Archive for the ‘Middlesex’ Category

The Morse family plot

Cemeteries are for most of us a communal place. Our loved ones are laid to rest alongside hundreds of others, row upon row of headstones. On certain holidays you will find many decorated with wreathes or flowers as surviving family members pay their respects in a manner that is private and personal, yet also on public display. It was not always like this. Many times families would bury their dead in plots on their own property. As these (often large) properties were sold or as parts were sold off, eventually these family burial plots would find themselves hemmed in by development both commercial and residential. Sometimes when the last pieces of the family estate are sold, the dead would be disinterred and moved to some nearby cemetery. In some cases though, the plot remains untouched. One example would be the Mary Ellis grave in the middle of the parking lot of an AMC movie theater.

The Morse graves are another example. The Morse family was one of 80 colonists who, though a combination of grants and sales by local indians came to own nearly 1 million acres in what would now be the Careteret-Linden-Iselin area. They settled in the area in the late 1600’s 200 years later they still owned several hundred acres. and owned several hundred acres of land. John Rockefeller, founder of Standard Oil decided that the Morse land would make an excellent site for his new refinery. The land was purchased in 1907 and was cleared with the exception of the family burial plot. By 1910 the faciliy was produced crude oil and 100 years later Standard Oil was broken up by the Sherman AntiTrust Act and the Bayvway Facilities are owned by Exxon. Despite changing hands and name several times, the Morse Plot has never been disturbed. Surrounded by a tall, large hedge it is highly sheltered, rendering it nearly invisible to the people who drive on Lower Rd and Stiles Rd. There are three headstones as well as a marker that tells some of the history behind the Morse family. There is a small ball park across the street where people walk their dogs and watch their kids play baseball. I venture few if any of them known that they are doing so a few dozen yards from the graves of some of the earliest European settlers to live in America….

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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.

Recent news

Bergen Record article on a study of some really really old rocks in Passaic County

AMC is bringing it’s “dine-in theaters to NJ, but they’re only coming to central jersey for now. I wanna try this even if it means going down to Bridgewater just for a movie.

A stockpile of 2600 tons of mercury has finally been relocated out of Hillsborough, NJ. Only took 50 years….

A Hunterdon man grew (then carved) a 500 lb pumpkin

Scott Willman doesn’t just take care of Mount Pleasant cemetery. He lives there. Speaking of cemeteries, A pair of retirees have been working hard to research the locations of veterans buried in forgotten cemeteries in Morris County. In another cemetery story, a slave headstone is beyond repair, but a locals are pitching in to replace it with a new one

Speaking of odd jobs, apparently people go around the state gathering acorns (fighting off squirrels) so they can plant them and keep oak trees alive.

I once was young and stupid. (note: I’m now old and stupid). I stole road signs and dropped bowling balls from great heights. But I still can’t help but be amused when idiot teens get busted for… I dunno… stealing stuff for a scavenger hunt.

Finally, the state has decided that the best way to handle the over 20,000 toxic waste sites is to farm out the cleanup to private contractors and let the DEP handle only the worst of the worst. Yeah, I can’t see anything wrong with that.

Still wouldn’t help exit 13 on the NJTPK.

To neutralize the smell of the Middlesex County landfillthey’re spraying citrus scent to mask it.

middlesex beach shut down for next 5-10 years because of the lead contamination

and of course locals are ticked off

The Environmental Protection Agency is shutting down 1.3 square miles of coastal property, much of it along Raritan Bay, because dangerous levels of lead were found in the soil. EPA officials said they would post 4-by-4-foot, bilingual notices warning of the threat posed by contamination, and will install split-rail fences restricting access to the western jetty near Cheesequake Creek in Old Bridge, at a small beach north of the jetty in Sayre ville, at the Laurence Harbor sea wall in Old Bridge and at Marga ret’s Creek to the south.

