A blog about living in Aberdeen, New Jersey.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

RCM Awaiting COAH's Demise; Zoning Board Willing to Wait

APP doesn't say exactly what the extensions have been for, but RCM was granted a third one by the Aberdeen Township Zoning Board on 24 February. They now have until 31 March to do what they are supposed to do. APP's article before the meeting was no clearer. This game has been going on so long, I don't blame APP for forgetting what the extensions are all about.

The Independent said back in November that RCM has been filing for use variances as part of development plans it wishes the Township Council to approve. RCM withdrew its plans under pressure from Cliffwood residents, who didn't want the township's COAH effort to be directed totally at their neighborhood with the building of 132 low income rentals. I personally was concerned that the use variance involved building homes in an environmentally sensitive wetland area, but no one seemed to much care about that aspect of this.

The Christie Administration came into office in January flying the battle flag against COAH but has yet to kill it. Aberdeen Council is supportive of the effort against COAH, having passed non-binding resolutions in support of the state legislature, so the Township is granting RCM more time to wait out the process in Trenton.  Not only does the Council want COAH banished; it wants RCAs restored.

Presumably the ultimate outcome of postponing these developments will be the abrupt demise of the County Road project, which will become moot if COAH is upended. RCM will build its fancy market priced townhomes along Route 34 and make lots of money. The Council can then set about finding poor towns to trade its low income housing obligations to under a restored RCA. And then all will be right with the world.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Will Mengagement Rings and Guyliner Become Fashionable in Aberdeen?

The New York Times column Schott's Vocab discusses the UK phenomena of mengagement rings. It seems to be an extension of a gender-bending trend: manbags and mantihose, manscara and even guyliner. Will these become fashion statements around town? Only the fashionistas can tell you for sure.

Presbyterian Nursery School Registration Begins 27 February

Presbyterian Nursery School registration for this fall's classes begins on Saturday morning at the First Presbyterian Church in Matawan from 9 am to 10:30 am. Registration will continue next week 9 am to 3 pm until all slots have been filled.

Aberdeen and Matawan on Wikipedia - February 2010 Update

I updated the membership of the Township Council in the Aberdeen Township article at Wikipedia. Check through the article for accuracy and update it with any facts you can add.

Hopefully we can come up with more notable residents of Aberdeen than the creator of the Melissa worm. Maybe we should add Philip Freneau, whose home can still be found here? And Charles McKnight, a pastor at Matawan who was a chaplain during the Revolutionary War? And let's not forget Jim Jeffcoat of the Dallas Cowboys.

Note that there are distinct Wikipedia articles on Cliffwood Beach, Strathmore, Matawan, Matawan Creek, the shark attacks in 1916, and the Henry Hudson Trail. Those articles could use editing. If you feel really creative, Wikipedia lacks articles on Cliffwood, Freneau, and Mount Pleasant. Wikipedia is also waiting for someone to write articles about the First Presbyterian Church of Matawan and registered historic places like Burrowes Mansion and the Matawan Train Station.

If you're shy or unsure about editing Wikipedia articles, add a comment here or send me an email and I'll make the changes for you. If you'd like help in authoring an article, let me know and we'll work something out.

News Updates as of 26 February 2010

  • Derek Burlew of Cliffwood Beach performed in Sacramento, CA in Freestyle Motocross. See article in Sacramento Press.
  • Matawan is seeking nominations for Grand Marshall of its annual Memorial Day Parade, which will be held this year on Sunday 30 May. See The Independent for more details.
  • APP covered Assemblywoman Amy Handlin's visit to the Middletown train station last week. Her visit to Aberdeen-Matawan station is mentioned but without details.
  • The Matawan Huskies boys track team won a meet held at the Bennett Center in Toms River on 14 February, per Hunterdon Review.
  • Simply Referrals is a local business described in PR.com. Founded in 2007, it helps businesspeople network among each other. There is a Matawan/Old Bridge chapter.
  • Ashworth Dive studies rumors of Captain Kidd's treasure being buried in Cliffwood Beach.
  • Gerard Canonico, formerly of Matawan, is featured in Back On Broadway in APP. He has landed a role in Green Day's American Idiot.
  • Next Rotary Club of Matawan meeting set for 4 March at the Buttonwood Manor.
  • Thomas Pharmaceuticals of Matawan, an antacids manufacturer, intends to merge with Global Medical Equipment , per OTC Tip Reporter. Global Medical manufactures a patented hospital bed and is purchasing companies that distribute durable medical equipment to broaden its market penetration. The reason for their merger is not obvious. Thomas was a spinoff of iVoice, which has removed from its website all press releases related to their relationship with Thomas. Oddly, the links remain to the press releases.
  • Matawan Borough Municipal Court is featured on the NJ Criminal Defense Attorney blog.
  • Keyport Kid posted an interesting local photo on Flickr. I can't quite tell where this bridge is located. Maybe the one on Aberdeen Road near the train station? Check out Keyport Kid's collection of pics.
  • Matawan Huskies second and third place winners participated in Region 6 wrestling preliminaries at the Ritacco Center in Toms River on 23 February, per Press of Atlantic City. Finals are scheduled for Atlantic City in early March. Matawan did well in prelims, per results posted in NJ.com. APP also had an article and slide show. I didn't notice any photos of Huskies in the slide show, however.
  • The Striper Consultant hosts a white supremacist blog site for fishermen. He recently targeted Cliffwood Beach for his particularly nasty category of commentary.
  • Zaven Ayanian, of Matawan, is scheduled to receive a volunteerism award in Washington DC. See the writeup at Red Bank Green.
  • Former Matawan art teacher making comic books, per My Central Jersey.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Faceoff With Teachers Comes in Guise of Budget Crunch; Janitors to be Outsourced

School Superintendent O'Malley has prepared a Powerpoint presentation on his proposed budget for 2010-11. Besides his plan to one way or another send more than six dozen of our district staff packing, O'Malley sees no choice but to cut a large swath through the remaining teachers' benefits and budgets for training and supplies. The superintendent hasn't been exactly nurturing his relationship with our teachers, but now he's looking to put many of them on the street and leave the rest with huge class loads and no light at the end of the tunnel. And I'm sure our janitors will find life as outsourced commodities about as difficult to bear as our seemingly huge savings of $1.2 million in two years would seem to suggest. That big chunk of change has to come from somewhere. O'Malley will say it derives from efficiencies but more likely it will come out of our soon-to-be former janitors' proverbial hides.

