new river stewards will learn what can be done to protect river water quality and how they can protect the river’s ecosystems. The project will include teacher training, field trips to learn about and conduct water monitoring, a hands-on environmental education program, and a project web site that will serve as an information clearinghouse and repository, resource center, and virtual meeting place.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Clutter-Free Giving is a unique podcast and family resource site about making life simple so you can enjoy what really matters.

In this episode of The Big O: Organization, Organizing Expert Monica Ricci, Vicky and Jen discuss seven categories of gifts that have meaning for both the giver and the getter. Clutter-Free Gifts is wrapped with ideas to make gift giving more memorable and meaningful all year around, with no dusting required!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

NJ Blogger's "Truth Squad" Rights Defended

Although we're hardly anonymous here, we can understand why some need the protection of a pseudonym to be effective as whistleblowers or gadflys. One such Jersey Blogger who calls himself daTruthSquad has spent months skewering Manalapan area officials on his Web site.

From The Star Ledger:
Township leaders suspect the venomous blogger, who appears to have inside information about local politics, is Stuart Moskovitz, the former mayor and township attorney. Moskovitz has motive: He is being sued by Manalapan over a land deal gone bad.

But Moskovitz insists he has never blogged and doesn't know the identity of daTruthSquad. So lawyers for the Monmouth County township subpoenaed Google earlier this fall, insisting that the Internet giant reveal the name and computer behind daTruthSquad's blogging account.

Lawyers for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a California-based Internet rights group, are making the legal claim that daTruthSquad -- like all bloggers -- has the right to anonymity.

The foundation hopes to quash the Google subpoena and use the case to bring attention to the growing number of public officials using the courts to pry the names of their online critics from Internet providers.

"This is the government trying to silence or intimidate someone who says something they don't like," said Matt Zimmerman, a staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation. "It's important things like this don't get swept under the rug."

The blogger, writing as "daTruthSquad" on a site hosted on Google's Blogspot service, has criticized a controversial lawsuit filed by the township of Manalapan, as well as the officials who decided to pursue the case. The township subpoenaed Google for "daTruthSquad's" identity -- as well as for any emails, blog drafts, and other information Google has about the blogger -- claiming that the defendant in the case is actually writing the posts. The defendant, however, has already sworn under penalty of perjury that he is not "daTruthSquad."

"Bloggers, as well as everyone else, have a First Amendment right to speak anonymously," said EFF Staff Attorney Matt Zimmerman. "Litigants don't get a blank check to pry into the private lives of critics when they say things the litigants don't like. The fact that it is the government trying to abuse the discovery process makes this attempted invasion of privacy all the more repugnant."

daTruthSquad summed up his case in a recent post:
If this whole case is about a land deal, where are the many exhibits regarding da land deal? Why are page after page of these briefs discussing da internet blogger known as daTruthSquad?

Is this a legal case about a land deal gone bad? Or, is this a legal case where a governmental body has taken it upon themselves to use taxpayer dollars to divulge information about a blogger who lets da readers know what is really happening in one particular town?

While the fur is flying ON NJO's hyper-active Manalapan forum, some high profile local bloggers are weighing in.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

MSU Students: We've Got Your Number

MSU students are all talking about a new requirement that students all purchase administration approved cell phones.

The first such program in the country, 'School Phone' -- as in a Sprint-operated cell -- is now mandatory for all students.

from wcbsnews:

The cost: $420 a year for a base plan which is bundled into the tuition bill.
It includes just 50 peak voice minutes a month, but unlimited text messaging to any carrier, unlimited campus-based data usage, and student activated emergency GPS tracking.

"What it does is allow students to have an extra pair or group of people watching over them when they're going from one location to another," Montclair Police Department Chief Paul Cell said.

There are various phone and call plan options, but the bottom line is you have to pick one. That could be a problem for someone with their own cell phone and their own monthly bill.

The program has another benefit -- students now have another way to call home and ask for money.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Over Priced or Under Valued?

According to Market Analyst, Barry Ritholtz, housing prices have to fall 25% or stay flat for 5 years for homes to be fairly valued. That is assuming, of course, incomes continue to grow at the current pace, no sure thing given a possible recession lurking in the near future.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Garrison Kieler on Bottled Water


I am sorry, Evian and San Pellegrino and Dasani and all the other bottled waters out there—Aqua Velva, Wells Fargo, Muddy Waters, Joan Rivers, Jerry Springer, whatever—but the current campaign against paying good money for bottled water when tap water is perfectly good (and very likely purer) is so sensible on the face of it that I am now done with you.

