Business Chaser

Unfortunately I could not attend the Community Center meeting last night. From the sounds of things I would not have gotten in anyway.

For non-Cranford readers, a large parcel near the southern border of town was an office / warehouse park that is owned by Hartz Mountain, the flea collar people. The anchor tenant recently left / was kicked out and they want to rezone for over 900 rental units.

This did not sit well with thousands of Cranford residents.

Understandably. That’s a lot of units.

Being a southsider, I drive on Walnut Avenue daily. I have an incentive to have traffic be metered or  be not much worse that it is today. It does get busy several times per day already. (An aside: I have long been in favor of a weight-sensitive light with left turn signals on Walnut northbound for those turning left on Chester Lang, but more for cars wanting to turn from Chester Lang to Walnut Ave northbound. They can sit there waiting for quite a while and with these units that wait will be longer.)

With people leaving for work, coming home and driving to stores and activities, this would add thousands of vehicle trips on Walnut per day. You think the backlog at Lincoln is bad now….

Plus I agree that a large residential development (which would add about 10% more households to the town) is likely to stress the schools (I could go on a rant on how the schools probably could do more with less, but that would be every rant ever). It would heavily affect Walnut Ave, Livingston Ave, and Hillside Ave schools since all of those students would be assigned to those schools. Or they’d need to be bused to the northside schools. THAT would go over with the northsiders…

Yes, the development would be paying taxes, but the schools may be at a point of capacity where they cannot accommodate the number of children physically in the space with the additional influx. With capital projects being ludicrously expensive due to inefficiency, paying union prevailing wages, and overruns, any increase in school tax revenue would be heavily offset by the increased costs. Most likely resulting in more bond debt.

Hartz is entitled to see what they can do with the property that would create the most value and generate the most cash. Unfortunately the NJ economy limits the potential uses due to obscene tax rates and regulation. Also, retailing has overcapacity, office space has overcapacity, and residents would be fighting even harder against any heavy or potentially polluting industry so close to homes.

So that leaves residential, nursing homes, and not much else, (I don’t think a hospital could work with one in Rahway so close).

Another issue with residential is that it is very tough for the land use to change once it is residential. Rental units would require eviction and some legal battles before buildings could be razed. A very hard bell to unring. Business buildings are much easier to change and reconfigure (kicking out 5 tenants is easier than 900). So if Hartz gets their wish, we’d have to live with it for many, many years.

I’d be interested to see if any leeching of any materials from the adjacent site (a former GM ball bearing plant that is now Hyatt Hills) is in ground samples of the Hartz site, and there may be contamination from Hartz’s activities from back in the day.

So, in my opinion, pretty much the citizen’s best shot at stopping this is to make it so the numbers could not work for Hartz. Demand that they build a school or expand the current schools. Demand widened roads and traffic signals that are timed to improve traffic flow and pedestrian safety up and down Walnut (maybe even at Lincoln, maybe even up to North), perhaps even purchasing additional property to accommodate the widening. Demand traffic management by Walnut Avenue School with a parking turnout for people’s safety. Insist they test the living heck out of the soil. They need obstacles. Bad press is not enough.

That would be tough to do…Renting 905 units is going to be pretty stinking profitable. Lets say they have a 10% vacancy rate and rent them out at an average of $2,000 per month (that includes the cheap COAH units). Assuming 815 units are rented, that’s $1.6 million in revenue per month. Or almost $20 million a year. We’ll have to come up with a LOT of obstacles.

But, if the expenses to get it built and rented impact the numbers so badly it hurts the potential profitability for the next 10 years, they will look at another use.

But that means we as residents have to permit another use. Hartz owns the property and is entitled to do something with it. If we are against every last thing we’re just NIMBY idiots that show that Cranford is hostile to all business, and that is not a reputation you want to have.


So today I get a sponsored post  in Facebook from the Cranford Democrats…nothing wrong with that.


But I thought it really odd that they would use their sponsored ad to tout their (and specifically Kevin Campbell’s)concern over traffic and stormwater runoff. Uh, little late for that.

If they were concerned, why didn’t they raise the concerns at the 2012 and 2013 Clark planning meetings before the project was approved?

The stormwater runoff, unless if affects the drainage on Raritan or Walnut, will be downstream of us, and with the Rahway widening a lot within Clark, will the increased impervious surface be significant enough to be a factor?

I’ll be interested in seeing how much worse the Raritan and Central intersection will be. The widening could help, and if done right it could provide better flow for the left turn signals. It will probably take us a little longer to get to ShopRite, but this also will cut a few trips to Linden, Watchung and Union to do shopping.

