Posts Tagged New Jersey
EXCUSE MY LOGIC BUT I AM FROM NEW JERSEY AND PROUD OF IT.
Now that that’s out of the way I’ll examine some of the crazier misgivings people have about our state and then follow that with the reasons I’m so proud to call the Garden State my home. Yes, this is my fluff post of the year but every post can’t be investigative or incendiary.
For starters there is this misconception. Take for example, a woman we know who came here from Chicago. She confided in us some years ago that upon moving to New Jersey she didn’t step foot out of her house (except maybe to do grocery shopping) for a full year. She said that she was THAT frightened of interacting with Jersey people whom she heard were very tough. Well talk about people in glass houses, isn’t Chicago infamous for being a tough city? Need I go any further than to say Al Capone aka “Scarface” called it his home? In later years, Mayor Richard Daley, the undisputed Democratic boss of the city who served as mayor for 21 years until his death rued the city with an iron fist. He has been called by Wikipedia, “The last of the big city bosses.”
Then you have people of the West Coast. As I former limo driver in this state I used to pick up my fair share of Californians and other people west. Often I was told by these clients that West Coast people hated to fly into Newark Airport because they were afraid there were riots going on there. I would remind these people that the riots occurred in the 1960s, many years ago and furthermore that the airport isn’t even in downtown Newark but actually neighboring Elizabeth, NJ. Again we have the glass house syndrome. Here we have Californians mocking our homeland when in fact the Los Angeles area was the home of raging riots in 1992 after the officers in the Rodney King beating case were acquitted. Furthermore, the Watts area had terrible riots in 1965.
Another one of the snubs to New Jersey that peeves me off the most are the famous signs that greet visitors entering the state of Pennsylvania.(see below).
If America starts in Pennsylvania, who are we from New Jersey, aliens from another planet? Or maybe we’re citizens of a third world state?
There have been other slights to New Jersey. People call the area bordering the New Jersey Turnpike “Cancer Alley.” There was that recent sensation on the internet, “A Viral Map of New Jersey” which stereotypically delineated Poor Minorities in Bayonne, Hipsters in Hoboken and Russians, Polacks and Toxic Fumes just north of Perth Amboy to name a few.
Furthermore travelling back several decades was the rumor that former Teamsters boss Jimmy Hoffa was actually buried under the old Giants Stadium. It was rumored that he was whacked by orders of Anthony Provenzano of Teamsters 560. Years ago, New Jersey’s Teamster’s 560, the local branch was labeled by author Steven Brill as the most dangerous and ruthless labor local in the entire country.
People also love to diss our state for its high auto insurance rates and property tax rates.
So after all this, why do I love New Jersey?
Well start with a biggie. We almost never have tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes or other horrible wraths of Mother Nature. Our four seasons run a complete course. It’s not like we have a short winter but a long spring. In Jersey we get a full three months of each season, mostly. This winter has been an exception.
Sticking with environmental and nature oriented plus sides for the state, our beaches are wide and pure white. I have been to Malibu Beach in California and I swear, our sand is whiter, and you get more beach for your buck.
As mentioned above, Cancer Alley, the land abutting each side of the New Jersey Turnpike can be grotesque. However, if you head west, say on I-78 or I-80, you will be treated to rolling hills, and picturesque farms. At night, take a ride to Clinton, NJ and look straight up at the heavens. You will see as many stars in the sky as anyplace on earth. It is that clear.
Californians love to brag about places like San Francisco’s Haight Ashbury as a mecca for incubating music and artistic talent. Well consider this partial list of New Jersey born and raised artists: Jack Nicholson, Bruce Springsteen, Bon Jovi, Jason Alexander, Susan Sarandon, Shaq, Dionne Warwick, Whitney Houston, Eddie Money, Jerry Lewis, Tom Cruise, Bruce Willis, Lauryn Hill, Ice-T, Danny Devito, Joe Pesci, John Forsythe, Meryl Streep, Paul Simon, Kevin Spacey, John Travolta, Kelly Ripa and Ol’ Blue Eyes himself, Frank Sinatra. I’d say artistically speaking, New Jersey is fertile ground.
