30 April 2009

Circus Fundraiser at Sovereign Bank Arena

[Saturday performance just added!]

We've reserved an entire section of seats for our friends, neighbors, and any and all who would like to help us raise money for autism research. A portion of the proceeds from each ticket sale will go directly to Autism Speaks in the name of Hillsborough's Hope.

Please follow the simple instructions on the flier to order tickets by phone or mail. You must order your tickets through this offer for Autism Speaks to receive the donation.

Click on the picture to view and print the flier.

27 April 2009

Autism Awareness Day at TD Bank Ballpark

It was great seeing so many old friends - and making some new ones - at the Somerset Patriots Autism Awareness Day at TD Bank Ballpark.

Thanks to all who stopped by our table - even if it was just to get out of the sun for a few minutes!

For more information about Autism Speaks and Walk Now For Autism, click here.

25 April 2009

Are You Reading?

I'd like to get a sense of how many readers are reading the version of this blog at MyCentralJersey.com. They don't show me the stats over there, so it is hard for me to determine how many people are seeing the blog excerpt in the newspaper, and then going to their computer to read the rest of it on the web.

If you have read Gillette on Hillsborough over there, would you be so kind as to go back using this link www.mycentraljersey.com/ggillette and hit the "recommend" button?

Let's see if we can get it up to a respectable number!

24 April 2009

"I Swallowed My Crown"

I discovered this month that Google returns 951 hits when searching the phrase "I swallowed my crown".

Now that I have had that not-so-singular experience, I figured I should make it 952.

O.K. Google - start crawling.

P.S. It's nothing to worry about - it will pass. Your dentist may want you to retrieve it - to use it as a reference to make a new tooth - which will save time. It's really up to you. If you find it, I would advise boiling it - you KNOW where it's been!

22 April 2009

Bypass Can Wait

To be clear - my opinion is that the 2 segments of the Route 206 bypass project that are scheduled to begin next - Amwell Road to Hillsborough Road, then Old Somerville Road to Amwell Road - should be the LAST to be built.

These segments constitute the actual "bypass" - a project that is tied into the redevelopment of the original Route 206 into a downtown "main street". With the recession in the commercial and residential real estate markets, this development is still a long way off.

While we wait, the difficult and expensive part of the 206 rehabilitation - from Brown Avenue to Old Somerville Road - can provide real benefits now. Not just in reducing traffic, but in other areas such as correcting flood control issues that plague the highway.

21 April 2009

What's One-Sixth of 206? Less Than You Think

In a recent news story, Somerset County Freeholder Peter Palmer discussed the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority's proposed spending plan for fiscal year 2010 which includes $19 million for a portion of the Route 206 bypass project. This money would be used for the stretch of highway running from Amwell Road to Hillsborough Road - or, in other words, just one-sixth of the project.

Mr. Palmer pointed out that the first third of the bypass - from the Somerville Circle to Brown Avenue was already complete, leaving just two-thirds remaining. I have to disagree. While the rebuilding of that part of Route 206 was much needed and is well appreciated, it does not BYPASS anything, hence, it is not part of the bypass.

Mr. Palmer also acknowledges that funding has yet to be found for what I believe to be the most important part of the project - the section from Brown Avenue to Old Somerville Road. This segment of the Route 206 reconstruction - also not really part of the "bypass" - is estimated to cost upwards of $43 million. I believe this is the most worthy part of the project still to be built - an improved highway that will stand on its own whether or not the real bypass is ever built. Without it, the bypass essentially becomes, at worst, another "road to nowhere", or, at best, a faster path to the traffic jam!

20 April 2009

Danger: Asbestos

By the 1950s there were 5000 men employed at the Johns-Manville plant. None of them ever saw a sign like this:

Johns-Manville had a reputation as an excellent company that cared about its employees, offering good wages and working conditions, and other benefits - including annual physicals and chest x-rays.

The problem was with the asbestos fibers which would cover workers and their clothing, and which would sometimes fall like snow in Manville. Once breathed into the lungs, the asbestos remained there permanently- causing lung scarring and cancer.

Beginning as early as the 1920s, Johns-Manville was aware of the health risks of asbestos - even going so far as to demand that a 1933 Met Life study of the issue be amended. They also withheld all of those x-rays from their employees.

As recounted in Jon Blackwell's excellent book Notorious New Jersey, Johns-Manville's director of Health rationalized keeping employees in the dark about their grave condition:

"As long as the man is not disabled it is felt that he should not be told of his condition so that he can live and work in peace and the Company can benefit from his many years of experience."

When the lawsuits began in the 1960s, company directors tried to argue that their knowledge of the dangers of asbestos was recent. Internal documents and correspondence proved otherwise.

When the president of the company was asked why he would let his employees "work until they dropped dead" rather than inform them of their condition, his reply was, "We save a lot of money that way".

19 April 2009

Come to Manville

When word got out that Johns Manville was moving their asbestos manufacturing plant from Brooklyn to Hillsborough, real estate speculators immediately gobbled up all of the farmland in the vicinity. They staked out tiny lots and cleared the most primitive of roads. And waited for the people to come.

