Monday, April 30, 2007

Actively Passive: Some German Secrets for Energy Savings --

Unlike profligate North Americans, in Germany they have gone from a standard house's consumption of fuel oil of up to 30 litres per square meter to "three litre houses" to "passive" (max 1.5 litres per square meter) to "positive energy" houses that give back more than they consume. Everybody is doing it; more than six thousand have been built. Architects compete to design the most energy efficient homes. Houses and apartments are being renovated and upgraded; The government gives subsidized loans to encourage it. It isn't even hard or high tech - lots of insulation, good siting for solar gain - is largely sufficient. Here's the full article from der Spiegel online:

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Interest rates ease with a dramatic drop in home prices

Here's a summary of the current market by Wilfredo Torres--Century 21 Gemini's resident mortgage guru:
"Housing captured headlines last week; unfortunately the news behind the headlines wasn’t good. Sales of existing homes plunged in March by the largest amount in 18 years, falling 8.4%. The decline, which was three-times what had been expected, pushed sales down to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 6.12 million units, according to the National Association of Realtors.

Prospects of a slowing economy and stagnating housing activity kept interest rates under wraps. Mortgage rates eased across the board, with the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaging 6.16%, the 15-year fixed-rate mortgage averaging 5.87%, and the five-year hybrid Treasury-indexed adjustable-rate mortgage averaging 5.88% for the week, according to Freddie Mac."

Friday, April 27, 2007

Spring Cleanup at Clarks Pond

Friends of Clark's Pond will be holding their annual Spring Clean-up of Bloomfield's Clark's Pond Nature Preserve This Sunday, April 29, from 11-2 pm. Once again, we hope to clear out trash and loose debris from recent storms to make the pond and river a little nicer for the people and wildlife there. Along with checking out the many recent changes and sprng plantings, there’s plenty to do, so come on out and join your neighbors! The group provides gloves, bag, tools, and refreshments too! Meet at our sign-in table near the footpath behind the Bloomfield Middle School.
(You can walk down the footpath from Bessida St.)

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Raking It in on whose authority?

Bloomfield's Ralph Berlangieri made $102,700 last year. He's not an executive or a lawyer or an engineer. He's a Port Authority gardener who cares for trees, shrubs and flowers at Newark Airport.
"I have a nephew who has a college degree, and he doesn't make that kind of money," said Berlangieri, who has worked for the bistate agency since 1975. "He told me he wants to get a job at the Port Authority."
Berlangieri's base pay last year was $63,700. He added $39,000, mostly through overtime.
"If they're going to offer it to me, I'm not going to turn it down," he said.

Berlangieri's hefty take-home haul is hardly an aberration. A Daily News analysis of Port Authority payroll records also found two cops who made more than one-quarter million dollars each last year, an electrician who pulled in $124,000 and a garage attendant whose total pay was $67,300.
n total, the Port Authority payroll topped $560 million last year, with more than 35% of all full-time employees topping the $100,000 mark.

The agency is much more generous than local and state government employers. According to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average full-time government worker in the New York area made $56,000 in base pay last year.

"In general, I think this is because they are subject to less accountability and oversight," said E.J. McMahon, a fiscal policy analyst at the Manhattan Institute, a conservative think tank.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Earth Day -- Bloomfield

A week after the worst flooding in memory, Brookside Park bounces back with a recycling festival.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

New Housing Market continues slow slide

The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI) for April declined three points to 33, its lowest level since December of 2006. (that's all of 4 months -- not such a big deal) Declines were across the board—the Northeast showed a 1 point drop to 38, the Midwest had a 5 point decline to 22, the South went south 3 points to 37, and the West dipped 2 points to 35. Any number over 50 means more builders see sales conditions as good. Blame was laid at the foot of the subprime mortgage industry.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Here's the USGS Third River chart of the storm.(click to enlarge) It indicates that the river was above flood stage for approximately 11 hours.

Bloomfield's new lakes

While nearly all the "lakes" around the two proposed Liongate developments had receded by Monday noon, this one at NY corner of SG site actually grew in size. It was still there early Wednesday along with a slightly smaller one about 50 yards south. It may be an experimental part of the developer's new holding tank system. For now, we'll call this the Fefferman Lake section of town. Early buyers could get free passes for the beach club. You can meet Mr. F -- and share your feelings about his application -- at tonight's Planning Board meeting at Town Hall.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Power Trip?

