Tag Archives: Delaware River

🦊 The Long Twisted $7 Million History of Mayor D and Ely Field

Why would anyone want to be mayor? Well, for one, although it’s practically a volunteer job, it’s a job that’s swimming in money. Is that a “conflict of interest” if your business is construction? It’s a great way to make and use connections, and to direct business to those friends and connections. Even if everything is on “the up and up”, just imagine all the free meals and other “amenities”!!

Our former Mayor D 🦊 claims one of his accomplishments is that he “restored Ely Field”.

Seven million dollars is a conservative estimate for “restoration of Ely Field”, based on the numbers of outlays listed in the source articles (below). Where did that money come from?

The Mayor and council relied greatly on the Lambertville “Open Space” tax, approved at first only for acquiring the Buchanan property. But over and over they went “back to the well”; they revised Open Space to cover other purchases. There were referenda, and strangely the magic words “Ely Field” could insure approval of yet another extension to Open Space, the tax that in the Mayor’s own words, “…was supposed to end when the Buchanan property was paid for”. The gift that keeps on giving! The mayor who claims “we kept taxes down” is responsible for the largest ongoing tax increase in Lambertville History. $300,000 a year, by his own estimate in 2008. And with yearly increases in home assessments, the number keeps going up, and at this writing, in 2021 residents are still paying.

And yes, it wasn’t always the city taxpayers who footed the bill. The Mayor knew how to work the system. Sometimes “the State” stepped in with grants and inexpensive loans and/or forgiveness. But where do state funds come from? The money was spent. It doesn’t grow on trees. Not even on ancient, beautiful old trees. Millions of dollars. If you ever wonder why New Jersey taxes are the highest in the country, look at Ely Field. Because for the amount of money that has been poured into it, it should be made of gold.

(Some might claim offset from rateables or other sources of income for the City in this process, to which I say you could just as easily discover hidden and related costs, overruns, delays, and so on to add to my total.)



He sure didn’t do it alone—and what does “restoration” mean in this case? What’s the whole truth?
It’s a long and complicated story, one that’s difficult to piece together as a whole. Not unlike a popular movie from the 1970’s, and unfortunately ending like a children’s book. I’ve provided an overview with a timeline and sources.

“Ely Field”— Located on Lambertville’s Main Street, donated to the city by the Closson family, is thought by most to be part of the adjacent Lambertville Public School. It is in fact a separate park, once mostly an open field with volleyball/tennis/basketball courts, in recent decades it has become primarily the realm of Little League Baseball and Pop Warner-type football, which together require fences, dugout, goal posts and other constructions which circumscribe portions of the field.

It’s “preservation” or “restoration”—whatever this is—seems to have a lot more to do with the streets and land surrounding the field, than changes to the field itself. This is a tale of streets torn up, streams redirected into pipes, hillsides condemned, 129 homes built, millions and millions of dollars spent, the City burdened with debt, and one beautiful ancient tree destroyed. In the end, Ely Field was “restored”. Whatever that means. In the process Lambertville Got Way Bigger— “Better” is debatable—and we’re still paying for it.

After three years out of office, waging a guerrilla campaign against his successor in the guise of a largely anonymous “whistle blower” group, Mayor D now wants “another chance”. Really? To do what? Repair the parking lot at Ely Field?

Twenty-seven years of this is enough. No more.

Ely Field Restoration, how did it happen? Taking his cues from the movie “Chinatown” and the true story of Mulholland and the development of Southern California’s San Fernando Valley, former Mayor Delvecchio worked for twenty years to develop—which, by his actions, appears to be a synonym with “acquire”—the hillside above Lambertville and to cultivate “Ely Field” below it as his legacy. This, as in the movie, was all accomplished at the expense of others—especially local and state taxpayers.