This faceoff between O'Malley and the teachers has been coming for a while. The end result of O'Malley's gambit is none too certain at this point. Watch the wheels begin to move. This will get ugly fast.

Strong Winds and Snow Predicted Thru Saturday

AccuWeather is calling for Matawan and vicinity to have 8.3 inches of snow and wind gusts up to 54 MPH (sustained winds up to 23 MPH) in what is being described as a Nor'Easter that will torment us over the next few days. The brunt of the storm is expected today (Thursday), with 3-6 inches of snowfall late in the day, adding to amounts that already fell. Strong winds can knock down trees and power lines, and waves can be expected to pound the ocean coastline if not the bayshore. The worst of the storm is expected to paralyze travel in northeastern PA, northwestern NJ, and south-central NY.

Check out the regional weather radar out of Philadelphia to see color-coded precipitation rates from Maryland to central New York. At 1:30 am the radar is showing nothing over our area but a large mass of green (5-15) and dark green (20-30) just off the coast, from the north about Toms River, NJ and south to Ocean City, MD.

 The latest AccuWeather video forecast available at 1:30 am was posted at 10:35 pm, but clicking on this link should take you indirectly to more current reports under Today's Featured Videos. (Sorry but these videos come with a brief video ad.)

Monday, February 22, 2010

Living in Matawan - NY Times

The New York Times ran a nice piece on living in Matawan in its Real Estate section last week. There is a slide show, too, with 10 nice photos of Matawan in the snow. You have to struggle a bit against the Sotheby's ads in the slide show, but it's a small price to pay.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Upcoming Concerts 2010

NJ.com provides a comprehensive Concert Roundup with a list of performances that are on tap in our area through August 2010. Note that PNC Arts Center has only listed a couple of items so far and many other venues are likely to add more items in coming months. I've picked some of the headliners I recognize from the list. I'm sure there are some hot new groups among them that I don't recognize. You'll want to get tickets early and often!
  • The Chieftains will be performing on St Patrick's Day in New York
  • Art Garfunkel will be at NJ PAC in March.
  • Norah Jones will be at Madison Square Garden in March.
  • The Moody Blues will be at Count Basie Theatre in March.
  • Nickelback will be in Atlantic City in April.
  • Christopher Cross will be at the B B King Club and Grill in New York in April.
  • Elvis Costello will be in Atlantic City in April.
  • Marvin Hamlisch will be in Morristown in April.
  • Janis Ian will be at the UMC in Woodbridge in April.
  • The Doobie Brothers will be at Count Basie Theatre in April.
  • Johnny Mathis will be at NJ PAC in April.
  • Peter Gabriel will be at Radio City in May.
  • Hall & Oates will be in Morristown in May.
  • Kenny Loggins will be at Count Basie in May.
  • Neil Sedaka will be in Morristown in May.
  • Diana Ross will be at Count Basie in May.
  • Aretha Franklin will be in Englewood in May.
  • Chicago will be in Atlantic City in May.
  • Patti LaBelle will be at B B King Club and Grill in New York in June.
  • Jethro Tull will be at PNC Arts Center in June.
  • Earth, Wind & Fire will be in Englewood in June.
  • James Taylor and Carol King plan a tour. They'll be at Madison Square Garden in June.
  • Chuck Berry will be at B B King Club and Grill in New York in June.
  • U2 will be at the new Meadowlands Stadium in Rutherford, NJ in July.
  • Lynyrd Skynyrd will be at Great Adventure in August.

Go Newark! Restaurant Week Ends 25 February 2010

If you have been thinking of visiting your favorite Portuguese, Brazilian, or Spanish restaurant in the Ironbound and then taking in a jazz event Saturday evening at NJ PAC or the Seton Hall v Rutgers game on Tuesday evening at the Prudential Center, consider taking advantage of Go Newark's Restaurant Week. It runs thru 25 February.

The easiest way to get there from Aberdeen is to take the NJ Turnpike to Exit 13A Newark Liberty Intl Airport. Then go north on 1/9 to Route 21 (MacCarter Highway), which takes you right into the area. If you've not been up there in a long time, you'll find that the MacCarter Hwy exit has been greatly improved.

$350,000 Surprise in the Ground

The minutes of the Aberdeen Township Council workshop and regular sessions on 2 February 2010, which were just posted online on Friday, reveal that the Council requested an "Emergency Temporary Allocation" of $350,000 to pay for engineering services and hazardous materials removal related to an oily substance found in an oil tank discovered on the South River Metals property.

I've not seen any mention of this action in the local press or at the DEP website, nor have the companies that won the bids for engineering services and hazardous waste removal been announced by the Township. While the workshop minutes mention that some sort of grants are supposed to replenish the monies to the Township, the resolutions don't specify how or when these monies will be restored. And Resolution 2010-47 is poorly constructed. It ought to say that the contents of an oil tank must be removed as hazardous waste and disposed of at a cost not to exceed $190,000.

This is what the workshop minutes say:

Engineering Proposals for South River Metals Remediation: South River Metals Site was found to have an oil tank on property and the Department of Environmental Protection is requiring us to have it remediated by April 30, 2010. There is an oily substance in there and needs to be removed. Required resolutions will be: Resolution No. 2010-45, Emergency Temporary Appropriation for $350,000 for Hazardous Waste Removal; Resolution No. 2010-46, Professional Engineering Services not to exceed the sum of $160,000 with three proposals dated January 29, 2010; and Awarding Emergency Contract for Removal of Material from Tank at South River Metals Site not to exceed the sum of $190,000. We will be getting money back from grants. A straw poll vote was unanimously in favor of bringing these three resolutions to tonight’s public meeting.

And here are the resolutions that actually passed during the regular session:

7. RESOLUTION NO. 2010-45 - BE IT RESOLVED by the Township Council that it hereby authorizes Emergency Temporary Appropriation in the amount of $350,000.
8. RESOLUTION NO. 2010-46 - BE IT RESOLVED by the Township Council that it hereby authorizes three proposals for engineering services associated with the Former South River Metal Products Site not to exceed $160,000.
9. RESOLUTION NO. 2010-47 - BE IT RESOLVED by the Township Council that it hereby authorizes emergency agreement for remediation of a tank on the South River Metals Site.

