Friday, August 29, 2008

Lessons From Floyd

Louisiana is observing the third anniversary of Katrina's wrath by preparing for Gustav. New Jersey can be thankful that the ninth anniversary of Tropical Storm Floyd finds us high and dry. While FEMA requires those who live in flood zones to purchase federally subsidized insurance, it's not a bad idea to consider it if you live in a "dry" but vulnerable location. can help you asses your flood risk wherever you live. It also suggests measures that can minimize damage to uninsured property.

Monday, August 25, 2008

BloomHo vs MonHo?

Montclair has become one of the one of the primo culture centers of New Jersey, at least partially, by certainly attracting many of New York’s most creative refugees. Higher rents and property taxes have helped reroute some of the hungrier of artists to Bloomfield. Right now, they seem centered around Bloomfield College and a downtown full of vacant storefronts,
To meet the needs of the town's growing landscape of artists, has been created to specifically promote the arts and raise awareness of the importance they play in the redevelopment of the town.
"The arts are a vital part of any creative economy in a town," says Gregory Allen, Managing Director of the Westminster Arts Center at Bloomfield College. "As the town undergoes redevelopment, we thought it important for the arts organizations to come together and emphasis all that Bloomfield has to offer.
The sparkling new website is currently hosting a virtual “Open House” inviting all Bloomfield artists to sign in and introduce themselves.{There were actually 20 arts organizations on the cropped webpage above}

Sunday, August 24, 2008

New Hope for Down Payment Assistance Bill

Congressman Al Green has introduced; HR 6694 the FHA Gift Downpayment Reform and Risk Based Pricing Authorization Act of 2008.

This will bring back the FHA seller downpayment assistance programs for certain buyers within three different classifications based on credit scores. Those buyers with a FICO score above 679 will be allowed FHA seller downpayments under the current HUD guidelines.

The next group is those buyers within the FICO scores of 620 to 679. These buyers will pay a risk-based mortgage insurance premium and 1.25% of the principal will be the annual premium. Then lastly the buyers with a score of less then 620 will be subject to HUD established risk based pricing.
Among non-governmental non-profits, The Nehemiah Corporation of America has been leading the charge on this issue.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Getting To Know NJ

The New Jersey Association of Realtors has just put together an interactive map that will give both newcomers and natives a quick county by county overview of resources and lifestyles. It reveals statistics about average home sale prices, median household income, percentage of high school graduates, and other key demographics, all by rolling over specific county areas. It also contains marketing tools for Realtors.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Quick: How Many Houses do You Own?

Not exactly a "gotcha" question for most of us. But this famous fella's answer was: "I think -- I'll have my staff get to you...."

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Solar Gets Affordable

From the NYTimes:

Companies will build two solar power plants in California that together will put out more than 12 times as much electricity as the largest such plant today, the latest indication that solar energy is starting to achieve significant scale.

The plants will cover 12.5 square miles of central California with solar panels, and in the middle of a sunny day will generate about 800 megawatts of power, roughly equal to the size of a large coal-burning power plant or a small nuclear plant. A megawatt is enough power to run a large Wal-Mart store.

At the same time new breakthroughs in Solar Energy research may solve the biggest hurdles to the mass adoption of solar. In some cases it is actually becoming cheaper than coal.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Equity Game

Just as banks have been hit with foreclosures on their mortgages to under qualified first time buyers, they're now facing longtime homeowners who are going "underwater" by maxing out their equity before seeing their once greatest asset decline in value.
The NY Times has detailed the incredible marketing campaign that transformed second Mortgages into more fashionable Home Equity "cash cows." They've now expanded their series on The Debt Trap with an interactive multimedia version their website. Ironically, it's sponsored with a banner ad for Chase.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The End of Food

From Grist:

Food production is rapidly emerging as a key geopolitical issue. As food prices rise along with oil futures and climate change looks set to disrupt global agriculture patterns, we can expect more of the same. Indeed, hardheaded investors -- the kind who made a killing earlier this decade snapping up oil futures -- are increasingly playing the food-as-geopolitics angle. "Big private investors are starting to make bolder and longer-term bets that the world's need for food will greatly increase -- by buying farmland, fertilizer, grain elevators and shipping equipment," The New York Times recently reported.

If food is the new oil, then we're lucky that the ace geopolitical reporter Paul Roberts has turned his attention to the dinner table. His 2004 book The End of Oil crystallized the perils surrounding humanity's reliance on fossil energy.

Now he's attempted a similar feat with our globe-spanning industrial food system. His new book The End of Food is the kind of work you wish policy makers and presidential candidates were grappling with, but you're pretty sure they're not. It also deserves to be read by food-justice activists, locavores, and other critics of industrial food.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Poor Little Rich Town

It's getting tough for any town council to balance the budget these days. The usual culprit is a lack of strong ratables or loss of state aid. But who can East Hampton blame?
With perhaps more taxpaying billionaires than any medium sized town, having to plead poverty as hard to explain as The Montauk Monster. The Huffington Post has the details and an extended forum of shadenfroid on their predicament.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Pole Stars

We never cold resist an interesting chart. This one, by astrologer Phillip Sedgwick, predicts the future for 2 newsworthy presidential candidates based solely on the stars. For the record, both share my August birth month. Two of us are Leos -- the other a Virgo.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008