Drainage – A big chunk of the expense of Ely’s restoration was in fact a long, large, and expensive drainage project. It required the upending of Main Street, the disruptive chopping of trees, modification to sidewalks and widening of Delaware Avenue, all to redirect water via new pipes from the hills above Lambertville and the lowlands behind Ely field and the Lambertville Elementary School, beneath Delaware Avenue, and from there, into the Delaware River.

The project began with some concerns about mismanagement. After a false start with one construction company in 1998, work was halted. The project gained steam with a different company in 2001.

Development – With drainage issues resolved, development became viable, enabling construction of 129 Townhomes on “Lambert’s Hill”. At one point the Mayor expected the high-end homes to contribute 25% to the City’s real estate tax revenue! But gambling relies on chance, and unfortunately, the home developer went bankrupt. The City was saddled with repairs to unfinished roads and sidewalks and legal efforts to recover expenses.

Condemnation – The drainage and Ely Field improvements consisted of many projects over roughly twenty years. In the end, the land above Ely Field was acquired through a “redevelopment” project and condemnation by the City which paid a controversial amount for the properties. The dollar figures accumulated over that time are staggering, roughly $7 Million*.

Almost as staggering, the number of times “improvements to parking at Ely Field” are listed as part of the projects, (long time residents will know that Ely Field parking issues are still a problem.)

“Fiinal” improvements to Ely Field, spearheaded by The Friends of Ely Park, are not listed here, as these occurred into 2019, after Del Vecchio had left office, but details of “the expensive fence” (as some call it), snack shack, improved bathrooms and artwork are available online . Was the skateboard ramp promised at one City meeting ever built? I don’t see that mentioned anywhere.

The Giving Tree – Sadly, I mark the end of the project with the destruction of one of the oldest and largest trees in Lambertville, the two-hundred plus year old London Planetree, which had the misfortune of being located at the Center Field used by the high priority Little League, and was chopped down with neither warning nor ceremony in 2014. Friends of Ely Park created a project to memorialize the tree in woodworking art, calling it “The Giviing Tree”. Ironically the name derives from the title of Shel Silverstein’s book about a boy who continuously, persistently, and selfishly over many years takes everything from the tree, until all that’s left is a stump.

The Truth is Out There

— Christo

The timeline below is an outline of the events, and may include other activities and projects from the same period. The information is all taken from public sources, which are linked, and may reflect inaccuracies on the part of those sources.


TIMELINE & SOURCES

1992Mayor Del Vecchio begins his first term as Mayor of Lambertville. (After living in town for 2 years.)

1997 Jan. David Delvecchio joins Joseph Jingoli & Son
In “Business Development” at Joseph Jingoli & Son, Inc. “JINGOLI is a nationally ranked contractor / construction manager with 95 years of experience servicing power, industrial, healthcare, gaming and educational clientele.”

https://www.linkedin.com/in/david-delvecchio-64aa9517b/
https://www.linkedin.com/company/joseph-jingoli-&-son-inc./

1998 – Ely Field/Delaware Avenue Drainage Project (pt. 1) – First Contractor starts and fails in beginning of drainage project, cannot complete a tunnel under Main Street. Work halted.

2001 – Ely Field Improvements, phase 1 to cost approx. $175,000, requires drainage, includes parking improvements.

https://archive.centraljersey.com/2001/04/18/rec-group-unveils-plans-for-ely-field/

2001 – 2002 – Ely Field/Delaware Avenue Drainage Project (pt. 2) “Contractor Carbo (sic) https://carbroconstructors.com/leadership/ awarded $4.7 MILLION to complete:

  • Delaware Ave. drainage from Ely Field to Delaware river.
  • Connaught Hill through the Delaware drain – State funds additional $300,000 to fund drainage.
  • Alexander Ave. runoff—Left to be completed: from Phillips Barber tie-in to Delaware Ave. drain.

https://archive.centraljersey.com/2002/04/17/delaware-avenue-drainage-project-nears-completion/

2004 – Referendum passes for “Open Space” tax, 2 cents for every $100 of assessed value”, for the sole purpose of preserving (acquiring) the Buchanan property behind Ely Field.

