Friday, December 30, 2011

New Year's Eve of Destruction On Belleville Ave

The current plan by Garden Commercial Properties is to create two buildings along the lower bend of the Third River, four stories each with a parking deck beneath, to serve as luxury one or two-bedroom apartments. The developer has said that the properties could begin as rental units and potentially become condominiums when the real estate market improves. In the process, about two dozen back office and warehouse businesses were given eviction notices in preparation for the demolition.

The planned 300 unit development has sparked controversy at many town council meetings. Reminded that she approved the bill when it first came up (along with the rest of the council), Council Janice Litterio replied that the full scope of the project was not made clear. “I feel snookered,” she said when summarizing her traffic concerns. There was also much debate regarding the planned 30 year tax abatement negotiated with the developer, Zygmunt Wilf, the owner of the Minnesota Vikings, who has himself been the subject of controversy.

Commenting on the news of a $100,000 grant received for studying the causes and cures of flooding along Bloomfield's segment of the Third River, Councilman Nick Joanow asserted that
You don't build on a floodplain. There's a cost/benefit analysis that needs to be understood …. Homes along that river have lost 5 to 10 feet of their property due to riverbank erosion. There are homes that are consistently flooding...the water has to go somewhere.
He referenced the township's 2002 Master Plan which included the Army Corps of Engineers conclusion that
The increase in the intensity and number of 100 year and 500 year flood events can be attributed to the way that development has occurred in Bloomfield. Impervious surface coverage along stream corridors in wetlands and floodplain areas leaves stormwater with no place to go. Generally these areas would absorb and filter the waters acting as a natural detention basin for the surrounding community. In Bloomfield, storm water travels through streets, driveways, and sometimes basements, rather than vegetated riparian corridors and wetlands.

Demolition of the structures on the north side of the site is planned to be completed by New Years Day.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Sunday on Washington St.

Puttering around with the car on Sunday afternoons was the usual Sunday pastime for the male half of the population. A closer look at the construction of these "houses" suggests that they were built as speedily and as cheaply as possible. Additions are tacked on wherever and whenever and the high basements obviously predict the flood waters expected from nearby Toney's Brook. This entire area is now covered by black top and has become a parking lot.

Frederick Branch,

Historical Society of Bloomfield

Friday, December 23, 2011

Breaking News: Bloomfield is Turning Republican

Bloomfield woke up today to find it has been broken into two congressional districts. Neither of them will include our current congressman, Bill Pascrel.

Most of the 1st and 2nd wards(along with Upper Montclair and Nutley) will be represented by Republican Rodney Frelinghuysen's 11th District. The 3rd Ward will fall mostly into the 10th district of Democrat Donald Payne.(Click on graphic to enlarge.)

It all becomes official in 2013.
Final confirmation of the new maps won't happen until the new legislature confirms everything when they meet in January. More details and the best analysis of the process so far can be found at

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

7 year Old King of Bloomfield's Inflatables

James Joanow likes balloons. His grandmother recalls that he's been collecting them since he was around 5 years old. James especially likes the oversized inflatables that are the latest thing to decorate front yards for holidays and special occasions. The problem is that James lives in a 2 bedroom condo where holiday displays are frowned upon -- especially those that take up lawn space.

So, James called on grandparents Nick and Marlene Joanow to donate their front yard to showcase his collection on major holidays. The fact that the Joanows live on an isolated Lakewood Terrace cul-de-sac -- with a tiny, hilly, front yard -- has not dampened James' enthusiasm. "He loves standing out front in the cold and answering questions from neighbors and passersby," notes Councilman Joanow.

Each holiday serves up new and bigger additions to his displays. James is now 7. Even though he still lives in the Roseland condo, he manages to spend most of his December weekends visiting "Poppy" and giving guided tours while fine tuning his latest project. He told me that he's been working on this year's Christmas display since taking down an equally amazing Halloween show that startled neighbors with two fog machines. "He really does it all himself," says Nick. "He arranges all of them and configures all the wiring so that no one gets tangled up and no circuits are overloaded." Check out this Youtube clip of James in action.

Young James still has two items on the top of his Christmas list: more inflatables and more extension cords.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Christmas in Bloomfield

Seems like there is a bit more optimism in the air as indicated by an increase in homes lit up for the holiday season. Especially nice to see lights on side streets that are mostly only seen by neighbors. These homes are on Garner St. We've seen some spectacular displays in even more isolated neighborhoods. Stay tuned....

Sunday, December 18, 2011


2011 has been quite a year of ups and downs in Bloomfield. Here's a tast of out "highlight reel" for the year. They can all be found in our blogroll at right. Recognise any?

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Russians are Coming!

Among it's many diverse ethnic groups, we're aware that Bloomfield has a vibrant Russian community. Google analytics is showing us that late this afternoon hundreds of folks from the heart of Russia have suddenly become fascinated with this humble Bloomfield blog. We're open to theories as to who, and why....

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Bloomfield Centennial

Broad Street at Franklin.
Time for another reminder that Bloomfield's Bicentennial Committee will be meeting for the last time, in this pre-Bicentennial year, on Saturday at 10:AM in Bloomfield College's Science Building. All are welcome.