You may recall that Township Engineer David Samuel, Managing Partner of CME Associates, contracted with PRC Group last October to build senior housing and a rec center on the old South River Metals grounds. There was a late January 2010 article in The Independent to that effect. That paper's original October 2009 article about the plan for a new senior community mentions that the grants will come from the New Jersey Hazardous Discharge Site Remediation Fund, which I have learned is a program meant to help find new uses for so-called brownfields. (I learned quite a bit about the restoration of these former plant sites for other uses while studying in Erie, Pennsylvania a couple of years ago. They have a sophisticated and rather successful system in place there.)

Aberdeen Township's press release of 21 October 2009 makes it pretty clear that these expenses could have been anticipated, so I'm not sure why 3 resolutions needed to be added to the Council agenda on the night of the 2 February meeting.

“These are not insurmountable issues,” Samuel continued. “Fortunately, most of the funds for this additional work are available from HDSRF (New Jersey Hazardous Discharge Site Remediation Fund) grants. With the major component of our cleanup approved and these two other issues clearly identified, this provides us the direction to move the project forward. With this information in hand, the developer is now in the position to fast-track the planning process for the site and present its plans to the Aberdeen Planning Board before the end of this year.”

BTW, a Google search suggests that Emergency Temporary Allocation is a New Jersey terminology, as it mainly seems to appear in NJ municipal budget discussions. It looks to be just another way of saying extrabudgetary

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Don't Mess With Texts!

Check out How Christian Were the Founders?, by Russell Shorto, an article found in this past Sunday's The New York Times Magazine. The article is a fascinating review of the sometimes difficult and complicated issues facing those of us who find it repugnant that anyone seeks to impose their personal faith on our children in the public schools.

Those of us who value the objective and scientific nature of our classrooms face a politically aggressive Christian conservative movement that is systematically inserting religious dogma into our children's social studies and science texts. They've stacked the Texas review board, where most publishers seek the nod before printing expensive textbooks for our nation's school systems. After all, Texas buys 48 million textbooks per year, and nearly all the states buy what Texas likes.

A block of Christian conservatives vote together on the textbook board. The man who got this ball rolling was Don McLeroy. Shorto says, "McLeroy makes no bones about the fact that his professional qualifications have nothing to do with education. 'I'm a dentist, not a historian,' he said. 'But I'm fascinated by history, so I've read a lot." McLeroy was leading the charge, lobbying and arguing for Moses and Creationism to have their rightful place in our classrooms, at least until the Texas state senate got so embarrassed that they rebuked McLeroy and removed him from leadership.

Defenders of a secular nation, much less a secular education, are swimming upstream. According to Shorto, "Americans tell pollsters they support separation of church and state, but then again 65 percent of respondents to a 2007 survey by the First Amendment Center agreed with the statement that 'the nation's founders intended the United States to be a Christian nation,' and 55 percent said they believed the Constitution actually established the country as a Christian nation."

So keep an eye on the textbooks our school board chooses to purchase. This nonsense will be creeping into your kids' backpacks soon.

Monday, February 15, 2010

News Updates as of 15 February 2010

  • Kean University students from Cliffwood Beach, Matawan, and Keansburg competed at a University of Delaware track meet.
  • The Board of Chosen Freeholders have posted their schedule of meetings. Most of their meetings are scheduled for Freehold, but they will meet in Matawan on 23 September 2010 and Keyport on 24 June 2010.
  • Handsome Harry is a winning four-year-old male pacer owned in part by Harry Doyle of Matawan. The son of Dream Away is set for another successful racing season, according to Harness Link.
  • Cindy Oppenheimer Bishop is interviewed on The Elevenses. Asked what made her decide to be a writer, Cindy replied,"Once I learned to read in first grade, I was instantly hooked on how cool it was to be able to escape to another world simply by turning pages in a book. The first real book I read on my own, Heidi, blew me away. I wanted to write my own book about my own childhood, just like Heidi, except perhaps substituting our poodle for Heidi's goat, and my hometown of Matawan, New Jersey for exotic Switzerland." 
  • Huskies Wrestling suffered defeat in the Central Group II final of the Shore Championships at the hands of Long Branch, per APP. Check out the Matawan Huskies page at Facebook.
  • As part of Black History Month, Aberdeen Township Historian Edward Fitzgerald will be guest speaker at Tuesday's meeting of the Holmdel Historical Society. According to The Independent, Fitzgerald will speak about the life of African Americans (free and slave) in Monmouth County in the 19th century. For other upcoming events at the society, click here. See The Independent for details about time and place.
  • Anonymous post cards with a Matawan post office box return address were used as a campaign ploy directed at Orthodox Jews in the West Englewood section of Teaneck in that town's 2006 elections, according to NorthJersey.com.
  • Aberdeen is considering joining the New Jersey Sustainable Energy Joint Meeting (NJSEM), according to The Independent. Membership allows the township to purchase energy at bulk rates through a consortium of nearly sixty municipalities.
  • Hans Augustave of Matawan will play Ariel in The Pillowman at the Chatham Playhouse, per NJ.com.  The play will run 26 February to March 13.
  • Raymond Moran, 80, died on 3 February, per The Cranford Chronicle. Raymond was born in Matawan on 26 May 1929, per the Chronicle. The 1930 Federal Census for New Jersey shows him living on Atlantic Avenue with his father, Raymond Moran, age 31, born in Massachusetts to Massachusetts parents, and Mary, age 29, born in New Jersey to Irish parents. Also living there was an older brother, looks like Donald, age 7, born in Connecticut. The census says his parents were married about 1922 and his father worked for the Central Railroad of NJ (CRR of NJ).
  • Betty Trivisone, of Matawan, is a Girl Scouts volunteer who is organizing a Sing-A-Long event in Farmingdale that is scheduled for 12-14 March 2010, according to In New Jersey's Freehold page.
  • I came across this video of the Matawan Marching Huskies competing in Chapter X competition last October at West Essex High School. It has had nearly 600 views to date.