2005
February – City begins planning of Redevelopment of Connaught Hill (includes Buchanan properties).

https://archive.centraljersey.com/2005/02/23/tenants-vacant-lot-owners-concerned-about-condemnation/

June$400,000 DEP Grant goes toward $1.4 Million purchase of Buchanan property.

“The city also might be able to reduce the total to be raised by another $250,000. That’s the amount of a loan Green Acres made to the city, originally intended for improvements to Ely Field. The city now has asked permission to shift the money to the open space purchase, Mayor Del Vecchio said.”

In the meantime, Ely Field will not be left bereft of improvements. The city has received a $50,000 Livable Communities Grant from the DEP for the field’s improvements.

The funds could go toward “improved bathrooms, getting more playground equipment, a whole bunch of things,” Mayor Del Vecchio said.”

https://archive.centraljersey.com/2005/06/29/city-to-use-grant-for-land-buy/

2007 – July – 16.5 Acre Buchanan property purchased for $1.4 Million, (ONLY $575,000 from local taxpayers using “Open Space tax” after 3 “Green Acres” grants—paid for by state taxpayers et al.)

2008 – City tries to buy 1 lot of 1.082 acres at Jean Street at Music Mountain, referred to as “the McCann property”. (To be payed for by modifying the purpose of the “Open Space tax” in referendum).

https://archive.centraljersey.com/2008/03/26/city-wants-to-acquire-jean-tract/

“The point is, the last referendum was so specific it pertained only to the Buchanan property,” Mayor Del Vecchio said. “It was supposed to end when the Buchanan property was paid for.” – In other words, the Mayor changed a short-term “Open Space tax” in to a PERMANENT “Open Space Tax”, which residents continue to pay in 2021.

“The city collects about $300,000 a year from a 2-cent open space tax voters approved in 2004 for the purchase of the Buchanan property at $1.4 million.”

Lambertville voters agreed in 2008 to expand the purpose of the tax. The tax remains at 2 cents per $100 of assessed property value, but the voters approved the city’s use of the tax for maintenance of parks and open space as well as the purchase of the 1.082 acres of undeveloped land that is referred to as the McCann property.

https://archive.centraljersey.com/2009/11/11/lambertville-officials-seek-state-money-for-mccann-land-buy/

2010City plans, purchases North Union half acre lot from Allied Village Square for $200,000 using funds from City’s Open Space tax. (The tax at this time is halved to 1 cent per $100 of assessed property value, at the discretion of Council.) In a survey, residents suggest it be used as a dog park or an open space farm market, the Mayor states his preference of a public Bocci Ball Court. The unfinished site comes to be known as “Cherry Street Park”, used as a pay parking lot by the American Legion(?) during the annual Shad Festival.

https://archive.centraljersey.com/2010/08/26/question-should-city-buy-plot-2/

https://archive.centraljersey.com/2013/07/25/lambertville-north-union-project-open-space-buy-ready-to-go/

2012 – South Franklin Street Drainage Project
Lambertville city council unanimously approved borrowing $795,000 for the South Franklin Street drainage project and for improvements at Ely Field.

“The New Jersey Department of Transportation and the Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission are giving the city $170,000 and $248,365 respectively for the projects on a reimbursement basis, according to Mayor David DelVecchio.”

