Belle of Liberty

Letting Freedom Ring

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Going Up or Down?

Everything is going up these days.  On Thursday, the Bloomingdale Town Council will make a final determination on the PILOT (Payment in Lieu of Taxes) program for Avalon Towers.  The ordinance, No. 16-2012, provides a financial agreement with Bloomingdale Urban Renewal, LLC, formerly known as Avalon Bay.  According to Mayor Dunleavy, taxes paid could be passed on a percentage of the developer’s gross revenue for a project or it can be based on a percentage of the project’s construction costs.

According to an article in the Sept. 2 issue of the Suburban Trends, the amount of taxes then grows to 2 to 5 percent annually in effect for 20 to 30 years.  Dunleavy said Bloomingdale benefits because it will receive 95 percent of the taxes while Passaic County gets 5 percent.  The school system will receive no tax money from the property owner, which is building an apartment complex at the Union Avenue site.

In an earlier Trends article, the development was described as “high-density.”  By the Smart Growth definition, in the book “Toward Sustainable Communities:  Resources for Citizens and Their Governments” by Mark Roseland, and published by New Society Publishers, using a ratio of floor area to parking lot area, “high ratio” means an apartment building – a big one.

“A high-rise apartment building?!” Mayor Dunleavy gasped, when I asked whether the Trends’ report was accurate.  “In Bloomingdale?!”

I presented “Toward Sustainable Communities” to the Mayor and Town Council, opened to page 135 ,with the illustrations of each type of housing form – low density (single homes, or dual attached homes), Medium Density (Ground-Oriented, Townhouse or cluster housing, and Apartment), and High Density (apartment).

As each member of the Council examined the book, I continued with my explanation of the history of Agenda 21 (which Mayor Dunleavy knew about), Smart Growth, and the latest inculcation, Building One America (and One New Jersey).  They gave me a collective deer-in-the-headlights stare when I told them about Building’s 2020 goal of “regionalizing” the suburbs, and how the N.J. Redevelopment Plan was the first step, starting with communities “sharing services” until finally all the suburban towns were under the auspices of one city, most likely Newark.  Some say the target city is New York City itself.  But that’s only eight years away.  September 11th was eleven years ago.

Remember the "Back to the Future" movie when “Marty” (actor Michael J. Fox) finished his guitar solo and the 1955 teenagers stood in stunned silence?  Yeah.  But I told them not to worry, that 2020 was still far away, that the current issue was Avalon Bay.

 nge.  One of the Town Council members assured me that the last time he saw the plans, they called for, at most, 3- or 4-story apartment buildings, with a total of 174 units on 11 acres of land.  Although it had been some time since he’d last seen them.  Mom said she couldn’t hear what they were saying.  But after we left the meeting, that was the first thing she noted.  During her career as a construction industry reporter, she’d seen enough developers change their plans right under a town council’s noses.  Still, let us take them at their word, at least for the time being.

Mayor Dunleavy reminded me, with some justice in my opinion, that the application was submitted in 2009.  I was only a spokeswoman for my mother.  In truth, I remembered reading about it and warning my mother.  But she didn’t want to get involved.  As I wasn’t a resident of the town any longer, there was nothing I could do.  So, I gave him a helpless-puppy look and he agreed to enlighten me on the situation.  I found the original year interesting – 2009.  That was the same year as Building One America was formed, and a year after the Recovery Act, otherwise known as the Stimulus Bill.  Down a long list of New Jersey recipients, the Bloomingdale Board of Education received $449k and the town received about $82k.

Bloomingdale’s town council should not be singled out for the mistake of accepting this money; nearly every town (and community organizing organization) accepted money.  No town could really be blamed for accepting back what they consider taxpayers’ money, although the money belongs to the individual taxpayers, not the municipalities in which the live.  They would figure, at least they got it back, even if it was for a collective purpose.

There’s no such thing as a free lunch – or a free block grant.  Somewhere there was a string attached to that Stimulus money for Bloomingdale’s Board of Education, and Avalon Bay was probably it.  Apparently, it’s not the height of Avalon Bay that we need worry about but its depth.

The deal is done; all that’s left is to decide whether to initiate the Pilot program.  That will be decided at tomorrow night’s special town council meeting.  The problem is, the vote will be taken shortly after the public has finished commenting.  As Mom and I left the meeting, an attendee was shouting at the mayor about the unfairness of this procedure.

However, the Trends did publish the date of Sept. 4th as the public meeting time, a fact I’d overlooked.  Fortunately, I went to mooch dinner off Mom last night, and happened to bring all my literature with me.  We jumped in my SUV and dashed down to Town Hall, only to find a few people there.  Where was everyone, my mother and I wondered?  Didn’t they realize that the vote was going to be held on Thursday and that any commentary or complaints would be useless the night of the vote?