“Our plan is to post signs — very aggressive signs, with strict language on it — explaining exactly what the threat is,” EPA project manager J. Daniel Harkay told about 100 people at the Old Bridge Environmental Commission meet ing on Wednesday night. The EPA said the signs will read: “Public health hazard/ Sand sediment and water contaminated with high levels of lead/ Access to the beach and sea wall located behind these signs is restricted/ No swimming/ No sunbathing/ No fishing.” The bills also note that expo sure to lead can be especially harmful to children and pregnant women.

The federal officials who spoke Wednesday said they did not know when, how or even if the sites would be cleaned up. Pressed again and again by angry residents who wanted a timeline for when some sort of re mediation might be done, Joseph D. Rotola, the agency’s regional Removal Action Branch chief, acknowledged that the sites could be closed for five to 10 years — maybe longer; he doesn’t really know. Pat Seppi, who will be the EPA’s public liaison, tried to calm the group. “Even working with the EPA, we get frustrated about the length of time,” Seppi said.

Right now, the agency is only in a position to close the areas, notify the public about the danger and continue to look into the extent of the contamination, according to spokeswoman Elizabeth Totman. “That’s why we’re investigating the scope of this,” she said yesterday. She said the agency does not have a time frame for when it might be considered for the Superfund list, which would make the site eligible for federal cleanup funds. She said there would be a better picture of what will take place in the next month or two. “We’re in the very preliminary stages on this,” said Totman.

Dozens of people spoke at Wednesday’s meeting. Some, like Rich Peterson, feared closing the sites for any length of time could spell disaster for Old Bridge and Sayreville, which have businesses that cater to fisherman and others who visit the no-swimming beaches. “I can’t see waiting around 10 years,” said the Elizabeth man, who fishes there. “People will organize. People will protest. … People will go bankrupt. People will have bad things happen in their lives.” The EPA reported the danger last month after receiving test re sults indicating very high levels of lead.

Rotola, the removal action chief, said Wednesday that residentially allowable amounts of lead measure 400 parts per million. At the western jetty near Cheesequake Creek, the highest levels found were 198,000 parts per million — nearly 500 times the residential limit and about 20 percent lead. The average in the area was 52,399 parts per million. The jetty’s size depends on the tide, but is about 755 feet long and 20 to 30 feet wide. At the Laurence Harbor sea wall area, the range of lead sampled was as high as 142,000 parts per million. The sea wall is about 2,345 feet long.

At the half-acre beach area in Sayreville, just north of the Cheesequake Creek jetty, the range of lead sampled was the same as at the jetty — as high as 142,000 parts per million. The Margaret’s Creek site, which is a remote location not frequented by people, is being added to the list at the state Department of Environmental Protection’s request. The DEP began testing wet lands in Old Bridge about two years ago when the township was looking to sell property, Ed Put nam, the DEP’s assistant director of the publicly funded remediation program, said last month.

A 1972 memo from National Lead Industries, which had a paint manufacturing facility in Old Bridge, indicates the company used the area to dispose of spent cases from acid/lead batteries. Because National Lead refused to help with the cleanup, the DEP turned the case over to the EPA in September, Putnam said. State health experts at Wednesday’s meeting said lead, built up in the blood stream over time, can cause brain damage, kidney failure, diminished intelligence and other issues. Children are much more at risk for absorbing lead than adults, as are pregnant women because of changed metabolism. The metal can be detected with blood tests.

first black voter in NJ

On March 31, 1870, Thomas Mundy Peterson (1824 – 1904) of Perth Amboy, New Jersey became the first African-American to vote in an election under the just enacted provisions of the 15th Amendment to the United States Constitution. He was born in Metuchen to parents that had been slaves owned by the Mundy family. He was a school custodian in Perth Amboy. He was active in the Republican Party and became the city’s first African-American to hold elected office, on the Middlesex County Commission. He was also the city’s first “colored” person to serve on a jury. Decades later, the school Peterson previously worked at was renamed after him.

In New Jersey, March 31st is annually celebrated as Thomas Mundy Peterson Day to mark the rights of all citizens to vote.

