Charging Into the Future

Are you ready for your first electric vehicle? Is your home?

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The recent surge in the price of gasoline and the geopolitical mess that caused it has a lot of New Jersey drivers hitting the accelerator on their decision to purchase an electric vehicle (EV). State and federal policymakers have already set the finish line on internal combustion engine (ICE) automobiles at 2050, less than three decades away. For many of us that day can’t come soon enough. That being said, it’s not as simple as flipping a switch. To meet this lofty goal, energy producers, automakers and consumers must match technology, political policy and current inventory headwinds with financial incentives and seamless customer satisfaction. It’s a tall order.

One of the first questions homeowners (and, for that matter, renters) have when considering an EV purchase is Can I charge up without leaving my driveway? It’s a valid question. At the moment, New Jersey ranks toward the bottom of the “charging stations per resident” chart, although given how road-reliant we are, that is destined to change. If you’re suddenly in EV buying mode, however, promises don’t get you to the nearest charging station.

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The average cost of a home charging unit is $750 before professional installation. You will need to determine the most logical space for the unit, thinking about its distance from the main breaker (usually in the garage) and where the charging port is located on the car. A dedicated 220/240 volt breaker is required, and a professional electrician has to install it. Depending on the work and permits needed, that can run upwards of $1,000. Utility companies sometimes offer special rates to homes charging vehicles, based on time of day, day of the week and demand. Homes with solar power may out the various car forums online for tips and tricks from brand owners on what make and model of charger works best in your area of the country, when to charge and how to track your car’s kilowatt usage and regeneration when driving between charges. Most EV owners will tell you, only charge when your battery is close to empty. also benefit from extra discounts. You’ll also want to consult your home insurer to see if you need an additional rider or disclosure when adding a charging unit to your home. In addition, it’s a good idea to check

for EV drivers living in condominium apartments or multi-family dwellings, the lack of charging capabilities is a concern for public utility companies like PSE&G and JCP&L. The redistribution of power to meet real-time charging demand will likely involve building micro-grids. Micro-grids are smaller networks of solar-powered homes and alternative-energy capture sites, which redistribute excess power into the public-private sector closest to high-demand centers. Garden State property owners may find their rooftops are going to increase in value as solar resale becomes a necessity.

If you are a tenant, installing a charging station can be tricky. While some newer apartment complexes offer this amenity, older buildings likely do not. Obviously, tenants need to discuss installing a new 240 charging unit with their landlords. Some may see it as a way to increase rent, or make their apartments more appealing. However, as a rule, most will want tenants to share some of the cost, or perhaps all of it. You can also charge an EV with a standard 120 outlet, but this can be slow going—an overnight plug-in may only get you an hour’s worth of commuting. There’s a reason why this is nicknamed “trickle charging.” On the plus side, a slow charge is much better for battery life.

Tesla, Inc.

Outside of the added expense of installing a charging unit, there are three other major concerns with which newcomers to the EV market must familiarize themselves. Range anxiety is still the number-one obstacle to electric vehicle adoption. Currently the choice of EVs features a range of 50 to 400 miles between charges, with prices from $25,000 to $200,000. A manufacturer’s published range will vary based on driving behavior, outside temperature and vehicle load. Parallel Hybrids run on electric plug-in charging for a limited range and then switch to gas after the charge runs out. The transition is seamless while driving, however automakers are reluctant to keep this EV design because the weight of two drive differentials reduces the capacity for more batteries. Thanks to Tesla, the trend is towards 100% electric long-range batteries. Lithium battery-makers Panasonic and LG are pushing the range, but battery fires remain a concern among many consumers. Lithium-Sodium, Hydrogen and Propane alternatives are still in testing mode.

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The second major concern amongst EV shoppers is price. Prices for EV’s run the gamut, from a low of $38,000 for a Hyundai Ioniq to Tesla and Karma, in the $150,000 range. At the start of 2022, automakers experienced a surge in EV orders thanks to rising gas prices, which only increased after the United State imposed sanctions on Russian energy imports. Unfortunately, the lack of dealership inventory pushed consumers into hybrid purchases, which enjoyed record sales. I say unfortunately because, over time these models are not reducing emissions and will eventually be sidelined along with traditional internal combustion cars.

Among those who did find available EV’s, many enjoyed very generous trade-in allowances for their older hybrids and ICE vehicles, as the used car market is still booming. And then there are the tax credits and rebates that are still available. In New Jersey, rebates up to $5,000 are being offered to those who buy or lease a new electric vehicle. There are still federal tax credits of up to $7,500 being offered for EV purchasers, although it’s worth noting that tax credits are not part of the president’s infrastructure bill.

While financial incentives cushion the sticker shock some EV shoppers experience, know also that the revenue lost from gas tax is likely to result in a road usage charge of some kind on EV’s. Last year, Utah charged a flat annual fee of $20.00 for a gas hybrid and $120.00 for an 100% electric model—or the option of paying 1.52 cents per mile. Consider the cost of such fees along with the energy costs when deciding which model is right for you.

The third concern of EV shoppers, addressed earlier in this story, is when, where and how to charge. Right now, 70% of all charging in America is done at home—overnight or during off-peak hours.

Adding a dedicated charging unit to your home will max the capacity of a 100-mile-plus battery to 100% overnight at a 100 kw/h rate. Household chargers can also be designed to run off rooftop solar when tied to a battery storage system or a dedicated circuit in the breaker panel. Direct Current (DC) units—also called Level 3 chargers—are designed for EV models made on or after 2018. A DC charger can replenish about 240 miles in a long-range, 300-mile electric car in less than half an hour. Tesla has converted most of its charging banks to DC units in the hopes of reducing wait times at their popular hubs along major transit routes, tourist destinations, upscale hotels and casinos. Recently added software warns the Tesla owner when the car is fully charged and must be moved quickly. Drivers who leave their vehicle in a charging spot after notification will be charged an additional fee. At the upper end of the market, speed is everything. Leading the charging speed race is Porsche and its Turbo unit, capable of pushing 800 volts at 450 kw/h. The company’s $82,000 Taycan can be recharged to 100% in under 10 minutes. However, the cost of this “super charge” at peak rate can run into the hundreds of dollars.

Upper Case Editorial

Right now, residential charge station suppliers include ChargePoint, Blink, ElectrifyAmerica, TESLA, EVGO and VOLTA. The year, make and model of your vehicle, as well as its charging receptacle, contributes to speed of charging and cost per minute, or kilowatt cost. The average cost when charging off-peak at home is .045 per mile when using .15 per kwh as the basis. Tesla and Lucid vehicles are the least expensive models to charge.

Joan Michelson

When charging away from home, the costs can vary widely. Electric owners use a subscription card or app on their phone to utilize most stations, however there are no regulations on what a station provider can charge, by time, kilowatt hour or both. Some hotels, casinos and retailers have provided the space and power as a customer service, but don’t bet on free charging forever. Only VOLTA does not require a subscription or charge for the power, covering their costs through sponsorship advertising placed on the station.

What’s down the road for new EV owners? Automakers across the globe are revamping their supply-chain sources for EV batteries by partnering or purchasing manufacturing capability. Even so, Joan Michelson (right) points out, “deciding which EV to buy is going to be complicated.” Michelson, the former head of Communications and co-head of sales and marketing at Chrysler’s Global Electric Motorcars, says buyers should be prepared to consider all kinds of variables: “Your lifestyle, your transportation needs, whether you have access to charging—I don’t, in a condo building, for example—where you drive regularly, whether it’s your only car or a second car, as well as overall cost of ownership.” She has watched the evolution of electric vehicles for two decades and speaks to all things electric in her Electric Ladies podcast.

Just back from the 26th UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland, Michelson offers some innovative ideas on the future of EV ownership and the new automakers behind them. “As the issues of lithium battery warranty, repair, disposal and sustainability become greater, there could be an

Joan Michelson OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) option for an EV lease subscription plan that balances the higher cost of an EV with the concern surrounding technology changes. Tax credits from the federal and state governments will also help consumers and manufacturers ease into the investment of an EV.”

Another appealing aspect of switching to an electric vehicle is the “dealer disruption” ushered in by Tesla. EV makers you’d never heard of a couple of years ago are bringing new technology and unique styling to the market—without dealership sales tactics or service centers. Rivian, Lucid and Lordstown Motors have made news with long-range trucks and luxury cars, and are now taking orders for delivery in 2022–2023.

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Michelson is especially interested in what’s happening at Piech Automotive—founded by Porsche family heir Anton Piech—which is creating a unique car company that has broken with traditional manufacturing theory. Peter Thiel, the founder of PayPal, is an investor and several “A-list car guys” from Porsche/VW Group, BMW, and TESLA have joined the company. Piech is offering short-term leasing of EVs; it will be interesting to see if this leads people to buy more EVs as a result of driving them for a few months—as well as the impact on dealerships, since they are leasing directly to consumers and not going through dealerships.

Audi

The Piech brand is built on the concept of modular vehicle components, long-range batteries and ultra-fast charging. Their sedan, SUV and sportscar designs use mix-and-match compatibility for plug-in, traditional ICE and hydrogen batteries capable of 80% charge in under five minutes—with simpler parts and software upgrades.

Taking a cue from Tesla, Ford, Toyota and other brands are testing the direct-to-consumer order process, eliminating the dealer haggling in order to compete with online showrooms and vendors such as Carvana and Vroom. Manufacturers are actually urging their dealer networks to revamp the old-time sales/service model to embrace EV charging as a revenue stream. AUDI is all-in on this idea, having built its first Charging Lounge back in December as a hub for business and social meet-ups in a café-type environment while your car is charging.

It’s in Germany, so don’t get excited yet. However, whether you are a current owner or still just window-shopping, you can get excited about the myriad ways that traditional automotive brands and dealerships will define themselves as part of the EV revolution.

 

Editor’s Note: Sarah Marks is a car concierge and automotive consumer advocate for all things car-related. Sarah lives in Henderson, Nevada with her husband, Norman. You can ask her car questions at her website: www.mycarlady.com.

 

Flat-Out Phenomenal

The backyard sports court has joined a growing list of value-added home improvements.

Almost every person with older siblings remembers the first time they beat them in a game of backyard basketball. In those moments, the trees become spotlights, the chattering birds are transformed into thousands of roaring fans, and your Dorito-stained tee-shirt morphs into the jersey of your favorite sports team. Your backyard is no longer a backyard. It’s a colosseum of greatness and you are the superstar gladiator. What better way to gift your children that shot at glory than to build a sports facility right there in your backyard? It serves as a haven for family bonding, youthful development and boundless joy—with the added advantage that you control important elements of security and supervision. It’s also a great way to unglue your children’s faces from their screens and get them moving outside.

TD Sports West, Inc.

The traditional backboard-in-the-driveway set-up is still a popular choice, but you know kids these days. It may take something a little cooler (and pricier) to grab their attention and secure their buy-in. There is also another consideration: You may want to use it, too. So, depending on your budget, the size of your property and the interests of you and your children, everything is on the table, from batting cages and field hockey goals to basketball and tennis courts. Fortunately, you may not have to pick one and live with it forever. There is something called a “combo court,” which enables you to play up to 15 different sports using different equipment and markings. For instance, the same physical space can accommodate tennis, basketball, pickleball, badminton, volleyball, tetherball and handball.

Most people start with a single sport in mind and either go to their local sporting goods dealer for suggestions on builders, talk to a friend or neighbor who has installed a good-looking court, or poke around the Internet for ideas. All three have their pluses and minuses, but regardless of the path you choose, it’s a good strategy to begin with a checklist because this is an investment that, ideally, you’re only going to make once.

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The Rule of 9

I checked in with TD Sports West, the go-to supplier of the Sport Court, a patented modular game court that is popular in the western United States. Marty Levy, the owner, has been at this awhile and helped me come up with the following decision-matrix “to-do” list:

1 Think about the sports your family plays. Take into account the age of your children, what they’re currently into, what they might be into in the future, and what athletic endeavors you yourself enjoy.
2 Think about how much space you have, and what percentage of that space you’re willing to devote to this project. Modular surfaces come in all different shapes and sizes. However, at the minimum, you’re looking at a 25’ x 30’ space for a usable basketball halfcourt. A tennis court-sized surface needs to be at least 60’ x 120’.
3 Check to see if your town requires you to get a permit to build the court you want. Be aware that most municipalities will not allow you to build a court in close proximity to any wetlands or over a septic system.
4 Take note of large trees on your property. Over time, their roots could damage the surface.
5 Consider where access to the construction site is likely to be. You may have to remove a fence or wall, sacrifice some landscaping, and vacate your driveway when the trucks and heavy equipment show up.
6 Pick the appropriate surface. Options include concrete, asphalt, synthetic turf, tile and modular surfaces. More on this later.
7 When it comes to equipment, triple-check to see that you’re dealing with a high-quality, reputable manufacturer. If something seems like it’s too good of a deal, it probably it.
8 Check to see if the surface you choose comes with a warranty (many do). Read that warranty carefully and ask questions in case any future troubles arise.
9 Even if you are a skilled do-it-yourselfer, don’t do it yourself. Hire a professional who’s done it before.

Before signing on the dotted line, there are some other considerations you need to be aware of. Local zoning ordinances are your responsibility to understand, not your builder’s—no matter what your builder says. If you need to submit plans to the town or adhere to rules governing “accessory structures” (such as ramps or fences), by all means do so. Also be aware that your town may have regulations about the height, purpose, or proximity to neighboring properties even when your neighbors have given you a friendly thumbs-up.

Finally, give your insurance agent a call to see if your new addition will trigger any policy complications. Most backyard sports complexes don’t pose any issues, save for trampolines and skateboarding ramps, due to their high injury liability, but also check if you are covered should a neighborhood kid take a spill and end up in the ER.

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Cost vs. Benefit

If this is sounding more complicated than it should, well, what isn’t these days? Is it worth the expense and hassle? I spoke with Marty—not the TD Sports guy, a different Marty—a father of two I remembered from my old neighborhood. Back in 2003, he built a nice basketball halfcourt for his children. He has never regretted that decision: “I would just say that the best part of the court was my kids thinking that they were playing at the Staples Center and dunking the ball like Kobe Bryant. I think those are priceless things for families to cherish and a motivation for people to build something like that. When you’ve got a family, do you want to create the place where all the kids hang out? I definitely wanted to do that. Things like having a Slurpee machine, and always having snacks and water, and being the place that was comfortable for all the kids was really important to me.”
Now to the $64,000 question: expense. First of all, can a backyard sports court actually cost $64,000? Oh, yes. Should is cost that much? Let’s take a look at some common backyard sports options and their costs.

Where basketball courts are concerned, the first decision to make is whether you want a full court or a halfcourt. A full-length, NBA-sized basketball court is 50’ x 94’ (4,700 square feet). One step smaller is a high-school basketball court, which is 50’ x 86’ (4,300 square feet). You can go with something smaller, of course, with hoops on each end. If you’re like most people and you just don’t have the space for end-to-end action, be aware that halfcourts come in all different shapes and sizes. Halfcourts range in size from the 25’ x 30’ for a “mini” halfcourt (750 square feet), to a “regulation” halfcourt, which is 50’ x 45’ (2,250 square feet).

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The price of an outdoor basketball court depends on the surface you select. In general, your options are cement, asphalt, tile or a modular surface. Every cost has gone up during the pandemic, but assuming things get back to normal during the upcoming building season, a concrete court will cost you between $1.25 to $1.75 per square foot for the concrete itself, and $2.50 to $8 per square foot for its installation. Let me do the math for you: A full-sized concrete court will cost you between $15,000 -$45,000, while the larger halfcourt will cost you $8,500 to $22,000. A mini halfcourt will land somewhere in the $5,000 to $10,000 range. Asphalt costs around $4 per square foot, so you’re paying around $19,000 for a full-sized court, $17,000 for a high school full court, $9,000 for the large halfcourt, and $3,000 for an asphalt mini court. Keep in mind that while asphalt may be cheaper, it’s more likely to cause injuries due to its naturally uneven and abrasive surface. My knees are still marked up from my blacktop basketball days. Snap-together tile surfaces cost anywhere from $3.50 to $4.50 a foot, so their prices are pretty similar to asphalt. What’s nice is that they often come pre-painted and they’re relatively simple to install. Lastly, modular courts are made of an advanced interlocking polymer web providing a cushioned surface that is both easy on the body and easy to install. The material is more expensive upfront but cheaper to work with. A lighting system to keep the games going after dark can be installed for under $2,000.