Fini. Kaput. Ausgeschlossen. No more designer water. Water is water. If you want lemon flavoring, add a slice of lemon. You want bubbles, stick a straw in it and blow.

In case your tap water flunks the tast e test, try the iStraw -- a lightweight polycarbonate straw fitted with a special membrane, which uses micro-filtration technology to clean your water. If you've tried chlorine tablets, you know how icky the taste can be, and with the iStraw there's no aftertaste.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Realtors Say 2007 will be the Fifth Best Year on Record

It's not all gloom and doom in our business.
From National Realty News:

“In some ways, the extended real estate boom from 2001 to 2005 created unrealistic expectations that housing is a short-term high-yield investment,” said National Association of Realtors Chief Economist Lawrence Yun. “2007 will be the fifth best year for housing on record. Places like Houston, the Kansas City area, Indianapolis, and the vast middle section of the United States offer affordable prices and continued job growth. On either coast, Seattle and Raleigh, N.C., remain solid. And markets that experienced recent growth declines – like Boston, Denver, and Washington, D.C. – have already shown signs of recovery. In short, all real estate is local – conditions vary greatly from one city to the next.”

Yun explained that while the recent rise in foreclosures and delinquencies has dampened consumer confidence in real estate, these problems have been concentrated in the subprime market. “For buyers who qualify for conventional financing, mortgages are available at favorable rates,” said Yun. “Major FHA reform will also help first-time home buyers enter the market and will provide safer alternatives for many subprime buyers. FHA market share for home purchases is expected to triple over the next three years, from an estimated 4 percent in 2007 to an estimated 12 percent in 2009.”

Responding to recent questions about the current value of homeownership, Yun said, “Buying a home is not a quick-in, quick-out investment, like buying a stock. Homeownership builds wealth over the long-term.”

To illustrate his point, Yun explained that over 10 years, a $10,000 investment in the stock market at a normal 10 percent market rate of return would yield $23,600. The same investment as a down payment on a $200,000 home at a normal appreciation rate of 5 percent would return nearly 5 times the stock market return, at $110,300.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Meetup in the Park With Two Pro-Bush Environmentalists

Montclair's Pat Kenschaft and Bloomfield's Jane Califf have found a new cause.
They have serious issues with recent landscaping changes in Brookdale Park. We're talking about the leafy variety of bush here,among other things--like the new dog run. With a flurry of letter writing and phone calls, they've arranged a meeting with Park officials Friday at 3:30 near the tennis courts.

Califf makes her case:

Bruce Divita is the manager of special projects in Essex County parks. I did not mention in the letter that when I asked him what invasive species of plants he said were being cut down that he told me, "I don't know, and I am not going there in person to check because I have had Lyme Disease twice.. ."
Then he said they had to be cut because some people said there were individuals lurking in the bushes. My friends and I have been walking past this area for 9 years. We have never had any problem or seen anything suspicious....
How can we be sure that this is accomplished? A group of us are talking about why the community is not asked what they want in Brookdale Park. Things are done without any input from citizens.

In a lengthy open letter to County Executive Joe DiVincenzo, Daniel Salvante, and Bruce DeVita, Park planners, Kenschaft writes:

There are powerful forces wanting to "develop" ever more land and make lawns where nature now has its way. Last week a man with apparent knowledge of the county's imminent plans spoke scornfully of the "weeds" in Brookdale Park, whose removal he obviously expected me to approve of.... The cutting of innocent bushes pains my own emotions, my concern for preventing climate change, and my desire that young children have a wild place to play....
I worry about the amount of petroleum
used in recent park "improvements." The United States uses twice as much
energy per person as Germany and Japan, and neither our quality of life
nor our health statistics are better because of it... But there are many of us that want the absolute minimum of deviation from nature for both environmental and fiscal reasons. Can we become involved in the discussion before final decisions are made? How?
....think more deeply about the environmental and fiscal implications of your decisions. There are powerful forces pushing you -- and all of us -- toward extravagance.
However, if you want some friendly faces to push you in a more
life-preserving direction, please let me know.....