Besides hundreds of photos like this on The Historical Society of Bloomfield's website, you are invited to the grand opening of our new unofficial Bicentennial blog: Vintage Bloomfield.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Au Revoir, Janice

It's hardly a goodbye, since we'll be seeing her this Saturday when she chairs another meeting of Bloomfield's Bicentennial Committee:

Dear Friend:

Khalil Gibran once wrote, “You give but little when you give of your possessions, it is when you give of yourself that you truly give.” For the past 9 years I have abided by these words serving as the First Ward representative in the municipality of Bloomfield. Although my term expires December 31, 2011, my last council meeting will be Monday, December 12, 2011.

During my tenure on council, I am proud to say that my many initiatives were attained and that growth and accomplishments for Bloomfield and in particular, Ward 1, are evidenced. Many of these accomplishments were in direct response to the needs and desires of the constituents. I would also like to thank those town hall employees and advisors who worked diligently in assisting me in my township goals. Further, I would like to thank various members of the governing body and other elected officials who, throughout the years, fostered within me an “education in people,” second only to a Harvard Doctrine.

I do not leave this position with a heavy heart, but with one that beats excitedly. I shall remain committed to our town. Presently, I serve as chair to the Bicentennial committee, helping to navigate Bloomfield’s 200th Birthday with honor and grace. On a personal note, I cherish the blessings that God has bestowed upon me, I continue to plan and lay the groundwork for my future and with open arms I am ready to love life to its fullest. As I pen this farewell address, I glance down upon my hands and recall the times I filled Brian’s juicy cup with my left hand and simultaneously moved mountains with my right. I proudly ponder, that these are my hands; small yet independent. It is at this juncture in my life that I choose to use my hands to gently wave farewell.


Councilwoman Janice Litterio

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Pinpointing Poverty in Bloomfield

WNYC created a Pinpointing Poverty map based on newly-released statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau. Interesting to see that the Montclair tract at left has over 3 times the rate of poverty as can be found anywhere in Bloomfield. Baristanet raised the issue to much back and forth comment by it's regulars. This census tract(#153), along with two others in the 10% range, covers a sector of Bloomfield East of the Garden State Parkway and south of Hoover.(click on map to enlarge)

Friday, December 09, 2011

Christmas Carol for Rent Control

Following Monday's Christmas Tree lighting festivities, John Street resident Beresford Jones sang to the council during the public portion of the meeting. He was applauded by fellow rent control protestors who had earler picketed outside.
See video via link below:
Next Line of Attack for Rent Protection Advocates: SINGING? [Video] - Bloomfield, NJ Patch:

'via Blog this'

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Bloomfield Census Consensus

The NJ Star Ledger and the Philadelphia Courier have collaborated on an interesting piece regarding NJ outmigration appropriately titled: "N.J.residents are leaving for Pennsylvania in increasingly large numbers." They cite many 2010 Census stats to reinforce their premise, but they don't point out that -- while Pennsylvania is the leading northeast state for in-migration -- the number LEAVING Pennsylvania for other states is comparable to those leaving NJ. The 130 odd comments at following the piece reinvorce the message. One summed it up
especially well: "...I would love to see a stat on how many baby boomers are fleeing this money pit of a state. You would have to be an absolute idiot to retire here."

All this got me wondering about how many Bloomfielders have been leaving town and when the exodus began. We all have friends and relatives who have decided it was time for them to migrate to another state. Having participated in last year's Census in Bloomfield, I can attest to the fact that every stone was unturned to count every possible resident in every neighborhood. It turned out that we were down several hundred from the previous census. Although the township is considering a formal challenge on the numbers, the adjacent chart from Wikopedia shows that the pattern has been fairly steady for the past 40 years. We've shrunk from a high of 52,029 in 1970 to our current 47,315. Going into our Bicentennial year, it's hard to imagine what Bloomfield was like in 1900 just before it began it's biggest population surge -- quintupling in size by 1950.

We can speculate that much of the decline is attributable to factors such as declining family sizes and uncounted undocumented residents, but there's no doubt that taxes also have a lot to do with it. We continue to wonder if anything can be done to reverse the process and whose going to fill those empty rooms.

Friday, December 02, 2011

Assessing Bloomfield's Neighborhoods

At Monday's Council meeting Tax Assessor Joe Pisauro presented an update on his 2012 Compliance Plan for property taxes. He explained that he breaks Bloomfield into has 150 neighborhoods that must be reviewed each year.

I asked Mr. Pisauro if he could provide a copy of his map and he forwarded the copy below. It would make an interesting parlor game -- and jigsaw puzzle -- just to figure out which segment you live in. (click on map to enlarge) Pisauro explained to me that his "neighborhoods" are not defined in terms of streets or traditional communities, but of assessed land values and similar types of housing. Not all towns use this systems, but it facilitates fine tuning annual tax updates. To get you started, green depicts parks, light green is for golf courses....

He can change up to 50 percent of the township’s property evaluations annually, based on current market conditions. These changes are then brought before the County Board of Taxation for approval.

Thursday, December 01, 2011