Tennis courts are easier to price out because they tend to be the same size. A tennis court’s dimensions, as previously noted, are 60’ x 120’ and you can’t really skimp on that number. The key decision is your surface option. Clay courts are typically the cheapest surface but require the most maintenance. You’re looking at a price range from $30,000 to $80,000 for a clay court depending on the type of product you use and the difficulty of site preparation. Clay courts are easier on the knees and the budget, but require up to $2,000 a year in basic maintenance and have to be “closed” for the winter and “opened” for the spring by a professional service. Most people in New Jersey opt for a hard court, which involves a concrete base and an acrylic surface. This type of court will cost you $60,000 to $120,000 but requires minimal maintenance. The only foreseeable upkeep is repainting worn court markings and occasional re-surfacing of the acrylic if any cracks appear, which can get expensive if you are especially picky about the playability of your court.

TD Sports West, Inc.

There are still some people crazy enough to install grass courts, which range from $50,000 to $150,000 but require a fat wallet and a skilled greenskeeper to maintain. The folks who are in this business are a dying breed but they are still around. The next best thing to grass, synthetic turf courts, run $75,000 to $100,000 to install, and are obviously much easier to maintain. However, they don’t offer anything like the feel of playing on a real grass court. Regardless of your surface selection, you will need fencing for your tennis court, which typically adds between $5,000 and $15,000. For lighting, if your neighbors and your town allow it, you can double that cost. Finally, set aside at least $3,000 to cover the cost of leveling your property and another $4,000 for creating some kind of drainage system, regardless of the court you plan to install.

Combo Courts

The combo court is a relatively new player in the sports-court game and it makes me wonder why these things haven’t been around longer. Time is an unstoppable force and, one day, your little ones will have grown up and flown out of your home nest. Existential crises aside, you are now faced with a colossal concern: What am I going to do with my outdoor sports court now that the kids are out of the house? The most obvious answer is to use the court yourself.

Which is why more and more homeowners are looking at combo courts, which, as mentioned earlier, can accommodate several different sports as tastes and interests and ages change. And so what if your above-the-rim days may be over, or your knees can’t tolerate more than the occasional game of tennis? Think of the other ways you can put a large, flat flexible space to work. Backyard parties and events—perhaps for a local school or favorite charity—are a great reason to keep them in play. My old neighbor, Marty, is already thinking about repurposing his basketball court (and Slurpee machine) in ways that have zero to do with basketball.

And why not? The time, money and energy you put into creating an awesome backyard sports court does not have to be about short-term payback. With thoughtful planning, it can pay dividends for the rest of your life.

 

 

Above the Fray

In New Jersey, over-the-top gardening is no longer flying under the radar.

As forest and farmland have yielded to suburban sprawl, cities large and small across the country are reclaiming the urban landscape and becoming greener. Much of this green revolution is taking root high above street level, in the form of mini-parks and farms sprouting from the unlikeliest of places. Fueled by increased sustainability concerns and the burgeoning locavore movement, rooftop gardens are everywhere—out of sight but, increasingly, top of mind. Take our nation’s capital, for example. In 2012, Washington DC added 1.3 million square feet of rooftop garden space. From ancient times, when Nebuchadnezzar hung world-wonder gardens from the terraces of his Babylonian palace, rooftop gardens have captured our imaginations.

Even on a micro scale, what apartment dweller hasn’t tended herbs and potted tomatoes on a patio or fire escape? Well, now “agri-tecture” has become big business. In Brooklyn, rooftop farms are practically commonplace— beehives hum, chickens lay eggs, and organic vegetables begin their farm-to-table journey. The benefits of these Edenic aeries are manifold. Besides creating natural spaces and gardens, and optimizing space, the greening of roofs increase sustainability by reducing and reusing storm water, countering carbon dioxide, improving quality of life and the health of building occupants. To some, a green roof is a purpose; to others it is a passion. One extreme example is the Pasona, a human resource conglomerate in Tokyo. It’s headquarters is green inside and out with, a roof sprouting sweet potatoes, green interior and exterior walls, and a hydroponic rice-paddy foyer, which is harvested several times a year. The rooftop movement differs from country to country, and region to region, but make no mistake— it has definitely taken root here in New Jersey.

77 Hudson Jersey City Installed by Let It Grow, of River Edge, NJ   Four years ago, this rooftop garden was installed in Jersey City on an 11-story paring building structure between a KHovnanian condo high rise and an Equity Residential rental tower. This was a huge engineering feat, as much of the parkland material was installed by crane. Built on Styrofoam and two feet of fill on nearly an acre, it includes a pool, hot tub, dog run, African fire pit, children’s play area and even a landscaped hill. Undeterred when Hurricane Sandy struck and wind-stripped the soil (leaving roots exposed), the building replaced the landscape with heavier soils, planted more densely and installed a glass windshield. According to Randy Brosseau, KHovnanian Area President, it’s all worth it: “The garden adds a lot of value to our residents’ lives, whether using the facilities, enjoying the parkland or enjoying the view of the plantings. The green roof to many is a good reason to buy at 77 Hudson.”

NJIT Cafeteria Garden Newark Installed in 2010 by “My Local Gardener” with Peter Fischbach and Julie Aiello  You can’t get fresher or healthier food than the vegetables that are served at NJIT’s cafeteria. For three years, NJIT students and faculty have enjoyed farm-to-table vegetables harvested from an elevated 220 sq. ft. organic roof garden outside the student pub. On an existing “green” roof—which already had a faucet—the design team installed 10 recycled flower boxes and filled them with a light soil that wouldn’t weigh down the roof. According to NJIT chef Peter Fischbach (right), who envisioned the project with Julie Aiello, Director of Marketing and Sustainability for Gourmet Dining Services (GDS), the campus food purveyor, they plant rotating crops of healthy vegetables four to five times a growing season, including lettuce, beets, tomatoes, squash, broccoli, kale, collard greens, Brussels sprouts, peppers and peas. They also grow a large selection of herbs, which are used to season the food. Meanwhile, the garden has germinated other campus organic gardens. According to Fischbach, “The project has been so successful that it has inspired other colleges serviced by GDS—Seton Hall, Manhattan College, Kean University, FDU in Madison. And we are preparing to put in a garden at Bloomfield College.”

Revel Atlantic City Installed by Cagley & Tanner of Las Vegas Last summer, Revel, the upscale resort in Atlantic City, opened a two-acre Sky Garden to recall the beauty and ambiance of the great Atlantic seaside resorts of the past—following the practice of situating a resort in a garden that descends to the beach. While the hotel’s architecture is 21st century, the designers sought to enhance the vista with a mix of nostalgia and modern ingenuity. This homage to the lawns that swept down to the ocean begins, in fact, at 114 feet above sea level, and is landscaped for seasonal interest—with 20,000 plants ranging from native sea grasses to Japanese Black Pines that create a Pine Grove surrounding an outdoor fireplace. (Planting the large pines required creating a deep recessed area under the roof surface to allow for root growth.) Their hard work paid off, as the garden successfully weathered the forces of Sandy.

Extra Space Storage North Bergen Extra Space Storage, with its landscaped roof, definitely wins the “good neighbor award.” While only the on-site manager has access to Extra Space Storage’s rooftop garden, the company installed the nearly half-acre landscaping to “ensure an aesthetically pleasing view for all for the high-rise condo properties that surround our building,” explains Clint Halverson, Vice President for Corporate Communications and Investor Relations. The mechanics of creating a rooftop garden involve a number of variables: structural support, irrigation, installation stories above ground level, wind buffers and— not the least of concerns—waterproofing, root barriers and drainage. However, the rewards also are significant. Gardens insulate, reducing heating and cooling costs up to 30%. And they shield a building from urban noise. In the end, though, the greatest selling point of a rooftop garden is its aesthetic and recreational appeal. In a world of concrete, glass and steel, we welcome anything that speaks so eloquently to our senses and spirit.

Editors Note: Sarah Rossbach is the author of Feng Shui: The Art of Chinese Placement, which was described by The New York Times as the “bible of the practice.”

The Big Build Up

The Big Build Up

Photo credit: iStockphoto/Thinkstock

Is there a second story in your future?

Moving up doesn’t have to mean moving out. More and more, owners of one-story dwellings in the Garden State have been addressing their space issues by adding a second floor. Yes, it’s expensive. And yes, it’s messy. But in many cases, “building up” makes more sense than shopping for a new home. There are any number of reasons to add a second story to your current home but, needless to say, they are all related to space. The big question is Why go through the time and trouble to do so if you could just buy something that suits your needs? Well, for starters, that would mean having to put your own (presumably undersized) house on the market for sale, or as a rental property. So there’s a major hassle factor. Also, you may be locked into a great mortgage rate in your current abode, or for some reason be unable to qualify for a favorable rate on a new property.

The most common answer to Why build up? is that you love your home, your neighborhood and your neighbors, and are willing to put up with the inconvenience in order to stay put. From an architect’s perspective, the primary challenges of designing a new home involve understanding a wide range of variables, and then reconciling them with the desires of the homeowner. The most cost-effective solution almost always involves using the existing foundation and exterior walls. A talented architect, working in concert with a structural engineer, should be able to check off most of the items on your list. For older homes—or homes that were constructed cheaply to begin with—there are going to be structural issues. However, rarely are they insurmountable. Hopefully, the solutions won’t bust your budget. Consulting with that structural engineer is a must. Understanding local building codes is obviously important, too. You’d be surprised to see what’s on the books in your town when it comes to staircases, ceiling heights, and room dimensions. The engineer should also be able to tell you with absolute certainty whether you can get the job done without tearing out your first-floor ceilings. This greatly reduces the mess and expense. From a builder’s perspective, adding a second story isn’t all that different than building from the ground up.

In most cases, the addition fits neatly atop the current first floor, and uses the existing exterior walls as the primary support. In some cases, a modular addition can be employed, which offers significant savings. It’s partially assembled on the ground and then lifted into place with a new roof, or under your existing one. The interior finishing work is not all that different than any other home remodel job. From a realtor’s perspective, it usually makes sense to find something with more space in the same neighborhood. Especially in depressed markets, finding more space is cheaper than creating it. Of course, that generates a couple of potential commissions, but the facts do bear out this position. The addition of a second story rarely recoups the investment when it’s done. On average, in suburban areas, at least, the number seems to be around two-thirds. In other words, a $150,000 second-story addition may only increase your home’s value by $100,000. This is math you may be willing to live with, but it’s math you should do (with a competent and trusted realtor) before going all-in. Among the classic mistakes homeowners make is assuming their current attic construction will support a second floor. It almost certainly won’t.

Attics are not built to handle second-story traffic. There is no cost savings to be had here—it’s not as simple as simply raising the roof and converting gloomy storage space into a bright and airy second story. Also, that attic staircase you’d planned on repurposing is unlikely to pass muster with local building codes when it connects the two new living spaces. If you do not currently have a staircase in your home, keep in mind that it will have to go somewhere on your first floor—and that you may lose a room. Speaking of which, the plumbing, electric, heating and air conditioning systems that serve your first floor will need a lot more space on the first floor to make it up to the second floor. Some homeowners end up opting for an entirely new and separate set of systems for the addition. Keep in mind that part of the expense of adding a second story almost includes a new furnace, AC unit and water heater. Another consideration is what you’ll need to do to the exterior of your home to make it come together. That re-siding project you’ve putting off the last few years? Now’s the time to squeeze the trigger.

You should also think about pulling together the interior. Indeed, a less common but still-critical mistake homeowners make is failing to really think through how the new second story will relate to the “new” first story in terms of how the entire home is used. Moving bedrooms to the second floor opens up all sorts of possibilities on the main level. If you determine how you might be using the first-floor space in the future, you can leave yourself a lot of options, especially if a new kitchen is part of the long-term plan. When it’s all said and done, a basic second-story addition will eat up a half-year of your life and cost you at least $125 to $150 per square foot, soup-to-nuts, plus professional fees. Depending on your desired finishes and a handful of other variables, the price tag of a 1,000-foot addition is likely to be in the neighborhood of $150,000. Does that make sense in your neighborhood? Ultimately, that’s a call you’ll have to make.

 

No Place Like Home

‘Politics as Usual’ is anything but in the Garden State

I’m betting you missed this news item last spring: The Center for Public Integrity issued a report ranking the 50 states in terms of their level of corruption. Not surprisingly, New Jersey ranked #1. But wait. This list went from least-corrupt to most-corrupt. Could it be that the Garden State has suddenly gone from down-and-dirty to squeaky-clean? Well, based on the criteria used by CPI to measure corruption, the answer is Yes. New Jersey earned perfect scores in categories such as Lobbying Disclosure and Internal Auditing. The report did point out that many states that had historically struggled with sleazy politics surged to the top of the list because past problems had led to strict enforcement measures. These measures created better transparency and accountability, and kept politicians on the up-and-up. In just a few years, the state of politics in the Garden State has gone from cesspool status to a point where it now boasts some of the toughest ethics and anti-corruption laws in the nation. How did New Jersey politics get so bad in the first place? You have to go back more than a century to start answering that question. Beginning in the 1890s, New Jersey went what can best described as “borough-crazy.”

The result was a collection of more than 500 municipalities, each of which controlled millions of dollars in contracts. This money was budgeted and spent by people who typically lacked the expertise to do so. In other words, there was a lot of money around and not a lot of sophistication. It didn’t take long for unscrupulous politicians to start manipulating this situation to their benefit. Bid-rigging, nepotism, conflicts of interest, bribery, extortion, out-and-out theft—you name it, some New Jersey politician probably tried it. A few were nabbed, but most were not. And even when they were caught, almost no one beyond a certain geographical radius was likely to hear about it. The major media markets of New York and Philadelphia didn’t have much interest in New Jersey politics. That made for an illinformed voting population and arrogant local politicians who felt as if they were operating in a vacuum. And, for the most part, they were. Some would argue that, in many cases, they still are. Is there an actual culture of political corruption in New Jersey? Although shows like Boardwalk Empire and The Sopranos are constructed on this premise, the honest answer is No. The vast majority of public officials are basically trustworthy, mostly competent and, in a few cases, possibly altruistic.

The problem has always been— and may still be—that New Jersey voters don’t really harbor a sense of outrage when they get swindled. When we see or hear about politicians gone bad, we feel that somehow it’s just politics as usual. We shrug our shoulders and just move on. Shame on us. So how did we get to where we are today? It’s a long story of good, bad and ugly. To appreciate the sweep of history—and to get a feel for the politicians who have made headlines for all the right and wrong reasons—we present a brief Timeline of New Jersey Political History. For an “extended” version, log onto edgemagonline.com.

The EDGE Timeline of New Jersey Political History

1665—The proprietors of the New Jersey Colony introduce the Concession of Agreement. It guarantees freedom of religion.

1674—The colony is divided into West Jersey and East Jersey. Burlington is named the capital of West Jersey and Elizabeth is named the capital of East Jersey. Perth Amboy will replace Elizabeth as the provincial capital of East Jersey in 1686.

1776—Five New Jerseyans affix their signatures to the Declaration of Independence: Abraham Clark, Francis Hopkinson, John Hart, Richard Stockton and John Witherspoon.

1776—The first state constitution is drafted and passed in a span of one week to prevent the colony from descending into anarchy after George Washington’s army is routed in New York by the British. It gave unmarried women and African-American men the vote, so long as they owned property, and gave all adults “who are worth fifty pounds proclamation money” the right to vote. William Livingston—a vital leader during the American Revolution—is New Jersey’s hastily elected governor.