“The bond ordinance council approved Monday will pay for construction and materials for drainage improvements to South Franklin Street, which DelVecchio said would help drainage problems on Main Street. The city will also repair the parking lot at Ely Field and install new light poles and fixtures for the field.”

https://www.lehighvalleylive.com/hunterdon-county/express-times/2012/07/post_18.html

2004 – 2012 Lambert’s HillConveniently for someone… this hill, formerly owned by the Closson family, could be DEVELOPED because drainage issues which would have made it impossible, have been (or will be) resolved and paid for by state and local taxpayers. Considered a jackpot by Del Vecchio, because the 129 homes “provide the city with 25 percent of its real estate tax revenue”. But then the developer went bankrupt, leaving unfinished roads and sidewalks, and the City had to help BAIL them out. At what cost? Unclear.

https://www.nj.com/mercer/2011/08/residents_of_lamberts_hill_dev.html

In 2012, Del Vecchio reluctantly turned over a “performance bond” check for $147,000 to the Lambert’s Hill homeowner’s association after the development was approved by the city Planning Board. (The photo is worth seeing.)

https://archive.centraljersey.com/2012/07/26/lambertville-lamberts-hill-can-finish-needed-projects/

2013 – City Condemns, pays $750,000 for “McCann tract” , agrees to pay $750,000 for land appraised at $410,000. The “McCann property” now consists of 2 lots for a total of 6.7 acres. Controversy over condemnation, appraisal, agreed price.

https://www.nj.com/hunterdon-county-democrat/2013/04/discussion_of_condemnation_for.html

City passes ordinance to pay for McCann property. “The ordinance covers $750,000 for the appraised value of the property, plus $15,000 for fees incurred for getting the ordinance ready for the council.”

https://archive.centraljersey.com/2013/06/27/lambertville-mccann-property-to-be-kept-as-open-space/

2014 – Huge London Planetree Felled, over 200 years old, cut down to clear Center Field for Little League Baseball at Ely. To be commemorated as lumber for artists.

https://friendsofelypark.org/wp-content/uploads/The-Giving-Tree-Project.pdf

🦊 Mayor D and The City’s Unmanaged Green Can Program

Another of Mayor D’s so-called “accomplishments” – The Green Can Compost program, GREAT IDEA, which potentially brought income into the City, but instead cost the taxpayers. Once nominally in place, the program was essentially abandoned, running on auto-pilot with existing participants.

What was ignored, unmanaged, undone??

  • Promotion of and communication about the program (What was it? Half the city had no idea!!)
  • Additional applicants-The web page said people could participate, but no, you couldn’t.
  • Contamination issues – Plastic dog poop bags, cans, and bottles do not go into compost, and pedestrians kept dropping these and other items into the green cans sitting at the curb awaiting pickup.
  • Pickup schedules and non-pickup by Public Works – Was your restaurant pickup 3 days a week? 2 days? What if the truck never comes?
  • …and of course there were issues with the maintenance of the vehicle(s) used for pick-up.

—these issues were all un-budgeted and left to simmer and be solved “down the road” by the next administration. From the New Hope Gazette:

In addition to the parking concerns, there was alarming news about the city’s curbside compost program. The city lost its contract with the current compost collection company. Business administrator Alex Torpey secured a short term deal with Waste Management, so the collection on Mondays will remain uninterrupted.

Fahl asked Torpey to detail why the contract was terminated and Torpey said, “In our compost stream, there was a lot of material that can’t be in the compost, some actually that can’t be in the regular trash which included things like bleach containers, broken glass, a coffee pot, metal forks, a bag of ice melt … which ended up seeping into the entire load and contaminating everything.” The city has since posted photos to their Facebook page.

Torpey mentioned this, along with the market for regular recycling, as a “wake up call,” and indicated the city is in conversation with other municipalities and farms and hoped that a permanent solution could be “really local,” mentioning that Princeton borough’s composting initiative had trucks hauling compost all the way to Delaware.

— Read on www.newhopefreepress.com/2019/06/21/parking-concerns-dominate-lambertville-june-governing-body-meeting/

Think long and hard before you put another fox back into the henhouse. A mayor of 27 years doesn’t need another chance to show us what he can do. We have some notion of what he can do. If you don’t, read about it. The truth is out there.

—Christo

Lambertville City Meeting to Vote on Closson Preservation Project?