They didn't have to wait long.

Prospective employees and their families flocked to the site - encouraged by the prospect of owning their own home in the New Jersey countryside. Developers ran special excursion trains to Hillsborough. Not just from New York and Jersey City, but also from Scranton and the Pennsylvania coal country, where laborers were eager to get out of the mines and work in the most well-appointed and modern factory of the day.

Jersey Central train at Manville-Finderne Station in 1967.

18 April 2009

It's Unanimous! Manville Wants Out

Prognostication is a risky business - one that I try to avoid. I certainly wouldn't try to guess the results of this year's school board elections, but I do have one prediction: the decision will not be unanimous.

You'd do well making that sort of prediction every year in Hillsborough, where outcomes sometimes come down to a handful of ballots.

Courier News, 19 April 1929

Every year except 1929, that is.

On April 18, 1929, each of the 243 voters who went to the polling place in Hillsborough's unincorporated village of Manville knew exactly how their neighbors would cast their ballots. In quite possibly the only unanimous decision in Somerset County history, the residents of Manville voted 243-0 to secede from Hillsborough.

Johns Manville Plant, Hillsborough Township, circa the 1920s

Manville's official incorporation had been 17 years in the making. Since 1912, when the Johns-Manville Company moved their factory from Brooklyn to the site at the confluence of the Raritan and Millstone Rivers there had been dissension between the new working-class population and Hillsborough's traditional farmers.

30 November 1912, Courier News

Most of that dissension centered on Manville's schools. For the most part, Manville's residents - many of them eastern European immigrants - were willing to put up with muddy, impassable refuse-laden streets and cramped, often unsanitary, living conditions. But what they would not put up with was inadequate schools.

Harmony Plains School circa 1913

Time and again between 1912 and 1929, Hillsborough's school board refused to build a decent school in Manville. The school children perpetually attended split sessions in inferior overcrowded buildings. Only after the school board relented in 1926 and added a polling place within its confines did Manville finally win two seats on that body.

But even two seats, or three, or four, were not enough to sway the majority. In 1926, Manville voters rejected a ballot question calling for a portable school, and in 1927 they rejected a more substantial school in an unsuitable location.

NJ State Senator Clarence E. Case

It took the influence of State Senator Clarence Case of Somerville and the backing of the Johns-Manville Company - who heretofore had stayed out of the local squabble - to finally achieve what Manville really wanted: a referendum on independence.

Who could have predicted that 80 years later the state of New Jersey would be studying the possibility of once again joining Hillsborough educationally with Manville?

Not me, I don't make those predictions.

17 April 2009

"The Rock"

Speaking of "The Rock", I had the pleasure of attending a Devils game recently at Newark's Prudential Center. It really is a very nice facility - and it's still new, so it has everything that comes with that. It's clean, and shiny, and not run-down. A great place to see a game.

The location is also convenient. It's just a few blocks from Newark's Penn Station. In fact, you can see it through the window at the station platform - that's it with the green-colored display screen on the side.

The only real inconvenience was the schedule on the Raritan Valley Line. Now that weekend train service has been drastically cut, it was necessary to board very early and arrive hours before the game. Conversely, we waited over an hour for the return train to Somerville.

With so few trains running on Saturdays and Sundays, wouldn't it make sense to coordinate rail service with the arena on game days?

16 April 2009

Happy 100th Somerville

Somerville celebrates its centennial today, April 16, 2009.

Festivities are planned throughout the spring and summer.

Check here for upcoming events.

15 April 2009

Injurious to Newark? Ha Ha Ha

Did you read Newark Mayor Cory Booker's recent letter to Governor Jon Corzine concerning plans to update the Izod Center arena in the Meadowlands? Booker is outraged that money is being spent to upgrade that facility - in essence to bring it up to a standard where it can compete with Newark's new, state-of-the-art, Prudential Center - when the state is already in such serious financial straits. He contends that such an expenditure would be injurious to Newark and "further divide our state against itself".

He's joking, right? Nothing more profoundly divides our state against itself, or is more injurious to our well-being, than the enormous amount of all kinds of state aid that flows into Newark, and away from our suburban populations.

Look in the mirror, Cory.

Here's the letter.

14 April 2009

Application Denied

They've done it again. Saved our tax dollars, that is. By rejecting Governor Corzine's offer to enter into a new state pension borrowing program, the Hillsborough Township Committee has saved our town $800,000 in interest payments on a $795,000 loan over the next 15 years.

The option to pay only 50% of this year's pension obligation with up-front tax dollars while taking a loan to pay the balance was never worth considering - although I am sure the committee gave it a good look to be sure. How is it ever possible to solve a fiscal problem by doing the same things that got you in trouble in the first place? It's like borrowing on one credit card to pay another - it never works.

Sorry Jon, this application is denied!

12 April 2009

Happy Birthday Mustang - and me!

I just discovered that the first Ford Mustang rolled off the assembly line April 13, 1964 - when I was just one day old.

I never owned one.

Nice pearls.

11 April 2009


In this photo, my dad is about half the age that I am right now. There are still some days I forget I'm not 23 anymore.