Aberdeen Council Likely to Support Eliminatation of COAH, Restoration of RCAs

The agenda for the Tuesday 16 February 2010 Aberdeen Township Council meeting includes Resolution 2010-50, which supports Senate Resolution 1 to abolish the State Commission on Affordable Housing (COAH) and restore Regional Contribution Agreements (RCAs). This writer agrees that it is time for COAH to go but opposes a return to RCAs without significant modifications to the process. (see blog article)

Another resolution would encourage state legislators to oppose changes to the time of decision rule. The Senate and Assembly versions of the bill each favor developers by keeping local governments from changing zoning rules after an application for development has been made. The NJ State League of Municipalities opposes the state legislation. Environmental groups like Sierra Club also oppose the legislation. Click here for a detailed discussion of the legal issues involved.

Fire District Elections Scheduled for 20 February 2010

According to APP, Aberdeen Fire District No 1 expects to raise over half a million dollars in taxes this year, a slight increase over previous years. The net result is an increase in taxes of about five dollars on a $280,000 home in the township. A member of the Board of Commissioners will also be elected. Voting will take place at Township Hose and Chemical Company 1 at 490 Lloyd Road on 20 February from 2 pm to 9 pm.

Aberdeen Fire District No 2 is asking for over $600,000 in taxes this year, according to APP, raising taxes about five dollars for a $280,000 home in the township. A member of the Board of Commissioners will also be elected. Voting will take place at the Cliffwood Volunteer Fire House at 478 Angel Street in Cliffwood.

The Fall 2009 Aberdeen Township Newsletter defines the two fire districts as follows:
  • District #1 — consisting of the Strathmore, Oak Shades and Freneau sections— is served by the Aberdeen Township Hose & Chemical Co. located on Lloyd Road and Church Street.
  • District #2 — covering Cliffwood, Cliffwood Beach and River Gardens — is served by the Cliffwood Volunteer Fire Co. located on Angel Street and Pengle Lane.

State Aid Cuts, Cost Increases Have MARSD Sharpening Budget Ax

Aberdeener is proposing cuts to the upcoming Matawan Aberdeen Regional School District budget in anticipation of rising costs and reduced state funding. So is Superintendent O'Malley. If you have kids in the district and are concerned about reductions in school program, or you are a resident who is concerned about increasing property taxes, or you are one of the many residents of Aberdeen and Matawan who have a mixture of interests and concerns about the schools budget, you will want to make your opinions known to the state and local officials who will be making these fateful decisions in coming months.

I personally am incredulous that people reject consolidation of school districts as a way to save money. They say that span of control would be lost. I grew up in the Prince George's County Public School System in Maryland, currently the 18th largest school system in the US with just under 130,000 students and approximately 9,000 teachers at nearly 200 schools split into 5 districts. My friends and I got a decent education and have gone on to excel in the working world, despite having only one schools superintendent for a large county system. Seems to me that having an expensive school superintendent in each town is just one more quirk of living in New Jersey. People have no right to complain about their property taxes, what with so many damned municipalities and school districts in this state.

Whatever your views, I encourage you to attend school board meetings and bring your concerns to the table. Remember that the school district's budget of $43.5 million dwarfs that of the Aberdeen Township municipal budget, which is only $14.75 million, so your attention is best directed at One Crest Way rather than One Aberdeen Square. Yet, inexplicably, few actually attend MARSD meetings.

And this needn't be addressed only at the local level. You should also be seeking information from your elected representatives in Trenton. Call them on the carpet for making our lives difficult. Why is the Governor cutting state aid to the schools? Our local school board repeatedly has had to deal with awkwardly timed cuts to state aid, yet we've just elected a new governor who plans to do the same. Parents with kids in ceramics class should be marching on Trenton with Tea Party members to get state aid to education restored.

The State of Our Local Banks

The American University School of Communications has a tool called The Bank Tracker as part of its Investigative Reporting Workshop. The Bank Tracker allows a visitor to study the health of particular banks or banks headquartered in particular towns. None of our local banks are on the brink of collapse, based on the Bank Tracker's troubled assets ratio calculations, but there are troubling signs of stress just the same. Here's what I learned about some of the banks you may be using in our area:
  • Bank of America: This bank's total troubled assets nearly quadrupled and its troubled asset ratio more than doubled between September 2008 and September 2009. The bank's ownership of property doubled during the same period, non-accruing loans tripled, loans 90 days past due quintupled, and profits dropped 25%. But somehow deposits, capital, and reserves went up during the period. The bank corporation briefly borrowed TARP monies within the period but paid them back before they could affect the above annualized statistics.
  • Community Partners Bancorp, based out of Middletown, owes $9 million in TARP monies. The corporation owns Two River Community Bank, based in Middletown, and The Town Bank, based in Westfield. Two River's troubled assets rose from $1 million to $20 million between September 2008 and September 2009. Its non-accruing loans rose 12 times to over $16 million and loans over 90 days past due went from $0 to $2.8 million. The bank lost $5 million during the period. Somehow assets, deposits, and reserves rose during the period.
  • PNC Financial Services Group Inc, based in Pittsburgh, PA, owes nearly $7.6 billion in TARP monies. The corporation owns PNC Bank, also based in Pittsburgh. The bank's troubled assets nearly tripled to $2.8 billion and its troubled asset ratio more than doubled between September 2008 and September 2009.  Non-accruing loans nearly tripled, loan loss provisions doubled, and loans more than 90 days past due were up 45%. Profits nearly halved during the period. Assets, deposits, capital, and reserves all went up slightly.
  • JPMorgan Chase and Co of New York owns a number of banks, including Chase Bank USA based in Newark, DE. Chase Bank's total troubled assets doubled and it wrote off $7.2 billion in loans during the September 2008 to September 2009 period. The bank lost $426 million during the period. Deposits, capital, and reserves all went up. JPMorgan Chase borrowed $25 billion in TARP monies but paid them back within the reporting period.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

What's the Deal with Social Networking?

Local Red Cross Volunteers and Staff Assisted in Cape May Outage

The Jersey Coast Chapter of the American Red Cross in Tinton Falls responded to the massive power outages in southern New Jersey last week by sending personnel and equipment to Cape May County to help. A Red Cross strike team went to equip and man super shelters capable of offering temporary housing for up to a thousand people without heat and electricity. At the same time, Red Cross managers staffed a command post at Tinton Falls, coordinating their strike force's activities by phone and computer on shifts that lasted up to 20 hours a day.

The Press of Atlantic City reported that the Red Cross opened two super shelters, one at the Wildwoods Convention Center in Wildwood, and another at the Woodbine Developmental Center in Woodbine. The super shelters were intended to consolidate the many smaller temporary housing centers then operating. A Red Cross spokesman quoted by Shore News Today said that Red Cross chapters in six counties were on the scene helping out.