He is buried in St Peters Episcopal Church in Perth Amboy.

the shantytown home of Pink Bellamy

Pink Austin Bellamy is, from a technical standpoint, homeless. He has been homeless for 16 years, living in a squatters village behind the Pathmark in Hopelawn, NJ. If you were to visit this enclave you would find everything you would probably expect to find: garbage and broken pieces of furniture, dozens of feral cats, signs warning you to keep out, and of course numerous homeless people living in makeshift housing constructed from boxes and various pieces of scavenged junk.

What you wouldn’t expect to find is a little bungalow that looks like something out of a fairy tale. This is Pink’s home, a home built from refuse he scavenged from supplies found at local building sites. The small house is solidly constructed and even features a fireplace to keep warm during winter. It resembles a gingerbread house, though he abhors that comparison. “It’s a castle” said a resident homeless person. A castle complete with a moat made form concrete.

The house has a fence, plastic flowers, a bench to sit on, and is painted in pastel colors. It resembles something out of beautiful dream. How ironic then, that it is surrounded by so much sadness. The area is, after all, a refuge for the homeless, and it has been for decades. Some of the people living there claim to have called this place home since the 1960’s. In February 2005 the town had had enough. They notified the homeless in the area that they had to leave and find another place to live. They were given till March 1st, although this was extended to March 15th. I visited Mr Bellamy on March 15th, but was confronted by some not entirely friend neighbors of his. Since the town made its decision, reporters had stopped by in droves, and “they don’t give one damn about us, they just want their story!” bellowed one homeless man.

I spoke briefly with the man and he stated that Pink was not interested in speaking to the press, nor were any of the rest of them. They just wanted to be left alone. The man, wearing army fatigues, several layers of clothes, sporting too much facial hair, and spitting frequently made it clear that they had no interest in speaking to anyone. “You got a camera?” He asked. “No,” I said, burying my hands deeper into my coat pocket where my digital camera lay snug and away. “Good, cause I see a camera, I’m gonna stick it up your ass like a fucking beacon!”

Speaking somewhat unsteadily, and occasional breaking into a tearful voice the homeless man expressed a lack of understanding why the town was doing this. Pink was quoted in the paper as saying, “I knew this would happen one day, why did they choose the middle of winter to do it? Mr Nolan (township law director), he says I haven’t got a home. To him, I’m a homeless man. But I don’t think of myself as a homeless man.”

The March 16th newspaper indicated the this time, the deadline will have meaning. “I’ll stay here till the day they knock on my door and tell me to get out cause they’re knocking it down. I’m gonna go to Myrtle Beach, SC, and if I can’t find a place to live, I’ll do what I always do, I’ll sleep on the beach.” Already bulldozers have come in and knocked down some of the shanty houses built by Bellamy’s neighbors. And lest you need any further reminder that this man and his house should not be romanticized simply because of it’s storybook appearance, a headless body was found in the woods close to the homeless village. Said one local resident, “I was real shook up. I thought I was in a real live Stephen King novel.”

The town is working, along with local Catholic Missions, to help find housing for the men, as well ways to get them the medical care that they made need. Will the town bulldoze the storybook house that for 16 years has been a home to a homeless man? Will Pink make his way to South Carolina? That chapter of this tale has yet to be written. If it is bulldozed,  “That house, fixed up and in the right location would be exceptional,” Jung said. “It is such an adorable home. To think he could do all that out here.” a local artist has preserved it’s memory in an oil painting. A day earlier, the artists met with township officials with the hopes of preserving the home. They even offered to buy it so Bellamy could stay there. With no deal in place, Jung said the artists decided they could preserve Bellamy’s home in a portrait. “That house, fixed up and in the right location would be exceptional,” Jung said. “It is such an adorable home. To think he could do all that out here.”

The pictures below were taken one week later on Palm Sunday. Apparently I visited Tuesday, they were out Wednesday and at dawn on Thursday, the bulldozers came in. Seeing the destruction of their homes is almost as sad as the fact that they were living like that to begin with.