09 April 2009

GSA Depot - Halfway There

Now that Somerset County and Hillsborough Township have at last gained control of the Belle Mead GSA Depot property, what's next?

This major accomplishment, three years in the making, means that the project is only half finished - if that. Two major components remain to be completed. One is the cleanup of the contaminated areas, and the other is the actual construction of a recreation "Mega-Facility" - sure to be the envy of towns across New Jersey.

What will this awesome facility look like? The designs have yet to be completed, but in 2007, the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy did prepare a concept redevelopment plan for the property. The following graphic is slide number 8 of their 39 slide PowerPoint presentation.

One interesting aspect of this concept plan is that it includes not only the 369 acre parcel now owned by Hillsborough Township, but also the 300 plus acre "northern" parcel owned by Hillsborough Properties - potentially making the entire property nearly twice as big!

In the Bloustein plan, much of the northern parcel is used for passive recreation, meaning that all of the ball fields and other active recreation facilities can be built regardless. But wouldn't it be beneficial to have the entire 700 acres for Hillsborough?

Personally, I am hoping, even at this late stage, that some solution can be found that would allow the two properties to be joined. After all, the only thing better than a "Mega Facility" is a "Double Mega Facility". Especially one with the potential to be as amazing as this one would be.

07 April 2009

Calling All Artists – Art Show, May 14, 2009

Is there such a thing as an “old” artist? Is one ever too old to create? Picasso continued working into his 90s – Monet kept at it even after he was nearly blind.

The Hillsborough Township Cultural and Arts Commission, in conjunction with its upcoming 4th Annual Fine Art Exhibit, is seeking area artists interested in showcasing their work. This juried art show, which will take place at the municipal complex on May 14, 2009, will also feature the best work of the young artists at Hillsborough High School, as well as other area schools. All artists working in two dimensions – painting, drawing, photography, etc., are invited to have their work displayed and judged.

Prizes totaling $1000.00 will be awarded in several different categories, and one young artist will receive a $1000.00 commission to create an artwork depicting a prominent figure or feature of our town for display in Hillsborough's new permanent art collection. The first piece in the collection, an oil painting of Assemblyman Peter Biondi, has already been created by our own internationally recognized portraitist Kevin Murphy, and will be unveiled the night of the exhibit.

Artwork will be judged by world class professional artists working in a number of disciplines. Judges will be available to interact with entrants on the evening of the exhibit.

Area artists of all ages are invited to participate alongside Somerset County’s most talented teens.

For more information about Hillsborough Township's 4th Annual Fine Art Exhibit, and how you can show artists come in all ages, please contact Kevin Murphy:

By phone at 201-240-9157, or by email: kevin@kevinmurphy.biz

04 April 2009

Cows at a Crossroads

To some, the auction sale this week of Norz-Hill Farm's entire herd of milking cows may seem like a trivial matter. Many expect these "small" operations to go out of business. After all, they couldn't possibly be as efficient as some corporate mega-farm in the midwest.

The fact is there is nothing trivial about it. This was a major operation - and not just by New Jersey standards. Norz-Hill farms 275 dairy cows comprised a herd that was twice the size of the average U.S. herd of 135, and about three times the size of the 77% of American dairy farms with herds of fewer than 100 cows.

Large-scale dairy farming in our area is not a centuries-old industry, but rather paralleled New Jersey's suburban population explosion. The loss of Norz-Hill Farms dairy operation closes a chapter in Hillsborough's agricultural history, and now joins egg production, peaches, and other past farming specialties that are no more.

The Norz-Hill cows also played a not so insignificant role in my move to Hillsborough in 1993. Having grown up in a town whose last "cow-crossing" sign was probably taken down around 1970, it was wondeful to discover that there still existed a place in New Jersey that was so much like the one of my childhood. And it didn't hurt that Patty was, and is, crazy about cows.

This photo, taken acrosss the road from Norz-Hill farm in 1993 as we contemplated our move to Hillsborough, says it all.

Check out Dairy Farming Today for info on family dairy farms.

01 April 2009

"I Am a Gray American"


Corzine Apologizes for Being a Flip-Flopper

Acknowledges "Large Mistakes"

Trenton - April 1, 2009. Governor Jon Corzine released a statement today in which he apologized to the public for his frequent indecision. Spokesperson April Furst said, "The governor wanted a chance to explain why he has so often changed course without yet finding the right direction for our state."

The following is an excerpt from the governor's press release.

"Throughout my life, I have grappled with my own identity as a directionless flip-flopper. Even as a child, I could never choose between grilled cheese or peanut butter and jelly. In retrospect, I should have had the tuna.

I have continually sought answers that I cannot find. Since I became governor, I have been like a rudderless ship adrift on a sea of bad decisions. Each attempted course correction has been another wrong turn.

At a point in every person's life, one has to look deeply into the rear-view mirror of one's soul. I know now that my mistakes have been larger than they appear.

My inability to see even the simplest issue in black and white has brought me to a realization.

And so my truth is that I am a gray American. Let me be clear, I accept total and full responsibility for my inactions. As I write this today, April 1, 2009, I tell you that I am truly sorry, no joke."

Or is it?