Watched PSE&G finish up their work on this three-transformer project at the corner of Liongate in Bloomfield. I casually asked the apparent foreman if they were doing work anywhere else on Broad St.
"Just here," he said. We have a lot of new developments going up around here.
In view of the recent DEP rejection of the Copeck site due to flood issues (see photos), we can't help pondering on who might have ordered the work(and when) or who paid for it?
A special Planning Board meeting to discuss an adjacent development's revised DEP application is scheduled for Wednesday at 7:30 at City Hall.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Blub,Blub, Bloomfield

All 4 photos shot on Broad St. between basement baling expeditiopns. NJT Bus splashed past flooded PearBrook Bridge on Clifton side of Bloomfield Town Line. Bottom: Tenant watches Third River lapping at her front steps on Morris Place.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Flipping Foibles

It's not our listing, but we recently checked out one of the most intriguing fix-up properties we've seen in Brookdale.
There is water damage and significant structural issues, but at 259K on a double lot, it's a great investment for a handy "flipper" with cash. Such deals are best for savvy investors with contracting connections.
When Flipping a House, Consider Teaming Up with a Real Estate Agent

When first starting out, real estate investors often make the mistake of working without a real estate agent in order to save on commissions. Going agent-less is bad for two big reasons:
Increases exposure to risk. An experienced and knowledgeable real estate agent protects your interests both when you buy and when you sell.
Decreases profit potential . On average, a real estate agent can sell a house in half the time it takes an owner selling it herself, and in flipping, time is money.

For a crash course in flipping, check out flipper central:

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Public Service or Guerrilla Marketing?

This is one of a pair of a-pealing bus ceiling wall paper posters(click to enlarge) we saw for the first time yesterday on the 1PM DeCamp to NYC. Is it Art about Art, a new medium for advertising, reading matter for the paperless, or aesthetic vandalism?

Monday, April 09, 2007

EcoVillage comes to town

We wrote about these folks over a year ago (click on link above) and now their road show model for a sustainable community has made it to Montclair. Tonight at 7:30 at the First Congregational Church at 40 South Fullerton Street.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Is FAR Better or Worse?

From The Record:
A tactic being used by some municipalities to curb the building of McMansions could wind up hurting modest home expansions such as enlarging a kitchen or adding a bathroom.

More and more towns are turning to the "floor area ratio," a formula that caps a home's living space. Within the last year, Fair Lawn, River Edge, Wayne and Tenafly have adopted or considered adopting ordinances that use the ratio to create more stringent building limits.

The tool takes into account all livable space -- including basements, second floors and garages -- not just the footprint of a building.
This means that everyone -- from the developer interested in knocking down an existing home to the homeowner seeking an addition -- could be limited by the formula.
Any building plans have to fit a calculation which divides the square footage of the house by the area of the lot. If expansion plans exceed the allowed ratio, then a variance would be required. What constitutes "livable space" is decided by the municipality.

In the eyes of elected officials, the limit isn't a burden. It's a way to stop massive homes from being built on lots designed for smaller residences, a phenomenon that officials say is ravaging the character of their communities.
Some homeowners are pushing back, worried that the limitations could affect their property values....

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Fooling Around with Trees

It's been over six months since the "Great Brookdale Tree Massacree."
Some say it was a reaction to the Microburst, or an obstacle to updated curb construction. Others blamed an over-reaction by Bloomfield's part time Forester,Stephen Schuckman and it's new engineer: Paul Lasek. Several tree-lined streets were "victimized", but Brookdale Road may be the most dramatic example.
After some ailing limbs from a tree damaged a home on Brookdale Road. Schuckman inspected the area and recommended getting rid of the older sick trees to avoid more incidents. Amy Harrigan detailed the scenario that resulted in the "clear-cutting" of o once beautiful street and supplied the Before picture above. We shot the After last weekend just before the stumps were pulverized into piles of sawdust. A close look at the apparently healthy stumps revealed nary a splinter that would confirm the Foresters fears of spreading disease or old age. In a statement to the Bloomfield Neighborhood Association, Ms Harrigan concluded that
"...the town changes its story over and over the street is ruined, my house value plummeted and someone should be held accountable for such devastation and please don't let it happen again. Many trees fell in Glen Ridge and Montclair and neither town had anywhere near such a response." Right now, it seems that For Sale signs are going up faster than promised replacement trees. No foolin'.
The BNA has invited Louise Palagano, Bloomfield's chief administrator, to clarify the town's tree policy at its next meeting.