Archive for the ‘Westfield NJ’ Category

Possible Sale of Former Elm Street School Considered

March 27, 2010

(Reprinted with Permission)

After comments were made on March 23 by Superintendent Margaret Dolan about the possible sale of the Board of Education’s Headquarters on Elm Street, formerly the Elm Street Middle School and one-time High School, ideas have been bandied about concerning the possible uses of the property.

At a recent social gathering of local residents, ideas about what to do with the property ranged from low income housing, luxury condominiums and even to use the property for the long awaited parking deck project. As the conversation continued long into the evening, the debate got heated when people discussed losing the original structure and its historic importance to the community and its residents.

“We need low income housing in town” said one guest anonymously in fear of reprisal from other residents who he assumes would be vehemently opposed. “We spend so much money on our Mount Laurel obligation it’s about time we try to lessen that burden.” They added that Westfield’s homogeneous socio economic composition could be enhanced by letting working class families live in the center of town.

“That guy is nuts” commented another member. “What we need are luxury condominiums for senior citizens since they don’t have kids in school and they can afford to pay the already high taxes that Westfield has.” The idea of relieving the property taxes in town by converting a non-tax-paying property into a ratable seemed to be very popular with most attendees. By converting the property into a tax paying parcel the property could easily generate an additional million or more dollars per year that could feed the Board of Ed or other municipal agencies.

“Knowing this town they’ll take the money and hire more meter maids” said one person who obviously had no love for meter maids.

Putting a Parking Deck on the location could be a good use of the property commented a few people particularly in light of the Super Stop & Shop that plans to come to the intersection across the street. It is estimated that the Super Shop & Shop will bring an additional 500 to 1000 cars to the area per day and will strain an already overstressed parking environment.

One resident of Elm Street already has plans to capitalize on the new Super Market by setting up thier own private parking lot in their back yard. They anticipate making enough money in a year to pay at least part of their annual property tax liablity.

One commentator stated that coverting the school property into a for-profit parking lot could generate rent for the town as well as property taxes and would also allow the town to avoid the cost of building it themselves.  By putting the deck at that location it would encourage foot traffic through the town as people walked to the train station which should be good for the local businesses commented another.

“It’s such a pretty building with so much history” said a former teacher who worked there for many years in the 60s and 70s. People don’t know that there used to be a tunnel that went over to the playing fields that was filled in after it started to fall apart.  “It needs to be set aside as part of Historic Westfield.”

“It’s all about the Education Budget and those lifetime medical benefits” shouted someone from the back of the room.

No matter what happens to the property it’s clear that Westfield has a very large ditch to dig itself out of regarding its Board of Education Budget. “Since most teachers are unwilling to give into any concessions and would rather see the children suffer and lose out on their educations, it’s unlikely that the ditch will get filled in” said an unemployed bank executive who has been on unemployment for the last year. He added, “If our taxes go any higher I’ll be forced to move to someplace like Garwood or Kenilworth and have my children resent me for the rest of their lives” which was met by a collective sympathetic groan by everyone in the room.

Whatever happens, this is surely only the beginning of the debate.

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Westfield Residents Take Back Their Town!

March 1, 2010

Another story that I came across…

Angry Westfield residents have decided to do something once and for all about the unruly children that have taken over Mindowaskin Park as well as other iconic landmarks of their beloved town. Starting next Friday night members of the Westfield Evermore Society for Unequivocally Controlling Kids will be placing individuals in Mindowaskin Park and other locations known for adolescent malfeasance. The sentries will be armed with cell phones and cameras in order to catch any children that are committing crimes such as smoking, drinking, reckless skateboarding as well as any other heinous activities too vile to mention.

A Mr. Robert Help has been the most vocal about the offenses and wants to close the park altogether.

In support of Mr. Help, an employee of the Westfield Municipal department has spoken anonymously on the subject and stated, “Those kids are out of control! They hide in the bushes, they share a pack of cigarettes between 15 kids and they overflow the recycle bins with empty beer cans and bottles and they don’t even care that they often put their garbage in the same bins as the recyclables”.

“We simply can’t close the Park because a couple of kids want to be kids.” said Henrietta Tolerenta who grew up in town. “I remember when we were kids and we did the exact same thing. Only, when we got caught, the cops made you pour out your beer and threaten to call your folks if you didn’t scatter all at once which we did and we would go find someplace better to hang out like somebody’s house whose parents were away.”

The Westfield Police Department did not respond to phone calls about the allegations but an officer was seen sleeping in their car near the area where the activities have been occurring in an apparent stake out.

“Given the close proximity of the Police Station to the activity it seems as though it could be better controlled if there was a real need to control it” said one passerby. “The fact that most of the kids are from town and that Westfield has been sued in the past for harassing the children by some of the more prominent parents could be one reason why the police have not acted.”