Another reason I like New Jersey is its size. You can travel from any one point in the state to any other point in the state in three hours or less.
I like that we are the Diner Capital of the world. Our diners run the gamut in size from giants like the Arlington Diner in North Arlington or the Tick Tock Diner along Route 3 in Clifton, to the microscopic but incredibly popular White Manna Diner in Hackensack which boasts about 10 seats. I also like that many people will tell you we have some of the best pizza in the world. Also on the subject of food, I love that you can drive down the garden State Parkway to exit 131 and a few hundred yards off the exit ramp is an entire community of India people with a host of Indian restaurants. Similarly if you like various ethnic foods, many are offered in various communities such as Cuban food in Union City, Middle Eastern food in Paterson, etc.
While we don’t have our own baseball team, we have teams in the other three major professional sports including the New Jersey Devils who have won several Stanley Cups in the past 15 years and The “New York” Giants who play in New Jersey and have won two Super Bowls in the past 5 years.
We have the first ever built tunnel under a river (The Holland). We have the most shopping malls in one area with seven major ones located within a 25 square mile radius.
Menlo Park,NJ was the home to that prolific inventor Thomas Edison who invented the phonograph, motion picture projector and light bulb while living there.
The largest seaport in the country is located in Elizabeth NJ and nearly 80 percent of what our nation imports from overseas runs through that port.
I could go on more but you get the point. In conclusion, I am proud to be an American and equally proud to be a Jerseyite. Or Jerseyan. Or well you know.
Copyright 2012; Greg S.
Excuse my logic, but sometimes I really do get it right. Those of you who follow this blog may recall my November 1, 2011 post that called into question the necessity of continuous toll increases at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey run Hudson River crossings. Only a couple weeks after that posting media reports began surfacing about questionably high salary add-ons for Port Authority Executives and other administrative staff. I am not saying that my blog was the catalyst for this surge in demand for Port Authority accountability. I am only saying I am good at sniffing out things that don’t always make sense.
However let’s cut to the chase. This post is about another bizarre and annoying aspect of many toll roads in the northeast and I suspect other parts of theUnited Statesas well.
About ten years ago in the middle of the summer on a Sunday evening, I was travelling home from theNew Jersey Shore. I was using the New Jersey Turnpike northbound. Traffic had been refreshingly light for a Sunday afternoon and I was in good spirits about that fact. However as I approached the toll plaza for exit 18 my good spirits flew right out the window faster than the spreading of a rumor about Bon Jovi’s death. Traffic had come to a complete standstill about three miles before the toll. I took note of the time on my car clock. Then I waited. Waited. Waaaaited. By the time I reached the toll booth and paid my toll, one and a half hours had elapsed. I was absolutely pissed off.
A couple of days later as I was still lamenting the inefficiency of the NJ Turnpike Authority at handling large volumes of traffic at their tolls, I hatched an idea and jotted off a letter to the governor of New Jersey. What I suggested was a revamping of the toll rates. Instead of having tolls in amounts such as $2.35, $1.65, or $3.85, I proposed rounding all tolls to easy to make change for figures – for example, $1.00, $1.50, $2.00, $2.50. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist and thank God because I am not one, to figure out that toll collectors can make change faster for toll rates with a zero at the end of them than with a 5. There is less calculation required on their part and the handling of less actual coinage.
Did I just mention calculation? Just today, I telephoned the New Jersey Turnpike Authority and asked an executive there if toll collectors are equipped inside their booth with a device that calculates the change due each customer. The answer was no. Toll collectors must manually calculate the change due for each customer. Now at the beginning of a shift this may or may not be relatively easy for experienced toll takers. However, as the hapless toll collector begins counting change for 500, 1,000 and maybe 2,000 cars during his shift this can become very mind numbing. Logically, he may begin to slow down the pace at which he handles transactions. That translates to longer and longer waits at the toll booth.
