Archive for the ‘News’ Category

Hoffman Grove slowly slips away

I first wrote about Hoffman Grove back in 2006 when I explored the area after one of the homes there was listed in the paper for sale. $200K for a house in Wayne? Yeah, what’s the catch? Oh yeah… constant flooding. Read the original post for the full story, but I found much had changed since I last visited in 2008. here’s some pics. At that time the community was still vibrant and most had refused to be bought out. There was an attitude of “this is what we have to put up with” and the desire to stay was string. After several floods in 2008, the state took action and in 2009, 36 homes were slated to be bought out.. There were several bad floods in early 2011, but Hurricane irene in August of 2011 was the final blow. FEMA stepped in and most of the remaining homes were bought out.

I took a visit to Hoffman grove this morning and what I saw was depressing. There were still many homes left, but most had plywood over the 1st level windows. Some had them over the doors and garage entrances as well. Yet I could clearly see curtains and items inside the 2nd floor windows. And some had cars in front of them. After driving around several times it became clear: cars meant there was a current resident. No cars meant no one was there and never would be again. Many left behind gas grills, toys, lawn furniture and other personal possessions. Saddest of all was the sight of this flag, upside down, the official sign for distress.

here are some pictures I took, the rest are on Flickr

4 Urban explorers told they can’t be BFF any more

Four urban explorers had made 200+ jaunts into places they shouldn’t have but this time they got pinched. With the royal wedding soon approaching, security was tighter then usual and the police were not going to be as lenient with them as they otherwise might have been. The four were actually let go, but a recent incident (not involving any of the four) prompted the police to revisit the offenders and make what can only be described as a shocking “penalty”.
In England there is such as thing called an ASBO (anti-social behavior order). It’s an alternative form of punishment to prison which involves some sort of a restriction, often not being allowed to do something or go somewhere for a period of time. In this case the four werent allowed to possess any materials that would aid in UE (no flashlights? really?), no blogging about the subject of UE, but the shocker was that they could no longer be friends.

You heard that right, the four best friends had to sever all ties between them.

I don’t even know where to begin.

First off, do they really get to just make up punishments in England? Apparently when it comes to ASBO, yes they can. They’re special penalties, often custom taylored to the offense or defendant or both. Second, they can’t blog about it? free speech anyone? Oh wait this is England, so there’s no fourth amendment. Third, how can they release them, then months later decide to hit them w/an ASBO? Finally, not being friends any more? Aside from being impossible to enforce, it’s also maddeningly broad. What constitutes friendship? I’m sure they have mutual friends, what if they all get invited to the same party? Would one of them have to leave? How would they decide without speaking to determine who should leave?

It’s mindboggling. I don’t know enough about ASBO’s to say much else, like whether they can appeal the decision or what would happen if they violated the order. All I know is that it’s patently foolish on the part of the police to even try to suggest that they not be friends any more.

The Plywood House

The Plywood House was built by a Architect Gamal El-Zoghby, an Egyptian man learned in astronomy, mathematics, philosophy and art, all of which were incorporated into his dream-house design. The house was sheathed in unpainted plywood and covered with several coats of special preservative or varnish to protect it from the sea spray and cold winters. Built in the late 90’s the design gives one the impression that it is unfinished, which was as intentional as the other design elements. The house is aligned precisely on eographic east-west and astronomical alignments. As in an ancient monument, two windows are positioned to capture the sunrise and sunset at the spring and autumn equinoxes. Unfortunately Mr El-Zoghby did not always appreciate the attention he receives and hated the nickname “the Plywood house”. The houses true name was the “The Parousium” from the Greek word “parousia,” meaning “presence or appearance.” I had visited the house many years ago and the owner was uninterested in discussing his home. Apparently he was tired of explaining the design to gawkers, passerbys and photographers….

The house and it’s owner were in the news today when a fire broke out. Firemen broke thru the walls with axes to get at various empty pockets of wall space. While doing this, child porn fell from between the walls and El-Zoghby was arrested as a result.

Th abandoned townhouses above the Great Falls

Over the summer A friend and I explored the Great Falls and Colt Factory, then he took me to something unexpected. What appeared to be full constructed, ready to move in townhouses, that were completely abandoned. You can read the entire story here (which is how my friend found out about it) but the short story is this. Located just above the Falls, on a cliff overlooking downtown Paterson, a developer built the first of what to be several townhouse buildings. In 2008 the 10 units went up for sale and several people moved in. By 2010, however, the developer ran into financial problems, the remaining buildings, pool and everything else was not going to be built and the town foreclosed on the property. The few owners who had bought moved out, and the entire building was boarded up.

When I investigated the property, everything except for one door was boarded up. One entrance had previously been broken into, so we went in and looked around. Everything was in move in conditions, which really stunned me. You would think that by now copper thieves would have stripped the place, the boiler, fridge, and other appliances would’ve been stolen and homeless would’ve moved right in. It’s almost like no one know this place is here. The future is unclear, but if Paterson is smart they’ll try to make it a scenic view tied to the newly created Great Falls National park.

Pictures here

Some interesting stuff in the paper: an irish bar and a bunch of worries about pollution.

This bar in Denville seems pretty cool. It’s only the second thatched roof Irish bar in the United States.

In bridgewater Twp, a superfund site got submerged in over 10 feet of water for a long time. Did those water leech toxins and move them around? Probably.

Shipwrecks off the jersey and Maryland coastline are leaking fuel… and thats never a good thing.

Staying on the issue of pollution the long polluted Quanta site in Edgewater will be capped. 150,000 cubic yards will remain underground. Granted paying 5M to cap it is more economical then paying $300M to clean it up right… but why are we not making the companies pay for it? But the EPA is evil folks, it’s *big government*. That’s why Herman Caine would appoint oil and gas execs to head the EPA if he gets elected…. There isn’t a big enough #facepalm for this kind of thinking.

State recommends blood tests for lead poisoning but few show up

The state recommended that residents of Upper Ringwood, especially children, get tested for lead poisoning because of the contaminaton left there decades ago by the Ford Motor company. Several remediation efforts have removed thousands of tons of chemical waste but their presence has left high levels of chemical residue in the ground. High rates of cancer and other illnesses among local residents lead to concerns of lead poisoning, and the recomendation for testing. Unfortunately, few showed up for the testing last week.

Coast Guard selling off two lighthouses to the top bidder

The lighthouses need a lot of work however. About 5-6 years ago I convinced the Coast Guard to let me go w/them on one of their spring maitenance runs to all the lighthouses in the delaware bay so I got to visit them up close. Some of them are only accessible by climbing a ladder from a rocking board deck up to the lighthouse because they’re built on top of a submerged shoal. Yhose were fun to climb. I am not sure if I ever posted pictures or not but if I didn’t I’ll have to post those. Lighthouses, especially those away from the coastline are amazing, I can only imagine what it must be like to be in one during a severe storm all alone. I’m going to see if I can contact the person who buys this one (if it sells) and interview them for a project I am working on. Should be interesting to see how they restore it to liveable conditions.