🌎 The CITY is supposed to vote on Thursday March 25th at a 6pm meeting, on whether to buy the Closson Property or let it to be DEVELOPED. Council Persons Stegman and Benedetta are rumored to be voting AGAINST buying the property, in spite of huge community support for the purchase revealed in a survey from the Community Advisory Team <https://www.lambertvillenj.org/cat >. (Why are they against it, if true? Is it just to undercut Mayor Fahl? They campaigned to “stop over development”—on that issue a timely Closson purchase is a no-brainer!)

The increasingly mis-named “Lambertville United” “watchdog and First Amendment group”—which during the last City Council election functioned as a mouthpiece for Stegman and the previous regime—has posted an opposing opinion in an unsigned letter from a “concerned citizen”. <https://lambertvilleunited.org/ >

LU posts lots of “information” from behind a curtain of anonymity, no names attached, so you can’t challenge assumptions, statements, innuendo, or blatant lies, or engage in conversation with a real person, or ascertain if the “author” has any qualifications at all. Anonymity has been their modus operandi from the very beginning, but now they claim it is to protect their members from threats and harassment 😐, and “property damage”. <https://lambertvilleunited.org/resident-comments >

Small town drama is so entertaining!

Please try to attend the Zoom meeting (see below). If only to see who votes for what! If you want to make comments at the meeting, you will be expected to provide your name to the public. Duh.

Peace Out

— Christo

Description

You are invited to a Zoom webinar.
When: Mar 25, 2021 06:00 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)
Topic: 03-25-2021 Special Session

Please click the link below to join the webinar:
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/86263773745
Or iPhone one-tap :
US: +19292056099,,86263773745# or +13017158592,,86263773745#
Or Telephone:
Dial(for higher quality, dial a number based on your current location):
US: +1 929 205 6099 or +1 301 715 8592 or +1 312 626 6799 or +1 669 900 6833 or +1 253 215 8782 or +1 346 248 7799
Webinar ID: 862 6377 3745
International numbers available: https://us02web.zoom.us/u/kToY5f7wF

See related post— https://christoplummer.com/2020/11/23/🙄-making-lambertville-better-stopping-over-development-are-only-acceptable-if-achieved-by-lu-former-incoming-councilman-stegman/

🙄 “Making Lambertville Better” & “Stopping Over-Development” are only Acceptable if Achieved by LU & Former/Incoming Councilman Stegman

LU’s Supposed “Survey” about Closson Farm Leads you to Oppose It

Lambertville Mayor Julia Fahl, proposes that the City purchase the Closson Property and protect it before it becomes another tract of houses and condos on one of the last remaining open spaces in Lambertville. Her proposal includes purchase using existing funds and partners to limit the taxpayer cost to .63/household/year. (That’s cents.) Housing conversion estimates of the idyllic and historic farm vary from 12 units (current zoning) to 28 units (with variances). The property is currently on the market and could be purchased by a developer at any time. (See the City’s FAQ.)

Self-proclaimed “watchdog group” and 1st Amendment advocates “Lambertville United” apparently think this is a bad ideaespecially if it is done before former Council Person Steve Stegman returns to his seat on the Council. Stegman you may recall, after many years on Council, and serving as Council President, resigned “to spend more time with his family” when the Fahl administration’s budget work revealed years of mismanagement, incompetence, and hidden costs in City budgets resulting in a crushing debt burden for at least the next ten years. (Many details available on the City web site.) With the endorsement and support of LU, Stegman, and his conveniently-named running mate, Benedetta Lambert, won election, returning the fox to the henhouse starting in 2021.

In mid-November, the “watchdog group” distributed a “survey” requesting feedback on “the Mayor’s Closson Farm” proposal.

I have screenshotted the entire survey (LU Closson Survey Questions) if you would rather not subject yourself to the trackers associated with it.

As in previous “surveys” from the Stegman, er, LU group, the very leading questions are intended to rile and misinform people about an issue, as opposed to actually getting feedback. Please read the City’s FAQ first.