1783—Mutinous troops in Philadelphia prevent the Continental Congress from convening, so the nation’s capital is temporarily moved to Trenton. Trenton becomes the state capital six years later.

1789—Congressman Elias Boudinot of Elizabeth delivers a speech suggesting a national Thanksgiving Day.

1838—New Jersey gets its first official black eye for dirty politics, when ballot-tampering helps five Whigs win election to the U.S. House of Representatives. After an investigation, their Democratic opponents are given the seats.

1844—New Jersey adopts a new constitution, this one enabling the people (instead of the legislature) to choose a governor, and separates the branches of power into legislative, executive and judicial. Unfortunately, the new constitution also restricts voting to white males.

1848—New Jersey Congressman (and future Governor) William Newell establishes the U.S. Lifesaving Service.

1860—New Jerseyans cast more votes for Stephen Douglas than Abraham Lincoln in the presidential election. Former Governor Rodman Price urges New Jerseyans to join the Confederacy.

1864—Lincoln loses New Jersey again, this time to Jersey-born George McClellan. It is the only free state to reject Lincoln twice.

1870—African-American men are allowed to vote again, thanks to the 15th Amendment. Thomas Peterson of Perth Amboy is the first to cast a ballot, voting in a local election. Townspeople award him with a gold medal to commemorate the occasion.

1875—The state constitution is amended so that New Jersey can provide a free public school system.

1881—President James Garfield convenes his cabinet and runs the government by telegraph from Elberon while his wife recovers from malaria. He returns to Elberon in September to recover from an assassin’s bullet. Garfield passes away on September 19th.

1893—In a ceremony at the Navesink Light Station in Highlands, the Pledge of Allegiance is given as the official national oath of loyalty for the first time.

1899—U.S. Vice-President Garret Hobart, a New Jersey native, dies in office of heart disease. President William McKinley replaces Hobart with Spanish-American War hero Theodore Roosevelt.

1905McClure’s magazine publishes a two-part story by muckraker Lincoln Steffens on corruption entitled New Jersey: The Traitor State.

1910—Aiming to curb the influence of Hudson County machine boss Little Bob Davis, Woodrow Wilson leaves his job as president of Princeton University, runs for governor and wins election. During Wilson’s term, the state is introduced to worker’s compensation and primary elections.  

1911—After being charged extra to attend a motion picture in Paterson, Minerva Miller, an African-American woman, sues the theater and challenges the state to uphold an 1884 law that promises all persons full and equal enjoyment of public places, including theaters. The law is upheld and the theater is fined $500.

1916—Walter Evans Edge tabs Atlantic City political boss Enoch “Nucky” Johnson to run his campaign for governor. With help from rising Jersey City power broker Frank Hague, Edge wins election in 1917. As a thank you, he immediately initiates plans to connect Jersey City to Manhattan (Holland Tunnel) and Atlantic City to Philadelphia (Ben Franklin Bridge).

1919—New Jersey is the first state to ratify Prohibition.

1920Frank Hague, now Jersey City mayor, passes an ordinance that requires anyone making a public speech in his town to first get clearance from the Police Department, which he controls. Without public opposition, Hague serves as mayor for 30 years (1917– 1947).

1937—Jersey City reports it has 160,050 registered voters for that year’s election. The actual number of residents of voting age in Jersey City is just 147,000.

1947—A new state constitution is adopted. It spells out new rules and procedures in virtually every part of state law aimed at plugging old loopholes and cleaning up past abuses. The effort is spearheaded by Governor Alfred Driscoll, and is aimed squarely at Frank Hague, who quickly resigns from office.

1953—With the creation of the Waterfront Commission, Governor Driscoll predicts that it would “drive the gangsters and the hoodlums off the waterfront.”

1954—Former governor Harold Hoffman admits in a letter opened after his death that he had embezzled more than $250,000 and was also being blackmailed for $150,000.

1960—After vast support for Dwight Eisenhower in 1952 and 1956, New Jersey voters give a slight edge to John Kennedy in the presidential election, helping him defeat sitting Vice- President Richard Nixon.

1962—Hugh Addonizio is elected mayor of Newark. Following his eight years in charge, a federal judge characterized his administration as “literally delivering the city into the hands of organized crime.”

1964—The Democratic National Convention is held in Atlantic City. Robert Kennedy receives a 12-minute standing ovation before urging the party to fulfill his brother’s vision. Nominee Lyndon Johnson goes on to win the election, and pushes through the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964.

1970—Kenneth Gibson becomes the first African American to be elected mayor of a major northeastern city. He serves four terms.

1971—A group of 28 Catholic anti-war activists are arrested after breaking into a Camden draft board. More than half are acquitted despite admitting their crime in what came to be viewed as a turning point in the anti- Vietnam War movement.

1974—New Jersey Congressman Peter Rodino chairs the Watergate hearings as head of the House Judiciary Subcommittee.

1976—The State Supreme Court shuts down public schools for eight days until the legislature passes a tax bill to support school systems in impoverished areas. It is New Jersey’s first state income tax.

1977—Governor Brendan Byrne signs a bill legalizing casinos in Atlantic City. “I’ve said it before, and I will repeat it to organized crime,” he says. “Keep your filthy hands off Atlantic City. Keep the hell out of our state.”

1982—The Senate Committee on Ethics recommends that Senator Harrison Williams be expelled because of his “ethically repugnant” conduct in the ABSCAM sting—an FBI operation aimed at ferreting out corruption in congress. He later becomes the first Senator in 80 years to go to jail.

1985—After a narrow victory over Jim Florio four years earlier, Thomas Kean is re-elected, winning by the widest margin in New Jersey history.

1993—Christine Todd Whitman ekes out a one-point win over Jim Florio to become the state’s first female governor. She is also the first Republican woman to unseat a sitting governor in a general election.

2002—Former Governor Thomas Kean is picked to chair the 9/11 Commission.

2007—Governor Jon Corzine is critically injured when his vehicle crashes at over 90 mph on the Garden State Parkway. Corzine, who is not wearing a seatbelt, breaks more than 15 bones.

2008—Five-term Newark Mayor Sharpe James is sentenced to 27 months in federal prison after being found guilty on five counts of fraud.

2012—Babs Siperstein (formerly Barry) of Edison becomes the first elected transgender member of the Democratic National Committee.   

Historical images courtesy of Upper Case Editorial Services  

Editor’s Note: Mark Stewart has written six books about the history and culture of the Garden State. He has a degree in History from Duke University, but mostly learned about New Jersey politics during his 14 years as a Hudson County resident.

60 Over Sixty

Life may not begin at 60, but if these folks are any indication, it doesn’t get any less interesting…

60

Rod Hirsch • Dunellen

Community Leader

A hero supporting our overseas heroes, Hirsch founded “Operation Shoebox” in 2005. It’s a volunteer-based organization dedicated to shipping care packages filled with all sorts of necessities to our military men and women far away from home.

 

Cathi Rendfrey • Delran

Community Leader

Rendfrey is vigorously involved in women’s rights, directing the Women’s Opportunity Center at the YMCA of Burlington County, which helps displaced homemakers gain economic knowledge through education, networking, outreach and job preparations.

 

61

Eric Maskin • Princeton

Economist

Maskin won a Nobel Prize in 2007 for his contributions to mechanism design theory, a branch of economics that describes how institutions function in the midst of inefficient markets. Maskin lives with his family in Albert Einstein’s former residence.

 

Cynthia Meryl • Westfield

Theatre Director

Meryl founded the New Jersey Youth Theatre in Westfield, serving as its Artistic Director and Master Teacher for more than two decades. NJYT offers high-quality theatre arts education at little or no cost to young people with the talent and ambition to make it to Broadway.

 

Jane Hanson • Montclair

Community Leader

As co-founder of Partners for Women and Justice, Hanson has helped thousands of women and children involved in domestic violence and abuse. The organization offers free legal services from many volunteer lawyers as well as a fulltime staff.

 

JoJo Starbuck • Madison

Olympian/Coach

A four-time U.S. figure skating champion, Starbuck devotes herself to tutoring the newest generation of ice princesses at the Essex Skating Club.

 

Max Weinberg • Atlantic Highlands

Musician

The E Street Band veteran became a breakout star after teaming with Conan O’Brien. His new group, The Max Weinberg Big Band, plays the hits of the 30s, 40s & 50s.

 

   62

Gloria Gaynor • Green Brook

Musician

Gaynor was the original disco diva, and she holds on to that title by continuing to deliver knockout concerts all over the world. I Will Survive has become an anthem for personal strength and self-discovery.

 

Bruce Springsteen • Rumson

Musician

Springsteen ranks among the most influential songwriters and performers in the history of rock. More important, you never know when he’ll pop on stage at a Jersey Shore club for a surprise set.

 

Zygi Wilf • Springfield

NFL Owner

A Fairleigh Dickinson grad, Wilf built malls and apartment complexes throughout New Jersey. He headed a group that purchased the Minnesota Vikings in 2005.

 

Stevie Wonder • Alpine

Musician

The master performer continues to churn out new music and electrify audiences after five decades in front of the microphone.

 

  63

Bruce Springsteen • Rumson

Musician

Springsteen ranks among the most influential songwriters and performers in the history of rock. More important, you never know when he’ll pop on stage at a Jersey Shore club for a surprise set.

 

Zygi Wilf • Springfield

NFL Owner

A Fairleigh Dickinson grad, Wilf built malls and apartment complexes throughout New Jersey. He headed a group that purchased the Minnesota Vikings in 2005.

 

Stevie Wonder • Alpine

Musician

The master performer continues to churn out new music and electrify audiences after five decades in front of the microphone.

 

Nelson Johnson • Hammonton

Judge/Author

While conducting legal research in Atlantic County, he pieced together the seamy history of AC and wrote a book. Maybe you’ve heard of it? Boardwalk Empire.

 

Southside Johnny Lyon • Ocean Grove

Musician

The originator of Jersey Shore Rock, Lyon inspired countless young musicians, including Jon Bon Jovi. His band recently returned from a European Tour to play an east Coast swing that included—where else?—The Stone Pony in Asbury Park.

 

64

Steve Forbes • Bedminster

Publisher

Taking after his father and grandfather, Forbes published his first magazine while an undergrad at Princeton. As CEO of the publication that bears his family name, he is one of the country’s most influential conservative forces.

 

65

Sol Barer • Mendham

Organic Chemist

Barer is leading the research into therapies that turn incurable blood cancers into manageable diseases. A Rutgers Ph.D., he ranks among New Jersey’s most acclaimed and honored scientific minds.

 

Connie Chung • Middletown

Newswoman

The second woman to ever co-anchor a major network’s national news broadcast, Chung has worked for ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN and MSNBC. Did hubby Maury make this list? Read on…

 

Bob Hurley • Jersey City

Basketball

Coach Hurley has led St. Anthony’s High in Jersey City to 26 state championships (and counting). He was just the third high school basketball coach to be inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame.

 

Woody Johnson • Bedminster

Business

Leader/Philanthropist The great-grandson of J&J co-founder Robert Wood Johnson, Woody serves as Chairman and CEO of the company and also owns the NFL Jets. He is an avid supporter of charitable organizations, fundraising for lupus, diabetes and more.

 

66

Bettye LaVette • West Orange

Musician

 LaVette has been pumping out jaw-dropping blues, jazz, rock and R&B performances for a half-century. Since moving to NJ a decade ago, the Great Lady of Soul has scored a couple of Grammy nominations and performed at the Kennedy Center.

 

Roy Pedersen • Lambertville

Art Historian

A noted gallery owner, Pederson has been working for a decade on a landmark book about the Impressionist painters of New Jersey. It’ll stir up a hornet’s nest in the art world when it’s published in 2013. Trust us on this one.

 

67  

Danny DeVito • Interlaken

Actor

Whether playing Louie on Taxi or Frank on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, DeVito has a way of making the most loathsome characters utterly charming.

 

Deborah Harry • Red Bank

Musician

As the front woman for Blondie, Harry was the New Wave diva of the 1970s. She graduated from Hawthorne High and Centenary College, so she’s NJ all the way.

 

68

Mel Karmazin • Mantoloking

Entertainment Executive

The co-founder of Infinity Broadcasting in the 1980s, Karmazin pushed sports talk into the cultural stratosphere with WFAN, and later brought Howard Stern to millions of listeners as CEO of Sirius XM Radio.

 

69

George Benson • Englewood

Musician

 A jazz guitar prodigy in the 60s, Benson launched an epic solo career in the mid-70s with Breezin’. The album went triple-platinum, selling more than three million copies. In 2009, Benson was recognized as a Jazz Master—the National Endowment of the Arts’ highest honor.

 

Leon Cooperman • Short Hills

Business Leader/Philanthropist

The billionaire head of Omega Advisors devotes a huge percentage of his attention and wealth to charity and education. Cooperman has followed the lead of Warren Buffett and Bill Gates in signing The Giving Pledge.

 

Peter Kellogg • Short Hills

Business Leader/Philanthropist

Kellogg took over his father’s specialty brokerage at age 30 and transformed it into a Wall Street market-maker. Since selling the company for $6.5 billion in 2000, Kellogg has been a generous supporter of countless causes, from his old high school to the U.S. Ski Team.

 

Joe Pesci • Lavallette

Actor

The quintessential pugnacious Garden Stater, Pesci was a successful child actor on Broadway and TV in the 1950s. He was running a restaurant in the Bronx in the late-70s when he got a call from Robert De Niro to audition for a co-starring role in Raging Bull. The rest, as they say, is history.

 

70

Muhammad Ali • Cherry Hill

Athlete

Ali was the first sports star to use his fame to draw attention to social injustice—and paid a heavy price. All these years later, the three-time heavyweight champ is still revered as both an athlete and activist.

 

Bonnie McCay • Bridgewater

Ecologist

The Rutgers professor is known for her extensive research focusing on sustainable marine fishery conditions and ecosystems around the world, while stressing the significance of the adaptation of institutions, such as science, law and property.

 

71

Daniel Murnick • Bernardsville

Physicist Another Rutgers professor, Murnick pioneered the development of the Laser Assisted Ratio Analyzer—a breath test that detects stomach/intestinal ulcers, which replaces invasive surgery.

 

72

Roger Ailes • Cresskill

Newsman

Say what you will about his politics or his TV network, but long before joining FOX, Ailes was already a legend as a conservative media consultant. He worked for the likes of Nixon, Reagan and Bush I, and engineered Rudy Giuliani’s first mayoral campaign in 1989.

 

73

Carolyn Clark • Long Valley

Ballet Director

The American Ballet Theatre performer used her knowledge and love of the dance world to fashion a highly acclaimed company and school in Livingston. It’s been flourishing under her direction since the 1960s.

 

Ben E. King • Teaneck Musician

King’s recording of Stand By Me had the unique distinction of being a Top 10 single 25 years apart, in 1961 and again in 1986. His nonprofit, The Stand by Me Foundation, reaches out to young people in Bergen County.

 

Maury Povich • Middletown

TV Personality

The father of tabloid infotainment is married to Connie Chung. They met in the early 80s when both were working in a Washington D.C. newsroom. His self-titled talk show has been pulling huge ratings for more than two decades.   

 

74  

Pete Dawkins • Rumson

Athlete/Military Leader

Dawkins turned down a scholarship to Yale to attend West Point in the 1950s. Good decision. He won the Heisman Trophy for Army in 1958 and retired with the rank of Brigadier General 25 years later. In between, he attended Oxford on a Rhodes Scholarship and while there taught the Brits an overhand rugby throw dubbed the Yankee Torpedo.

 

Joyce Carol Oates • Princeton

Author

Oates began writing at age 14 and has been on a straight path of success and determination ever since. Them, one of her first remarkable novels, has been followed by over 50 published works. She has been a creative writing professor at Princeton since 1978.

75 

C.K. Williams • Princeton

Poet

 The Newark-born poet won the Pulitzer Prize in 2000 for Repair, his volume regarding forgiveness. Like Oates, Williams teaches creative writing at Princeton.