I know for a fact that the New York State Thruway also operates this antiquated schedule of toll rates. So does the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Just to confirm that the Pa. Turnpike does this too, I went to the toll calculator on their website, entered a point of entry (Exit 359 -Delaware River Bridge) and then several different points of exit (Exit 339 for Fort Washington and Exit 326 forValley Forge). The rates came back $3.20 and $4.75. This confirms my theory that they have umpteen different prices for their huge inventory of exits.
As the population on this planet continues to explode along with the amount of cars on the roads, the people in charge of the super highways need to streamline their operations into efficiently-run enterprises. It is interesting to note that the Garden State Parkway in New Jersey just changed their toll rates and in most cases the tolls end in a “0” cents rate. (In a few cases tolls are $.75).
I am not saying there shouldn’t be tolls. However, I think it is nervy to make people wait on tiresome long lines and then ask them to spend money at the end of the wait. This is especially aggravating for people who have just had a hard day at the office, or the construction site.
Let’s revamp toll prices to speed up what is currently a system that can best be described as archaic. Keep America rolling, not crawling.
Copyright 2011; Greg S.
Excuse my logic but if other areas of our nation are in as much trouble as mine (Bergen County, New Jersey), our country is in deep doo-doo. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. Submitted for your viewing and consideration are the dismal images below, all vacated buildings that once housed thriving businesses in Bergen County. It is interesting to note that historically, Bergen Countyhas always been considered one of the more affluent counties in the nation. Some of these businesses probably went belly-up. Others probably saw that this area just wasn’t as much of a choice location to be in as it once was. Either way, it’s time for our government to take notice, and all parties to put political differences aside. Businesses are failing at an alarming rate. Foreclosures are soaring. The percentage of people living in poverty in this country is at an all-time high. It’s time our elected officials start working for all of our peoples.
Is any business safe? Who’s next?
Copyright 2011; Greg S.
Excuse my logic but is it a crime to be poor? For many of my fellow Americans they must think it is. This blog is about neglect of people by our own political and government systems. This neglect touches people here from many different nations and of many different, colors, and creeds. The one thing they all have in common is they are low or lower middle income.
I’ve been meaning to write this particular blog for many months now but always had it on the back burner. Then today, someone I was speaking to asked me a rather obvious question, one I’ve asked myself countless times.
Why do we let people remain living in substandard or even dangerous living conditions which could actually cause their death in a country as prosperous as ours?
To sidetrack for a moment. Did I say we are a prosperous country? Damned right. I recently read somewhere that our GDP or GNP is seven times that of China, the country that everyone runs around saying will one day own us. If these figures are correct it looks like that time is a long way off.
So with all the money we have for bank bailouts and corporate CEO buyouts and new multi billion dollar sports stadiums that are dripping with opulence, we allow many of our country folk to live on the precipice of serious injury or downright death.
Cases in point:
Hurricane Katrina – A year before that tragedy, people were already talking about a possible breach of the levies. Nineteen hundred lives lost. Most or all of those people could have lived if appropriate precautions had been taken.
This year’s tornadoes across the Midwest and Southeast – Hundreds or maybe even thousands have perished. Why in the world in this great nation of vast economic resources, do we allow people who live in these regions to live in mobile homes or homes with no foundations? Against a powerful hurricane or tornado, if you live in this type of dwelling you might as well live in a cardboard box. Let me expound on this point. Some years ago, a powerful tornado swept across a town in Florida known as New Smyrna Beach. I am familiar with the goings on there because I have a relative who lives nearby and I at one time lived there myself. This tornado hit two cement condominium buildings known as Diamond Head straight on. It blew out windows, but not one person perished. The point is that these buildings were strong enough to protect their occupants. Can the same be said for a mobile home? Of course not.
