Thursday, January 31, 2013

Previewing New Rentals -- East Side vs Westside

"A signature redevelopment, a remarkable transformation"
This is an artists conception of what Bloomfield's largest new rental complex should look like soon. Built in 1897 for the General Electric Company, this iconic building is being recreated as the cornerstone of a vibrant residential village near Watsessing Station.  Pre-opening rents can still be reserved starting at $1599 for Studio apartments, ranging up to penthouse units for quite a bit more.

Meanwhile,about a mile west at Liberty and Broad, preliminary plans for a major rental project on the Annie Sez site was presented at Monday's town council conference meeting. There were few questions from the council but over on Baristanet the critics pounced.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Waiting it Out

At last night's packed conference meeting, Bloomfield's Council voted to give control of the animal shelter to Ted Ehrenberg, the new Town Manager.
After discussing the controversial plan of the Neighbor to Neighbor Network to takeover the shelter, the Town Council voted that the Mr. Ehrenberg be in charge of the administration of the animal shelter. NTNN will be allowed to negotiate with the Town Administrator.

After a 21 day waiting period, it comes back to the Town Council. If the town council so chooses they can appoint NTNN to take over the management of the shelter.

Councilman Hamilton said and RFP should be issued. Other items of the BOH and its autonomy came up but everything will be dealt in due time. No one who works for the town can be on the NTNN board.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Shelter Show Case

The handwriting was on the wall when word got out that a phone and email campaign was being made by Bloomfield Animal Shelter to it's long adoption list. It was also clear from the signup sheet for the public comment section of Tuesday's council meeting. What stood out is that nearly all the 8+ signatures were clearly written by the same hand. It was also clear from the numerous professionally printed black and blue signs held by the Shelter staffers sitting in front of the council room.

Further back in the room were shelter manager, Kathleen Gregorovich, Karen Lore, and BOH members, Joel Elkins and Kathleen DeMarino. All the comments can be seen and heard online. Their shared message was that the Shelter was being perfectly managed, but could only survive by being merged with the Neighbor to Neighbor Network.

Beth Mersten Cruz and myself were the only speakers present to offer any rebuttal. The leader of the fundraising committee felt the need to interrupt her more than once and plead with the Mayor for a re-rebuttal -- without success.
For an odd variety of reasons, there was no online press coverage of the meeting. The Board of Ed Meeting that night was considered more important for coverage by Bloomfield Life and The Patch. The Independent Press covered it, but has reduced it's online presence. The Baristanet correspondant's car broke down. More comments on the issues raised can be found on the very active Facebook pages of Citizens of Bloomfield and Save the Bloomfield/Bukowski Shelter.
Beth sent out the following note after the meeting"

Mayor and Town Council: 
Thank you for your time during the public comment section of today’s council meeting. It is abundantly clear, yet again, that people in our town and surrounding areas really care about the animals and the shelter. To avoid future controversies and to ensure quality shelter management and care for the animals, I respectfully request the RFP to clearly state the requirements expected of the agency providing shelter management. 
Some requirements should include a welcoming and well-managed volunteer program, a foster program, the transfer of animals to rescue whenever possible, investigation of acts of cruelty and other misconduct, keeping Petfinder and similar type listings up to date, treating employees fairly, providing timely veterinary care, working cooperatively with other local shelters to save lives, and continued “no-kill” status with less than 2% “euthanasia” rate. Key performance indicators (KPI) should be defined for all required services. 
I also ask the Township to clarify in advance how the outsourced service provider will be overseen by the town and how complaints will be handled. The agency should provide reports with clear metrics to the Township. There must also be a process to escalate complaints to the Township and follow up with the service provider when needed. These management tools of reporting and problem resolution are critical to ensure the requirements listed in the RFP are indeed being provided to the town, and issues can be resolved quickly without long-term controversy.  
 I have previously listed numerous issues in the past year related to the BOH’s oversight of the shelter’s management and refusals to comply with the Town Council’s requests. Please consider appointing fresh faces to the BOH and/or changing the BOH from autonomous to elected. 
 Thank you, Beth Mersten Cruz Shelter Showcase

Lore has managed NtNN for 12 years until her resignation last month. She always maintained that the NtNN's mission has been to provide volunteers "to fill in service gaps in the township's behalf." The question remains how NtNN can continue it's mission with the Shelter which has adopted a policy of firing its most experienced volunteers and turning away nearly all prospective recruits.  The shelter issue is once again on the official agenda for this Monday's council meeting.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Greener Bloomfield Rises Again!