Cannon Advocates Return to Regional Contribution Agreements

According to The Independent, Aberdeen Councilman Gregory Cannon supports a return to Regional Contribution Agreements (RCA) as part of an overall plan to dismantle the state Council on Affordable Housing (COAH). RCAs “will allow municipalities to make interlocal agreements. We can band together and say, ‘I have some empty property here’ and it would give us more flexibility.”

On first reading, it sounds like RCAs are supposed to work like cap and trade, which is an economic model that helps distribute carbon emission credits among energy companies. Some corporations are willing to pay to pollute rather than invest in green energy, so a market has developed to trade carbon emission credits between those who invest and those who would rather continue to pollute.

Perhaps such an economic model could be fashioned to distribute affordable housing fairly, but RCAs aren't a workable model to return to. There is a reason why the courts found RCAs repugnant. Under the old rules, most wealthy communities would pay any price to avoid "polluting" their neighborhood with low income residents. Their "Not in my backyard (NIMBY)" approach to affordable housing caused an untenable concentration of low income residents in urban areas like Newark and Paterson. This prompted civil rights groups to organize to eliminate RCAs in the first place. We don't want to go backwards, do we?

According to an NJ Voices opinion piece by John D Atlas written on the occasion of Governor Corzine's changes to the state's Fair Housing Act of 1985, RCAs “allowed wealthy municipalities to pay poor municipalities to accept their affordable housing obligation. This law helped perpetuate segregation and increased the concentration of poverty in our inner-cities.”

What was the problem exactly? According to Paterson Online, "This is the way it worked: A cash strapped city like Paterson would receive money from lets say Wayne to build low income housing for them; then Paterson would also take money from various other municipalities creating a pool of folks of low resources. This would and has increased the concentration of poverty in the city of Paterson and other urban cities in New Jersey. Concentrating poverty in one area has never worked - which is the reason why housing projects are being knocked down all over the country."

I'll be the first to agree that COAH didn't work. And I agree that establishing some sort of economic model for New Jersey municipalities to trade low income housing credits might actually be workable if it was well thought out. In my opinion, any such trading system should include economic disincentives that make it more and more costly for wealthy municipalities to unburden themselves of the last vestiges of their obligation towards low and moderate income persons and less and less profitable for poor municipalities to accept unhealthy concentrations of low and moderate income housing in their communities.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Frontline Might Make You Think Twice About Flying Cheap

Those regional air carriers who connect the dots from major hubs to smaller airports are coming under additional scrutiny of late after a series of fatal crashes. Or are they? Frontline's Flying Cheap asks if the public spotlight is bright enough to expose what has happened to the airline industry since the 1990s. Will recent investigations force changes and perhaps prevent more mayhem in the skies? You may want to ponder why your cheap ticket says Continental but some other carrier's pilot with lower standards of performance is actually flying you to your destination. How experienced is your pilot? Does he make only $22,000/year, earning income only a quarter of the time he's on duty -- when the plane is sealed and wheels up, not while he's waiting for the plane to be ready, etc. And does your pilot share an apartment with eight other pilots in what they refer to as a crash pad near the airport? Is your pilot being compelled to fly when he's overly tired or not feeling well?

The New York Daily News says the NTSB is calling for poorly trained pilots to be grounded. Initial reports suggested that ice on the wings caused the crash, but it turned out otherwise. Frontline says a series of pilot errors due to poor training, lousy test scores, and flying while tired were the actual causes. Ultimately, you may want to know if your pilot is skilled enough to pull the stick instead of push it so he doesn't cause the Q400 Bombardier you're on to tumble to the ground and burst into flames, killing all aboard plus others on the ground. That's what happened last February 12th on a regional carrier's approach at Buffalo.

That flight was out of Newark, btw...

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Faces of America

Since I'm very interested in genealogy, I sat down and watched the first episode of the PBS series Faces of America on Wednesday evening. It was wonderfully produced, touching on all sorts of topics related to families and history. My sister told me about the series, so I went looking for it. I'll pass the favor forward and recommend that you catch future episodes if at all possible.

You can get a flavor of the kind of personal discussion that goes on by watching some online film clips of the host, Henry Louis Gates, Jr, talking with Stephen Colbert or any of the many others participating in the series. I believe the actual interview with Stephen Colbert (not included with the bonus clips online) will be part of next week's episode.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

A Real Snow Day

Below are some photos I took of today's blizzard from my little corner of Cliffwood Beach. I decided not to commute into New York City today, not because the snow was so heavy this morning, but for fear I wouldn't be able to get home in the evening. The storm got off to a slow start but was hitting us with two inches of snowfall per hour by this afternoon, just like the meteorologists forecast last night. The walks and drives were getting covered as fast as I could shovel. Fox News said NJ Transit would be adding trains in the afternoon in anticipation of offices granting early dismissals. But the commute home, by bus at least, was heavily delayed, based on television news reports. It is best to stick close to home on days like these. Today's storm has been a sharp contrast to the previous one, that hit Cliffwood Beach with a whimper.


Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Census Visitors - Be Cooperative But Cautious

The Better Business Bureau has some useful advice for when census enumerators come a-knocking at your door or otherwise get in touch. Be sure to check the original instead of reading forwarded emails on this subject. The one I received on this subject today had information inserted into it that seemed politically motivated. Below is a copy of what I found at the BBB site:

For years, Better Business Bureau has educated consumers about not giving out personal information over the telephone or to anyone who shows up at their front door.  With the U.S. Census process beginning, BBB advises people to be cooperative, but cautious, so as not to become a victim of fraud or identity theft.

The first phase of the 2010 U.S. Census is under way as workers have begun verifying the addresses of households across the country.  Eventually, more than 140,000 U.S. Census workers will count every person in the United States and will gather information about every person living at each address including name, age, gender, race and other relevant data.
“Most people are rightfully cautious and won’t give out personal information to unsolicited phone callers or visitors, however the Census is an exception to the rule,” said Steve Cox, BBB spokesperson.

“Unfortunately, scammers know that the public is more willing to share personal data when taking part in the Census and they have an opportunity to ply their trade by posing as a government employee and soliciting sensitive financial information.”