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Open House

Driving down Ridgewood Ave, in Glen Ridge, enjoying the fall scene we heard a shrieking alarm that sounded like an ambulance or police car and promptly pulled over. Seeing nothing in the rearviews, we heard a voice repeatedly barking over a loud speaker: BURGLARY! BURGLARY! LEAVE THIS LOCATION RIGHT NOW! The funny thing was that the house had a for sale sign. A minute later, one of Glen Ridge's finest pulled up and cautiously walked up to the front door. Didn't hang around for the outcome but the alarm could still be heard 10 minutes later and five blocks away in Bloomfield. We've heard that talking houses can be a good marketing tool(it's a 6 BR just reduced to 899k) but this takes it to a new level! (click on picture for animation)

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Ice Queen

Think it's getting cold here? If you caught NBC's Ann Curry's live broadcast from Antarctica ,a few days ago, you might have heard her reference the climatological research the current US research team including Sandra Passchier, PhD. Geo scientist and assistant professor at Montclair State University, Along with drilling 500 meter core samples thruough the ice pack, Dr. Passchier takes time out to add daily progress reports to her blog:

Snow is plastered on the walls of the buildings and the windows. There is a large cloud on Minna Bluff in the distance, which is a bad sign. Luckily a helicopter was able to make a trip to the drill site before the storm to get us some core, so we can work. Another perhaps comical fact is that Ann Curry of the Today Show is now stuck here with us. Her Live broadcast was yesterday in front of the Chalet with the flags. Last night at Midrats she was in the lobby and was talking very loudly and came obviously out of one of the bars. She seems to have a good time here. We have not seen the show, so we can only hope that the science we do here was featured to some extent. She called off a trip to our drill site...
So, yes what about the science? It is becoming increasingly more interesting. We are finding fossils every day now: yesterday a possible plant fossil, today a couple of shell beds with what look like large clam shells. There is still the intermittent presence of glaciers, so it looks like ice ages came and went, but there were some intervals of time with balmier climate conditions than today.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Caching In

Whether you're looking for a fun family activity, or a new outdoor singles scene, you might check out Geocaching. Geocaching is a trendy new adventure game for GPS users. Participating in a cache hunt is a good way to take advantage of the full capability of a GPS unit(if you don't have GPS, stay tuned). The basic idea is to have individuals and organizations set up caches all over the world and share the locations of these caches on the internet. GPS users can then use the location coordinates to find the caches. Once found, a cache may provide the visitor with a wide variety of rewards. If you take something out, you should try to leave something for the cache. What is usually in a cache? A cache can come in many forms but the key item will invariably be the logbook. The logbook contains information from the founder of the cache and notes from the cache's visitors. A logbook might contain information about nearby attractions, coordinates to other unpublished caches, and even jokes written by visitors. If you get some information from a logbook you should give some back. At the very least you can leave the date and time you visited the cache. Larger caches may consist of a waterproof plastic bucket placed tastefully within the local terrain. The bucket might contain any number of more or less valuable items. These items turn the cache into a true treasure hunt. Geocaching is really just the next evolution of the centuries old tradition of letterboxing with trails that can be found all over New Jersey -- even as close as Bloomfield & Montclair.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

'Tis The Season ...

This has been a period of challenging changes and transitions -- particularly in the past 10 days. From political campaigning to car breakdowns, cold bugs and sewer backups. The last straw was the death of my poor little Mac Mini. A replacement is on the way along with the completion of a variety of new blog items.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Turning Point for Bloomfield Center

Despite rainy weather, Wednesday night's forum on Bloomfield's long delayed Downtown Redevelopment attracted a turnout that nearly filled Town Hall to capacity. Baristanet has just published a detailed account by Carl Lorentzen so we won't rehash the proceedings except to note that the council's GOP challengers who were seen at the back of the room during the first portion of the proceedings disappeared before the public participation period began. What remained was a room full of hopeful residents with love for their town.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Current Rates

We’re starting to see people coming back into the market because of the record number of listings available and owners becoming more flexible with qualified buyers. With the latest cuts in the discount rates, 30 year mortgage rates are stabilizing in the 6.4% range

Mortgage Rates

30 Year Fixed: 6.40%

15 Year Fixed: 6.08%

1 Year Adj: 5.76%

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Who Is More Likely to Protect the Environment?