I will admit, I was a little disappointed to see all of the big evergreens bordering on Walnut go down. I was surprised that none would/could be saved. It’d be a plus if they plant more trees than your average shopping center, which they may since they also have that cesspool ornamental pond and a gazebo…

The tenants (with some restaurants I didn’t expect):

  • Whole Foods (which will include its own restaurant and pub)
  • Home Goods
  • L.A. Fitness
  • Panera Bread
  • Panda Express
  • Chipotle
  • Applebee’s
  • Noodles & Company
  • Smashburger
  • Blaze Pizza
  • Red Mango
  • Dress Barn
  • Carter’s
  • Oshkosh
  • Petco
  • Michael’s
  • Five Below
  • Modell’s Sporting Goods
  • Party City
  • Sleepy’s
  • Visionworks
  • Ulta
  • Torrid
  • Hallmark
  • Vitamin Shoppe
  • Verizon Wireless
  • PNC Bank

The way they’re slapping this thing up I would bet it is open before August.


The silver lining of the jobless stagflation is that most people (excepting the ones that will never get it or the ones that have this as their desired outcome) are getting a better idea on how the private and government sector interact and how bad government policy and Keynesian economics impact our country.

Too bad they didn’t have Mr. Crane’s economics class, we could have saved about $12 trillion. (By the way, rest in peace, Mr. Crane.)

Or out of our property tax bills.

Seriously, did you really expect the town to keep the sewer bill in with the property taxes when they have the hard spending cap? Did you?

Well, the entire Cranford Democrat platform of 2010 is now moot:

And the whole process has been one of the silliest things I’ve seen in a while.

First I thought it was interesting that T-Mobile would be running ads that poke fun at the company that will be buying them.

But the line in the ad: “It makes sense if you don’t think about it” struck me.

It really did. I think some ad guy struck upon would should be the political phrase of the decade. It sums it all up as succintly as possible.

Make huge public pension guarantees? Tax the wealthy until they leave? Complain about the lack of growth while the government descends of small business like locusts?

“It makes sense if you don’t think about it.”

It’s perfect.

If I were a real CEO, I’d be one that would listen to presentations by McKinsey, Bain and Boston Consulting, for example, very skeptically.

Why? Because I know that a lot of people that work there aren’t as brilliant as they try to pass themselves off, (plus I know that a consultant’s primary goal is increasing the project, with solving your problem coming in well in second).

This article helps vindicate my suspicion. Wall St. and Consulting Firms rely on elite college admissions staff to screen their hires.

I’ve met and worked with enough idiots from the top schools to know that while yes, a Harvard grad would, on average, likely be smarter than someone from say, Wabash, they are not all perfect. Yes, I have come across people from Harvard that were scary smart. But I have come across scary smart people from Middlebury, Denison, Dickinson, William and Mary, Brigham Young Michigan, Colgate, Rutgers, and even a friend who is a high-school drop-out (later GED’d).

But if I stack up the people from the other schools against the people I know from the elites, my assessment is that the elite grads have bigger egos, but did not show a willingness to get dirty, do detailed quantitative work, or even possess anything that could be argued as superior analytical skills.

But to many firms, the name is what matters:

Steve Hsu points out that, effectively, the hiring process of elite law firms and investment banks is being “outsourced” to college admissions officers.

It is odd that the soft firms, which market themselves to clients as being super-smart repositories of brainpower (of course this is largely a fiction; see point 3 above), would rely so heavily on university admissions committees. They effectively outsource a big chunk of due diligence on their most important investment (human capital) to a group of people whose judgement they somehow trust, but perhaps without detailed understanding. When I was on the faculty at Yale I knew people in admissions and it’s not clear to me that they were the best able to spot potential in 18 year olds. In studies of expert performance admissions people are less good at predicting UG GPA than a simple algorithm. (The “algorithm” is simply a weighted sum of SAT and HS GPA!)

By the way, Hsu thinks this situation applies more to “soft firms”—law firms, investment banks, and consultants where the actual performance of the firm is harder to measure than “hard firms”—such as hedge funds and technology companies—where he thinks prestige is likely to count for less.

The question is why so many firms do this? One answer is that it seems to work—it gets them the right candidates so why mess with the formula? If you add in an efficient market hypothesis, you could say that if using college admissions as a proxy for fitness at an elite firm was a mistake, some firm would take the opportunity to hire all the under-demanded smart kids from other colleges.

Ah, but there is where the author has a mistaken assumption: that HR people are not pathetically lazy. HR people don’t want to scour the world for talent. That takes time and effort. And if someone is hired who is an idiot, they can get away with a shrug and “What could I do? He got into Harvard and interviewed well. How could I have known?”

So if I ever amount to anything, some of you reading this can take heart that I will happily throw the Harvard, Yale, and Princeton resume books into my recycling bin should I ever receive one. I’d give the kids from College of NJ and Drexel a shot.

When you turn down the NFL in order to stay.

Yeah, I know, a dopey post that bashes unions. I couldn’t resist.  I’ve been grumpy lately and am trying to perk up.

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