The Census data will be used to allocate more than $300 billion in federal funds every year, as well as determine a State’s number of Congressional representatives. Households are actually required by law to respond to the Census Bureau’s request for information.

During the U.S. Census, households will be contacted by mail, telephone or visited by a U.S. Census worker who will inquire about the number of people living in the house. Unfortunately, people may also be contacted by scammers, who impersonate Census workers to get access to banking and financial information.  Law enforcement in several states have issued warnings that scammers are already posing as Census Bureau employees and knocking on doors asking for donations and Social Security numbers.

The big question is - how do you tell the difference between a U.S. Census worker and a con artist? BBB offers the following advice:

• If a U.S. Census worker knocks on your door, they will have a badge, a handheld device, a Census Bureau canvas bag and a confidentiality notice. Ask to see their identification and their badge before answering their questions.  However, you should never invite anyone you don’t know into your home.

• Census workers are currently only knocking on doors to verify address information. Do not give your Social Security number, credit card or banking information to anyone, even if they claim they need it for the U.S. Census.  While the Census Bureau might ask for basic financial information, such as a salary range, it will not ask for Social Security, bank account or credit card numbers nor will employees solicit donations.

• Eventually, Census workers may contact you by telephone, mail or in person at home.  However, they will not contact you by e-mail, so be on the look out for e-mail scams impersonating the Census. Never click on a link or open any attachments in an e-mail that are supposedly from the U.S. Census Bureau.

For more advice on avoiding identity theft and fraud, visit www.bbb.org

Sunday, February 7, 2010

News Updates as of 7 February 2010

  • The Independent ran a comprehensive piece that updates the situation with the transit village around the Aberdeen Matawan railroad station. The borough and the township can't agree on development plans and are working with separate developers. Silver Oak Properties thought it would be handling the entire joint project when Aberdeen chose its development plan, so it went to court when Matawan chose Columbia Group to handle its part of the project. Matawan, which thinks the Silver Oak plan is out of scale for the community, says their right to use Columbia is an underlying assumption of the partnership, and the courts agreed in a summary judgment back in 2008. It seems that the borough and township are talking informally but still not coordinating their approaches to this major development project. Despite the appearance of movement, I suspect we will see continued delays until the two sides settle their differences.
  • Matawan Aberdeen School District is submitting its application for Race to the Top funding, according to The Independent.
  • Local green manufacturer B Green Innovations has made an arrangement with Mega Group USA for the latter to sell B Green's Vibe Away product in its stores across the country.
  • A few local organizations are using a calendar at American Towns to list their upcoming events. Matawan is among the municipalities at the site, but not Aberdeen.
  • The head of Manna House in Cliffwood Beach was quoted in an APP article about an annual homeless count in Monmouth County. This year the county was in Freehold and Asbury Park. They were giving special attention to those who live in overcrowded conditions or couch surf. Some survive in substandard housing with as many as a dozen tenants in a single apartment, while others find a place to sleep wherever they can -- often a friend's sofa. Winter coats and scarves were handed out, drawing participants to the survey. Health professionals were also on hand. See Project Homelessness Connect for photos and more details of the Freehold event.
  • My Central Jersey.com suggests some local winter activities to keep you active.
  • Laura posted a photo at Stripers Online of the large fish she caught with light tackle off Cliffwood Beach at the end of September 2009. Seems the discussion was on big fish that didn't get away.
  • Assemblywoman Amy Handlin will be at Aberdeen Matawan train station to talk to constituents during the morning commute on 23 February, per Red Bank Green.
  • Glenda Bonin tells the story to the Arizona Daily Star of how Whispers the Clown was born here in Matawan in a fit of desperation that left her in tears. Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, this storyteller got her start by performing at her kid's birthday party in a borrowed clown costume.
  • A joint OB Aberdeen/Mat Chamber of Commerce dinner will be held at Buttonwood Manor on 16 February, per The Independent.
  • Aberdeen Township has formed a business council to foster relations with the local business community, per The Independent. Let's hope they come up with some ideas to support local businesses while they promote our town. 4th of July and pumpkin picking are two events that attract visitors to the region, so why not start with those?
  • Check out Wheelies, a new fast food place on Route 516 in Old Bridge.
  • Art in Motion Academy of Dance in Matawan has 88 dancers participating in Dance Across America, per My Central Jersey.com. If you're interested in dance, check out the Saturday Night Krew starting 13 February.
And if you are thinking about how you'll make that car of yours last just a little bit longer, check out this story:

Fifty Years of Ministry at First Baptist Church (1903-1952)

Below is a summary of fifty years of ministry (1903 - 1952) at the First Baptist Church in Matawan, based in large part on First Baptist of Matawan: A Constant Testimony, by Reverend Lewis W Kisenwether, Jr. (Matawan: Matbap, 2000). References are also made to The Matawan Journal and US census records.

The Reverend Samuel Bower began his ministry at Matawan in October 1903. The Matawan Journal said he was exceedingly popular, officiating at over 80 weddings and 244 funerals. "He was a ready talker and always had a funny story or more to spring on his audiences." He joined the Masonic Lodge and served as its chaplain for several years.

Major renovations included new pews and a center doorway leading to the center aisle of the meetingplace. Maude (McChesney) Banke began more than a half century of service as church organist in 1911. The church's association with the local Boy Scouts began in 1913.

Reverend Bower was 47 years old in the 1910 Federal Census, which showed him living with a wife and two children at 223 Main Street in Matawan. The Reverend was born in Pennsylvania to a father born in England and a mother from Pennsylvania. The Reverend was listed as a clergyman. His wife India M Bower was a year younger than he and was also born in Pennsylvania. A daughter Irene, 22 and son Samuel, 10, were both born in Pennsylvania. The Reverend and his wife had been married 16 years at the time.

Reverend Bower submitted his letter of resignation on 20 December 1914 to accept a call to the Lee Street Memorial Church in Baltimore, Maryland. At first the church rejected his letter, but eventually accepted it when a special committee of three deacons couldn't convince him to reconsider. His farewell service, which took place on 17 January 1915, was covered on the front page of The Matawan Journal (21 January 1915 page 1 column 1). (pp 34-38)

The Reverend Luther Latham Holmes began his ministry at Matawan on 16 May 1915, coming from a previous parish at Norwich, Connecticut. The church gained 77 new members during his tenure, 65 by baptism. The Ladies Aid Society published a cookbook in 1915. The church had an electrical system installed in 1916. (pp 38-39)

Reverend Holmes was 37 years old and living in Parkersburg, West Virginia in the 1920 Federal Census.  He was a preacher at a Baptist church. The Reverend was living with his wife Eliza M Holmes, age 30, also of Massachusetts. Reverend Holmes was a clergyman at a church in Georgia, Vermont (Franklin Co) in the 1910 Federal Census.

