Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Woodbury, NJ's Treatment of Senior Citizens - Part II

My grandmother lived by proverbs. I don't recall too many times when she didn't use one or more a day in conversation. Three favorites of hers were, "The squeaky wheel gets the grease" "The pen is mightier than the sword" and "A picture is worth a thousand words". I think I have fulfilled the meaning of all three proverbs within the last week. Now I have one more of my grandmother's proverbs to address, "Give credit where credit is due".

After e-mailing Firecrackinmama's World: An Open Letter to President Obama and Firecrackinmama's World: Only View If You Have A Strong Stomach
to the nine member Woodbury, NJ city council, six have responded as of today (Firecrackinmama's World: Woodbury, NJ's Treatment of Senior Citizens). Two of the six have already taken action. The first to respond, Mr. Fleming, indicated that he had already spoken to Mr. Dukelow, who handles the city's trees. Monday Mr. Trout took the time to call me directly. He too has spoken to Mr. Dukelow and indicated that the problematic tree will be placed on a list to be removed. I want to extend my appreciation to all the council members of the Third Ward (Mr. Trout, Mrs. Tierney and Mr. Louis) for their prompt responses. In addition I extend that appreciation to Mr. Villari of the First Ward and Mr. Flemming and Mr. Sloane of the Second Ward.

Their prompt attention will not go unrecognized as the neighbors have been following this ongoing issue and love nothing more than to sit on the front porch and shoot the breeze. I've learned more from these porch sessions then reading the newspaper or watching TV. The neighbors will also weigh in on Mr. Riskie, Mr. Pottillo and Ms. Brown not responding.

Now I hope that the city will follow through and remove the tree in a timely fashion.

Have a Firecrackin Great Day!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Woodbury, NJ's Treatment of Senior Citizens

I awoke early, and I mean early, Friday morning filled with anxiety about the treatment of my 89 year old mother by the City of Woodbury, NJ. Although her problem has been ongoing during a tree's life, I only learned from this latest occurrence, when I became fully involved, that no one of true authority was aware of the problem. So with this newest technology of e-mailing available and the city government's availability to contact individual councilpersons , I sent each councilperson an e-mail.

Out of 9 councilpersons e-mailed 5 took the time to read my attached Blogs, Firecrackinmama's World: An Open Letter to President Obama and Firecrackinmama's World: Only View If You Have A Strong Stomach and respond. I truly appreciated their time and shared concerns. Mr. Fleming was the first to respond followed respectively by Mr. Villari, Mr. Louis, Mrs. Tierney, and Mr. Trout. Each has assured me that they will work towards some resolution. I hope this is true.

Since I no longer live in Woodbury I no longer have real interest in local politics. However, I do listen out of my good ear to the group of neighbors that sit on my mother's porch during the good weather. A lot of topics are covered, particularly local politics. They reported that one if not three of the above mentioned councilpersons has stopped by to talk, generally during the election year. During those short visits from candidates, issues facing these residents in particular were shared. However their issues appear as "small potatoes" compared to the larger issues like revitalizing the downtown and they will tell you that. Yet with the 5 responses and sincerity shared within those responses, I am hopeful that one of these "small potato" issues will be addressed.

Meanwhile there is always some good that comes out of bad. The mess in the basement has of course led to cleaning out years of collected items, some of value, but mostly junk. I'm very careful when cleaning out my mother's stuff as she was from the old school where you sometimes find things of value stuffed in nondescript boxes, coolers or whatever. I can assure everyone there is nothing left and, Don, there's nothing in the backyard either.

During this latest clean out, I found some old books down in the basement. My heart dropped as I love old books. However these somehow survived and I have rescued them. Of particular interest to the present City Council was a History of Woodbury, New Jersey book written in 1937. My grandmother had purchased the book and noted all the relatives that played a prominent role in the development of the city. It's pretty cool.

What caught my eye though is the following:

Pg. 103 - Sewers Authorized - On January 22, 1901 Councilman Joseph B. Best introduced an ordinance in City Council to establish a system of sewers in Woodbury, which after discussion in and out of council was enacted. On May 23 Council approved plans at an estimated cost $50,000. On July 16th the contract to construct the system was awarded for $48,825.65.