Locally to myself, New Jersey to be exact, I watch with sadness each year as the Saddle River in Lodi, NJ and surrounding communities overflows its banks and destroys peoples’ basements, automobiles etc. It is well documented that even before Hurricane Floyd way back in 1999 the Army Corps of Engineers had been warning the Federal Government, namely Congress, that work needed to be done on that river to prevent drastic flooding. Still every year it floods. I don’t know if any work has been done, but it’s a low income area, so as I asked in the beginning of this blog, does that make these people criminals, unworthy of even some consideration by Washington, DC?
Also local to myself is the town of Lincoln Park in Morris County, NJ. The Morris Canal zigzags its way through a hodgepodge of low lying streets in the area close to Wayne, NJ.
Some of these houses are one story affairs, so their gutters may be estimated to be ten feet above ground level. I have seen that canal, so docile looking in fair weather, swell up so deep in bad storms that the water reaches the gutters of these homes.
Needless to say, every time this happens, many possessions are ruined and many peoples’ lives are turned upside down. Once again, many of these peoples’ only crime is that they are low income. This is their best shot at home ownership – buying houses that can probably be purchased at bargain basement prices (ie. under $150,000 in a county known to feature high home prices).
When these homes flood out, disaster lurks in several corners. People could drown. People could be electrocuted as water floods over active power lines.
This is not just rhetoric designed to instill unjustified fear. When the above-mentioned Hurricane Floyd hit, the downtown section of South Bound Brook, NJ was inundated with flood water. The downtown caught fire and basically imploded. One news caster termed the downtown of that city as a “write off.”
What are we to do? One possibility lies in massive relocations of people from danger zones to safe zones. A November 17, 2010 article entitled “Seven Towns Where Land is Free” by CNBC.com writer Colleen Kane is just one example that comes to my mind. Yes, there are places in this country where they will give you land to put up a home, free, with few or no strings attached! I would bet the farm that the government has many habitable land areas beyond just these that could become sanctuaries for displaced homeowners.
I would also not be surprised to find that there exist even now 15 years later, huge amounts of unoccupied condominiums and other domiciles in multi-family buildings leftover from the infamous S&L crisis of the 1980s and 1990s. I can remember driving the coastline in parts of Monmouth County, NJ back in the early 1990s and being absolutely awestruck by the thousands of empty condominiums that had been put up in this era of reckless financing.
Similar overstock of unsold condominium housing may exist in many areas of the country. Isn’t it better to put people in these units than to leave them gathering dust and rotting from the inside?
I don’t have all the answers. However I do know that in this so called “land of opportunity” we need to get back to recognizing the sanctity of each human life.
Copyright 2011; Greg S.
Excuse my logic but don’t we live in a day in age where there’s a double standard in banking as it applies to the rich versus the poor? I am fond of saying that we live in a world of the haves and have nots. If you fall into the latter category, the bank is probably not your friend.
I came across an observation in an email a friend of mine recently sent which went something like this. It affirms my claim that for the average guy, the bank is not a friend. “If you owe the bank thousands or hundreds of thousands you are considered a debtor. If you owe the bank millions or billions, the bank calls you its partner.”
Now let me offer some concrete examples of what I am leading up to. Take the case of a prominent New Jersey/New York City developer who shall remain nameless because he likes to sue people like me. Some years back, he defaulted on a bank loan in the tens of millions of dollars with a well established New Jersey bank. Most of us will never deal in figures like this in our lifetime. He has defaulted on other large loans too. Yet he’s still in business and going strong as ever. A foot note to the bank default. Several months after that occurred, the bank laid off 2,000 workers. This developer knows how to play the game. He turns debt into wealth.
This is the injustice of it all. A wealthy person can stick banks and other creditors for millions and keep right on with business as usual, but your average Joe Blow who sticks a credit card company for $2,000 or $3,000 gets buried in his credit report and is considered worthless.
Unlike our developer friend, I on the other hand flounder about in that no man’s land known as the middle class. The bankers don’t help me. On any given day I am lucky if they don’t try to drive another nail in my coffin.