If the members of the Evermore Society have their way, they are going to post the names and picture of each child they catch on their new website entitled seethembeforecollege.com which is intended to give colleges a real time perspective of the things that their applicants may be doing.

“We’ll have them in court for slander” said one father of a teenager who has had trouble with the Evermore Society in the past. “Just because my child wants to have fun doesn’t mean that some group of do-gooders can hurt their chances of an Ivy League education.”

Another concerned parent has stated that they will be there to offer support to the children by offering them something to eat while they try to get drunk. In their words “Children just need a little guidance. It’s not like they have a bartender to cut them off like adults do. By offering them food we’ll help teach them how to drink more responsibly.”

And so, the debate heats up! Will the ultra conservatives like Mr. Help prevail and see that that the town closes places like Mindowaskin in order to curtail juvenile delinquency?

Or, will the parents of these ultra-coddled, soft and spoiled children continue to let their kids run wild in the streets?

Only time will tell!

A follow up story will be available after Friday night’s surveillance initiative.

Let’s Advertise This More

December 3, 2009

This is what happens when someone gets caught buying guns illegally for someone else. I hope that they make an example of this event because if they do, they might not have to make it so hard for law-abiding citizens to exercise their own rights.

Buying a gun for someone else that should not own a gun should be an even more severely punished crime than it is now! Furthermore, if the gun is later found to have been used in a crime, then the straw purchaser should be held responsible for the crime as if they did it themselves.

I bet it wouldn’t happen anymore.

This is a Federal Offense!

Westfield NJ Woman Gets 15 Years For Aiding Killer

WESTFIELD LEADER– A Westfield woman was charged last month with making false statements to purchase a firearm for a person who was prohibited from possessing it, announced United States Attorney Michael Levy.

Emily Joy Gross, 24, has been charged with one count of making false statements in connection with the purchase of a firearm, and one count of aiding and abetting a prohibited person to possess a firearm.

According to news reports, Daniel Autenrieth, 31, led police on a 40-mile highway chase, from outside Easton, Pa. to the Poconos, after Autenrieth kidnapped his nine-year-old son at gunpoint from the boy’s mother at her townhouse in Nazareth, Pa. following an argument. Autenrieth shot and killed Pennsylvania State Trooper Joshua Miller, 34, and wounded a second trooper with the pistol allegedly purchased by Gross, police said. Autenrieth was killed during a shooting exchange with troopers who rescued the child at the start of the gun battle.

The child’s mother reportedly had an order of protection against Autenrieth. Because of the order, Autenrieth was prohibited from possessing a firearm.

The United States Attorney’s Office for Eastern Pennsylvania alleges that on May 29, Gross purchased a Taurus nine-millimeter pistol and ammunition from a store in Hamburg, Pa. Authorities said Gross falsely stated that she was living at an address in Pennsylvania when, in fact, she was living in Westfield.

In addition, Gross has been charged with aiding and abetting the illegal possession of the firearm by a person who was prohibited from possessing any firearm under federal law because he was subject to a Protection From Abuse Order.

If convicted, Gross could face a maximum possible sentence of 15 years of imprisonment, three years of supervised release and a $500,000 fine.

Tattoo Parlor Comes To Westfield

September 24, 2009

I saw this article and I couldn’t believe by eyes…

Tattoo Parlor Comes To Westfield

Upon learning that a Tattoo Parlor is moving into a yet to be disclosed downtown Westfield location, local residents are up in arms about what is to become of their beloved town.

Speaking on anonymity, the owner of the proposed Tattoo Parlor explained that he identified the town as an ideal location given its demographics and proximity to the train station.

“We hope to draw people from Newark and Plainfield to come into town on the train and get their Tats here” he said as he walked down Quimby Street noticing the large number of recent vacancies. “It should be good for the town to have us here, as our patrons are usually quite hungry after they spend so much time in the chair. There are plenty of nice places here for them to eat, especially the sushi and the burger joint. They may even shop too if there are any stores left.”

The owner believes that the relative good reputation of the town will also bring patrons from nicer suburban locations like Cranford and Summit besides Westfield itself. Apparently the rise in the number of middle age women and teenagers that are getting tattoos has made the industry quite profitable and the statistics show that being close to your customers makes a huge difference. The only problem that they anticipate facing is trying to get the town to let them stay open until midnight or even later since that’s when most people decide to get them.

“We would like to be close to one of the many bars in town since we see a lot of drunk people coming out of them on the weekends” the owner added. Apparently alcohol is good for business even though he admits that they are not supposed to service any drunken customers unless they come and sign the paperwork ahead of time. He said that for every 100 drunk people he inks he only has one or two that come back later with some form of a complaint…even less for underage kids.