CBS NEWS/NEW YORK TIMES. "Regardless of how you usually vote, do you think the Republican party or the Democratic party is more likely to protect the environment?" Conducted 7/13-16/02; surveyed 1,000 adults; margin of error +/-3%

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Demographics Can Be Fun

We've shared a variety of sites for the analysis of updated local census stats, but may be the most user friendly and addictive. Along with colorful charts are endless possibilities for side by side comparisons with neighboring zip codes and state and national rankings in endless categories.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Encap: Knee Deep In the Big Muddy

Since 1999, when a North Carolina firm called EnCap was awarded development rights to 785 polluted acres in the Meadowlands, state officials have given the firm more than $350 million in public benefits and promised hundreds of millions more in tax breaks.

The State is reportedly looking for another developer to finish the project, but more than one mayor in the area is pressuring the Meadowlands Commission for a seat at the table. NJ Sierra Club Director Jeff Titell has his own ideas. In a blistering OpEd in The Record, he raises a stink on the growing scandal:
The controversial EnCap proposal includes two golf courses, 2,000 units of housing and half a million square feet of commercial and office space. This is one of the largest projects being proposed in New Jersey, and it has major environmental implications. The original purpose of this project was to clean up and stabilize landfills in the Meadowlands that are leeching into the Hackensack River, but it has become instead a boondoggle, a pork barrel, and a symbol of everything that's wrong with pay to play in New Jersey.

What may have started out as a good idea has turned into an environmental and financial disaster.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Burning Green

Of the thousands of summer festivals that dot the planet, Burning Man may be the the most bizarre and dazzling. It's a post-apocalyptic Happening in the northern Nevada desert in early September. This year's theme was the Green Man.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Hawk Eyes

October is not only peak season for leaves. Pat Gilleran shares an eye full from Hawk Lookout:

The second oldest hawk watch in the nation, the Lookout is located on the First Watchung Mountain on the border of Montclair and Cedar Grove, and offers a spectacular view of hawks, along with other birds, as they migrate in the skies above New Jersey, and of the landscape below that encompasses the New York City skyline.

October may be the most interesting time to visit the Lookout, as it
offers the greatest diversity of hawk species. Chances are now better
to see Merlins or even a Peregrine Falcon or two. However, by mid-
month the Broad-winged Hawk flight will be over for the season, as
other species begin to peak. The Red-tailed and Red-shouldered Hawk
will be most numerous at the end of the month.

From 10/1 thru 10/10/07 there were 613 sightings of raptors logged.
2 Black Vulture
129 Osprey
9 Bald Eagle
33 Northern Harrier
235 Sharp-shinned Hawk
52 Cooper's Hawk (pictured)
2 Red-shouldered Hawk
32 Broad-winged Hawk
1 Red-tailed Hawk
70 American Kestrel
24 Merlin
23 Peregrine Falcon

The Edgecliff Rd. Lookout is staffed by members of the New Jersey Audubon Society and open daily, weather permitting, through November 30, from 9a.m. to 5p.m.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Higher ATM fees to gain customers?'s Managing Editor Ellen Cannon blogs about credit and debit cards, prepaid cards, gift cards, credit scores -- anything related to the plastic in your wallet.

Bringing people into the bank may be the real story behind Bank of America's new $3 surcharge, said James Van Dyke, president of Javelin Strategy & Research, a financial consulting firm in Pleasanton, Calif. The firm's research has shown ATM access is one of the top three criteria when choosing a new bank, and rates and fees rank as the most important reason among almost two-thirds of consumers.

So although Bank of America's fee hike rankled non-customers and even sparked online calls to boycott Bank of America's ATMs, the move could also persuade customers of banks with fewer ATMs to switch just to avoid fees.

"The consumer is going to say, 'Why don't I just switch to BofA?' " Van Dyke said. "This is a powerhouse move that only a powerhouse can pull off."

