Monday, July 28, 2008

This Time Bloomfield Means Business...maybe

For over a decade now, a long line of Bloomfield's town fathers -- and their sons -- have been finalizing plans to rehabilitate and rejuvenate a fading downtown.

Several months after brainstorming sessions with residents and urban planners, Tuesday's special Planning Board meeting [7pm in the Town Council Room] will give the public an extended look at the Newwork's radically revised plan for the town -- including some environmental innovations:

As momentum around ‘green building’ grows both locally and nationally, Bloomfield has the unique ability to be a leader in this movement. With environmental challenges
facing the entire country the ones that are particulerly acute in Bloomfield are Congestion, Air Quality, Flooding and Water Quality and Energy Costs.
The approach for Bloomfield will be to follow New Jersey’s Smart Growth strategies as the basis of the redevelopment take full advantage of the existing sustainable features of the redevelopment area including solar panels.

This time around, Eminent Domain will not be an issue. The public can download the complete "Vision Plan" and find updates on the planning process here.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Four Day Week Planned for Cash Strapped Schools

From Reuters:

Facing a crippling increase in fuel costs, some rural U.S. schools are mulling a solution born of the '70s oil crisis: a four-day week.

Cutting out one day of school has been the key to preserving educational programs and staff in parts of Kentucky, New Mexico and Minnesota, outweighing some parents' concerns about finding day-care for the day off....

About 100 predominately rural schools in as many as 16 states have already moved to a four-day school week, many to save money on transportation, heating and cooling.

Webster County School District in Kentucky switched to a four-day week four years ago under economic duress -- a state budget crisis left the school in limbo, leaving the district with the option of dropping school days or cutting staff and programs.

The district ended up saving tens of thousands of dollars in fuel and energy costs, helping to cut total costs by 3.5 to 4 percent, said James Kemp, the superintendent of the Webster County School District. The shortened week at Webster also brought unexpected benefits such as improved attendance and a boost in student performance.

"If we were to go back to a five-day week, the school board and I would be run out of town," Kemp said.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Something for Nearly Everyone in Housing Bill

The U.S. House of Representatives has passed H.R. 3221, the American Housing Rescue and Foreclosure Prevention Act of 2008. The bill includes a temporary, $7,500 first-time home buyer tax credit which many believe will jump start the housing market and bring buyers off the sidelines. The Senate is expected to approve the bill with minor changes and President Bush has agreed to sign it.

Besides saving troubled homeowners from foreclosure and stabilizing property values, there are long and short term benefits for most homeowners.

Today's NY Times has a simplified breakdown of the bill's benefits -- and limitations. The tax break applies for homeowners who purchase between April 9, 2008 and July 1, 2009.

.... there is no shame in taking advantage of what is offered. In fact, you would be foolish not to...[NYT].

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Time to Go?

With taxes in many NJ towns reaching a tipping point, many voices can be heard on local forums declaring that the time has come to set sail and move on...but where to? If you live in Montclair, it might be Bloomfield.
But Bloomfielders just got their 11%(estimated) hike and are ready to move further from NY. Folks in Maplewood have been engaged in a marathon web discussion on the viablity of mobility in this economy. Ten days later, the thread has evolved into a discussion of what could be cut to keep residents in place.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

How Fannie Slip Can Impact Home Buyers and ReFi

From Today's NY Times:

Over the longer term, a dysfunctional Freddie and Fannie could send mortgage rates higher than they would have been otherwise, relative to key market rates like Treasury securities.

For now, if you’re considering buying a house or refinancing a mortgage, and that rate rise is enough to make a difference, then maybe the deal is not affordable. “If someone is so tight that a quarter point kills a deal, they probably ought to be rethinking what they’re doing,” says Bert Ely, a banking consultant in Alexandria, Va.

For mortgage shoppers comfortable with loans at today’s prices, now is the time to lock in, or guarantee, an interest rate with the lender, which can effectively set the rate over the life of a fixed-rate loan. Given the current uncertainty, there’s always the possibility that lenders will be less willing to offer rate locks in the coming weeks.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Bloomfield's Paint by Numbers Home Price Map

As we promised last month, we're working our way west with the Star Ledger's handy "by the numbers" home sale maps of towns in our area. Although the closing sales prices may have changed since it was updated last year, the neighborhood relationships are basically the same. (Click on image to enlarge)

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Slow Burn in the Golden State

There is still no light at the end of the tunnel for fire-besieged Northern California. According to reports, there are still over 1,000 wildfires burning in the region with little hope for improvement in the near future. This NASA photo was taken June 24th. Over 1,400 square kilometers of land have already been burnt, and there are more than 19,000 firefighters on hand, many from around the country.
(Click on photo to enlarge)

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Over 65? How to Freeze Your Property Taxes!

This is the month that most of us get hit with our annual property tax bump. One of NJ's best kept secrets is designed to keep long time homeowners from being forced to move by rising taxes. If you qualify, you simply need to fill out a form available here. The main prerequisite is to have lived in your home for at least 10 years, but there are also income requirements.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Turning Trash Into Gold


Garbage is good for business. That's Tom Szaky's mantra. He took his start-up company from $70,000 in sales to more than $8 million in four years, all because of garbage.

Garbage, says Szaky, chief executive officer of TerraCycle Inc. in Trenton, is the perfect raw material for the 21st century. "Garbage has really cool economics," says the 26-year-old Princeton-dropout-turned-entrepreneur, "because you can get paid to collect it, or get it very cheap. You're eliminating a big problem, and then you can make a consumer product out of it on the other end."

TerraCycle sells organic fertilizer and plant food made from worm excrement produced by composting food garbage; office supplies made from recycled cardboard and plastics; and pencil cases, purses and tote bags made from used drink pouches and energy bar wrappers.

New Jersey has long been a stronghold for scavenger businesses, with a high number of companies that take scrap metal, construction debris, and even cooking grease and turn them into products that can be resold.

The state has roughly 27,000 people employed in recycling, said Guy Watson, chief of the bureau of recycling and planning for the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. Most of those workers "are in the private sector," Watson said, "involved in either collection, or processing, or end-use manufacturing of products."

A "recycling eco-park" with a facility that will recycle food waste into fertilizer, and an asphalt and recycling plant, are set to open in Woodbridge.
Demand for raw materials, mostly driven by China, Watson said, has resulted in "historic high prices for most paper grades, for plastics, for aluminum."

Glenn Prickett, executive director of Conservation International's Center for Environmental Leadership in Business, based in Arlington, Va., said TerraCycle seems to be doing something unique in the recycling industry by turning previously non-recyclable items, such as aluminum drink pouches, into consumer products. "In terms of the consumer product market, it sounds pretty innovative," he said.

In 2006, Inc. magazine named TerraCycle "The Coolest Little Start-up in America" and featured Szaky in a cover story.
The company's best-selling product so far is the one that launched TerraCycle - a liquid plant fertilizer "brewed" from worm poop - castings produced by worms as they munch on compost.

Szaky, who was born in Hungary and grew up in Toronto, introduced TerraCycle in 2001 with a fellow Princeton student after visiting Canadian friends in Montreal.

He was impressed by the size of the marijuana plants they were growing. He learned that the secret was a fertilizer made by soaking worm castings, or excrement, from the compost pile in warm water. Back at Princeton, he convinced the university to give him space for composting and food scraps from the dining halls and he began experimenting with fertilizer formulas.