So, I got up and asked them to clarify a few items, like the height of the building(s), who was going to pay for the installation of utilities (presumably the developer), whether Union Avenue, a county road, was going to be widened.  The mayor thought not, but a council member reminded him that the road had to be widened at the entrance to provide an entry lane for residents and other traffic.

The angry apartment building owner, in addition to be justifiably angry that this developer was getting essentially a tax break other apartment building owners didn’t get, reminded them that this 174-unit complex would involve approximately 350 adults.  That would mean 350 cars coming and going out of Avalon Bay, unless the developer is also planning on a train line through Federal Hill.  The Meer Tract, across the road, would involve 300 units and 600 cars.

All that traffic on a two-lane, winding country road.  The mayor stated confidently that there were no plans to widen Union Avenue.  Actually, since it’s a county road, that would be an issue to take up with Passaic County, as the road runs through another town before its terminus.  Privately, I thought the mayor wasn’t looking far enough into his crystal ball, particularly if the other piece of land is developed.  Almost one thousand cars.

The town council gave out the tax facts.  I hope Mom was able to hear that because that kind of information goes right over my head.  I’m the family political analyst; my older brother is the family financial expert (after Mom, and like her, also a property management guru as he’s a facilities manager for a large company).

If you’re going to tomorrow night’s meeting in Bloomingdale, bear a few things in mind.  The mayor is right; in 2009, we were not paying attention.  The Tea Parties were inchoate.  If you care about what’s happening in your town, then get yourself out to the meetings.  Form a Town Meeting Club with your friends to take turn attending meetings and reporting on the meeting to the club.

In all fairness, this is not the first time this, or any other town, has traded favors with a developer.  The residents of Bloomingdale in 1960 were furious when our development was being developed.  Mom says that there were three developers.  One believed in clear-cutting.  The other believed in the landfill method of creating more land, land that eventually landed in the basements of the Knolls Road residences.  The only exception was our house.  When the town planner asked Mom why our house was affected, she said, “That’s because I saw what was happening and built a retaining wall.”  Actually, it happened once, and she and my brother had to shovel out the basement.  That was enough for Mom (boy, was she angry).

In any case, to appease the natives of Bloomingdale worried about how the town’s one and only school was going to handle this influx of students, the developer built a school – the Martha B. Day school.  Even he didn’t plan for the number of families, and within five years, they had to bring in mobile home trailers.  (The architect also forgot to make room for a library, which wound up in a janitor’s closet).  Those residents were lucky people like my Mom and Dad came along, because about 15 years later, the Butler Rubber Factory closed down (the rubber works had burned down in the 1950s), and many of those native residents were put out of work.


Finally, remember Bloomingdale’s 1960 residents when you’re protesting this development.  They weren’t any happier to see us, than Bloomingdale’s current residents will be to see these future apartment-dwellers.  Bloomingdale has gotten off relatively easy in terms of new housing development, compared with other towns such as Riverdale, West Milford, or Wayne.  Wayne and West Milford are now saddled with huge McMansions that their owners can no longer afford to pay the mortgage on, much less the taxes.

The real worry here is whether, with this development, that Bloomingdale has crossed the renter’s line that will qualify it for “urban renewal development.”  This is not a good thing.  The residents who came to Bloomingdale in 1960 were working class people who could generally afford to pay their bills.  Avalon Bay’s residents won’t be paying taxes, whether they’re wealthy luxury residents or COAH inhabitants.  With their coming, more of that sort of people will come to town, rather than the industrious, fiscally-responsible residents Bloomingdale has been used to these 50 years. 

If Bloomingdale’s mayor, town council, and yes, residents, had been better informed, they would have realized that suburban towns cannot live on Stimulus carrots alone.  The government intends to put it on a permanent, vegetarian diet of carrots, along with the rest of New Jersey’s suburban towns.  Their autonomy will be lost, reduced to villages like those in Hempstead, Long Island, answering to a sole city like Newark, or some say, New York City itself.

Bloomingdale was once home to pig farms.  In this unfortunate piece of its history (after the iron works of the Colonial period), Bloomingdale came to be known as “Pig Town.”  If Bloomingdale and its surrounding neighbors cannot hold out against regionalization, all of Northern New Jersey will become one, enormous Pig City.


Tuesday, September 04, 2012

The Girls of the Class of '58

A friend who graduated six years ahead of "Danny" and "Sandy" corrected me on my blog about the way girls dressed c. 1958.  He says that there were girls who dressed like Olivia Newton-John at the end of "Grease."  They would often go out to nightclubs and dance contests dressed that way, but obviously they didn't go to school in that kind of get-up.  It depended on the part of the country you were in, but particularly in a place like L.A., you would see them in that kind of outfit, and particulary if the girl was a "hot-looking chick."