From John Palomanki, the Founder of Greener Bloomfield:

Yes, Greener Bloomfield is coming back to life after a hiatus of almost 3 years!
Our goals are the same — to bring the community together to learn about and implement actions that will help us be more sustainable in our homes, our schools, our businesses, and our township. We’ll build on the success we’ve had in the past to get Bloomfield re-certified with Sustainable Jersey.
We’ll examine development going on in town and promote green building practices. And we’ll always advocate transparency, openness, and other best practices to make sure our township is thinking sustainably — so that we thrive not only environmentally, but also socially and economically. As always, we aim to be collaborative, non-partisan, and apolitical — we just want to work together to get good things done!
We’ll be meeting on Thursday January 24th 2013 , 7pm, at the Civic Center (84 Broad Street) to share what people have done during our hiatus, to discuss what we want to do going forward,  and to enjoy fellowship with people who have similar ideals.
To make sure you’re on the list to be notified of upcoming meetings, sign up at
Like us on facebook at:

Monday, January 21, 2013

Free Home Repair Service Returns This Summer

If your home needs painting, yard work, repair or replacement of hand rails, steps, doors or handicap ramps, and you cannot perform the tasks yourself, you may qualify for a free household repair program to be offered this summer.

United Methodist Action Reach-Out Mission by Youth (UM ARMY) is returning to Bloomfield in 2013. Teams of volunteer youths will perform repairs during a summer camp scheduled the week of July 22 to 28.

Every job is previewed so that clients can meet with a UM ARMY representative who will determine whether volunteers can perform the requested work. (They cannot do electrical wiring, plumbing, roofing and other tasks that require trade certifications.)

Bloomfield Human Services has begun collecting referrals for this year’s program. Job selection is based on safety issues and need. The deadline for referrals is April 15. For details, call (973) 680-4017

Thursday, January 17, 2013

BOH "Re-organization" Meeting Tonight Canceled

THE HEALTH DEPT RELEASED THIS STATEMENT LATE THIS AFTERNOON: "Please be advised that the meeting scheduled for tonight, January 17, 2013, has been cancelled due to a quorum." In reality there was a lack of a quorum, since two of two of the five have yet to be appointed and a third was ill.

 In the past year, many residents have written to Bloomfield's Town Council and Board Of Health regarding controversial decisions including the mass firing of volunteers, "temporarily" moving Memphis the dog to South Dakota, and merging the Animal Shelter with the Neighbor to Neighbor Network. This year has added the new issues of water toxins and a flu epidemic. Two of the Board's five members have yet to learn if they're being re-appointed.

Tonight's 6:30PM meeting in the Mayor's Conference Room may begin to deal with the issues raised in the following letter by the founder of Shelter Showcase, Beth Mersten Cruz:
January 17 2013
Mayor, Council, Board of Health and Media,

There is much discussion lately on the future of the management of the Bloomfield shelter. Should the township continue to run the shelter as is? It seems this isn’t palatable to any of the players involved due to the many controversies and allegations of mismanagement, wrongful termination of employees and volunteers and much more.

The Board of Health seems to be seriously interested in turning the shelter over to the Neighbor to Neighbor Network (NTNN), even without properly putting out an RFP for bid. The Mayor rightfully seems to have concerns about the NTNN running the shelter, as it seems he doesn’t want the charity’s reputation tarnished by controversy over the shelter. This is a valid concern since conflicts of interest have already caused the charity to enter into contracts with the Board of Health that were clearly unbalanced and potentially mismanagement of assets, breach of fiduciary duties and self-dealing.

