Archive for the ‘Middlesex’ Category

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.

The first execution in NJ

The marker at this location commemorates the first hanging in NJ history. I assume they mean official hanging….Located on the appropriately named Gallows Hill Rd, it is unlikely to be seen unless looked for specifically.

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Old French cemetery

This is an old graveyard which is very much forgotten, with graves dating back to the 1800’s. The graveyard sits atop a hill that is almost inaccessible due to its steep incline and heavy grass, but it is doable. The graves are in mostly good shape for their age, and it has a desolate feel to it in an industrial, mostly un-populated part of town. I enjoyed my quick visit immensely, since old, abandoned, little noticed graveyards are always a cool find for me. Other then its unusual location there isn’t anything extraordinary about this spot, but I still had a good time. My son demanded I take a picture of him with the grave. I didn’t put him there, ask him to pose or anything. I think this whole weird NJ hunting thing is wearing off on him. Which is a good thing I guess. Umm… yea. A good thing.

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Mary Ellis cemetery

Mary Ellis lived in the area of NJ that 200 years after her deat would become Edison & Rahway. She lived near the Raritan River, and in 1813 purchased a piece of farm land near its banks. She married a sea captain, but he went to sea & never returned. In 1827 she passed away, her husband’s whereabouts unknown. She was buried on her own property, with her sister and even, some say, her husband’s beloved horse. The property was passed down through the family, and heirs maintained the graves. In the early 20th century, the wooded area surrounding the Ellis property was sold to developers and became strip malls. The land immediately around the grave itself was leveled, then paved, leaving the grave site an island in a sea of asphalt. The terms of sale of the property give the descendants the right to visit the grave and to maintain it. Currently the grave sits directly behind a Lowes Multi-plex. Biding by the agreement, the grave should remain undisturbed for years to come.

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Different plans to deal with flooding at very different levels of completion

Plans hope to avoid disatrous floods such as from Hurricane Floyd

As the muddy river reached for the traffic lights, residents of both towns were rescued from rooftops. Bound Brook borough became a boundless brook, as water from the Raritan River gushed onto Main Street in Somerset County’s oldest community, reaching heights of 10 feet and flooding more than 800 homes. In neighboring Manville, water reached up to 17 feet as homes came off foundations and stranded residents were plucked from their homes by helicopter and boat.

The chaotic event — Tropical Storm Floyd of September 1999 — mobilized both boroughs to intensify their flood control efforts. But nearly a decade later, it has become a tale of two flood-prone towns. Bound Brook, as part of the Green Brook Flood Control Project, has benefited from a line of flood walls and levees along the Green and Vosseller brooks. In ad dition, there have been channel modifications, deepened drains, widened banks, water control roller gates and the reconstruction of the old East Main Street bridge between Bound Brook and Middlesex borough to allow a greater volume of flood water.

Protective walls were built around an East Street apartment complex, and levees, flood walls and a pump station are being built along the southern side of Bound Brook, from the Talmage Avenue bridge to South Main Street. And new Congressman Leonard Lance made a point of stopping in Bound Brook on the first day of his district work week Tuesday to take a tour and tell Mayor Carey A. Pi lato he would advocate for the critical final $23 million stage of Bound Brook’s $113 million flood control project.

The same day, President Barack Obama signed into law a stimulus package. The project was included among Army Corps requests for federal stimulus money. “This,” Lance said, “is a classic example of a shovel-ready project.” Meanwhile, in neighboring Manville, the amount of federal funds allocated for fiscal year 2009 for the Stony Brook-Millstone River basin flood control project was zero dollars. The difference, said US Army Corps of Engineers project manager John O’Connor, is that Bound Brook started the clock on its flood control efforts after the big flood of 1973, when six people were killed, 1,000 people evacuated and President Richard Nixon declared it a disaster area….

The Russian House

In 1915, Sam Goldman built a house which showed his ideals via relief images on the side of the home. The primary image is that of a family with a hammer & sickle. The area of Piscataway where it is located was once a Communist Cooperative called Fellowship Farms, which eventually went bankrupt. Many of the local streets still bear the name of communist ideals like International Way & Fellowship Road, although some of the more obvious names such as Karl marx Way have been changed over the years.

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The Easter Island Head

The easter island head is a prop from a planned play that had a Gilligan’s Island type story to it. The play was never made and this prop was kept by one of the producers of the play. They’ve kept it on their lawn for over a decade and it is now is in need of repairs. They decorate it at the holidays, and the whole family seems to enjoy having this odd head displayed on their front lawn.

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