Pg. 105 - Sewer Job Difficult - "Sewer construction in Woodbury was more complicated than the contractors, the Artificial Stone Pavement and Construction Company had anticipated, because of unimagined areas of quicksand and springs. So, with 30 per cent of the work done, that company abandoned the job in the fall 1902, and the contract was re-let to B.F. Sweeten & Son, of Camden, for $45,246.14, the lowest of several bids."

Pg. 107 - Sewers Cost $105,000.00 - "On February 21, 1905, the Sewer Committee of City Council reported the new sewer system completed at a cost of $104,756.35. There were twelve miles of sewer line, and the system was working satisfactorily. But the expanding needs were a constant source of unending problems. Extensions were demanded, streets disturbed by deep digging were a constant danger. Demands for new sidewalks, new curb lines, and countless problems kept City Council in a constant foment of oratory, and clash of ideas."

Now they have tree roots causing all kinds of problems. I spoke with one of my mother's neighbors last night after I dropped her off at her home. He lives down the street and had heard through the neighborhood grapevine about my mother's dilemma. He too is a Senior Citizen and very close in age to my mother. He too is having problems with the roots from his tree blocking his sewer line. Maybe I really should consider contacting all the neighbors with a petition and sending it to the newspapers. Petitions really aren't effective at at public meetings. Generally they are accepted for review and never heard from again.

Hello roots - plenty of water here. Come on over!

I had to use the above picture to end this Blog as I also found interesting within the History of Woodbury, New Jersey the following. I've reprinted it as I posted it on Facebook.

While cleaning out my mother's basement I found my grandmother's 1937 book, History of Woodbury, NJ from 1871-1936.

On pg 117 - "When 1910 dawned, this section was buried under at least two feet of snow, 22 inches of which fell between Saturday evening 12/25/09 - 12/26/09 resulting in a general cessation of business. Sunday morning, James C. Giscom, on the Mantua line of the trolley, discovered two trolley
cars stalled in front of his home. Going out to investigate he found 24 passengers who had spent the night in the cars while their friends at Mantua spent the night worrying about them. They were cold and hungry. "Jim" couldn't move the cars so he did the next best thing - invited the travelers to his spacious bachelor’s quarters, and soon the party was warm and fed.

Wow! Sounds like this year!!!

Well, everyone, have a Firecrackin Great Day!!!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Only View If You Have A Strong Stomach

A few days ago I wrote a Blog directed to President Obama about the sewage back-up into my 89 year old mother's home. It was a means of ridding myself of the agitation and frustration of trying to reconcile what I would perceive as a logical matter with city government. I noted that I had contacted the Robert A. Curtis, mayor of Woodbury, New Jersey, Senator Steve Sweeney and other politicians. The reality is I hadn't expected any more from them then I have received - no help and better yet no contact. Oh, that's not correct. I received an automated e-mail from Rob Andrews directing me to his achievements and Mayor Curtis punted my e-mail to the supervisor of whatever saying that guy would get back to me. Never heard from him.

Any how we have been battling with the City over a Maple tree they planted in between the curb and the sidewalk many years ago. The water seeking roots found a great home in my mother's sewer line. In this new home the roots conveniently blocked the sewer line causing the back-up into my mother's cellar, better there then in the bathroom. This occurs every six months and every time the city workers come out they poke around and say it's my mother's responsibility. She calls a plumber, he comes out and breaks up the city's tree roots and informs the city that they need to clean their street side. The city ignores their responsibility and leave.

Last week it happened again. Only this time the back-up was the worse I have ever seen and the cause is still the tree that belongs to the city. I'm not so sure what is so valuable about this tree that the city won't remove it but I'd sure like to know. Believe me my mother would remove it but she has been told that she can't because it belongs to the city. But enough of that. They say a picture is worth a thousand words.

Unfortunately I didn't think to snap some shots before I began but needless to say there was enough in the basement for me to photograph.

I had to resort to using kitty litter to clean up. As you can see I started here. Emptying the basement was and still is quite a challenge.

You can bet your bottom dollar that if this had happened to Mayor Curtis or anyone else on Woodbury's township committee that the tree causing this problem would be removed. They would figure some way to get around whatever it is that prevents them from protecting the normal resident. I finally was able to clean almost all of it up. I still need to go back and throw things then get a professional cleaning company to come in to finish up but if this is going to happen again what good is that. I think the City of Woodbury should pay for the clean-up and of course future clean-ups.