But, he notes, that didn't mean they were ladies.


Back to Cool

Wednesday is the traditional first day of school for most kids across the nation.  In the farm belt states, it’s usually earlier, other places it’s later.  As students from pre-school to college head back to class, there are two kinds of education they’re going to get:  the traditional 3 Rs, and the “other kind”.  For the last 40 years or so, it’s been getting harder to tell the difference.  If the Socialists have their way – indeed, if they haven’t already inserted it into the curriculum – your kindergarten pupil will be learning about the birds and the bees instead of from you.

Some friends just sent their 18 year-old daughter J (A note my friend, JD:  it’s not your “J”, but another couple with a daughter with the same name.  She’s just as sweet as your “J” though.) off to college for her first semester at a local university.  She’s their only child, and they’re naturally anxious.  The daughter, for her part, is happy to get away from her overprotective parents for a while.  She’s close enough to home for them to come to the rescue but not so close that they become a nuisance.  I’m even closer.  I gave her my cellphone number and told her to call me if she gets homesick but doesn’t want to admit it to her parents.  I don’t plan to become a nuisance, either, although I’d be willing to hop in my car to give her advice on how to start a campus tea party next year, when she’s more acclimated to the school.

Her parents don’t have too much to worry about; she’s a music major and a phenomenal pianist.  Before she’s taken even one class, she’s already been advanced to the Level 5 piano class.  It’s possible that she may try drugs, but it’s not likely she’ll turn into a junkie; she’s already addicted to music.  She’s in the music major dorm, which is good because music majors are in their own world with their own language – music.

They’re also worried about boys.  However, this young lady has a sensible head on her shoulders.  Her response (unless she’s high) to any unwashed Occupier would be, “Eww!  Get away from me!”  The parents are right about being alarmed.  I went to this school, although my mother insisted I commute, and I was only too happy to comply.  The campus isn’t too bad, although it’s more radicalized than it was and the dorms are very far off.  Fortunately, the school now offers shuttle bus service.  But her parents noted that the bus ends at midnight; the curfew does not.  The school’s curfew is 2 a.m.  At that late hour, why bother?

My father didn’t want me to go to this school because it was too near a major city with a major, low-income population.  It didn’t matter; my parents couldn’t afford the tuition there, anyway.  I went to a community college, instead, although it was out-of-county, which made it more expensive than our county’s community college.  Going to my county’s school would take me into the same city and not only didn’t my father want me to go there, I didn’t want to go there, either.

The county finally built an extension of that school in Wanaque, right down the road from my childhood home.  Far too late for me, of course.  But just in time for Agenda 21’s plan of warehousing everyone near mass transit lines – and institutes of higher learning, with plenty of adult education courses.  The occupiers of Bloomingdale’s Avalon Bay project will eventually be its best customers.  J. could have gone there (saving her parents money), but with no dorms, for her, it was just a little too close to home in Bloomingdale.

The children going back to school will be taught that this is a good thing.  That trading your freedom for convenience isn’t such a heavy price to pay.  In fact, there won’t be a price to pay for anything.  Not your medical care, contraception, housing, transportation, or food.  One thing you can be certain won’t be Agenda 21’s development is a church.

My friends’ daughter is very concerned about one thing – the corruption, political and otherwise, within the student body.  She wants to grow up and become an adult.  What she fears is becoming politically trapped within their adolescent, dependent culture.  Her parents are, or were, Liberal, not Conservative.  But there’s no one who knows better than J. what a bad idea it is to live in perpetual childhood, having a nanny state hovering over you every moment.

J. also doesn’t want to become “Sandy” from Grease.  When she crosses that bridge, while she doesn’t want to appear in a crinoline skirt, she also doesn’t want to emerge wearing leggings so tight that actress Olivia Newton-John had to be sewn into them and a top that would have gotten her arrested in the real 1958, when the movie – and the Broadway play were set.   Incidentally, the 1971 play was set in Chicago.

We moved to Long Beach, an L.A. suburb, in 1959.  There were really kids like that.  Actually, they were more like the thugs that the T-Birds go up against.  The play was a lot tougher than the movie, and Long Beach was a lot tougher than the play.  My parents wouldn’t have paid those kids anything to babysit me and my older brother.

Bad as these kids were, “Sandy’s” appearance at the end of the 1978 film was over the top even for the gritty streets of Chicago or Long Beach in 1958.  Even hookers in 1958 didn’t dress that way, according to my mother.  She was supposed to appear in a tight skirt and blouse, with shortened hair.  That’s what the producers told the cast, anyway.  That’s the way the “Sandy” on Broadway appeared.  But to a 1978 teen audience aimed right at the 20 year olds born that year, that kind of fashion was itself “square.”  So they surprised the cast.  They sure did.