For example the first real question in the survey begins with:

“In the past, all City of Lambertville purchases blah, blah were put to a vote through public referendum…”

REALLY? ALL? IS THAT TRUE? I’m not sure that is really true. Are we talking about the hills above Ely Field? Maybe this just doesn’t seem right due to the way it is phrased, because:

“Voters in November 2008 approved, by almost a 3-1 margin, extending the city’s open space tax, in part to purchase the McCann tract.”—NJ.com, (see link following)

BUT that referendum was not specifically on the purchase of the tract, it was about extending the tax.

The City condemned the hillside above Ely field, so technically the City didn’t purchase it, the city was obligated to pay market value, and you might recall there was a big controversy because the City paid way more than market value…another of Dave and Steve’s expensive adventures requiring a Google search to reveal the details: <https://www.nj.com/hunterdon-county-democrat/2013/04/discussion_of_condemnation_for.html>

But was there a referendum about every other purchase?

Nevertheless, the “survey” doesn’t let me say, “You idiots, the Clossons aren’t going to wait for your stupid referendum, time is clearly of the essence!”

And the next question leads with assuming higher taxes, bonds, and debt, and uses the term “redevelopment” without mentioning “open space” or “historic preservation” or even suggesting that there are some creative options for buying the property. (Again, I suggest you read the FAQ—the truth is out there.)

Someone needs to ask LU to be honest about what they really want, because when you offer them something that—based on their anonymous public statements, press releases, and lawn signs all over town—it seems we all could agree on, their concerns appear to be way more about personalities than issues or facts. It would be good to get clear on that.

But, uh, oh yeah, they don’t have any names on their web site. You can’t actually talk to anyone from LU. They’re not a public non-profit. They’re a secret society. Darn.

If you’d like to participate in the City’s public discussion of the topic, where speakers are required to reveal their identities, the meeting is Monday evening…

https://www.lambertvillenj.org/component/dpcalendar/event/2011

Peace out,

— Christo

Life in the Age of Covid – Friday August 14, 2020

Friday August 14, 2020 11:38 am

“This rotten time wouldn’t seem so bad to me now. If I didn’t die, I should be satisfied, I survived. It’s good enough for now.”— “Sky Blue Sky”, Wilco

Winding down the summer of 2020. It’s 86 degrees in Western Central New Jersey with 98% humidity—that’s pretty swampy weather, even though it’s cooler by 5 degrees than most days for the last few weeks. I’m listening to the Goldfinches chirp as they fly overhead in between feeder stops. A Kingfisher chatters his way north up the river, while the nattering Nuthatches explore the walnut tree from every angle—upside down, sideways—jerkily walking the bark in three dimensions without hesitation or fear of gravity. They do sidestep the big yellow wasps, who have a nest in a hole in the tree. While one guards the entrance, wings buzzing incessantly, the others come and go quickly with a sense of purpose.

Too late to go for a cool morning ride.

We’re six plus months into this Covid thing. I haven’t been to GIANT market, where I now appreciate leisurely strolling, relaxed, picking through the corn chips, looking for the healthy ones, and trying to find the sliced wild salmon with no sugar or flavorings. In all this time I haven’t returned to the gym where I taught T’ai Chi—not since that last Saturday morning, right before lockdown, when only four students showed. I haven’t met my friend Pendar for dinner at Bell’s Tavern, a habit we’ve maintained for over thirty years. No tuna sub from Valpariso’s for lunch on work days. I have bought a few dozen bagels from Hee San at Bagel Delite, had a few TLT Sandwiches from Jess’s Juice Bar, sushi from Ota Ya, and the grilled chicken pesto panini at Liv and Charlies, all from curb-side pickup of course, no sit-down restaurant meals anywhere. Not happening. I miss the social ease of dropping into Rojo’s coffee shop and reading at a table, or treating myself to cookie-dough ice cream at Oh Wow Cow.