By the way the plumber came out yesterday. He was absolutely amazed at how the roots had covered my mother's line. He spoke to a city guy who came out. The recommendation is that we gather up the neighbors and go to the township and maybe if we all complain - forget that!

When a tree takes priority over safety issues for an 89 year old woman, I have a real problem.

For now I hope you have a Firecrackin Great Day!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

An Open Letter to President Obama

Dear President Obama,

My mother always taught me that if you have an ongoing problem, go right to the top. I don't know how much higher I can go. I've contacted the mayor of Woodbury, NJ, and Steve Sweeny along with Rob Andrews. and Frank Lautenberg. I'll probably get an automated letter from them saying thanks for contacting us, period. I don't have high hopes for help but at least I've tried to resolve this on a lower level. It is the weekend too so just maybe they'll surprise me. I'm not taking any bets on it though.

I am acting on behalf of my 89 year old mother who is now under 24 hour supervision. She is the fourth generation born and raised in the city of Woodbury, New Jersey. Her home was built by my great-grandfather in the early 1900's. She has renovated and taken good care of the house.

You would therefore think that my mother's immediate problem would be easy to resolve but the bureaucratic process involved has taken on an adversarial component.

As you can see in the picture below back in the 1950's the city of Woodbury created a tree lined street. Little did they know that this picturesque look would come back to haunt them.

Since this picture that was taken in 1957 the large tree to the right has been removed and replaced by another down towards the little evergreen seen on the left but still between the sidewalk and the curb. This is a section of land the city has always claimed as "theirs" and from the sidewalk over as "ours". Pretty good idea on their part they don't have to clean the sidewalks.

As years passed by the city planted trees in front of almost every house and replaced them when they died. It was wonderful in the summer as they provided shade. In the Fall we could play in the leaves. However within more than the last 10 years those beautiful trees have wreaked havoc on the neighborhood, according to the city and they are no longer replaced.

I'm not sure of the initial sewage back-up into my mother's house but I know it was quite some time ago. The city came out, looked at "their" side and said it wasn't "their" problem. My mother, the good woman that she is, called a plumber and cleaned out her side.

Soon after the initial shock of sewage within the house the event became a routine six month occurrence. The second time she was met with the same response and again did her part. However when it occurred a third time she was informed that the tree roots were clogging her drain or whatever. And so the story begins.

As my mother has been a widow for close to fifty years my brother and I have taken on various roles in caring for her. Since the matter at hand was under his realm, he took charge and has worked diligently on trying to resolve the matter. You see the city has insisted that the roots causing the problem belong to "their" tree that is on "their" side of the sidewalk and that they cannot remove "their" tree until it dies. So we were left with the six month occurrence of having to pay mega bucks to have her side of the pipeline cleared and going through the same old story with the same old guys.

This past summer my daughter moved in as part of a 24 hour supervision for my mother. She wasn't in only a couple of days when the cycle hit once again. My brother wasn't available initially so I was able to be brought up to speed on the continuing saga by the city personnel who came and did their due diligence. They now informed us that it wasn't only our tree roots but the roots from all the other trees lining the street clogging the main sewer line. However they could not help us because the clog was on our side. I failed to see their logic as it was "their" trees that caused "our" problem. Wouldn't you think they would have felt the responsibility of rectifying the problem by clearing "our" side? We tried to reason with the supervisor but to no avail.

Finally we gave in because the problem had to be fixed. We reached a really nice power plumber who came out to assist in our dilemma. It was amazing what he pulled out of my mother's side of the line: disposable diapers, diaper pins, feminine napkins, condoms, etc., none of which were used within her home. After six hours of working on this section of line our plumber agreed that it was as a result of the blockage within the city sewer line that these items backed up into my mother's line.

The city was so adamant about the problem being ours. So it amazed me when the next two days the city roto rootered the length of my mother's street to clear any blockages by tree roots etc. You had to be there to appreciate what came shooting out of the manhole in front of my mother's house. A fountain of let your imagination go.

Well, here we are six months later and what should my daughter tell me yesterday-yep, the sewer has backed up again into the house. Now I'm really angry because I know today when I call the emergency whatever we will get the same story. On top of that there is at least 2 feet of snow that has to be tackled before any relief from this can be addressed.