The Reverend William W Ludwig was born in New York State about 1865. He graduated Crozier Seminary. Believing strongly in home mission, the Reverend served three years in Minnesota before becoming a pastor. He and his wife Sadie had three sons. They lost two sons just before coming to Matawan, one in an airplane accident in England during the First World War (1918) and the second due to illness while studying for the ministry at Colgate University (1919). The third son, a businessman in Englewood, occasionally preached at Matawan in his capacity as executive director of Pioneer Youth of America.

The Reverend Ludwig was called in December 1919 while pastor at the Baptist church in Borough Park, Brooklyn, New York, according to The Matawan Journal (18 December 1919 page 5 column 3) and installed at Matawan on 4 January 1920. Besides the three sets of twins in Sunday School, the most notable occurrence during his decade of service was in October 1927, when the Board of Trustees took action to reverse a dip in church membership. The trustees resolved to have services start and end on time, reduce the amount of time worshipers had to stand, improve the quality of scripture readings, dedicate a service to hymn singing once a month, and increase overall lay involvement. While not a direct criticism of Reverend Ludwig, whom the trustees described as overworked, suggestions that scripture be read without commentary by the Pastor and that services "start and stop on time" can't help but give the impression that the Trustees were issuing an extraordinary, if subtle corrective.

During his tenure, the Ladies Aid Society purchased and installed nine stained glass windows. Two of the windows were designed by Rev Ludwig himself, including one with a patriotic theme dedicated on Memorial Day (28 May) 1922. The window, made by Sharp Brothers of Newark, shows an American flag emerging from the clouds of war, with the mottos Our God is marching on and Lest We Forget emblazoned in the glass.

Reverend Ludwig addressed a meeting of the Monmouth Baptist Ministers Association at the First Baptist Church of Asbury Park in 1927 on his many years in ministry.  The Reverend retired on 26 October 1930, having served 37 years in ministry. According to The Matawan Journal the following day (31 October 1931 page 1 columns 4-5), the Reverend W H Dilts of First Presbyterian church and the Reverend Edward Mount of the First Methodist Episcopal church attended the festivities with their wives. The three churches planned a union service of song the following Sunday evening as a final farewell to the Reverend and his wife. (pp 39-40)

First Baptist had a vacancy in the pulpit for about six weeks. During that time, a general notice of worship services appeared in The Matawan Journal through 5 December 1930 (page 8 column 6). Joint Thanksgiving services were held at the Presbyterian church in 1930, with the Presbyterian pastor officiating, according to The Matawan Journal (28 November 1930 page 1 column 7).

Reverend Ludwig was 45 years old in the 1910 Federal Census and living in Brooklyn, New York. He was listed as a clergyman at a church. He was born in New York State to German parents. His wife Sadie was 39 years old, also of New York. They had four children - Everett (14, Minnesota), Lloyd (13, New Jersey), William (12, New Jersey), and Kenneth (11, New York).

The Reverend Carl H Koeker, Jr, of Ohio, is listed as preaching at both morning and evening services at the First Baptist Church in the 12 December 1930 issue of The Matawan Journal (page 5 column 8). When the Monmouth Baptist Association met in Keyport on 5 January 1931, there was no mention in the Matawan Journal article covering the event (9 January 1931 page 6 column 5) of a pastor from Matawan attending. Reverend Koeker, pastor of First Baptist, appears in an article in the Matawan Journal of 27 March 1931 (page 1 column 8). The article features his speech to the monthly meeting of the area's Council of Religious Education. His topic was "The Land of the Bible," in which he offered his observations from a personal trip to Palestine.

Reverend Koeker began a number of groups focused on mission and youth, including a guild for girls and a mission circle, as well as a Vacation Bible School, which was founded on 15 June 1931.  He served the Monmouth Baptist Association in leadership roles. He also taught courses on the Old Testament and local church organization at a NJ Baptist Convention-related young people's assembly held at the Peddie School in Hightstown.

Reverend Koeker brought in 62 new members, 44 by baptism. The Reverend and his wife Grayce had a son during their tenure at Matawan.  On 15 September 1936, Reverend Koeker submitted his letter of resignation to accept a call to mission in Sacramento, California. (pp 45-48)

The Reverend Garrett S Detwiler graduated from Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary in St David's, Pennsylvania in 1933. He was ordained at the First Baptist Church of Baptistown, New Jersey, where he served through the end of 1936.

Reverend Detwiler began his ministry at Matawan on 1 January 1937. He introduced the concept of a weekly church bulletin at the Easter service later that year. He brought membership to 340 by 1943.

The Reverend took a leave of absence after enlisting in the US Army to serve in the Second World War in October 1943. He accepted a commission as a first lieutenant and reported to Chaplains School at Harvard University in March 1944. The Reverend had the occasion to visit one of the Nazi concentration camps, something he described to his wife in a letter home. Much of that letter witnessing to the horror of the camps was published in The Sunday Asbury Park Press in a 4-column article on 13 May 1945. Reverend Detwiler returned to his post at Matawan at the end of the war.

The church received the gift of another stained glass window from the Ladies Aid Society. This one, of the Baptism of Jesus, was given in memory of two deceased presidents of the society and in honor of one who was still living.

The church celebrated its centennial in 1950. The History of the First Baptist Church was written by Franklin S Thompson as a centennial publication.

