NIMBY Nonsense

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.


The Historic District people are pushing their rope along, getting the Township to approve an ordinance to begin the creation of Historic Districts in town.

I met one of their crew when they were in front of the Post Office trolling for signatures many months ago.

I wouldn’t sign.

She did not like my answer.

I am against this. This is what the zoning board already does, or at least takes into consideration when they review applications. Why do I want yet another layer of people, either the Township Committee or some board, who have no qualifications and little accountability determine whether or not any alteration that I want to do to my home is architecturally consistent with the historical period and if not they would require me to change the design to their liking or deny my permit? Or if they unilaterally deem something that was done by a previous owner to not be “historically accurate” and I would need take it down at my sole expense? Why would I sign that?

Maybe others will start to realize what having this committee around will do to them before it’s too late:

Resident Mark Bufkin, who lives at 12 Fairmount Place, said his home is one that will probably be designated as historic. Though he’s in favor of the amendment, he said he didn’t understand the outcome of receiving a designation.

“Am I going to be told what I can and can’t do to my own home?” he said. “I wouldn’t appreciate that.”

Nope, you wouldn’t. I wonder if the people who set up the historic districts in NYC had the same “oh, no, we won’t interfere with what you want to do to your home” schtick when they set them up.

Something like this WOULD NEVER HAPPEN in Cranford:

So a tunnel will be built into Manhattan by a different bankrupt entity: Amtrak.

With the beneficiary being Metro-North who will be able to go to Penn as opposed to just Grand Central.

Yes, we’ll get some more trains (they may even dangle single seat to us drooling Raritan Valley riders). But no getting to the East Side. (We still can hold out hope for the Number 7 tunnel out of Secaucus.)

And the cost overruns will be spread across the country since it’s a Fed project.

My prediction? 20 years or never.

Now THIS is something to get into a NIMBY lather about:

Fri Jan 7, 5:47 pm ET

UNION, N.J. – A man who claimed he was seeking the “portal to hell” repeatedly stabbed two women early Friday after they noticed misplaced items in their backyard and opened the door to a shed where he was staked out, law enforcement officials said.

A neighbor jumped a fence after hearing the women scream and hit their assailant, 25-year-old Morgan Mesz, in the head with a baseball bat, ending the attacks, authorities said.

The stabbings occurred at around 6 a.m. after the two women, ages 50 and 53, let their dog outside. They noticed contents of their shed strewn across the lawn, according to the Union County prosecutor’s office. The shed door, though, was closed.

Mesz, armed with a knife and hatchet, pounced on the pair after one woman opened the shed door, authorities said. Union Township Police Director Dan Zieser told the Star-Ledger of Newark that Mesz said he told them that he cleared out the shed as he sought the “portal to hell.”

Neighbor Hernan Agudelo heard the attack and subdued Mesz. The 33-year-old Agudelo suffered several stab wounds and was treated at a hospital and released Friday, the prosecutor’s office said. The dog was unharmed.

Yes, I know the dude is crazy. But what if he was onto something? Just think what that would do to property values. (Great location, close to schools, Train and express bus to NYC, seconds to GSP, minutes to 78 and NJ TPK…and only five miles from the portal to Hell….come enjoy the convenience of Cranford!)

But it wouldn’t be a major surprise if the portal to hell WAS here. You know and I know that if the question “if the portal to hell is in the USA, what state would be most likely to have it?  was polled nationally, we’d come in second to Washington, DC.

A couple of weeks ago I bashed Bob Braun of the StarLedger who was all upset that we weren’t spending our last dimes on a new tunnel to NYC that didn’t make any sense.

If you want to have a confirmation on why Braun is an idiot, click the link.

This idea, I like a lot better.

One, it dovetails in with the number 7 extension. Two, it could help NJ hotels near train stations as riders could get directly into the Javits center. Three, it is probably the fastest way to get to the Grand Central area without having to dig across Manhattan. Four, it will alleviate some of the burden on the Penn Station tunnel as many midtown workers can bypass Penn to switch to their trains at Secaucus.

And the last reason is probably why this was never proposed before. It will cost NJ Transit some riders to NYC and a lot more people would switch in the empty cavern known as the Secaucus Transfer Station.

If NJ doesn’t get stuck with the cost overruns ala the ARC fiasco, I say go for it.

Been involved with other things, personal and professional…so I have to get caught up on some inane things here in town.

Expanding the Special Improvement District is a bad idea. Yes, the late lamented Swan Cleaners doesn’t look nice. But the success of the program is debatable. Did it improve the downtown since it’s existence or did the special assessment slow the Downtown’s growth that much more? Many things could have been achieved more cheaply, and with better results that what the DMC has done. Side question: Has the DMC accomplished anything besides getting Kathleen Prunty vested for a pension?

The Cap 2.5 plan will be awesome when inflation hits. This will be great. Have an amendment that limits government growth just before the government presses reaaaaallly get rolling. Talk about starving the beast.

$2 million in bonds for the Solomon Schecter school for parkspace that isn’t really needed? George Jorn smarmily makes a point that it would be nice to have some rateables there, which would be nice but much more likely that it would be an ugly building with heavily tinted windows and a huge “Available” sign out front for the next 20 years. George also neglects to think about the fact that nobody in the area would let the site become a rateable anyway (too much traffic! carbon emissions! cell tower! oh, wait). The biggest reminder from that article: George isn’t funny. Never was.

Oh, and congrats to the baseball and softball teams. Nice job, kids.

This is classic. 15 bureaucracies and 10 forms for $20 in vouchers for seniors to buy asparagus. What the hell is a Farmer’s Market Voucher Program doing even existing? All you have to do is bring your tax return and 5 forms of ID (wouldn’t want any fraud here, after all) and you’re on your way to some gratis tomatoes. Completely nuts if you’re not one of the staffers of this boondoggle. Note to seniors rubbing their hands together: killing this program would probably save you more than $20 in your property taxes.

I for one, am looking forward to the amusing names for fees that will be tacked onto the property tax bills in order to avoid the 4% increase cap. This year is the Sewer Fee (granted the TC has no say in the Sewer Fee since the Rahway Vallet Sewer Authority is a mess, was prevented from privatizing, and has court-mandated repairs with will probably be a billion dollars by the time they are finished). We should have a contest for future fees, right? My entries for fun future fee are: We’re Not Westfield Reminder Fee and the Garden State Parkway Convenience Surcharge.

And lastly, the “early” reopening of the Springfield Avenue Bridge, which only took a ludicrous eight months to complete as opposed to the completely ludicrous year that was predicted. Especially with the six months of the earth mover sitting there looking completely abandoned. Nice expectations management of a four week project at most, guys.

And Happy July 4th everyone.

One issue I have not been following that closely is the process for creating a skatepark in Cranford.

Mainly because I didn’t think they’d ever be able to do it.

I understand that teenagers should have a place to go. When I grew up, people inexplicably hung out at the local McDonalds…to the point that they had a security officer there in the evenings.

But I also understand that a skatepark is not something you’d like to live next to. It can be noisy, it would be lit up at night, and while most teenagers are fine, it might attract some mischief-makers that may get a “really cool idea” about your porch light fixture.

Throw in liability from injury, and I figured the skatepark is doomed.

It may be.

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