 

76  

Alan Alda • Leonia

Actor

 During his years as the star of M*A*S*H*, Alda commuted from New Jersey to Hollywood so as not to uproot his family. Six Emmys later, his star continues to burn brightly, with unforgettable turns on series such as The West Wing, 30 Rock and The Big C. Alda also starred in the Broadway revival of Glengarry Glen Ross and the 2011 film Tower Heist.

 

Bob Lucky • Fair Haven

Electrical

Engineer Lucky won the coveted Marconi Prize for developing the adaptive equalizer that quadrupled data transmission rates for modems and telephone lines. An expert on the relationship between technology and society, Lucky chairs the group appointed by Gov. Christie to oversee the redevelopment of Ft. Monmouth.

 

Robert Wilson • Holmdel

Astronomer

Along with Bell Labs co-worker Arno Allan Penzias, Wilson discovered the cosmic microwave background radiation that proved the Big Bang theory, in 1964. They received a Nobel Prize in physics 14 years later.

 

77

Thomas Kean • Bedminster Township

Politician

Our 48th Governor (1982 to 1990)—as well as the Chairman of the “9-11 Commission”—Kean served as President of Drew University for 15 years. Kean University also bears his family name.

 

The Amazing Kreskin • North Caldwell

Mentalist

Born George Kresge in Montclair, Kreskin was inspired by comic book hero Mandrake the Magician. Not a psychic or an illusionist, Kreskin nonetheless has an uncanny talent for predicting the future. (He knew you’d be reading this article.)

 

78

Michael Graves • Princeton

Architect

Renowned for his interior design and commercial and residential buildings, Graves also produced sleek, functional domestic items for Target. He taught for nearly four decades at Princeton and is the director of the firm Michael Graves & Associates.

 

79

Danny Aiello • Saddle River

Actor

Few actors can play ugly and violent, and also gentle and sensitive, as well as Aiello. Stop and think of the big-time films he’s been in—Moonstruck, Bang the Drum Slowly, Do the Right Thing, Broadway Danny Rose, Pret-a-Porter, The Godfather. Simply amazing.

 

80

Wally Broecker • Closter

Geochemist

The man who coined the term Global Warming in the 1970s has authored more than 450 papers and 10 books, including The Great Ocean Conveyor in 2010. It was Broecker who convinced Land’s End billionaire Gary Comer to devote much of his fortune to raising awareness about climate change.

 

Jim Bunning • Cherry Hill

Athlete/Politician

The author of a perfect game against the Mets in 1964, Bunning followed a Hall of Fame baseball career with more than two decades of service in the U.S. Senate (R Kentucky). Bunning returned to South Jersey after leaving Washington in 2011.

 

Herwig Kogelnik • Rumson

Electrical Engineer

Among Kogelnik’s influential contributions during 40 years at Bell Labs were distributed feedback lasers, holographic data storage and multichannel optical networks. That last one is what makes the Internet work—take that Al Gore!

 

James P. “Doc” McGlone • Boonton

Educator

The beloved theater director staged more than 250 productions during his tenure at Seton Hall. He established an enduring Theater-in-the-Round tradition on the South Orange campus before retiring in 2011.

 

Bob McGrath • Teaneck

Entertainer

Known to generations of kids as Bob on Sesame Street, McGrath stands as one of the most beloved and trusted people in the history of children’s television.

 

81

Dick Kazmaier • Rumson

Athlete/Business Leader

Kazmaier appeared on the cover of Time in 1951 during a season that saw him win the Heisman Trophy for the Princeton football team. He turned down a chance to play in the NFL, choosing instead to attend Harvard Business School. Kazmaier went on to become one of the most respected figures in the sports marketing and finance industry.

 

John McPhee • Princeton

Writer

McPhee’s first book, A Sense of Where You Are, profiled fellow Princetonian Bill Bradley. Since then his work has garnered countless accolades and awards, including a 1999 Pulitzer for Annals of the Former World. McPhee’s roommate in school was Dick Kazmaier.

 

84

Mary Higgins Clark • Saddle River

Author

The Queen of Suspense has pumped out 42 best-sellers. She has been the President of the Mystery Writers of America and served as Chairman of the International Crime Congress.

 

John Nash • Princeton Junction

Mathematician

The subject of the film A Beautiful Mind, Nash broke new ground on game theory while struggling with paranoid schizophrenia. His mathematical theories have a wide range of applications, from economics to artificial intelligence, and provide an intriguing prism through which to view chance and events.

 

85

Bill Jersey • Lambertville

Filmmaker/Artist See

Judith Trojan’s profile of Bill on the facing page.

 

Clark Paradise • Toms River

Community Leader

Clark and his wife, Jean (81), stand out among the thousands of selfless community volunteers around the state. The Paradises created Your Grandmother’s Cupboard to collect and distribute desperately needed personal-care items (plus food and clothing) to impoverished families in temporary housing.

 

86

Bucky Pizzarelli • Saddle River

Musician

 Pizzarelli was a guitar virtuoso long before it went electric, earning a seat in Vaughn Monroe’s big band as a teenager in the 1940s. He was voted into the New Jersey Hall of Fame last year.

 

87

Yogi Berra • Montclair

Athlete

One of baseball’s great pressure players—and the author of countless off-kilter quotes—Yogi is a regular institution in his adopted hometown of Montclair.

 

88

Frank Lautenberg • Cliffside Park

 Politician

The oldest member of the U.S. Senate, Lautenberg initially retired but returned to Washington after Bob Torricelli got into hot water. Before entering politics, Lautenberg ran ADP in Roseland.   

 

111

Melva Radcliffe • Wall

Supercentenarian

Yes, you read that right. Radcliffe was born in Paterson in 1901 and is closing in on the state longevity record of 112. She has survived colon cancer and two broken hips. Both of her sisters also reached triple-digits.

 

Editor’s Note: Is there an extraordinary 60+ New Jerseyan you think should have made this list? Tell us why on our Facebook page – EDGE Magazine (NJ).

Brush with Greatness

An award-winning documentarian is leaving his mark on the Lambertville art scene

Bill Jersey

How do you segue from a gig as Art Director of the 1958 sci-fi potboiler, The Blob, to become one of the pioneers of the cinema vérité movement? If your name is Bill Jersey, you grab your camera, prop it on your shoulder and never look back. The legendary documentary filmmaker—now a robust 85 and a fixture in Lambertville arts circles—laughs that his Fundamentalist upbringing on Long Island hardly predicted his future stature as a cinematic trailblazer. In fact, Jersey never saw a film until he ran off to join the Navy. He was 17. “The first film I saw was on the USS Arkansas, a battleship that I went on to the South Pacific,” recalls Jersey from his home office along the banks of the Delaware River. “I enlisted in the Navy to get away from home. It was my escape.” The G.I. Bill helped bankroll his undergraduate studies in art. “Studying art in college was the only thing I could do that was acceptable to my parents,” he says. “I couldn’t go to the movies, dance, drink, smoke, swear or play cards.”

After graduation, he put his paint box in mothballs and tested the waters at Good News Productions, a religious film company in Valley Forge, PA. “I told them I didn’t know anything about film,” says Jersey. “They hired me anyway, and I learned how to be an art director. I also realized how little I knew.” So he headed West to graduate film school at the University of Southern California. Graduating in 1956, he dipped his toe in the B-movie drama pool as Art Director of The Blob, Manhunt in the Jungle and 4D Man. But he was primed for documentaries. “There was something about wanting to connect to people in the real world and finding them much more interesting than working with actors with a script,” he says. “If you really care about people, they will know it, and they will open themselves up to you. And that’s what makes a good documentary.”

In 1960, Jersey launched Quest Productions and began attaching his own vision to a slate of industrial films for corporate giants Western Electric, Exxon and Johnson & Johnson. He won his first Emmy Award in 1963 for directing Manhattan Battleground for NBC-TV’s DuPont Show of the Week. Ever the maverick, Jersey never felt compelled to toe the company line. “I don’t do ‘promotional’ films,” he emphasizes. “I found you have to really try to understand the company better than they do. I try to give them what they need, even though frequently they would not describe their needs that way. The only way is by taking the big risk, the hero’s journey, to look at things honestly.” Jersey got a chance to kick-start that journey when he filmed A Time for Burning in 1965. Commissioned by Lutheran Film Associates, the cinema vérité Civil Rights documentary records the failed mission of young Lutheran Pastor Bill Youngdahl to integrate a large, all white church in Omaha.

A Time for Burning tracks the crises of conscience and faith that arose when the minister encouraged his white congregation to engage with black congregants from a neighboring Lutheran church. Despite his gentle, faith-based approach, Pastor Youngdahl’s impact on Omaha’s Lutheran community proved to be, as Jersey predicted, incendiary. “The Lutherans wanted a film about the church and race,” he recalls. “So I found a minister who had an integrated church in New Jersey and was being called to a big al lwhite church in Omaha. I knew he’d want to integrate it, and that there could be some tension. I met with the minister, who said, ‘You can do a film here, there’s no problem.’ And I thought, ‘Well, that’s what you think.’ “Look,” adds Jersey, “the church didn’t need a film about a minister getting kicked out of his church.

They needed a film about how wonderful the church was, and how Jesus was going to be loving to everybody.” Unencumbered by a script, narrator, captions, timelines or media stars and filmed with a minimal crew, A Time for Burning became a benchmark Civil Rights documentary that subsequently received critical acclaim, an airing on most PBS stations nationwide, and an Oscar nomination. It thrust Jersey to the forefront of the cinema vérité movement where he has remained for almost 50 years, producing and directing independent documentaries on such hot button issues as racism, criminal justice, gang violence, AIDS, Communism and integration. “For me, cinema vérité means letting the truth drive the story,” explains Jersey. “I don’t set out to prove anything— as many documentarians do. The difference between me and others is that I believe in being a participant observer. I explore options with my participants in the belief that our encounters will open them up to seeing more of themselves—not to see themselves as I see them. It’s a tricky business; but in my view, it’s an essential part of being a documentarian.”

A Time for Burning continues to be a staple in film schools where Jersey is a sought-after guest lecturer. In 2004, the film was selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the prestigious National Film Registry. Despite his résumé of more than 100 films, Jersey—with typical self-effacement—claims to have lost count of the awards and honors he’s received. In the mix are names like Emmy, Oscar, Peabody, DuPont Columbia, Christopher, Gabriel, Cindy and Cine Golden Eagle. Jersey continued in the winners’ circle this spring, garnering a Peabody Award for Eames: The Architect and the Painter. The documentary profile of visionaries Charles and Ray Eames had a healthy theatrical release in late 2011 prior to debuting on PBS as part of the American Masters series. It should come as no surprise that Bill Jersey—father of five and grandfather of five—has no intention of winding down. “On the contrary, I’m winding up!” he says with relish, as he now juggles two careers instead of one.

With a new two-hour documentary in the works—The Failed Revolution—about the history of the Communist Party in the U.S., Jersey has also enthusiastically returned to painting. He takes full advantage of the lush natural landscapes in and around his home, a charming 19thcentury boat builder’s cottage in Lambertville on the canal bordering the Delaware River. “We love it here!” he enthuses. “And since my passion is painting, this is a great community to be a part of.” A fan of painter Edward Hopper—“his use of light”— Jersey brings his filmmaker’s eye to his painting: “One of the reasons I like landscapes so much is I like being out in the country where the light is changing. If you’re painting a river, you’re painting something in motion. The light does not sit there for you. That lovely shadow from the rooftop that you love will be gone in 15 minutes. It’s a very alive process.”

Sharp and witty with energy to burn, Jersey spent his 85th birthday with his wife, Shirley Kessler, painting in Italy and enjoying his favorite sport—fine dining. He’s quick with a quip when asked if “80 is the new 60”. “Not in the knees,” he laughs, “but in terms of intellect and one’s capacity to engage in meaningful interaction with the world. That’s what keeps me young. Every day I read The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times because those are two perspectives I need to understand the world.” “Life is good!” admits Jersey, the eternal optimist. “With all my aches and pains, I am grateful—that’s the magic word—for every minute of every day!” There are Jersey tomatoes, Jersey Boys and Jersey Devils, but there’s only one Bill Jersey.

All photos courtesy of Bill Jersey

 Editor’s Note: Bill Jersey’s paintings will be on exhibit at a one-man show at the Bank of Princeton Gallery in Lambertville, NJ, November 15 through December 15, 2012. A Time for Burning and Eames: The Architect and the Painter are available on DVD. Judith Trojan has written and edited more than 1,000 film and television reviews and celebrity profiles for books, magazines and newsletters. Her interviews have run the gamut from best-selling authors Mary Higgins Clark, Ann Rule and Frank McCourt to cultural touchstones Ken Burns, Carroll O’Connor, Judy Collins and Caroll Spinney (aka Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch). Follow Judith’s media commentary in her FrontRowCenter blog at judithtrojan.com.   

 

Out of Characters

My 30-day affair with Twitter 

I am a cyber shut-in. I’m all about stamps and dial tones. I am an analog anomaly, the subject of eye rolls and exasperated sighs from techie teens, two of whom live under my roof. I am part of the generation whose fingers did the walking across yellow pages decades before they touched a keypad. To me, Twitter “tweets” seemed like 21st century postcards—an old idea shrouded in new technology. Go to any antique store (or to eBay if it’s easier) and read the flipsides of those ancient souvenirs. Same number of characters, same depth of thought and feeling. Am I the only one who sees this?

Apparently I am. Nevertheless, one day my inner narrator whispered, “Look how much fun everyone is having as they fast-track through the ether world. Don’t you want to have fun, too?” So with deep skepticism and almost no eknow-how, I decided that I was going to give myself one month to figure out what Twitter was all about. My first hurdle was setting up my Twitter account. I felt an overwhelming surge of prickly heat before I even found the Twitter home page. Forget it. Too complicated. I listen to my body and it was telling me in every way that this was a stupid idea. Three days later I was enjoying a meal at the home of a friend who spends a good portion of his day inside the virtual world.

Normally I don’t have much to contribute when dinner conversation requires a degree in cyber-speak. Which is why everyone was surprised when I turned the topic to my brief and unsuccessful dalliance with Twitter. A Twitter account? Really? My host chuckled and said it takes about two minutes to set up. He’d do it after dinner. And that is how I had the Senior Chairman of the Visual Effects Society, the founder of the Visual Effects Awards— the special effects supervisor of countless big-budget movies—usher me into the world of Twitter. He even wrote my first tweet: Hi – I’m here. Sadly, it was probably my best.

My next step, I was told, was choosing people to follow. By the time we said our goodbyes, I had my own account, six people to follow, one tweet (or is it Tweet, upper case?) and had already absorbed a quirky story about New Jersey’s own Danny DeVito. If you didn’t know, Danny likes to tweet. Whenever he goes someplace new, he likes to take a picture of his bare foot and post it on Twitter. When asked why he does this, Mr. DeVito replied with a shrug, “People seem to like my feet.” I verified this story (with a couple of phone calls) and it’s true; Twitter @DannyDeVito and you can see photos of his foot. With a bounce in my step and a song in my heart, I announced to my teenage sons that I had a Twitter account. Silence.

Then, in concert, “No one will follow you, Mom. You don’t have any friends.” Yes, I do. “Are they on Twitter?” No, I don’t think so. “So, who’s going to follow you?” I slumped away. Before turning in for the night, I returned to the Twitter web site and discovered the How To Promote Your Profile option. I clicked on it, started reading, and promptly fell asleep. This is not how I learn. I needed to dive right in and get my hands dirty. I posted my first solo tweet: Writing this article for Edge magazine. How to tweet? The next day I had two followers. I felt great. I was liked! So, I tried another tweet to get more people: What happened with Katy Perry and Russell Brand? Is anyone surprised? I now hang my head in shame. What an awful tweet. Asking questions? Really? I later learned this was an efaux pas. Or a faux epas.