Reverend Detwiler left ministry at Matawan in September 1952 to become pastor of the Memorial Baptist Church in Salem, New Jersey. (pp 48-61)

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Jobless Figures Aren't the Only Gauge of the Status of Our Economy

My wife remarked the other day that more itinerant workers are spending more time in front of the Quik Chek in Matawan lately waiting to get hired for the day. So what's happening with the economy? Here are some interesting quotes from a recent New York Times article that will give you a sense of where things stand:
  •  “You can’t look at 9.7 percent unemployment and say that’s anything but a tragedy,” said Christina D. Romer, who leads the president’s council of economic advisers.
  • The Times article said the Labor Department's January report found that "the economy lost 20,000 net jobs during the month", "underscoring the formidable struggles still confronting millions of Americans."
  • As of January, 6.3 million have been out of work for six months or longer, the highest level since the government began tracking these data in 1948.
  •  The unemployment rate reached 16.5 percent among African-Americans, 12.6 percent among Hispanics, and 26.4 percent among teenagers. “African-Americans and Latinos continue to bear the brunt of this economic recession,” Representative Maxine Waters, Democrat of California, said in a written statement.
  •   The Times article says, "Some envision the jobless rate reaching nearly 11 percent by the end of the year, which would raise the prospect of new shocks to the system: a retreat in consumer spending and renewed fears in the banking system as jobless people lose the wherewithal to pay their mortgages." 
  • Others see the economy beginning to improve. Joshua Shapiro, chief United States economist at MFR Inc. in New York, is less optimistic, expecting any improvement to the economy would happen very slowly.
  •  On the positive front, the Times said, "Manufacturing added 11,000 jobs in January, the first monthly increase since November 2007, while the length of the average workweek rose slightly at factories. The economy added 52,000 temporary workers, and average wages increased modestly, amplifying the view that commercial activity is reawakening after two years of hibernation." And the jobless rate dropped slightly, back into single digits, but still much higher than the Obama administration ever expected to see.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Borrow a Book, Peruse It, and Learn Some NJ History

Most of us don't have much time to read, yet we want to learn -- just not in heavy doses. If you're interested in sampling some bits and pieces of New Jersey history, the Matawan Aberdeen Public Library has a book that can introduce you to some of the important issues of New Jersey during the era of the Articles of Confederation.

"Experiment in Independence: New Jersey in the Critical Period 1781 - 1789", by Richard P McCormick (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1950) talks about some of the major issues that faced New Jersey residents and politicians after declaring independence from Britain. Here are a few examples of what you'll find in the book (and where you'll find it discussed)
  • Was the state overly hasty at the outset of the Revolutionary War to call for the sale of all lands and personal property forfeited by loyalists? While £ 567,334 in much needed revenue was raised by the sale of Tory real estate and personal property in Middlesex and Monmouth Counties alone -- over forty percent of the total revenue from forfeitures in the state -- this happened during a period of serious deflation, prompting some to suggest it might have been better for the state to hold the properties until the economy stabilized. Read about the problems of reigning in national debt caused by the huge, unexpected costs of a major war -- sound familiar? (pp 25-39)
  • Could elections be conducted and legislation formulated and approved so as to expose those secretly loyal to the Crown so their initiatives could be quashed before harming the state? Read about an era of mistrust and anger as the balance of power shifted in the state, within towns, and among neighbors. (pp 69-102)
  • Was it wrong for the state government to shortchange those who equipped and fed the Continental Army when the troops were billeted in their area by devaluing the notes of obligation issued to pay those expenses? One Monmouth group "resolved unanimously that we use our utmost endeavours  to support the credit of the paper currency of this state, and to execute the law strictly against every person who shall, to our knowledge, attempt to depreciate it." Read about how the state was divided because northerners held most of these notes of obligation while southerners held little if any scrip. Find out who won the struggle over devaluation. (pp 158-185)
  • Why did New Jersey support a strong centralized federal government? Read about New Jersey's position on the confederation of states. (pp 218-251)
The library now has Encyclopedia Brittanica. Click here and type in your card number to access this new resource.

Aberdeen Expecting 7" - 10" of Snow

Most everyone in town is bracing for a major snow storm that is heading north towards Aberdeen and the rest of northern Monmouth County. It has been the subject of conversation for days. It started my day today on the CBS Early Show, even though the broadcast was coming from sunny Miami. Since I got home today, I've been watching News 12, a New Jersey centered news broadcast. Their meteorologist received an email from Manahawkin about 7:30 pm saying the flakes had just started there, to give you some idea of where it is. Weather reports suggest the storm will be fully involved by 3-4 am and we'll have 7-10" of snow by the end of the storm. You won't have to travel south very far to find snowfalls of 1 foot, 1 1/2 feet, or more.

Grocery stores are packed as people fill their refrigerators in anticipation of being stuck in their homes tomorrow.  I ran into a woman at A&P who was buying cookies for dunking. "That's all I really need. I bought candy yesterday. I'm set." When she told me she'd brought paperwork home from the office to take advantage of being stranded by the weather, I said, "The heck with work! I brought the Super Bowl home with me and plan to catch up on that this weekend, along with a few beers." Not to be outdone, she told me she knew little about the game but had some serious money on it. She added that she planned to get into something of a Christmas Club at work for next year's game -- $10/week towards the pool. Now that's a serious cookie dunker.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Pedestrians Struck Monday by NJT at New Brunswick, Aberdeen-Matawan

Pedestrians were struck by New Jersey Transit trains on Monday 1 February, one just west of the Aberdeen-Matawan station and the other at the New Brunswick station. Train service on the North Jersey Coast Line was suspended at 6:15 am when a pedestrian was struck. About 8:15 am, a policeman was standing vigil near a tarped-covered corpse on the westbound embankment near an idled westbound train. Initial reports suggest that a man walked or jumped off the station platform at New Brunswick at 4:15 pm, apparently committing suicide. These incidents, along with Tuesday's problems with Amtrak equipment, have made commuting by train particularly difficult this week. I was jammed near the doors just outside the passenger compartment of my train car yesterday, along with a dozen others, in a space that normally would host two to four standing passengers on a really busy day. And Manhattan-bound passengers were diverted from NJT at Newark to take the PATH into the city. To be sure, none of the problems seem to have been caused by NJT and they did the best they could to make the commute as tolerable as possible.

UPDATE as of 6 February: Both of the train strikes now sound like suicides.
  • APP identified the pedestrian near Matawan: Krishna Kumar, 45, of the Laurence Harbor section of Old Bridge, was killed at about 5:30 a.m. Monday when he stepped in front of a Long Branch-bound train near the borough's boundary with Aberdeen, according to NJ Transit.
  • NJ.com identified the pedestrian at New Brunswick: Erik Carmelia, 21, of Eastampton Township in Burlington County, died when he was hit by a NJ Transit locomotive engine at the downtown New Brunswick train station shortly after 4 p.m. on Monday, said NJ Transit spokesman Dan Stessel.