 Other viable options include putting out an RFP for shelter management, or keeping the shelter managed by the Township but moving it out of the hands of the Board of Health. It is possible to manage the shelter without major controversy. Shelter management may never be without disagreement, but intense controversy and disasters can be avoided.

The standards requested by residents and other concerned individuals are relatively simple and include the following policies: a welcoming and well-managed volunteer program including a foster program, transfer of animals to rescue whenever possible, investigation of acts of cruelty and other misconduct, keeping Petfinder and similar type listings up to date, treating employees fairly, providing timely veterinary care and working cooperatively with other local shelters to save lives.

Our township can have a model shelter program serving our town if the Mayor and Town Council support the above mentioned policies and ensure the opportunity for effective shelter management to implement best practices with respect and kindness to our citizens and animals.

Please let me know if and when I can help you in any way.
Best wishes,
Beth Mersten Cruz, President and Founder Shelter Showcase 
Shelter Showcase :: Adopt love, don't buy it!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Paul Lasek's Response to Our Water Quality Questions

It's on the agenda for tonight's conference meeting, and we know several residents who plan to attend. Bloomfield's chief engineer, Paul Lasek, has emailed a response to most of the issues this blog raised last week:


 Regarding your post, please note the following: While Nutley, Montclair and Bloomfield all belong to the North Jersey District Water Supply Commission we do not all use the same water. Nutley receives their water via an aqueduct belonging to the Passaic Valley Sewer Commission. Montclair gets their water via North Jersey District which is also supplemented with well water. Bloomfield gets their water through the City of Newark. The Newark Water is from the Pequannock Watershed.

The treated water is transported through an aqueduct (not connected or part of Montclair or Nutley) and held in an open reservoir in Cedar Grove. All water systems are different. It is therefore not fair to compare one system to another when there are variances in the location of the water source; the methods of treatment and storage as well as the size and operation of the individual systems.

 Regarding your questions:
During my past seven years as the township engineer, other than the TTHM issue, there are no major water quality issues regarding Bloomfield water.

Water Samples are taken sinks from a combination of residences and businesses. The health department is responsible for the sampling and testing. The testing is actually performed by a state certified lab, Garden State Laboratories.

 I would defer to the Health Department regarding expertise on immune systems or poison control.

 Notices were mailed to every party in Bloomfield who has a legal postal address. Therefore apartments were mailed a notice. If you receive mail via the US Postal Service a notice was mailed to you in accordance to the NJDEP Bureau of Safe Drinking Regulations.

 Questions related to tolerance of toxins should be addressed to a medical professional I defer to the Health Department regarding medical tests to determine a vulnerability to toxins. I

f you have any further questions, please feel free to contact me

Sunday, January 13, 2013

You May Qualify for a Residential Rehab Grant

Bloomfield's Residential Rehabilitation Program is designed to give low to moderate homeowners, occupying a 1 to 3 family dwelling, the opportunity to make necessary improvements to their homes while also, in many instances, eliminating code violations. (Click on Graphic to enlarge)

Monday, January 07, 2013

Clarity Needed for Our Water Report

During the period 2004-2006 Bloomfield's water quality led it to be  designated as one of the five most polluted towns in NJ, in terms of it's Haloascetic acid (HAA5) levels. Much has been done to reduce these levels in the years that followed.

Bloomfield Township last week sent notices to some residents warning that the level of trihalomethanes (chemical contaminants that are by-products of chlorination) in their drinking water exceeds federal standards.
Particularly concerning to some residents is the warning in the flyer:
People who drink water containing trihalomethanes in excess of the MCL (maximum contaminant level) over many years may experience problems with their liver, kidneys, or central nervous system, and may have an increased risk of getting cancer.
 Bloomfield’s “total trihalomethane” (TTHM) problem was first identified in April 2011.
People with severely compromised immune systems, people with an infant, and some elderly may be at increased risk. These people should seek advice about drinking water from their health care providers.
Two of the four testing locations are 61 Bukowski Place and 127 Evans Road.