Apparently, another breach of etiquette is tweeting a response to a dinner invitation. You text that. Texting is conversational and more intimate; tweets are statements. I learned this from watching The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, my guilty pleasure. Still, I had two followers, which is two more than I’d had 24 hours earlier. They looked young in their pictures, and sounded young in their tweets. I decided I should try to pull in more young adults, because they seemed to really like me. Then it hit me. Is Twitter a popularity contest? This was just the kind of garbage that went on in high school, and I was right back in it.

The only difference was that the entire world could witness my fumbling, not just a contained environment like a school. Whatever unfiltered idiocy that spilled out of my brain and onto a page would not only be broadcast for the entire world to see, but stored for eternity in some cyber-warehouse. I know that people find this kind of “immortality” appealing. I don’t. What did I have to say that was worth saying at all, much less saying in 140 characters? The question is almost metaphysical, isn’t it? So naturally I turned to my older son, age 17, for sage advice. “Write what you’re feeling, or doing,” he said. “Write something people would appreciate.” Then he turned his back on me and resumed doing his homework. The meeting was over, but I wouldn’t leave. He mumbled something about status update. “What’s that?” I asked. Now, he spun back around and glared at me. “Why are you even on Twitter?” “Because I have to,” I answered. “I’m writing a story. Can I follow you?” “No!” Other people tweet with confidence. I’m not talking about the Oprahs and Kelly Ripas of the world, celebrities who use Twitter as a tool to promote their talk shows. Or Conan O’Brian, who broadcasts mildly amusing quips. Or George Clooney’s tweet about going to a baseball game and then saying goodbye because he has to change his user name. (By the way, did you know that Lady Gaga has more Twitter followers than the Pope, the President, and Katy Perry—combined?)

No, I’m talking about average folks, like my very first follower, who sometimes tweeted three or four times a day! She followed me because she wanted me to follow her, and I did; sometimes in horror, other times in awe. My follower “friend” tweeted that her mother called her an ugly weed so that she was never aware of anything until she was older. I wasn’t t sure exactly what she meant, but it sounded so sad. My very next tweet was from Barack Obama. It said In America we don’t give up, we get up. Yes, I thought, even ugly weeds can become flowers with a “can-do” attitude. Then the President tweeted that he was going to sign the payroll tax cut extension into law. My follower tweeted I’ve been out of work so long that I’ve forgotten how to hate people. Funny, but weird! The pressure to write something great was compounding by the hour.

I was riddled with performance anxiety. I would never have the guts to say something like “Color is an intense experience on its own,” and send it off into the universe unprotected. As a rule, if I am going to say something moronic, I want to be able to see how it lands on my listener’s face (because that’s half the fun in uttering banalities) or, at the very least, be able to defend myself. Tweeting, I was coming to understand, is like the speed-dating version of a blind cocktail party. Everyone is trying to impress everyone else, with nothing to back it up. However, it wasn’t until my younger son, age 13, began looking closely at my coterie of Twitter pals that total disillusionment set in. The young and attractive blonde woman who tweeted about all the racy things she wanted to do to other people, to herself, to me was not the flirtatious scamp I imagined her to be. Nor was my other follower all she seemed to be. I had wondered why she was always telling me about all the cool free stuff she was scoring—Playstation 3, Guess jeans, gift cards from Ikea and Best Buy, and CA$H—just by clicking onto a particular website or email. “Stop!” my son bellowed. “Mom, stop!” He demanded to see my Twitter account. I handed him my phone and after a few seconds he informed me that my friends were fake. “Definitely the blonde one is fake because all she talks about is sex and it’s an advertisement.” It is? He raised his eyebrows and nodded his head. “It’s hacked,” he said. “If you see a person post a link asking you to visit it, don’t do it!”

He repeated this warning to reinforce its seriousness. He refused to tell me what would happen if I did click onto these other links. Instead, he looked me in the eye, shook his head and murmured, “It’s bad, very bad. Don’t go there.” “Okay,” I said obediently, “I won’t.” But was he absolutely sure my friends are fake? Yes. Even the first one? The nice chatty one? Noting the disappointment in my voice, he tried to soften the blow. “Well, I’m not 100 percent sure about her.” But I knew he was right. She was a fake, too. Then, to add insult to injury, follower number one dropped me while my son was holding the phone. “Snap, crackle, pop,” he smiled, “you’ve been dropped!” Of course I was dropped.

If you have nothing to bring to the table, who is going to invite you to dinner? Alas, in my month on Twitter, the most followers I had at one time was three. And near as I could tell, only one was real: ABC News. I am still waiting for the dinner invite to ABC’s house, and will text my RSVP. The fact that I even cared about the number of followers I had ticked me off. It really did stir up all those 10th grade emotions and insecurities. Three decades after completing my secondary education, I not only had slipped back into the worst part of high school, but had discovered the worst part of Twitter.

I actually felt lonelier when I was on Twitter than I did when I was off-line. As my month on Twitter drew to a close, I decided the two things I liked most about it were the news feeds and traffic updates. But, what’s the catch phrase? Oh yeah, there are Apps for that. So is there a need for Twitter? Socially, there is a place for it, but a need? I don’t think so. As a promotional tool for celebrities and event planners? Maybe. My read is that this is a moment that is happening, and people are lapping it up. It’s an easy way to be heard even if you have nothing important to say. It is freedom of speech if you can crush your thoughts into 140 characters. Perhaps, deep down, what appeals to people most about Twitter is that it is evidence that you exist.

Hi – I’m here. See, proof that I’ve lived. I tweeted a total of six times. Technically, I suppose the number was four. I did not write the first tweet, nor did I author the last one. My oldest son wrote my final tweet, and although it is something I would never say, I posted it because he finally came around and tried to help me explore this cyber world that seemed so vast and so alien to me. With that in mind I give you my final tweet exactly how my son wrote it: – omg i think i might be obsessed with this new thing called #internet shopping. “There’s a pound sign in front of internet,” I pointed out, ever the editor. “Mom, that’s a hashtag.” “What’s a hashtag?”

Editor’s Note: J.M. Stewart lives and works in Southern California. She interviewed Joe and Gia Mantegna for the Hot Stuff issue of EDGE and is working on an EQ vs. IQ feature for the upcoming Gray Matter issue.

All Photos credit: iStockphoto/Thinkstock

 

For the Birds

Photo credit: iStockphoto/Thinkstock

That suburban sea of emerald lawn may make your neighbors green with envy. But birds will give your yard the cold shoulder.

  • Photo credit: iStockphoto/Thinkstock

Birds will do more than fill your yard with their songs. Their skills at hunting less-desirable insects and cross-pollinating plants make them the kind of neighbors you really want. Given that New Jersey is a stopping-off point for dozens of migrating species—not to mention our year-round feathered friends—transforming your backyard into an avian Welcome mat is well worth the trouble. Open lawns are rather barren and sterile for wildlife. So says Scott Barnes, the Programs Director for the Central Region of New Jersey Audubon. “The more trees, shrubs, and perennials you can plant in their place, the more likely you are to attract birds.” According to the experts, attracting your favorite songbirds requires little more than some patience and planning.

  • Plant the right things. If you want to attract birds, you need to cut into that swath of green lawn—most bird experts recommend transforming at least 25 percent of your grass coverage into lush gardens to attract birds. The key, according to landscape designer Jose German, is to appeal to a bird’s palate. “Planting bushes and trees that produce berries is the first step, especially if you want to feed them naturally,” he says. “That’s the easiest way to provide the foliage, nectar, pollen, berries, seeds and nuts that many species of wildlife require to survive.” He recommends shrubs and bushes such as serviceberry, elderberry, winterberry, viburnum, blueberries and raspberries, to provide plenty of food and a place to perch. Flowers and plants also attract birds, but the key to appealing to the local bird population is selecting plants that are native to New Jersey. Consult the experts at your local garden center if you want to ensure that the plants you choose are common to your area. “The key element for anyone trying to increase and benefit birds in their yard is planting native vegetation,” Barnes says. “Native plants with flowers or berries provide important food for many species of wildlife, including birds.”
  • Provide water. “Water features are magnets for wildlife,” says Barnes. Birds need fresh, clean water for drinking and bathing—whether you go with a simple birdbath or a more elaborate pond or other water feature. You should change the water in your birdbath every two to four days—or as needed to keep the water replenished and fresh. Keep in mind that smaller water features will be more likely to attract the smaller birds, and a more elaborate pond with waterfalls and multiple pools will be more likely to attract a wider variety of birds.
  • Give them shelter. Birds need a place to call home— and it doesn’t necessarily have to be a prefab birdhouse from the local home improvement store. “Wildlife require places to hide in order to feel safe from people, predators and inclement weather,” German says. “You can convert your yard into a heaven for birds if plant bushes and shrubs that will feed and protect them from predators.” If you do want to invest in a birdhouse, choose one that suits the kind of bird you’d like to attract. There’s a big difference between what the robins want (a simple, covered shelf where they can build a mud nest) and purple martins (a grander, multi-roomed shelter).
  • Share a snack. While many birds can thrive on insects and fruit, others are looking for a different kind of feast— and an appropriate feeder can help you attract the birds you want, and avoid the pesky squirrels you don’t. “Selecting the right seed and the right feeder is important,” says German. “For example, nyger seed is high in calories and oil content seed, loved by finches and other wild birds. It is really small, so squirrels and big birds are not attracted to it.” The Audubon Society recommends using a variety of targeted feeders and feed mixes—such as a special hummingbird feeder stocked with one part sugar to three parts water—to attract the greatest variety of birds to your door.
  • Keep it au naturel. While chemical fertilizers and weed killers may make your lawn look golf-course perfect, they can damage the environment and the birds that live there. But fortunately, there are techniques for keeping your lawn lush without harming the environment. “You can have a beautiful lawn without all of the chemicals,” German says. Step one is having your soil tested to determine its composition, so you can develop a specific plan of action to amend the soil for a healthier lawn. Aeration is also key, especially if your lawn is heavily traf

    Photo credit: iStockphoto/Thinkstock

    ficked. “Organic fertilizers are highly recommended at the beginning and the end of the landscaping season—it should be rich in organic material, like compost or compost tea,” German recommends. And to help control weeds, German suggests overseeding the lawn. “A thicker lawn reduces the opportunities for the weeds to grow.”

  • Go a little wild. Letting parts of your backyard become a bit overgrown and not-so-manicured—including allowing a few weeds into the mix—can help support a larger and more varied bird population. Long native grasses offer seeds and shelter for various birds, and other weeds can attract certain species. “A weedy garden with plant stalks and seed heads to search for insects in will help attract hummingbirds,” Barnes says. Leaving some dead leaves and twigs can help foster nest building for birds—or provide homes for insects. “A decayed trunk is good because it will host caterpillars and insects,” German says. Consider it a smorgasbord for your favorite feathered friends.

    Photo credit: iStockphoto/Thinkstock

    Photo credit: iStockphoto/Thinkstock

Photo credit: iStockphoto/Thinkstock

RARE BIRDS Beyond creating a safe and inviting habitat for birds, perhaps the biggest reward for the backyard birder is spotting a rare or exotic species from the back porch or kitchen window. Some are year-’round residents of the Garden State, but many more are merely visiting on their way north or south. It is an absolute certainty that, at some point, you will spot species you’ve never seen before and want to know more about them. So expect to familiarize yourself with the local Audubon web site, and buy a couple of field guides. Your largest additional investment is likely to be a new pair of binoculars. A lot of “backyard birders” keep them hanging by the kitchen sink or living room picture window. In recent years, optical companies have produced an overwhelming number of binoculars aimed at the bird watching market. Once you’ve completed your backyard project, it’s time to go shopping for a new pair. What are the rules for sorting through so many choices? Stick to these pointers for your first pair and you should be in good shape:

  • Pick a magnification. Unless you have a multi-acre property, 7X should do just fine.
  • Read online reviews. Pay particular attention to comments about the quality, brightness and sharpness of each model. This is what you’re paying for, right?
  • Do you wear glasses? If so, some designs are friendlier than others. Rubber eyecups typically don’t work as well as turn-and-lock eyecups. Glasses-wearers also tend to find compact models problematic.
  • Pick a price point that suits your family budget. If you need a new refrigerator, don’t spend $1,200 on binoculars. Price is determined largely be quality. The “mid price” for good binocs is around $300. If you want to test the waters with a cheaper pair, that’s okay—there are some decent ones available on sale for $50 to $100. Just know that you may be making another investment in a year or two. In terms of brands, you can’t go wrong with Bushnell or Nikon—and at the higher end of the spectrum Zeiss, Leica and Swarovski—but do 10 minutes of research before pushing the BUY button.

Better yet, instead of buying online, find a store that carries the models you’ve pinpointed as possibilities and try them in person. There is no right and wrong way to hold binoculars—everyone handles them differently. Feel the shape and weight in your hands, sense how they fit your face, and trust your instincts. This is especially true if you wear glasses.

The Lease You Can Do

The laws of gravity and unintended consequences have collided in the New Jersey real estate market. The result is a warming trend in rental properties.

Photo credit: AVE/Kormanv

Throughout the United States, our jobs, our investments, our savings, our confidence, even our very homes are at risk. In New Jersey, the decline in home values since 2006 has changed the very complexion of the real estate market. And many professional predictions for 2012 forecast a continued downward trend. One of the consequences has been a rental boom, with some statistics indicating that vacancy rates in the third quarter of 2011 dropped sharply to 5.6%— the lowest level since 2006. Unfortunately, this has also led to a decrease in rental inventory and an accompanying increase in rents, which reached a median last year in the Garden State of about $1,500 for a one-bedroom. For any homeowner contemplating a move in the near future, the dilemma remains unchanged: Is it better to sell or stay? For everyone else, however, the question becomes: Does renting make more sense? The answer may surprise you.

Photo credit: AVE/Kormanv

A Different Animal In the gold-plated days before the economy tanked, the vast majority of renters in New Jersey were people who couldn’t (or chose not to) cough up enough cash for a down payment on a house or condo. Since many mortgage companies were offering loans with no or low down payment and a cursory credit check, almost everyone with a pulse could own a home. Today’s renter is a slightly different animal. One of the biggest barriers to home ownership is building a nest egg big enough to buy the nest. Among renters canvassed in a recent survey conducted by Trulia, an online real estate search engine, 51% confirmed insufficient down payments as the reason they had become renters rather than buyers.

Recently federal regulators have been suggesting that buyers must put down as much as 20% and sometimes even more. Right now, New Jersey has the highest average down payment rate in the country at 13.71% according to LendingTree. Some 36% blamed their inability to qualify for a mortgage as the reason they rent. Either their income was too low or their credit was sketchy. My, how things have changed. Job insecurity is another characteristic of the average renter’s profile.

An uncertain future makes relatively short-term rental and lease arrangements a preferable alternative to long-term home ownership. While owning over renting had long been the Holy Grail of real estate investing, the analysts who crunch these numbers now generally agree that purchasing a home in the current environment is the right move only if the property will be held for at least several years (the longer the better). For example, a buyer paying $400,000 for a home with 3% down and a mortgage under 5% will only start to come out ahead of a renter paying $2,000 per month after four years! This gives the “let’s wait-and-see” renter solid footing to continue leasing, even in a buyer’s real estate market. Of course, some people by nature are simply not cut out to be home owners. These individuals prefer to leave clogged drains and leaky roofs to the super or the landlord. Add to that our state’s high real estate taxes, and you have another reason why renting trumps owning for those who can afford to be choosy.

Photo credit: iStockphoto/Thinkstock

The Foreclosure Factor So where are we in the home-buying market, at least pricewise? According to the Case-Shiller Home Price Index released mid last year, home prices in Northern and Central New Jersey were down 24.2% from their 2006 highs, and down a more modest 3.4% from 2010 to 2011. Some experts believe that we could see the beginning of a rebound in 2012, or perhaps in 2013. More, however, are inclined to think that the market hasn’t bottomed yet. They cite an anticipated influx of foreclosures expected in 2012. The foreclosure factor is likely to have an impact on the rent vs. own decision, although which way it breaks is anyone’s guess.