The way the film’s producers tell it, the cast went wild.  Their own film tells another story.

My family always criticizes me for watching movies over and over.  That’s because I like to analyze the films.  Perhaps overanalyze.  In the case of Grease, every time I watch this movie, I become a little more dissatisfied with it, putting another finger on why it’s not at at all what it seems.

Grease is one of the most popular films among the school-age set.  But what they’re in love with is its sanitized version and its music, which is admittedly quite good.  The tunes are quite good and the lyrics are suitable enough for kids.  Except for one – “Greased Lightnin’”.  The lyrics are so bad (not to mention much of the dialogue in the film, which also had to be excised) that some of them had to be edited out for public consumption.  The rating on the DVD package says “PG”.  The producers must have pulled a lot of strings to get that rating, especially way back in 1978.

The first thing Olivia says to John Travolta upon her “debut” at the end of the movie is decidedly not what she said in the original release, and definitely not PG.  The producers must have had several shots of this particular encounter.  The moviehouse erupted with riotous laughter when she uttered the original line.  I didn’t have a chance to decipher what she said before the laughter from the front rows drowned it out.  I had to ask the friend next to me to repeat it.  So there’s no doubt about what she said.

Don’t bother going to the DVD to hear it; the producers replaced it with the other shot.  Nor will you be able to read the line on lascivious Olivia’s pumped out lips.  But what you can see is the cast’s real reaction to her outfit.  The cast is more than surprised; they’re aghast, and interestingly enough, the guys.  They’re not looking at Olivia with lust; they’re looking at her with disgust (everyone except Travolta).

I’m a holiday movie-buff.  I arrange my vast collection according to holidays.  Grease, despite its first-act number, “Summer Nights,” is a back-to-school movie.  Having gotten well-used to Olivia’s outfit, as I was watching the film last night, I happened to notice one of the other cast members as she and Travolta are dancing backwards towards the Fun House (the Shake Shack).  It was something I had noticed before.

As the couple is dancing backward, you can see Actor Kelly Ward, the blond T-Bird character Putzie, stopped dead in the field, off to the right of the screen, his mouth hanging open in what looks like horror.  He should be moving backwards with the rest of the cast.  Suddenly, you see his head turn to the right, off-screen.  He does a double-take, clearly dropping out of character (as they say in the business).  Someone out of shot seems to be speaking to him.  Finally, it almost looks like he says, “All right” before stepping back, rather than dancing back, and joining the rest of the cast.  The cameraman and director must have caught his reaction at that point because the camera swings to take him out of the shot.

Veteran actress Eve Arden had a similar reaction to the school dance scene.  But since it was supposed to be in character for her, anyway, you almost can’t tell the difference.  Almost.  In one angled close-up, the camera is on her, but she looks away uncomfortably.  Is it the character who’s uncomfortable or the actress?  Arden was what they used to call a “trouper”, game for anything.  In the chorus scene, you can see she’s happy to be a part of the show, until one of the “kid”-actors (they were in their late 20s and 30s) does something rude, probably on the director’s instructions.  No mending the Generation Gap in this film.  “Crude-and-lewd is here to stay; it will never die.  It has always been that way; though I don’t know why.”

I won’t digress any further down memory lane about “Grease”:  I already reviewed this movie in another blog called “Bleep is the Word.”  You can’t be blamed if you didn’t notice “Putzie’s” reaction the first fifty times you saw this movie.  Olivia’s tights are a formidable obstacle.  We need to look past the obvious, however, especially where the words “sex” or “free” (or “free sex”) are blazing out at us, tempting us not to look beyond the obvious.

“Free” is not as “free” as you think it is.  Someone is going to pay the price, and it’s probably your gullible children who cross the bridge into eternal adolescence as “Sandy” does instead of responsible adulthood as the just-as-innocent but “more-than-what-they-see” J.  They need to make sure they get the "background" on whatever cause or politician they're supporting.






Monday, September 03, 2012

Labor Day, 2012

We who are The Unemployed would like to wish those of you who are still employed a Happy Labor Day.

Sunday, September 02, 2012

National Empty Chair Day

Tomorrow has been declared National Empty Chair Day in honor (and support) of actor/director Clint Eastwood and his Empty Chair routine at the RNC Convention last week in Tampa.  Let the word go forth:  place an empty chair on your lawn tomorrow.

Place an empty chair in honor of all the chairs left empty by unemployed workers thanks to Obama’s “spread the wealth” policies.  Place an empty chair in honor of all our servicemen and women all around the globe who won’t be sitting in their backyard lounge chairs eating barbecued hamburgers, chicken and shrimp because they're out defending freedom.

Finally, place an empty chair in your front yard as a symbol of the “empty chair” we want Mitt Romney to find waiting for him behind the big Oval Office desk at the White House in January 2013.