I wear a mask whenever I go out, and ALL DAY at work – and a bandana when I ride my bike. I used to say I did it to set a good example, which is still true, but I really do it because it’s the right thing to do. I don’t need to hear or make any arguments about it. My mom was an O.R. nurse. I know intuitively this is the right thing. I get pissed at people who don’t wear masks – including my neighbors with their small children. But I don’t say anything. When someone sneers some comment at me for wearing a mask, I resist the urge to shove them into the canal, where they belong. And to be fair, I have recently witnessed my neighbors and children rolling the downtown sidewalks, all masked. Not consistently, but at least around town.

This is serious business, and most of us will get through it – eventually – and some won’t.

Do what you need to stay sane and healthy, be excellent to one another, and for God’s sake, vote and vote early!

— Christo

Ready or Not

Friday, March 15, 2019
Work continues on clearing the rails for the Lambertville Tourist Train. No estimates on actual arrival of an engine with cars. Maybe they want to have one on display in time for Shad Fest? But maybe the crumbling canal walls and collapsing roadbed should be shored up first?


“You call it progress. I call it destruction.”— Comment of an anonymous five-year-old on watching the take-down of large tree.


 “They took all the trees and put ’em in a tree museum…”

—🚕 “Big Yellow Taxi“, Joni Mitchell

PEACE OUT

— Christo

Tree Stump Gallery #1

Photos of Delaware Canal Tree Clearing in Lambertville, New Jersey 2018-2019

“Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone?”
— 🚕 “
Big Yellow Taxi“, Joni Mitchell

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


No, this has nothing to do with the “Emerald Ash Borer”. For information about this Tree and Brush Clearing Project go here.


Tree Stump Gallery #1 — 53 Photos

 

 

Peace Out…

— Christo

Authorities say Canal-side Brush and Tree Clearing in Lambertville is NOT for the Railroad, but…

Tree Stumps and Survivor Guilt on the Canal Path-011🚂 Looks Like, But is Not the Railroad—In a short section of the Delaware and Raritan Canal in Lambertville, between Coryell Street and the empty River Horse Brewery, sixty to one hundred trees, some apparently close to fifty years old, were converted to wood chips and sawdust in a matter of days. Was this part of the initiative to preemptively strike at the Emerald Ash Borer beetle? Nope, most of those trees were felled already, their trunks can be seen lining the canal path between Lambertville and FrenchTown.

And it wasn’t just the trees—shrubs, vines, weeds, saplings, and pretty much any other living thing was scraped clean from the railroad tracks to the canal bank (See photos.) So what was this all about?

Ask just about anyone in Lambertville familiar with the situation and they’ll tell you, “It’s the railroad!” To many surprised residents the recent tree and brush clearing appeared to be an effort to clear the overgrown and unused railroad tracks for the “Tourist Train” proposed by Black River and Western Railroad. BRWR hopes to run on weekends behind Clinton Street, over the “Nifti” Bridge behind Rojo’s Roastery and the Roxy Ballet Studio, passing over Alexauken Creek and proceeding to Ringoes and Flemington and back.

Despite appearances, according to several authorities, officially, the clearing work is unrelated to the railroad.

Why so much confusion? No signs, no notices—Work began abruptly in December of 2018 with no apparent advance notice provided to residents or local businesses, nor to the officials of the City of Lambertville. No signs were posted on the canal path. Similar work had been performed some years ago closer to Bridge Street, but the recent work was more “thorough”— or drastic, depending on your perspective—this time only a few trees were allowed to remain.

Concerned citizens contacted Lambertville City authorities, discovered that they had no information about the project, and were referred to the Delaware & Raritan Canal Commission.