“We have already decided to keep our signage relatively small and we are going to suggest that our motorcycle driving customers park their bikes on the South side of town where they will be less annoying given their loud exhaust pipes. We definately want to be on the North side however, since that’s where all the action is. We are talking to a number of residents just South of the train station about letting us set up a parking lot for motorcycles.”

One local resident voiced great distain for the proposed shop but added that if nothing can be done to get any decent establishments into the stores, that Tattoo parlors, Head Shops and quite possibly a Massage Parlor or two will probably end up coming in to fill the void.

“At least there will be some businesses to pay the property taxes and to keep people coming to town to and pay a lot of parking fines” she added. “We’ll just have to hire more police and get them new cars to drive around and patrol in. Maybe they can get a few of those fancy stand-up scooters for the parking enforcement people too.”

The long term plans of the owner are to start with a Tattoo parlor and then add a pool-hall and video game annex for his patrons to use while they wait their turn under the gun.

“You need to keep my kind of customers busy while they wait or else they get kind of excitable. We want to do everything in our power to avoid that, as we really are going to try and be good corporate citizens.”

He informs us that a special Tattoo in the shape of the Great Seal of Westfield has been designed and will be applied for free to any local politicians or members of the Downtown Westfield Corporation that would like to get one. It is about the size of a silver dollar and can be modified with a barbed wire outline if anyone likes a more deviant look.

Westfield Sinks While We All Get Fat

January 8, 2009

Having breakfast this morning at my all-time favorite diner, Vicki’s, I heard news that the pendulum is once again swinging on downtown Westfield.

Apparently big companies are moving out in droves as are a few of the smaller retail establishments.

Not that many years ago, many of the old mom and pop stores closed up shop and sat vacant; not because they didn’t want to stay in business but because a select few landlords kept raising rents and forced them out of business.

Apparently, the landlords preferred to sit on vacant retail space in hopes of luring some big fish into town and to get higher rents.

Well, it worked and I’m sure that many of them have made tons of dough.

However, now that the economy has softened dramatically, it appears as though those big fish are retrenching and are now pulling up stakes and leaving.

It seems to me that Westfield is not going to be a retail destination any longer but will continue to evolve itself into a dining mecca.

After all, I’m sure that all of the rich people who live only a few blocks away from town appreciate being able to eat and drink at a myriad of epicurean destinations having only a short drive or walk back to their mcmansions after the possibility of having copious libations.

Can you blame them?

However, when it comes to retail, besides the fact that Westfield has miserably failed to address its parking problem, people would much rather go to a mall such as Short Hills where they can get covered or valet parking and a five dollar latte all in a 72 degree climate controlled environment.

So, unless they put a roof over Westfield and build a megalithic parking deck, Westfield doesn’t stand a chance to attract any more upscale retailers. Not unless those retailers have been ignoring what’s been going on.

Since the demographics are right, a few more flies might fall for the bait.

The difference between the mall and downtown Westfield is that the retailers at a mall are all dealing with one landlord who is very conscious about vacancy rates and willing to negotiate to keep tenants happy. In some cases they even offer free rent just to keep the traffic coming.

So, as Westfield continues to evolve itself into a dining destination, as well as a place to see others and to be seen by others, I just hope that nobody needs to buy a wrench or a pair of levi’s right away, because you’ll never find them in town.

For the sake of the landlords, I sure hope that this recession doesn’t curtail all of the dining patrons’ gluttonous ways or its curtains for everyone.

The Wicked Witch of Wytchwood vs The Timid Munchkins

March 30, 2008

witch.gif 

I’m sure that Westfield, New Jersey is not all that unique.

I’m sure that many towns suffer from over development and greed, but Westfield has lately refined it to an art form.

There is a case going on now that truly amazes me at just how much a person is willing to alienate themselves from their community in the name of making a buck.

On the one hand, we have a woman and her family determined to cash in on the development of their property and on the other hand, we have a coalition of people vehemently opposed to anything that will change their quaint environs.

Does this sound familiar?

The amount of turmoil that a subdivision and construction of a house can cause, is truly amazing.

It seems to me that the best solution would have been to give the woman the money she wants, buy the parcel off of her, put a conservation easement on it and then sell it.

The people in that neighborhood can certainly afford it and in the name of getting what they want, it would have been a bargain.

Alas…

Like lemmings going for a swim, the opponents try legal maneuver after legal maneuver to prevent her from doing what she wants…

Which is making a few hundred grand.

So, the lawyers get rich, the woman is happily the bane of everyone’s existence and the neighbors get a brand new McMansion, or two, and live unhappily ever after.

Let’s hope that no homes are falling from the sky!

wickedwitchhouse.jpg

Rethinking the Toll Increase in NJ

February 19, 2008

Once again the politicians are discussing raising revenue and once again they want to tax us on services that we have already grown to depend upon and have factored into our daily lives.