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Timely Earth Time

The Earth Clock is a real time simulation based on the changing nature of a range of environmental factors. Using statistics from a number of sources it provides continually updated information on the worlds population, CO2 emissions, waste production and much more. The Earth Clock was designed by and is based on figures from sources including the United Nations, EPA and the US Census Bureau. With a little patience, you can integrate this and other add-ons into your home page or blog, or website.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Tour Buses Unload in Bloomfield

We happened to be visiting Democratic campaign headquarters this morning when our Mayor passed along an unexpected tip:
"You'll never guess what's going on across the street right now.
The Soprano tour bus has just unloaded!"
A closer look revealed that On Location Tours was making it's first official Bloomfield stop incorporating Holsteins. This was the largest tour to hit Bloomfield so far -- four months after the end of the series at the now-internationally known mecca for ice cream and onion-rings.
He may be justified in jokingly taking credit for adding to the media exposure that is making Bloomfield a "Must See" tourist attraction. At $42 a ticket for the 4 hour tour, we can now expect three of their busloads a weekend to shower their souvenir cash on Brookdale.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

A Night Time Gage for Global Warming

Land surface temperature is a good indicator of the energy balance at the Earth's surface, and serves as an important indicator of the greenhouse effect. Land surface temperature can be used for evaluating water requirements of crops, for determining frost-damaged areas in orange groves, and for assessing the impact of climate change on the Arctic, an environment that will be particularly sensitive to rising global temperatures.

The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra and Aqua satellites take the temperature of every square kilometer of the Earth nearly every day, barring cloudy skies. MODIS senses the temperature of all natural and man-made land surfaces —everything from snow to deserts, from rooftops to treetops. The map above shows nighttime LST ending a six year cycle from March 2000 to July 2006. An animated seq can be generated here. Values range from 250 to 320 Kelvin (about -23 to 47 degrees Celsius, or -10 to 116 degrees Fahrenheit) in shades from light to yellow.

Nighttime LST measurements have an interesting land-cover mapping application. Manmade surfaces such as concrete and asphalt that dominate cities typically absorb a lot more heat than the natural land cover that surrounds them. Having soaked up heat all day long, cities stay warmer at night than their surrounding natural areas, and so they stand out as warm spots. This phenomenon has come to be called "the urban heat island effect," and scientists can study urban sprawl by using nighttime LST data like that from MODIS.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Singing a Song of Jersey

Among this state's countless resources, New Jersey would seem to have all the elements for an unforgettable state song. Some states have two. In fact we're the ONLY state that has never agreed on one. Despite talents from Sinatra and Vali to Bon Jovi & Springsteen and many lesser known composers and lyricists.

New Jersey has consistently failed to adopt a song, despite bids to do so dating back to 1794, when then-Gov. Richard Howell wrote a song used by troops heading off to help quell the Whiskey Rebellion.

State Senator Raymond Lesniak has proposed New Jersey adopt the hit Bon Jovi song, "Who Says You Can't Go Home," as its official song.

For awhile it looked like "Born to Run" had the inside track -- with rewrites needed to lighten up lines like"
Baby this town rips the bones from your back
It's a death trap, it's a suicide rap
We gotta get out while we're young.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Foxtons Bites the Dust

Realtors have been predicting for some time that the first casualty of a Real Estate downturn would be that not so big "Green Monster."

Foxtons, a Long Branch-based real estate company that made a splash with its discounted commissions, said Wednesday night it is shutting down.

With a backlog of 4400 active listings, the 8 year old company said it is contemplating bankruptcy for an orderly shutdown, and it will continue only with a skeleton crew, laying off 350 of its 380 employees.

As The Asbury Park Press put it:
The decision marks the latest casualty in the softening real estate industry, and it brings a stunning end to a company that was a lightning rod among real estate agencies.

The unresolved question is the fate of the 4400 sellers who remain legally tied to Foxtons until their listing agreements expire. These long term agreements may be considered "assets" in a bankruptcy filing. Their homes can only be shown by appointments made by the few remaining employees. That's about 130 sellers per employee.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Paving Paradise--The Hidden Costs of Free Parking

"We've had a big interest in this area for a while now, but it's not been well studied," says an official with the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) who requested anonymity because he did not have permission to speak to the press. "It's the amount of water, the speed and temperature of it pouring off these oceans of asphalt we have in this country, that concern us. And that's not even talking about the contamination washing off all that asphalt."
Continue reading from The Christian Science Monitor

On the other hand, if you need to park in NYC, this new site may smooth the way.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Don't Count on Your Home for Retirement Cushion

from The Wall Street Journal Online:

If the current turmoil in the housing and credit markets tells us anything about retirement planning, it should be this: Think twice about how big a role your home will play in subsidizing your future.