About five years ago, I refinanced my house and went from a fixed rate mortgage to what is known as a negative amortization mortgage. In the beginning it sounded great. We went down from $1,700 per month for a mortgage payment to $950 per month. This $950 represented the minimum monthly payment and the bank told us that if we only paid that, the principal would not go down on the loan but we would remain in good standing. I highlighted the four words “would not go down” for a reason. The bank is very cagey with their words. They only told us half of the truth. The reality was that the principal was going up every month instead!
In about two years’ time my principal skyrocketed from $220,000 to $238,000. I admit to my own incompetence. During that two years, I just kept writing out my payments and never looking over the monthly statement carefully. I’m busy. Okay? But my point is, if the banker, in this case World Savings, was my friend they would have been up front and told me about this.
Then consider this from another personal experience of mine. In the mid 1980s along with my business partner, I successfully repaid about $600,000 in mortgage debt. While paying monthly payments I never missed an installment. Eventually, I sold the properties in question and paid off every penny. Not one mention of this good deed ever appeared on my credit report. However, when I stuck Citibank for a mere $3,000 all the buzzers and bells went off. My credit report in the ensuing years painted a picture of me as a lowlife scumbag devoid of any worth and not to be trusted. In short, they crucified me.
Maybe you are getting the picture. I read a book which I highly recommend called “Debt Cures” by Kevin Trudeau. In it, I recall reading of several rather unscrupulous banking practices which I have personally fallen victim to and maybe you have too.
The first one has to do with the date your credit card payment is posted, if you are lucky enough to get it posted at all. Trudeau maintains that some credit card institutions systematically lie about the date they receive your payment and thus tack on a late payment fee to your next statement. In some cases, he continues the bankers even have the audacity to actually rip up your check when it comes in and claim they never received it. The reason I believe Mr. Trudeau is that I have had a credit card where the payment was going to Richmond, Virginia. I live in New Jersey. I have seen cases where I mailed the check a full ten days prior to due date and the credit card company posted me as a late payment. Excuse my logic, but if we were still in the days of pony express I might believe it takes ten days for my check to travel that far, but c’mon!
Another nefarious practice engaged in by the credit card companies and their cohorts involves the use of scavengers. Sound scary? Well they are. A scavenger buys your credit card debt from the bank for probably 20 cents on the dollar. It’s a calculated risk on their part. They figure if they are lucky enough to collect the debt in full, they have increased their investment four fold. The scavengers tend to be tenacious in their collection practices. They will hound you at work, at home, and even call at ungodly hours of the night. But I have an even greater objection to their practice. What I believe they tend to do, is subtly increase the amount of your debt over the following months by whatever amount they paid to the bank to purchase the debt.
So if you owed the credit card company say $3,000. The scavenger pays the bank $600 to buy the debt. Now they start mailing you monthly statements that show you owe $3,100, $3,200, etc until the total gets up to $3,600. But you didn’t borrow the money from the scavenger and number two, you didn’t borrow $3,600. You borrowed $3,000.
When I became entangled with a scavenger last year, on one particular day an extremely heated conversation took place. I explained to the scavenger the following. I had owed the credit card company $2,000. I had offered to pay $100 per month for 20 months. The bank countered asking me to pay $60 per month for 5 years. I said take my offer or no deal. The bank turned it over a collection agency who when they couldn’t collect from me turned it over to the scavenger in question. The scavenger told me I was acting “stupid” and “childish.” I asked the attorney his name and hung up. I called back the firm and asked for the complaints officer. I explained how this attorney insulted me and how he was verbally abusive. The complaints officer informed me that I would never hear from them again.
You know what? I never did hear from them again. But they sold the debt off to another scavenger and now that firm is hounding me!
I guess the moral of the story is that in financial affairs, with credit card companies especially, consider this adage to be true. “You are either a big player, or a small payer.”
Copyright 2009; Greg S.