This is definitely a health issue. One that I now understand has occurred in other homes along the street. One in which the City of Woodbury, New Jersey must take responsibility and correct.

I believe my mother's house along with others on this street are eligible for Historical Preservation through the Municipal Land Use Law (MLUL) authorized in 1986. I'm not sure if we can gain relief help through that avenue but I'll look into it.

I realize that finances are tight in every town in the country. However that does not excuse the town fathers from protecting their taxpayers from exposure to dangerous health situations brought on by their neglect to maintain the sewer system in this case. Nor should the taxpayer bear the financial burden assigned to them for the city's neglect.

It would be nice just for once if people did the right thing and didn't have to encourage or force the use of the legal system to make it right. Perhaps this thought would be something your administration might entertain and could encourage. As for now I know there isn't much you can do to assist in my mother's dilemma but at least I can tell her I went to the top.

I thank you in advance for taking time to read my letter and pondering advocating for people and towns to just do right. And if my mother could she would thank you too.

Have a Firecrackin Great Valentine's Day!


Monday, February 8, 2010

It Snowed and Snowed and Snowed Some More!

Well, we were forewarned again that we were going to get a significant snow fall. It was hard to believe but obvious that snow was coming. With our food shopping done early in the week and wood up on the porch, we were ready for the onslaught. The snow started Friday night and accumulated rather quickly but it wasn't too bad when we went to bed.

It's amazing how the house becomes so quiet once it is smothered in snow. I guess it was so quiet Friday night that the Snow Gods woke me up at 4:00 am. I laid in bed wondering how deep it had gotten overnight. Curiosity got the best of me so I got up to see.

4:00 am and the storm hadn't even begun.

4:00 am

By the time I had taken the pictures my coffee was ready and so was I. No sooner had I poured my first cup when the cat started his meowing to go outside. The litter box was sitting by the door so you would have thought he knew it was a bad idea to go out but he didn't. So I opened the front door and...

Yep, that's a snow covered door. The wind was blowing and it was so cold that anything the snow hit, it stuck.

It was definitely a beautiful sight and I was glad I could stay inside and enjoy it. The snow plows on pick-up trucks went by a couple of times but the snow started coming so fast that they made no difference in keeping the street opened.

I settled back with my coffee, checked my e-mails, my stores and of course moved on to Facebook. Before I knew it the sun was coming up behind the clouds and it was going on 7:00 am. It was time to get a status report.

I noticed our neighbors behind us were now up.

That's a 6 ft. fence and you're viewing the high end of the yard.

It was time to return to my coffee and design work. Hubby the dog and cat were still asleep.

By 9:00 am the house was buzzing and the fire was started. We sat and watched the enthusiasm of the news casters and of course the weather persons reporting the mess we were in and the fact that more was on the way.

Now that it was lighter out I thought it was time again to gather data on our accumulations.

I felt so bad for her. I opened the door onto the deck and she had to go so bad that she jumped through her doggy door into a foot of snow. I opened the back door and she came back in but nature's call made her go back out. After blazing this trail down the steps she went around the railing and stayed close to the house. She doesn't like to play in the snow while the snow is still coming down.

Now that we were snow captured we decided it was time to stream some movies. We sat in our comfortable family room enjoying the movie while the fire softly burned and listened to the dog snore. Around noon I took some more pictures.

It was really snowing hard at this time.

If you look at the house you'll see the snow has drifted half way up their windows.

I went back to another movie and doing nothing but keeping the fire going. Somewhere around 4:00 pm hubby noticed it had stopped snowing. So I had to take my final pictures and start making the meatballs for dinner.

I think that says it all. Hubby got his snow clothes on and out he went to blaze his own trail and dig my car out.

Thank goodness for the snow blower!

While he worked hard I made a good spaghetti and meatball dinner and stayed warm.

Ah, it was a tough life that snowy day. Don't you think so?

We finished up the night in front of the fire. I almost felt guilty about doing nothing all day but that quickly passed.

Before calling it a night I had to take final pictures of this great event.

Lights out.

Have a Firecrackin Great Day!!

Oh, I almost forgot. If this is too much for anyone please feel free to enjoy the following images.

Feel free to see more at Firecrackinmama's Tropics!