For once, couldn’t they give citizens a new or enhanced service that we might actually choose to pay for if given the chance?

I think there is when it comes to the proposed toll hikes that Governor Corzine is pushing for.

Instead of his idea, I propose that New Jersey allows drivers to drive at a higher rate of speed, in return for buying the privilege of driving faster.

With all of our wonderful technology, including the ability to issue tickets based upon EZ Pass data, why can’t we charge a variable toll rate based upon the actual rate of speed during the journey?

This enhanced service would only be available to EZ Pass Customers.

Do you think EZ Pass would like that?

Car safety can be ensured by giving additional safety checks during the inspection process. These additional inspections would be at the expense of the driver including out of staters that could voluntarily get the special inspection.

Do you think that Parsons and all of the small mom and pop inspection centers would like that?

Start small…say the car lanes on the Turnpike and the Express Lanes on the Garden State Parkway. If it works, roll it out to other stretches of road and maybe even build express lanes that would have an ample funding source for once.

How much could they charge for this privilege?

I think they could easily charge a summertime shore commuter $10 extra or whatever it costs to keep the road moving for those willing to pay the surcharge. Extra service vehicles, better roads, video monitoring, whatever. The additional costs could easily be absorbed by the additional revenue…and then some.

Why not vary the rates based upon time of year and projected congestion.  Influence driver behavior like the markets influence buying behavior.

We pay different prices for gasoline don’t we? And we make the decision to buy or not to buy on the spot do we not?

If they post the prices well in advance of reaching the toll a driver can decide if they want or need to go faster or not and if so, how much it’s worth to them.

On the flipside, using our wonderful technology, the State could charge extensive fines for cars that exceed their designated speed limits. No special safety inspection? Pay a fine for speeding.

Is this a perfect solution? Probably not…

Is it worth exploring before we simply tax everyone and they get nothing in return but a higher cost of living?

I hope so.

Caution: Dog Free Zone Ahead

March 2, 2007

Bad Dog

In traditional Westfield style, a newly emerging controversy is brewing in the local paper, The Westfield Leader.

Is it about property taxes, parking decks, policemen sleeping in their cars while on duty?

No.

It’s about whether or not dogs should be allowed in the downtown area.

On one side we have the overprotective moms who, in between trips to soccer practice, the nail salon and dinner at Echo Lake Country Club, feel as though the civil rights of their infants and toddlers are being jeopardized by overly friendly Golden Retrievers, Chocolate Labradors and so on.

On the other side, we have the aspiring suburban social climbers who feel as though their canine is as much a fashion statement as their Louis Vuitton bag, their convertible Mercedes and their well coiffed hair.

And so the showdown begins at the Westfield Corral.

I can see the headlines now.

“Woman pepper sprays Labrador for eyeing child’s pistachio gelato”

“Man accused of letting dog lick itself in front of impressionable Sun Dance student”

When will it end?

They say that too much money gives people too much time to contemplate things of too little consequence.

If this is true, Westfield people should donate all of their money to a good charity and get real jobs.

May I suggest The Seeing Eye?

Westfield New Jersey

January 3, 2007

My girlfriend and I both grew up in Westfield New Jersey and it’s just as great a place today as it was then.

However, the cost of homes and the property taxes keep us from living there right now. Instead, we have a house in Clark that will hopefully suffice until we can make the move back to our collective home town.

A lot of people think that Westfield is full of snobs.

In some ways they may be right.

People who live in Westfield do seem to act as though they are a cut above, but so do people who live in Summit, Short Hills and many other towns in the area.

Being a snob about where you live is much like rooting for your favorite baseball team or political party since you naturally find reasons why your side is better and the other is flawed.

In my opinion, Westfield does have an inherent quality about its downtown that makes it unique; with its train station squarely in the middle of town and its confluence of streets that make up the north side, other towns simply don’t have the physical complements of Westfield. Furthermore, it’s just far enough from the Short Hills and Woodbridge Malls that some big retailers find it worthwhile being located there.

There seems to be an overabundance of restaurants in town lately but since more and more keep coming, there must be enough demand to warrant their existence. The reality is you can get just about any cuisine in Westfield now including French, Thai and Hibachi not to mention multiple Italian and Continental establishments.

There are many things that you can no longer buy in town and for some of the things that you can still buy, you have to accept the fact that you WILL pay more and do so willingly simply to keep the last few local merchants in business.

For now, we are happy calling Clark home but spending much of our time in Westfield as we always have.

As this Blog evolves, I hope to discuss the parts of town I like most, some of the history that I lived while growing up in the town and to discuss the people in the town that make it truly a cut above.