If the value of your home falls -- which many Americans had come to assume would never happen -- there's less equity to help finance your retirement.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Bipartisan Group of NJ Congressmen Get Perfect Score On Environment

Trenton – A majority of New Jersey’s Congressmen voted for the environment 100% of the time in the 109th Congress in a bipartisan manner, according to the annual Congressional Scorecard on major environmental issues released today by Environment New Jersey.

Environment New Jersey is releasing its annual scorecard as part of its national campaign to pass legislation through both houses of Congress requiring at least 15% of our electricity to come from clean, renewable energy sources by 2020.

“A majority of New Jersey’s Congressmen time and again have stood up to the White House and done what’s right for the environment,” said Matt Elliott, Environment New Jersey’s global warming and clean energy advocate. “Being green in the Garden State is a bipartisan issue and we applaud our delegation’s environmental heroes.”

New Jersey Congressmen who scored 100% on the scorecard included Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-2), Rep. Jim Saxton (R-3), Rep. Chris Smith (R-4), Rep. Frank Pallone (D-6), Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-8), Rep. Steve Rothman (D-9) and Rep. Rush Holt (D-12).

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Give It Up for Digivity

In what's seen as a sad commentary on modern life to some, a survey out today reports that we're becoming so dependent on our web lives that we're giving up face-to-face time friends and even sex to keep connected.

The survey of more than 1,000 American adults reports, among other findings that:
- Asked how long they would be OK without Web access: 15 percent of respondents said less than a day; 21 percent said a couple of days; 19 percent said a few days
- 48 percent said they "felt something important was missing" without Internet access
- 28 percent admit spending less time face-to-face with peers because of the amount of time they spend online
- 20 percent say they spend less time having sex because of time spent online.

JWT, the advertising agency that conducted the study, has created a new advertising demographic - 'digivity denizens' - describing people whose lives are profoundly connected to the web, those "whose online and offline lives are co-mingled and who would chose a Wi-Fi connection over TV any day," as JWT trend spotting director Ann Mack describes them.

Is that unhealthy? Perhaps, but it also can be more engaging, thought-provoking and interactive than TV has ever been.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

5 Ways to Cash in on the Fed Rate Cut

From U.S. News & World Report:
Mortgages, home equity lines of credit, auto loans, credit card rates, certificates of deposit, and money market accounts can all be influenced by changes in short-term interest rates set by the Federal Reserve. But don't count on getting a lower interest rate; first, read the fine print in whatever contract you're signing.
Here are 5 ways to make it work:

Monday, September 17, 2007

Land Use: Why Plan?

Here's an interesting article by Robert Sherwood in Open Space Magazine on how Land Use has evolved over the centuries. It focuses on Oregon's former Governor Tom McCall's influence on striking a balance between private and public interests in environmental planning. It was during his tenure in office (1967-1975) that Oregon gained its reputation as a national leader in innovative public policy.

He came up with the legendary warning:
"We want you to visit our State of Excitement often. Come again and again. But, for heaven's sake, don't move here to live."

Sunday, September 16, 2007

We've Moved!

As you may have noted from the mini-profile to the right, we're still associated with Century 21, but our Suffix/Office/Franchise holder has changed from Gemini to Van Der Wende. Our home remains in Bloomfield, but our home base has moved 3 miles up the road to Little Falls.
This is partly because more of our buyers currently are actively looking for homes in this area as well as the fact that Century 21 Van Der Wende is the number 1 Century 21 office in North Jersey.
Coincidentally, EcoRealty has just moved up to #14 in the "Influence Index" of NJ Blognet's list of "Political Blogs." We've tried to limit our politics to the Wikipedia subtext:
"The process by which groups of people make decisions....politics is observed in all human group interactions."

Friday, September 14, 2007

Lockup Your Cats -- and Kids

We've had documented reports of bears, foxes, hawks, and wild turkeys in these parts.
The latest to cause concern is the Wile E. coyote. South Orange's community forum has gone wild this week with multiple sightings of coyotes along with the nearby remains of at least one dead cat. There have even been close calls with small children.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Interest Rates Remain Low

According to our Century 21 Mortgage Center, fixed 30 year interest rates appear to be stabilizing after a month long slide.