Baristanet's report on the issue over the weekend has generated many comments fro residents as well as news that both Nutley and Montclair  have tested at lower levels from the same water system. Town Engineer Paul Lasek contributed some context for the report that cleared up a few concerns, but  Some questions remain:

How common are Bloomfield's water quality violations reported by the EPA?

Are the tests made inside homes or apartments?

Does our Health Department ever get involved? Isn't there expertese there regarding imune systems and poison control that might be useful?

Were notices mailed to renters or left in lobby? Aren't renters and their children more likely to have compromised immune systems.

Doesn't everyone have a different range of tolerance for toxins?

Are there medical tests that our health department could do to determine one's vulneribility to toxins?

Wouldn't it be more useful to post your current data so it could be be read straight up instead of sideways?

Saturday, January 05, 2013

The Buzz is Hot Off the Presses

If you haven't received your Bloomfield Buzz by today, you can download it online, or pick one up at Town Hall, Civic Center, or Library.

Friday, January 04, 2013

Developer's Super Tuesday at Planning Board(CHANGED TO 1/15)

Bloomfield has a population problem - a school population problem. Trailers are already at Franklin and Fairview schools, Brookdale has already fixed up a classroom in the basement, the Middle School is now at maximum capacity. This Tuesday, Bloomfield's Planning Board will be discussing another development plan that will probably affect your child's education.

Shortly after the Planning Board approved a controversial mega-development at 225 Belleville Avenue, in November the Township of Bloomfield lost the right to deny the developer of a 9 acre lot on Lion Gate Drive the right to develop the property. Essex County Superior Court Judge Michael J. Nelson ruled that the township could no longer block the development. The developer, had been approved for 104 large townhouses has now gone one further, and seeks to be able to do ANYTHING with the property. ANYTHING - without approvals, without permission, without oversight of the Planning Board - ANYTHING whether it violates our township ordinances or Municipal land use law. ANYTHING.

This includes increasing the development's size and density - and thus adding more children to our schools. To your child's classroom. To the number of trailers that are in use at our schools.
This sets a very dangerous precedent.

Why have a Planning Board if a developer can circumvent our laws in this way? Why have a Planning Board if no oversight is needed? Why bother to have any requirements for developers? Why not just give them all Carte Blanche to do whatever they want, whether it is good for Bloomfield or not. (click on Google Map to enlarge it)

 Please come to the Planning Board on Tuesday January 15th, 2012(RESCHEDULED FROM 1/8) at 7:30pm in the Town Council Chambers at 1 Municipal Plaza. Tell the Planning Board to hold their ground and deny this revision to the application. Tell the Planning Board that this is a very dangerous precedent to set. Tell the Planning Board that their function in making sure that all required approvals and oversight of developers is appreciated and that we want them to continue to do the job that they do. Here is the text of the developer's notice to those who live within 200 feet of the development (by law only those within 200 feet need to be notified):

The applicant also requests that the Board grant any additional approvals, permits, interpretations, waivers, or exceptions reflected in the materials filed (as same may be amended or revised from time to time without further notice)or determined to be necessary during the review and processing of this application.

The terms for several members of the Planning Board expired as of December 31, and the township council has not yet either reappointed those individuals, or appointed replacements. The Lion Gate developer did not want to proceed until the full Planning Board could be seated again. The council will be filling the vacancies on the Planning Board at the council meeting on Monday, January 14.

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Recycling Resolutions

Bloomfield residents can now recycle even more on their commingled recycling days. In addition to plastics (numbers 1 through 7), cans and bottles, the following new items can be added to commingled recycling:

„X Plastic Bags

„X Plastic Wrappers

„X Bubble Wrap

„X Shrink Wrap

„X Tetra Pak Materials and juice boxes

„X Rigid Plastic such as molded lawn chairs, buckets and toys with no metal parts

„X Aluminum pots and pans

„X Styrofoam including cups, egg cartons and packing materials

NEW - Starting January 2013 NEW DPW Garbage/Recycling Rules:

Holiday Black Out Day will only have one Garbage Pick Up that Week.
Curb Side Recycling - Black Out Day will miss that pick up for the item being recycled that day.