The normal flow of foreclosures was impeded for a couple of years after it was discovered that some major banks were “robo-signing” key documents. It has taken a long time to go back and untangle the paperwork problems, resulting in tens of thousands of people being allowed to stay in their homes. Soon they will be hitting the street en masse—presumably as renters—while their homes will be vacant and available for sale or rent. What kind of numbers are we looking at? According to Michael Bonner, Founder and CEO of PropertyPilot, a real estate data and analytics company, there are over 150,000 properties in some state of foreclosure throughout New Jersey that will hit the market soon. This could put more downward pressure on home prices for the next year or two, making uncertain buyers much more uncertain. Many will undoubtedly opt to become (or remain) short-term renters.

Photo credit: AVE/Korman

Upscale Options With more people in New Jersey renting and new construction slowed to a crawl, the supply of apartments is dwindling. Which means that prices are likely to rise. Vacancy rates are tightening, with projections they will fall to 2.4% by the end of 2012. That means that for every 40 occupied units, there is only one empty and available. As a result, some developers are actually converting their for-sale condos into high-end apartments for lease. That should ease some of the supply-and-demand pressure. More important, it creates a new and appealing product for the shifting tastes and elevated expectations of the New Jersey renter. AVE, a division of Korman Communities (a pioneer in corporate housing), specializes in the suburban midrise residential rental market. Amy Barricelli, AVE’s Vice President of Marketing, confirms that the rental sector is on the upswing and describes New Jersey apartment-seekers as a “growing, savvy and discriminating” clientele. AVE’s hybrid business plan offers both furnished and unfurnished apartment units.

The former are available on a daily-rate basis for relocations and professionals in between homes. The latter are distinctive, yet reasonably high-end with an average monthly rent of $2,000 for a one-bedroom. For that price, residents enjoy a friendly home-like environment filled with healthy and high-tech amenities and social activities. As to AVE’s typical renter profiles, Barricelli says that among the company’s three New Jersey communities, their current resident population includes some newly married, some recently divorced, some corporate types, some Gen-Xers and some boomers. All are looking for the bells, whistles and extra creature comforts that can be difficult to find in a typical rental property. Barricelli adds that Korman views New Jersey as fertile ground for future growth and development of this type of rental option.

A Home-Buying Comeback? As long as home ownership is part of the American Dream, it would be unwise to bet against a comeback. The coming wave of foreclosures may create a new surge of renters, however it will also reset prices in the housing market, and ultimately help to stabilize it. It will be interesting to see whether the homes snapped up in foreclosure end up in the hands of those American Dreamers, or whether savvy investors buy them and convert into rental homes. Who knows? There could be a rental bubble awaiting us. How ironic would that be? It is not as far-fetched as it seems. For now, the rental market seems to be flexing its muscle, although Standard & Poors has suggested that the current gap between buying and renting is narrowing. This could mean the only sure winners in real estate in 2012 will be the landlords, the smart investors, and the property managers. The one unalterable fact is that people need a place to live. And since home is where the heart is, these days it makes little difference whether it’s owned or rented.

 

Act of Faith

Transforming an imperfect space into something usable and new is easier than you think. Just pray you pick the right architect. 

Opening page: The historic Chapel at Ft. Hancock on Sandy Hook. It was poorly illuminated; the beautiful trusses and ceiling boards were hidden in shadows. I upgraded the lighting and electrical, converted side rooms into bathrooms, reopenend the boarded-up balcony, and now it can accommodate weddings and other large functions.

The scenario is a painfully familiar one. House-hunters pass on what they think is a train wreck, only to discover a year or two later that someone else scooped it up for a song and transformed it into a showplace. Old homes are full of exciting potential, but can also be petrifying. Whether you are renovating before you move in, or tackling them on a project-by-project basis after you’ve taken up residence, it’s hard not to think about Tom Hanks’s excruciating slide into The Money Pit. Right actor. Wrong film.

In Sleepless in Seattle, Hanks actually provided the correct blueprint for a major home renovation. His architect, Sam, had the ideal relationship with the homeowner. That job was going to turn out beautifully. I should know. As an architect who specializes in repurposing historic spaces, I’ve lived both movies. In Sleepless, architect and client had an ongoing dialogue, which also included the contractor (played by Rob Reiner). Issues were openly discussed and strong decisions were made. This is the type of situation that inspires a positive relationship, with the kind of mutual respect that delivers the confidence needed to move forward and make the transformation happen. Which is a roundabout way of saying that, before you trust your instincts and make a potentially life-altering financial decision about a great old space, you need to talk to an architect. We are in touch with the pulse of trends and issues that affect every aspect of a renovation. When brought on board early, we can help clarify the challenges, discuss different options, or even assist in the actual selection of a property.

When weighing a decision, particularly with higher values at stake—such as the purchase of a home to be remodeled versus remodeling your own residence—including an experienced architect in the conversation not only gives the process an exciting kick-start, it will probably pay for itself many times over. So, how does one start? Select a few architects to interview. Ask to see examples of their work and possibly go visit one or two. Have a prepared list of questions that represent your main concerns. Try to engage them in the kind of dialogue that is important to you. After all, you may be entrusting them with the very space where your children will grow up, or that you may retire in. The closer the relationship and bond you develop, the more in-tune your architect will be to your values and beliefs. These all eventually translate into the solution, the look and—most importantly—the feel of the renovation.

Open A Window One good piece of advice I can offer is once you’ve made your choice, gather all the information you’ve been thinking about to share with your architect. I encourage my clients to begin collecting images, articles, books and even physical materials they find appealing. Even if these items involve structures and spaces that are seemingly unrelated, they are extremely helpful. They are the window into your thoughts. The architect’s job is to interpret them. Using these as a starting point, we can develop a vocabulary that relates to, and works with, the existing property—but which might also reference your collection for inspiration to an entirely new and different direction. An early mentor of mine taught me how to engage and enjoy the process, as well as the reward of the product itself. We too often miss this by focusing solely on the budget, schedule and layers of tasks to accomplish. Taking the time to work closely with your architect helps to bring the importance of the function, aesthetic and space itself into view. Have faith in the process. Embrace it with confidence and trust rather than fear. You never know. Your success story could become the plot for the next Tom Hanks movie.

Editor’s Note: Bob Kellner specializes in adaptive reuse and sustainable design. As an architect, his portfolio runs the gamut from large-scale work (including the master plan for Bank of America’s Corporate Headquarters and for Ft. Hancock on Sandy Hook) to major renovations in iconic properties (among them the Waldorf-Astoria and Plaza hotels) to the diversity of more modest commercial interiors. Bob enjoys residential work as a balance to larger-scale projects for the opportunities they present to focus on details, materials and concepts that are more personal. He is the recipient of numerous design awards.

Need to Know

The easy questions are often the hardest to answer.

We asked a group of area experts & celebrities to weigh in on the really important ones… Am I good enough to sing professionally?

Anthony Laciura: In a sense, it would be simpler to answer the question Am I good enough to be a doctor or a lawyer? Often someone has a voice, but it’s not as endearing to the listener as they think. To determine whether someone has a sound special enough to build a career around, it takes a minimum of a year with at least one voice lesson a week. Professional singers have to learn how the body works and how to rely on their senses, how to keep an even pressure of breath so that the vocal chords vibrate at exactly the same rate. Remember, you’re dealing with a part of the anatomy that’s the size of a dime. It takes great patience on the part of student and teacher. I’ve been involved with singers who had really ugly voices when they began, yet through sheer will and study built good, long careers. Is it ever too late to start a professional singing career? There’s always an exception, but my gut reaction would be that if you’ve hit 50 and haven’t done anything yet, you might not possess the physical strength and stamina to launch a singing career. Anthony Laciura has performed as a tenor with the Metropolitan Opera for more than 25 years. His talent for playing character roles has won him an entirely new audience as a cast member of the HBO series Boardwalk Empire. Anthony plays Eddie Kessler, right-hand man to power broker Nucky Thompson.

Why am I always stuck in traffic? Bernie Wagenblast: The short answer is “because you live in New Jersey.” There are over five and a half million licensed drivers in our state and sometimes it seems as if all of them are trying to get to the same place you are! When you consider there have been few new highways added since the 1970s it’s probably no surprise traffic often is jammed. While you can’t totally avoid traffic, there are some simple steps you can take to minimize the delays. First, and most important, collect as much info as you can before you leave on trips of over an hour and, if possible, continue to do so while you’re traveling. Some of the better GPS units will warn you about congestion. There are a number of websites you can check before you go that will alert you to accidents, construction and even how fast traffic is moving. On some you can even look at traffic cameras to see for yourself how crowded the roads are. You can also dial 511 for traffic updates—not just in Jersey, but in New York and Pennsylvania. Second, most people know only one way to get where they’re going. Regardless of the length of your trip, always have alternate routes in your mind. Google Maps is one of the sites that offers alternative routes—pick the one you like, but print out the others in case you have to divert. If you hit a wall of traffic, you can switch to Plan B or Plan C without getting angry or panicking and getting lost.

Bernie Wagenblast specializes in transportation communications. He began as one of the original reporters for Shadow Traffic in 1979, and today you can hear Bernie’s voice on the trams at Newark and JFK Airports, and throughout the New York City subway system.

What should I order for dinner? David Burke: Always ask to hear about the specials. Are they seasonal? Do the match the weather? Are they really special? I was at an Italian place one night and they had 15 specials. To me that’s not special. There are certain things I find irresistible. Peking Duck. When I see that on a menu I automatically order it, even if I’m not in a Chinese restaurant. Stone crab with mustard sauce. Paella, but only at a really good place. I love Florentine ravioli with the spinach and the poached egg. In terms of seasonal items, you can’t go wrong with Copper River salmon or shad roe in the spring, and pheasant and venison around the holidays. And truffles when they first hit the season. If you are less adventurous and looking for reliable, a good restaurant should always do the simple things well—Caesar salad, roasted chicken, crab cakes, omelets, bread. Chef David Burke knows his way around a menu. He owns Fromagerie in Rumson, Primehouse in Chicago, Prime in Connecticut, and Fishtail, David Burke Townhouse and David Burke Kitchen at the James Hotel in Manhattan.

Katie or Matt? Terry Schaefer: As a Today Show producer I marveled at Katie’s capacity to wing it, ever so intelligently, like the girl in school who borrows your notes and then gets a better grade on the test. But Matt’s style was more my own. He comes to the studio every morning precisely at 5 a.m., ensuring two full hours to prepare for the show. He walks onto the set impeccably dressed just before 7, carrying carefully edited notes and questions for each of his segments, clipped together in perfect order, from hard-news interviews to cooking segments. Katie would arrive later, sometimes much later, and often read producers’ notes and questions at the last minute. She’d scrawl her own notes next to theirs, borrowing a pen to write, ingesting and processing information with lightning speed. Frequently she challenged the structure of the show, calling the executive producer in the control room with very last-minute suggestions, then she’d slide into the anchor chair with seconds to spare. But when the cameras rolled, there they were, side-by-side, each ready in their own way to deliver the news of the day, on America’s number-one morning show. Their easy chemistry and mutual respect was real. They valued their differences, even relied on them to get the job done. Each was a genuine pleasure to work with. Terry Schaefer worked at NBC News for 26 years, 17 of those as a producer for the Today Show.

 What is the difference between a $1,500 watch and a $15,000 watch? Samuel Friedmann: Design, materials, innovation and quality. The biggest cost of building a great watch comes before it is built. It’s in the blueprint. It takes two years and countless trips back to the drawing board to design a breathtaking timepiece. It takes 12 separate factories to make the components. Then they must be assembled into a work of art—a work of art that works. The finishing is done by hand, because a machine can’t “feel” when each tiny piece fits just right. When the watchmaker looks inside, he sees things like a solid-gold rotor, things that tell him this is a wonderful machine. When the consumer sees this watch that embraces the body, the beauty of the timepiece is obvious to the eye. Think of it as the difference between a house built by a good architect and a great one. Both look nice when they’re brand new. Only 10 years later will you know which architect was great. Samuel Friedmann is President of Gevril Group. The Gevril name has been associated with museum-quality timepieces dating back to the 16th century.

Do actors love to play wise guys as much as we love to watch them? Vincent Pastore: Absolutely. And not everybody can play a wise guy. You must do your research, know the character. Do you think Ron Howard or Henry Winkler could play the role? Chazz Palminteri, Pacino, DeNiro—they are true wise guys. Personally, I prefer no Dons in my organized crime movies. I like the lowlifes. In Donnie Brasco, Pacino played the lowlife role to a tee. I loved the last scene when he knew he was gonna get whacked. He put his jewelry, wallet, everything in the drawer. He told Johnny Depp, “I put my neck out for you, Donnie.” That was real loyalty. Omertà. The code of silence. I think the chivalry is what attracts the actors to those old wise guys that embrace Omertà. John Gotti might have been the last of the real wise guys. As a member of The Sopranos cast, Vincent Pastore created one of the most enduring wise guy characters in television history: Salvatore Bonpensiero, aka Big Pussy.

Why am I not making my own pasta? Teresa Giudice: Given that gourmet pasta can run $7 a pound and more—and that it’s so simple to do— I don’t know why. There’s something magical about making it yourself. It does take a little more time and effort, but the reward is so, so worth it. When it comes to making pasta from scratch, you need to buy a decent machine (there are good ones for $30 and great ones for under $100) and use the same basic recipe with only two ingredients: flour and eggs. What determines the final product is how you cut it. For most pasta shapes, the dough should be as thick as a nickel. For ravioli, which overlaps at the edges, the pasta should be as thick as a dime. Two things to remember after you’re done: add salt to the water after it boils but before the pasta goes in…and make sure your sauce is done by the time the water comes to a boil. Fresh pasta cooks quickly! Teresa Giudice became a reality TV icon on Real Housewives of New Jersey…and is now an accomplished author. Her second cookbook—Fabulicious!—made the New York Times Best-Seller List.

I’m 44. I’m single. What now? Norah Marler: Get comfortable with yourself; it’s okay to be single and at this time of your life it’s okay to be a little selfish. Enjoy some “me time” by doing all the things you haven’t been able to get to because you’ve been too busy giving your time to others. Perhaps you’ve been longing to go back to school or take dancing lessons, learn to ski or become a world traveler. Whatever your desires are, now is the time start living them. Then commit to the best interests of the person you love: You. Analyze your past, present and hoped-for future and develop a program for achieving that future. Make a list of what you want and what you need. Create a life plan that will fulfill your needs. It’s your life—create it as you wish, but you must follow a Think-It…Plan-It…Built-It blueprint. Norah Marler is 44 and has been single for many years. She is a passionate advocate for women’s health, safety and wellness, the author of No More Dating Pigs and the mind behind the nomoredatingpigs.com web site.

 

Pied à Terre

Before grabbing that little place in the city, there are a few things you need to know.     

For many New Jersey residents, “having it all” means something more than a blissful suburban existence. It also includes having a small Manhattan apartment. In the chaos of our current economy, some Garden Staters—through skillful investing or trading down their now-empty nests to smaller houses—have turned this longstanding dream into a reality. The process is complicated, but it can be simplified by breaking it down into four decisions: finances, type of transaction, size, and location (probably in that order). And, of course, finding professionals who can help you to make each decision a realistic one. We’ll leave the money issues to you and your accountant. Just keep in mind that, in any real-estate transaction, you can expect to spend more than you planned to—and in Manhattan, you can depend on it. You’ll also want to investigate any tax advantages that might accrue to you as the owner of a condominium or co-op.

CO-OP VS. CONDO VS. RENTAL It’s worth mentioning here that, contrary to the situation in most American cities, co-ops are much more common than condos in Manhattan. One real estate broker, a specialist in co-op and condo sales, made a point of explaining that, all things being equal, condos provide a wider choice to the out-of-town owner, since many co-op boards will decline to approve buyers who want a pied-à-terre. Most board members will favor full-time residents, who are less likely to turn their keys over to a parade of friends who want to spend a weekend in the city. If you can’t find what you’re looking for in the price range you’ve established, you may want to explore a rental apartment instead. It often involves a lower total monthly outlay than a condo, but keep in mind that you’re not building any kind of equity as a tenant, and that Manhattan is rumored to have been an Algonquian name meaning “Island of Soaring Rents, Major Capital Improvements, and Two-Year (sometimes one-year) Leases.” If you or your spouse works in the city, there may be a way to write off part of the monthly rent as a business expense, but as a rule the tax advantages of renting are not as attractive as owning.