Electronics Recycling in the North End of Bloomfield Saturday, January 5, 2013 and Saturday, May 18, 2013 from 9AM to 12 noon
Where: in the Parking Lot directly across the street from the Brookdale Christian Church and next to Shop-Rite on Broad Street. Look for the Bloomfield DPW Recycling truck.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

New Years Cheers for Our Volunteers!

In the 13 years my wife and I have lived in Bloomfield, we've gotten to get to know an amazing number of residents who have devoted much of their free time to making our town a better place to live. None receive a dime for their services. Some work on a variety of boards and committees. Many keep a low profile while others act as gadflys, standing up at public meetings expressing their heartfelt feelings and asking important questions about what still needs to be done. Here, in no particular order, are our top 10 nominations:

 Gary Iacobacci is a former councilman who has managed the political campaigns of many successful and unsuccessful local candidates. He has played a leading role on many groups including the Rec Committee, Library, and Bicentennial Committee.

 Michelle Davidson has planned and managed most of the major Bicentennial events this year. She is the newest member of Oakside Mansion's trustees.

Jeff Coltenback is the owner of Paradise Pets who trains and rehabilitates dogs with several rescue groups.  His efforts to adopt Memphis, the pitbull, have unified thousands of animal lovers from the Bloomfield area and beyond in a campaign to challenge Board of Health policies at Bloomfield's animal shelter. Their petition to the Council and Board of Health collected over 47,000 signatures.

Pat Gilleran is retiring from chairing the Open Space Committee, possibly as a result of her outspoken comments at Council meetings. She is best known for speaking up at meetings of the Council, Planning Board, and Board of Health meetings with the documented results of numerous Open Public Record Act(OPRA) requests.

Karen Banda co-founded the town's most popular unofficial Facebook page, "Save the Bloomfield/Bukowski Shelter" in 2011. With over 6700 fans, the site started as a vehicle for maintaining adequate funding for the shelter, but evolved into a communication center for the dozens of volunteers fired by Director Karen Lore early last year. Although the needs of her ailing mother kept her from attending public meetings, she has remained active online.

Carlos Pomares is a college history professor who ran unsuccessfully for council in 2010. He joined the parking authority and quickly made alliances with other members to challenge the existing majority. He has also been a member of the Historic District Review Board, and the Collins House Preservation Committee. An antique car buff, Pomares participated in most cruise nights.

Rich Rockwell who also ran with Mr. Pomares for council, got involved in a neighborhood zoning dispute to the extent that he wound up joining the Zoning Board. He has rescued and restored hundreds of historic photographs for the Historical Society of Bloomfield -- making most of them available to all on their website. He also presented a virtual tour of the old Morris Canal before leading two walking tours on the Canal route.

Susanna Sotillo founded the Halcyon Park Neighborhood Association and has been secretary for the Bloomfield Neighborhood Association Committee. She has also been on the Planning Board for 12 years where she is often a minority voice against out of control developments.

Mary Shaughnessy chairs the most active board in town: the Board of Education -- the only board that requires an election campaign. She is now working to resolve problems concerning overcrowding in our schools and deals with questions from teachers and parents alike at the BOE's biweekly meetings.

Maria Probst led her neighbors along with other concerned residents in a six month long battle with the Zoning Board to prevent T-Mobile from constructing a cell tower at the corner of Broad and Bay. Although T-Mobile has withdrawn their application and the "No Cell Tower signs are down -- for now, she has persuaded the Council to consider a new wireless ordinance by speaking up at many Council and Planning Board meetings on this and other issues. Maria has also done an amazing job of alerting her extensive network of residents to forthcoming Council and Board agenda items as soon as they are made public,

Of course, there are hundreds more neighbors that deserve recognition and our appreciation.  Feel free to add your own names and become a volunteer in 2013!