SIZE, LOCATION & FEATURES These are the “fun” decisions, less fraught with legal and financial issues and easier to figure out. The price of an apartment is determined by a combination of the square footage, location and amenities. The more you know about the value of each in the constantly shifting sands of New York City’s co-op, condo and rental market, the more bang you’ll get for your buck. The bells and whistles that drive up the price include having a doorman, a terrace, a non-closetsized kitchen and a good view. But you knew that already. Not everything, however, is intuitive to the out-of-towner. For example, discrepancies in prices between one-bedrooms and studios may not be overwhelming. Neighborhoods that seem on-the-fringe when you’re visiting the city may actually be on the cusp. And that Upper East Side neighborhood that used to be out of reach when you were twentysomething and just out of college? Well, there’s good news on that front, too. Manhattan has changed dramatically (Gothamites like to do everything dramatically) in the last 20 years. Areas like Tribeca, the Flatiron district, the Lower East Side, and the Meatpacking district—where most apartments were once cheap, but often of dubious quality and lacking in amenities—have become the hottest residential neighborhoods in town. Consequently, the Upper East Side, once the magnet for people of means looking for apartments, has become relatively reasonable. It’s one of six neighborhoods in the city that offers good deals, interesting features or a little of both: Wall Street: Numerous palatial old office buildings in the Financial District, abandoned by brokerage firms, have been converted to apartments.

They feature high ceilings, great detailing, and virtually bomb-proof construction. Many have extraordinary harbor views. The neighborhood is safe, because there’s almost no activity down there after the offices close up in the evenings and on weekends. Great transportation, good values, peace and quiet—but you’ll be trekking to Chinatown for groceries. Battery Park City: Safe, serene, secluded and new—the oldest buildings only date to the mid-’80s. Self-contained, with stores, restaurants, doctors, and a movie theatre. There’s a yacht basin, should you choose to navigate back and forth across the Hudson. The negatives: getting anywhere else in Manhattan can be a chore, and, somehow, the grit and energy of Manhattan are muted, almost mallified (if not mollified). Chelsea: Between 14th and 23rd Streets, west of Sixth Avenue. Restaurants by the score, endless nightlife, lots of culture (music, dance, theatre, and one of the city’s biggest gallery scenes). The far western reaches are a bit isolated, and most of the bargains are gone, but you’re in walking distance of most of what makes it worthwhile to put up with the city. The Garment District/Flower District: Roughly, Sixth to Eighth Avenues, 23rd Street to 42nd Street. Until recently, a desolate stretch of loft buildings, factories, storefronts, and tenements. Largely rebuilt, including an eye-popping stretch of towers on almost every block of Sixth Avenue from 23rd to 34th Streets. Variable values, and the area retains distinct traces of funky, unsanitized, pre-war New York, but there’s easy access to the Flatiron, boasting one of the biggest groupings of topflight restaurants in the city, and the bright lights and theatres of Times Square. Tudor City: A little-known enclave overlooking the United Nations. Very safe, lovely parks, river views from some apartments. Walking distance to midtown, frequent buses to the Theatre District. A word from a broker who has done many deals here: caveat emptor—the apartments tend to be smaller than in other areas, and this is an older development—some of the units will need work. Nonetheless, the values are excellent and there is a distinctly Old World flavor that many find enchanting. The Upper East Side: Overbuilding, and the preference of many young singles for more exotic neighborhoods from Williamsburg to Harlem, has left a lot of empty apartments here. There’s no fire sale; prices have held steady, as landlords anticipate the economy’s resurrection, but you can negotiate a good deal if you do your homework. This is the famous Silk Stocking district, ancestral home to the rich and famous. Proximity to some of the world’s greatest museums, such as the Metropolitan, MOMA and the Guggenheim (although the Whitney is moving to the Meatpacking district), world-class restaurants, Central Park and, depending on how far east you go, river views.

DOLLARS & SENSE All well and good, but you’re still asking, “How much?” There’s no easy answer. However, speaking with various knowledgeable brokers, and checking the Real Estate section of The New York Times and the listings in Trulia you can come up with some ballpark figures. There is a large stock of condos—particularly studios and smaller one-bedroom—in areas that are neither too pricey nor too unappealing, that are listed for anywhere from $200,000 to $600,000. You can, of course, pay multiples of those prices for apartments with particular features, but that’s the range for the typical pied-à-terre in a fun and convenient neighborhood. Rents in the same neighborhoods for something decent start at around $2500 a month and skyrocket from there. To get a feel for the city, which seems to change overnight, link to blogs like Curbed NY, New York Condo or, for the statistically literate, UrbanDigs. But in the end, the best way to find your dream pied à terre is to put on some comfortable shoes and start walking. New York has always been a town for strolling, and that’s how you’ll find the true, and often not immediately evident, nature of its neighborhoods.

The Home Run

Photo courtesy of Frank IsoldiIt’s that time of year again. For Sale signs are popping up everywhere you look. And once again, it’s a buyer’s market this summer. House hunters can afford to be picky, and they should be. Holding out for something extraordinary—price wise, property-wise or both—is half the fun of the hunt! When’s the best time to make your move? When the stars align and you walk into a home with some feature that blows away everything else you’ve seen. A charming front porch. A killer kitchen. The master bath of your dreams. A suburban oasis in the backyard. There are a lot of names for the house that speaks to you in that deep, intimate way. We call it the Home Run.

 

 

RECIPE FOR SUCCESS • Westfield The owners of this 1880s bungalow pulled off the impossible—a thoroughly m

Photo courtesy of Shari Holtzman

odern kitchen while maintaining the home’s Arts & Crafts charm and functionality.

VISION IN WHITE • Westfield “Heavenly” isn’t a word one uses to describe a bathroom, but in this case it’s totally appropriate. That claw-foot tub is an updated take on a Victorian classic.

Photo courtesy of Frank Isoldi

FRONT AND CENTER • Westfield Colonial Revival architecture can be kind of a yawnfest, but the curb appeal of this unusual 1920s eye-opener carries through all 12 rooms.

Photo courtesy of Irene Katz

RULE THE POOL • Scotch Plains Every homebuyer needs a tipping point. After touring the interior of this suburban contemporary, it’s the pool that says “Jump right in!”

Photo courtesy of Joan Kylish

CLOCK WATCHER • North Plainfield Technically, it would be incorrect to call this magnificent 1911 converted gatehouse a “timeless beauty.” No winding required.

BEAM ME UP • Westfield Vaulted ceilings, leaded glass, original wood planking, stone fireplaces—we surrender! It’s another gatehouse, this one constructed in Wychwood circa 1928.

Photo courtesy of Sherrie Natko

Editor’s Note: Each of these properties was on the market as of May 15, 2011. For more information contact the listing brokers. All have 908 area codes: Shari Holtzman 233–5555 ext. 210; Frank Isoldi 233–5555 ext. 202; Irene Katz 301–2892; Joan Kylish 301–2043; Sherrie Natko 233–3014.

Driving Ambition

Mike and Suzanne are what some would call the classic suburban power couple. They are generous, good-natured and successful. Both are fit, focused and—when it comes to sports— fearsome competitors. Naturally, their teenage sons have followed in their parental footsteps. Michael (15) is a member of a state championship swim team. George (17) is nationally ranked at two miles and a member of the winning 4 x 800 prep relay team at the Millrose Games in Madison Square Garden. Along with their growing collection of ribbons and trophies, the boys have also acquired the less than- charming adolescent swagger that comes with the realization that they can now best Mom and Dad in almost any sport they choose. One notable exception? Operating an automobile. Neither yet has the means (nor the license) to prove what, to them, is a foregone conclusion: that they are “better drivers” than their mother. This is the same woman, lest they forget, who has chauffeured them flawlessly to and from more practices and meets than they can, or she cares to, remember. Water under the bridge, Mom. It’s all about what you can do, not what you’ve done. And so it was with considerable enthusiasm that Suzanne accepted the opportunity to put her two backseat drivers in the front seat for a Family Race one Thursday evening in March at Pole Position Raceway, the indoor karting venue located near the Liberty Science Center in Jersey City. She admits she was itching to teach Michael and George a lesson as all three pulled on their helmets and strapped themselves into their karts (which—because of Michael’s age—were limited to a still-speedy 30 mph). Suzanne also admits to underestimating the fact that her sons work together like Velociraptors. With their three vehicles lined up one behind the other to start, the boys insisted she have the honor of taking the lead kart. In almost any race, both teens knew, you want your adversary ahead of you so you can choose the time and place of their ultimate defeat. In other words, she was dead meat before they started their engines. The flag dropped and the three roared into the first turn. Moments later, Suzanne found herself in third place. A nudge from George and then a stronger bump from Michael sent her into the black-and-yellow padded barrier. By the time she got back up to speed, she was playing catch-up. She never did close the gap on her sons, who showed her no mercy and gave her no daylight. They were too busy fighting for fraternal supremacy. George edged Michael at the finish line, with Suzanne a few heartbeats behind. “I should have realized they would never let me win,” she says bemusedly. “Even though I’m their mother, they will still win at any cost. The mistake I made was that I never should have started in front of them.” In the days that followed, as Suzanne returned to chauffer duties, mother and sons had something new to discuss: the fact that they were now officially, indisputably and undeniably “better drivers” than she—against a wealth of evidence still to the contrary. Suzanne reminded Michael and George that she had nearly caught up to them after they sent her into the wall. They corrected their mother, informing her that she had actually fallen a full lap behind! Shifting gears quickly, Suzanne pointed out that handling a kart at 30 mph takes considerably less skill and experience than zig-zagging through Turnpike traffic at 75 (although for the record she has never done that). Blank stares. Exasperated, Suzanne said that intentionally running your materfamilias off the road doesn’t make you a “better driver”—it makes you a dangerous one. Michael and George refused to dignify their mother’s accusations of collusion and dirty driving. Both maintain that Suzanne was the unfortunate victim of an unlucky accident. Looking back, Suzanne says the only humiliation she actually suffered that evening was being photographed on the victory stand with her boys (now both six-footers) towering over her. Otherwise, it was a tremendous experience. “It was very entertaining,” she says. “We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. It’s a great place. We hung out for an hour after the race. The people there couldn’t be nicer.” Okay, down to brass tacks. In a return engagement, does Suzanne think she would avenge her defeat? “I do,” she says with a competitive smirk. And just how? “No way I’m divulging my strategy! Let’s just say that Mom’s still got a few tricks up her sleeve.” EDGE

Editor’s Note: Pole Position (polepositionraceway.com) is located off Exit 14B of the New Jersey Turnpike and is open seven days a week. Family Races are run Monday thru Thursday. Direct:

Up in Smoke

A Rock Industry Insider Recalls the Malibu Wildfire that Consumed (Almost) Everything 

I miss the change of seasons in New Jersey. Transplanted here in Southern California, I must make do with Football Season, ’Tis the Season and the new TV Season. And then there is that other, more ominous, time of year: Fire Season. In a matter of minutes, it can turn you from a “have” into a “have-not”. For my friend Sue Sawyer (right), the November 1993 blaze that raged through the Malibu canyon where she lived swallowed more than just her home. It took a bite out of the joie de vivre she once had—the loss of which she is still coming to terms with today. In the early 1990’s, Virgin Records America was in its heyday, and Sawyer was its V.P. of Media Relations. Her clients included Michael Jackson, Tina Turner, Keith Richards, Lenny Kravitz, and The Clash. Over the years she received many gold records from artists such as Cyndi Lauper, Sade, and Cheap Trick that she hung on her living room wall. Her five platinum albums from Michael Jackson had an inscription from Michael that read Dear Sue, thanks for the hard work. These also were displayed in her home. A triptych photograph taken in the early 1980’s, showed Sue sitting on a sofa with Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne. Ozzy was promoting his first solo album, and a marketing meeting was set up at Epic Records. Ozzy walked in with a photographer, which was unusual; this should have been the tip-off for Sawyer that he had something up his sleeve (or in his pockets, to be exact). When everyone was seated, Ozzy produced a white dove from his coat, smiled sweetly at it—and bit its head off. He reached in his other pocket and pulled out another white dove and prepared to dine on that one, but the conference room erupted in protest, and the bird and everyone else in the room was saved from another unsavory spectacle. Although the photographs showed Sue’s expression going from Oh, what a pretty bird Ozzy has to utter revulsion, the triptych was exhibited on her walls to prove that, yes, this really did happen… I was there. The fire took everything. Sawyer’s “to die for” record collection? Vaporized. Her priceless collectibles? Incinerated. Early punk rock singles, including Elvis Costello when he was with Stiff Records? Up in smoke. A few charred 4×4’s, the bottom drum to her Weber grill, the blackened and ash filled carcass of her boyfriend’s vintage1967 metallic gold Thunderbird, the blob of melted coins from her piggybank, and the over-baked Halloween pumpkin that was sitting on the porch, was all that was left. There wasn’t even a place to hang the red UNSAFE FOR OCCUPANCY notification, so it was left under a rock. After the fire ran its course and Sawyer was allowed back on to the smoldering property, it was her incinerated books that she mourned the most. Everything that Graham Greene and Raymond Chandler wrote she collected. She had all of her childhood books, especially Winnie-The-Pooh, lovingly placed on bookshelves. “I would look at my books and it gave me a kind of a…hug,” she recalls. “I don’t have that now.” The literary collection was her treasure. Through the day-today roller coaster ride that was her job, those books provided a sense that everything was going to be all right.

It kept her grounded in a world of music icons and crazy, all-night industry parties. Sawyer has since acquired more books to fill new shelves, but the concertized connection to her younger, more carefree self was gone; as was the piano that she was more than proficient in playing. “When I was seven, I could play Rachmaninov in C sharp minor,” Sawyer says. She hasn’t owned a piano since she found the twisted remains of its soundboard nestled in the ash and soot of what was once her living room. “My house was completely gone.” The great Malibu fire of 1993 burned for three days. Sue Sawyer and 267 others lost their homes. Among her burnt-out neighbors were Sean Penn and Madonna, Ali MacGraw, Dwight Yokum, and Roy Orbison’s widow, Barbara. Three people perished in the fire, which was fueled by a combination of oil-rich and highly combustible chaparral, severe drought, and the hot, dry Santa Ana winds that roared through the canyon. In the first 10 minutes the fire spread from one acre to 200, and within an hour it had scorched over 1,000. It was about 20 minutes into the burn that Sawyer knew her house was in its path, and she had to get home to save her pets. Normally, there were a lot of meetings on Tuesday mornings, but she happened to be in her office with the television on. There was a breaking news bulletin about a fire sweeping toward the sea. “I knew this was no small deal by the way the newscasters talked about it,” she recalls. “And I knew my house was directly between the origin of the fire and the ocean.” The sick feeling that started to take hold of Sawyer was confirmed when a neighbor called. He told her he was evacuating and would take her Rhodesian Ridgeback puppy, but she needed to come and grab her cats. Driving along Pacific Coast Highway toward he

r threatened home, she was struck by the surrealism of it all. “The ocean was glittery with the sun bouncing on the surface, and the sky was such a beautiful blue,” she remembers. “And then there was this huge plume of smoke going up into the sky.” There was a state-of-the art fire station with a helicopter pad just up the road from where she lived. Would her home be spared? She knows now that when an out-of-control fire is in the mood to burn, there’s not much you can do about it. She reached her home with minutes to spare. With two cats and one cat carrier, she ended up stuffing one in a pillow case and tossing both in the car. Then she bolted back into the house to save what she could. It was about 1:30 in the afternoon and the sky had darkened with soot. Ash was everywhere, inside the house as well as out,

and an orange glow was licking at the ridge line, edging ever closer. “I was rushing around sick to my stomach,” Sawyer says. “There was no rhyme or reason to what I was putting in the car. I grabbed a photo album, my skis, a computer, and bicycles.” “But not enough clothes,” she chuckles wryly. “Next time I’ll pack better.” There was only one way out of the canyon; if an ember had leapfrogged onto her escape route, there would have been no way out. She took one last look at her home and—still hopeful that this evacuation would turn out to be nothing more than a fire drill—thought, “This is going to be so much work putting everything back!” Sawyer retreated to her parents’ house in Simi Valley, where a friend phoned to tell her that the street Sue lived on was gone. Wow, she thought, I guess I’m homeless. The next morning, with the fire still gobbling up homes north of Los Angeles, Sawyer’s office phoned to ask if she would be coming in for the marketing meeting. Hey, that’s show biz! “I don’t have a toothbrush or any underwear,” she told the caller, “I think I’ll be a little late for work today.” A month later, Sawyer began her slow return from the weightlessness of the dispossessed. She was living in a rental home in Burbank and her friends and co-workers threw a surprise benefit party to help her pick up the pieces. “This outpouring of kindness was the best thing that happened after the fire,” she says. “These were not the wealthy people of the music business; these were the publicists and writers. The $50 checks that they gave meant so much to me. I still have the checks from the freelance writers. I didn’t cash them. They didn’t have a lot of money, and I still had a job. The irony was that those same people got hit by the [January 1994] earthquake a month later.” Sawyer has regained most of her zest. But part of that happy-go-lucky, young woman vanished that November morning. “I regret the loss of my books and my music,” she says. “And my love letters. I dated a lot of writers, so there were some incredible love letters. I regret that I didn’t really mourn what I had lost; I was changed by the loss, but I didn’t mourn it. I wish I had had some therapy, it would have helped.” From the ashes eventually there is growth. The élan that defined Sue Sawyer both personally and professionally was replaced with a “don’t sweat the little stuff” sensibility that has served her equally well. After a hiatus from the world of media marketing, she is working as an independent publicist for a boutique public relations firm in Los Angeles. And she bought another house, in Glendale, where she can hear her neighbors’ son practicing the piano. With a twinkle in her eye, she says that she would like to start playing again. EDGE

It’s a Gift

Wish List

Great Toys for Grown-Up Girls & Boys

You may be too old to fire off a letter to Santa, but that’s no reason for the kid in you to let the holidays pass without making a decent wish list. From old games to new electronics, there’s something out there to please even the most discerning inner child. May your season be joy filled…and toy filled!

CHRISTMAS PAST Ask anyone older than 30-something to name their all-time favorite game. The across-the-board answer: Monopoly, the ultimate Boardwalk Empire. The game we remember has undergone a serious makeover as the Monopoly Revolution ($35 at your local Target), which upgrades the staid old board with sound effects and credit cards instead of cash. Buying houses you can’t afford in real life is fun! History’s happiest accident—the Slinky— has returned to the family staircase in a 14- karat, gold-plated-brass 55th Anniversary Edition ($100 at Buy.com). According to legend, the discovery that the spring could “walk” was completely serendipitous. The rest is history, with more than 300 million sold and still counting. Another beloved blast from the past is the Rubiks Cube, now available in a glitzy high-tech Rubiks TouchCube version (on amazon.com for about $70). Nostalgia is also available in book form. The Official Preppy Handbook, that iconic, tongue-in-cheek treatise on the WASP-y culture of the 1980s, finally has its longa waited sequel. One of the original authors has taken another satirical look at the “new old guard” in True Prep: It’s a Whole New World. Buy it in hardcover at your local brick-and-mortar bookseller, or go for the preppier Kindle or iPad editions.

CHRISTMAS PRESENT An unfortunate reality of being a self-indulgent grown-up is that fitness and exercise equipment often migrates onto our holiday wish lists. If you think walking (or even running) is for wimps—and can put off that new car purchase for another year—then you might want to trade in your treadmill for a Treadwall, a motorless rotating climbing wall that moves by body weight alone. The good news is you are never more than 1-2 feet off the floor. The bad news is that this will set you back about $10,000 (a KidWall version is less). Check it out at uniquefit1.com or call around to some climber-friendly gyms. If work intrudes on your workout, then consider equipping your home office with a Gaiam BalanceBall Chair (on Amazon.com for about $80). Chiropractically engineered, the chair continues working those core muscles even if you sit at your desk for hours. You’re basically buying the chair’s framework; the rest is BYOB (Bring Your Own Ball). It’s the same balance ball you use in your workout routines. Need to exercise on the road? You’ll have no more excuses away from home thanks to the Tumi Travel Fitness Trainer. It’s equipped with a pedometer, heart rate monitor, stopwatch, MP3 player and FM radio. Look for it at the Tumi store in the Short Hills Mall (or online at tumi.com) for about $165. Masochism comes in myriad forms, not all of which involve calorie burning workouts. Golf leaps to mind. Feeling the burn in this sport mostly happens between the ears. If greens are what get you blue, then consider the Laser Alignment Putting Trainer, which uses a laser beam to tell you when your putt is perfect— before you even touch the ball. Look for it online at hammacher.com for $329.95.

CHRISTMAS FUTURE If racing ahead of the pack gets you in the holiday spirit, then you’ll be happy to hear that the toys of tomorrow are here today. For instance, you can actually carry around a computer in a pen with the LiveScribe Echo Smartpen. It captures everything you hear, write or say and delivers it with just a tap of the pen ($170 for 4GB and $200 for 8 GB versions at livescribe.com; also at Target). Or treat yourself to a Gyration Air Mouse, which controls apps on your computer, TV or DVD player with a wave of your hand ($70 and up at amazon.com or compusa.com). Gadget gals are turning cartwheels over the latest Flip Video Cams. Their fetching case artwork belies their impressive HD video capabilities, with up to two hours of record time ($150 to $230). Best to go direct to theflip.com, where you can even upload your own photo for a personalized one-of-a-kind camera. If your final wish for 2010 (or final wish, period) is to careen down a snow-covered slope at 70 mph, then you’ll want to invest in an Airboard. Think of these Swiss-engineered inflatables as really Felixible Flyers. Popular for years in Europe, the Airboard has just begun appearing on American mountainsides. You may want to rent before you buy (they sell for $200 to $630 at airboard.com), and probably review your insurance policy. If your thrill-seeking tends to be a bit less public, then the Spy Net Secret Mission Video Watch may be more your speed. It’s a 21st Century take on those old decoder rings buried at the bottom of cereal boxes. It can audio record for 3 hours, video record for 20 minutes, and take still photos with a snake cam that lets you see around corners ($50 at jakks.com and also carried by Kmart).

Editor’s Note: Chris Gibbs is the brains behind EDGE’s “It’s A Gift” section. She’s been waiting all year to do this story!

Game On

 In Search of the Ultimate Sports Poster

Most experts agree that there are four cornerstones to a successful marriage. 1. Trust. 2. Honesty. 3. Unexpressed anger. 4. No sports junk on the walls. Many a man has tested rule #4 only to see that framed jersey or signed photo, without warning, donated to a local charity auction. Like a game of Jumanji, the priceless heirloom insidiously then works its way into another home, where it initiates marital chaos all over again. Bill Crouse is the exception that proves rule #4. One of the world’s leading authorities on Art Deco posters, his collection may be the best ever assembled. When Crouse purchases a sports poster, it’s invariably a jaw-dropper. In these pages we present a handful of sporting selections from the renowned Crouse Collection. You won’t find these masterpieces at your suburban gala or fundraiser. You will see them in museums and galleries in Europe and the U.S. (including right now at the Guggenheim’s Chaos and Classicism exhibit). If you want to buy them at auction, be prepared to spend somewhere in the mid-six figures!

Cycles Brillant • A. M. Cassandre (1901-1968) Only a few copies of this 1925 poster—a gleaming example of Cassandre’s adherence to minimalism—are know to exist. Not many commercial artists would be brave enough to hand a client an ad concept for a bicycle that shows no details of the product. Even fewer could actually pull it off.

Campeonato Abierto de Basket-Ball • Caroselli (Dates Unknown) The image of the angled competitor was popular among Art Deco posterists. In this advertisement for a 1934 tournament, Caroselli used this technique—along with an airbrushed black “cocoon”—to capture the energy of a layup.

Monaco/19 Avril 1931 • Robert Falcucci (1900-1989) This rarest of Monaco GP posters—possibly the only example in private hands—shows a Mercedes SSK in hot pursuit of a red Bugatti. Falcucci’s use of white streaks running the length of the racer, concentric arcs of white behind to convey the rush of the wind, and the bright palette of red, yellow and blue give this streamlined design great panache. A multitalented painter, decorator and illustrator, Falcucci received his formal training in Paris and served as the historical painter for the French Army.

Beristain/Todo Para Deportes • Jacint Bofarull (1903-?) on prior page Although Bofarull earned a reputation as a politically outspoken artist, none of his political leanings are evident in this promotion for Beristain’s Barcelona department store and its line of sporting equipment and apparel. Despite the fact that pipe-smoking is no longer a part of sports, it would not be a stretch to call this 80-year-old poster “timeless.”

Coupe Davis • A. M. Cassandre (1901-1968) In Cassandre’s advertisement for the 1932 Davis Cup, he grabs viewers’ attention by placing them in the path of an oncoming shot at net. The use of geometry and dynamic perspective in this extraordinarily rare poster— as well as the ease with which the design’s elements are assembled—are superb examples of what made Cassandre the most important Art Deco figure in the history of advertising posters.

Mistrzostwo Swiata/Krynica 1931 • Stefan Osiecki (1902-1939) Jerzy Skolimowski (1907-1985) This promotion for the 1931 World Ice Hockey Championships in Poland can barely contain the action within the frame. The featureless depiction of the competitors captures the team-oriented nature of the sport, while the flags along the bottom clearly convey that 10 national teams will by vying for the title.

Sables d’Or les Pins • Lec (Dates Unknown) For the dedicated golfer, playing a well-designed course borders on a religious experience. In this breathtaking 1926 poster, the artist captures this feel using a stained-glass style.

III Olympic Winter Games • Witold Gordon (1885-1968) Gordon left no doubt in this iconic poster where the center of the sports universe would be in February of 1932: Lake Placid. These Winter Games—the first held in North America—were opened by New York Governor (and soon-to-be U.S. President) Franklin Roosevelt. Gordon also designed the grand murals at Radio City Music Hall and the 1939 World’s Fair.”

World’s Greatest Air Race • Percy Trompf (1902-1964) The 1934 England-to- Australia air race covered more than 11,000 miles and was won by Lieutenant Charles William Anderson Scott and Captain Tom Campbell Black. Their scarlet DH.88 Comet finished with a time of 71 hours. Art Deco posters typically pared down or simplified the human element. However, in this poster, Trompf chose to zero in on the pilot’s face to convey the focus, determination and uncompromising will of the participants. Trompf created thousands of posters for companies in his native Australia, and attracted clients in England and Canada, too.

1er Campeonato Mondial de Football • Guillermo Laborde (1886-1940) This poster for the inaugural World Cup is the Holy Grail collectible for soccer fans. Laborde conveys the action and athleticism of the sport with just a few linear elements. An acclaimed South American artist and sculptor, he agreed to judge the poster submissions for the 1930 World Cup. Later, Laborde resigned from the panel and submitted two of his own—which came in first and third.

Editor’s Note: Special thanks to Tim Gazinski for his assistance in selecting and describing these posters. William Crouse’s 2009 book Grand Prix Automobile de Monaco Posters was hailed as “unmatched in the field” by the International Poster Center.

 

Local Talent

Buying art means buying smart. So what’s the deal with your neighborhood gallery?

In the typical suburban New Jersey home, you’re more likely to find a good guy named Art than good art. That’s fine if your goal is to own an undistinguished sofa-sized oil. But what if you want fine art—the kind that will brighten your life and fatten your bottom line? The answer may be as close as your local gallery. For those who believe you have to cross the Hudson to find investment-grade art, this idea may go against the grain. But the fact is that building a relationship with a gallery (or galleries) here in the Garden State can yield a far greater return—not just in terms of value and quality, but in so many other ways.   This applies to the seasoned collector as well as the novice. In fact, if you’re like so many New Jerseyans, the thought of opening your checkbook in a local art gallery is nothing short of terrifying. First things first. Let’s wrap our minds around the reasons New Jerseyans don’t buy art. Above all there is the intimidation factor. Most people are afraid they’ll be taken to the cleaners by an unscrupulous gallery owner. Second, they are nervous that their friends will make fun of a purchase that is different and modern, or simply out of character. Feeding this double-barreled paranoia is the fact that—particularly in the case of an abstract piece—one cannot specifically define the level of talent and technical skill involved in producing modern art. And on top of these very legitimate fears is the great, big elephant in the room: Why, when New York City is so close, would anyone buy art in New Jersey in the first place? Permit me to deal with this last objection first. Galleries here in New Jersey are indeed different than most galleries in the city. That is to say that they are friendly and approachable. If you think about it, it makes complete sense. Gallery owners are where they are, and do what they do, because they love and appreciate art. If they were in this business to make a killing, I hate to say it but they would be in Manhattan. What else does New Jersey have to offer art buyers that the city doesn’t? Well, there is a lot of first-rate talent that, for one reason or another, is only shown on this side of the Hudson. There is no comparison in terms of service. Try walking into a gallery on West Broadway or Madison Avenue and asking the owner to drive out to your place in Westfield for a consultation. That thud is the sound of his jaw hitting the floor. A gallery owner in or around your town, on the other hand, will likely welcome this opportunity. New Jersey art dealers are genuinely interested in the people who live around them, and cultivating relationships that extend beyond the buying and selling of art. They are part of the fabric of the community. Connecting with a local gallery also happens to be a superb way of adding texture to your social life. Once you’re “on the list” you’ll be invited to opening receptions whenever a new artist is featured. How often do you get to mix and mingle with new people who just happen to share a common interest? The majority of people attending gallery openings are like you—they want to know more about art and the people who buy it. (By the way, a free wine-and-cheese gathering is a wonderful springboard to dinner, a movie, or whatever else you’ve planned for an evening out.) Okay, so what about the financial side of the gallery relationship? Now more than ever, as we balance the merits of saving and spending, it is important to know what you get for your money when you purchase a work of art. Whether the price tag is several hundred or several thousand, dealers who live and work nearby are unlikely to “rip off” customers; they have reputations to uphold. If you happen to be one of the fortunate few who have five or six figures to invest in art, a good dealer will have solid connections to galleries that can point you in the right direction (and more importantly, steer you clear of the wrong direction). Either way, if your appreciation of art is tied to its potential appreciation, make that clear to the gallery owners you deal with.They will help you assess potential purchases (or emerging artists) with that goal in mind. Another advantage to buying in New Jersey—besides the good feeling that comes with supporting a local business— is that gallery owners here may be much more likely to work a deal that fits your finances. Their overhead is lower than in the city, which may translate into wiggle room when you whip out the checkbook. Finally, keep in mind as you shop or budget for fine art that you are buying something that could turn out to be a family treasure. Art is timeless. Art is priceless. Unlike a sofa or granite countertop, it does not depreciate the moment it walks through your front door. If you’ve chosen wisely, in fact, it could appreciate dramatically. And as it moves from your home to your children’s, and then to your children’s children’s and beyond, it serves as a link between the generations. In the meantime, this investment will enhance your quality of life every time you fix your gaze upon it. Indeed, as Pablo Picasso once observed, art “washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” Amen to that. Some other art icons have also had a thing or two to say on the subject. Jackson Pollock famously noted that every good painter paints what he is. Rembrandt suggested practicing what you know to make clear what now you do not know. Believe it or not, Michelangelo often insisted, I can actually draw. Clarity and simplicity enabled these great painters to create magnificently complex works of art. When it comes to buying art in the Garden State, a little clarity and simplicity also goes a long way. EDGE 

Editor’s Note: Kathy Donnelly is an art collector and dealer. She owns Beauregard Fine Art Gallery (beauregardfineart.com) in Rumson.