Delaware & Raritan Canal Commission Executive Director, John Hutchison, explained “the project is being undertaken by the NJ Water Supply Authority pursuant to the 1986 lease agreement with the State” for the purpose of clearing the canal and maintaining the water flow. He explained, “Jurisdiction over the D&R Canal is somewhat complex…”

“I hope this information is useful.  If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.  Also, the Commission meets monthly to review project applications and our meetings always include a public comment portion.  The Commission meets the third Wednesday of the month at 10:00 a.m. in the Prallsville Mill Complex in Stockton.” — John Hutchison, Executive Director D&R Canal Commission


D&R Canal State Park Superintendent Patricia Kallesser met one Lambertville resident and explained that this ongoing work of the NJWSA had to do with maintaining the water flow in the canal and upkeep of the historical (stone wall) structures. When asked about the lack of communication, she explained that the NJWSA web site maintained a FAQ about it on their web site.


The New Jersey Water Supply Authority at this writing does not list the Lambertville work on its “Public Notices”, but it is explained on their “Maintenance Along the D&R Canal FAQ”.

I emailed the NJWSA (to the “Info” mailbox, as no name was available on the site):

From: Christopher Plummer
Sent: Tuesday, January 1, 2019 10:54 AM
To: info
Subject: Please consider local interests w/Canal Brush and Tree Clearing in and around Lambertville

Dear NJ Water Services Authority,

I, and other residents, merchants, and “canal walkers” were very surprised by the recent clearing of over 100 trees, some large, 20-30 years old, and the “buzz cutting” of brush and shrubs from the railroad tracks to the edge of the canal starting near Finkel’s Hardware on Coryell Street and moving North on the West side of the canal. This work adversely impacted:

  • Bird and animal life and habitat prized by many residents, businesses, and tourists.
  • Local Visual aesthetics, exposing parking lots and warehouses that were screened by foliage, leaving a trail of tree stumps and giving that section of the canal an industrial appearance that had previously been “natural”.
  • Noise – the elimination of trees and shrubs that provided an acoustic buffer to the noise from the river recreation, roads, and New Hope.

<snip>

May I suggest in the future:

  1. Inform the public with accurate information about the purpose, scope, schedule, and likely impact of the work by posting signs on the canal path and in local papers, and phone calls to local officials.
  2. Provide time and a means for those concerned to give feedback before the work is started.
  3. Please give some weight and consideration to those concerns and find a balance between the preservation of historical structures and the preservation of current flora and wildlife habitat.

Thank you for your consideration, and best wishes for the New Year.

Sincerely,

Christopher Plummer

The NJWSA provided a response (below) to my query:
From: info <info@njwsa.org>
Subject: RE: Please consider local interests w/Canal Brush and Tree Clearing in and around Lambertville
Date: January 18, 2019 at 11:24:00 AM EST
To: ‘Christopher Plummer’
Dear Mr. Plummer,

Thank you for your concerned email and our apologies for the delay in response.  And thank you for your suggestions on future public notification, which we will certainly take under advisement.

As you know, the Authority’s mission is to maintain a flow of water through the Canal to provide raw water supply for our customers.  Our Canal maintenance crews and engineers need to “see” the embankment.  Seeing the embankment often helps us to prevent damage to the embankment that may develop from tree roots or animal burrows which can lead to seepage paths or from damage when the trees fall and their root balls remove sections of the embankment.  The Authority’s needs to see the embankment are constantly balanced with the wants and needs of Canal park walkers, joggers, bikers, nature enthusiasts, fishermen, historians, neighbors, and others [My emphasis—Christo] , all of whom may have a different idea of what maintenance should look like on the 60 plus mile Canal.   We tried to provide an understanding of our work in the FAQ’s that were recently posted on the website.

 

For the upcoming winter work on the Canal in Lambertville, crews may begin again as early as the week of January 21, 2019.  The exact schedule for the winter maintenance is weather dependent, and subject to equipment and personnel availability, and will include the following (in no particular order):
  1. Thin-out the underbrush and small trees on the western bank and in and on the stone wall between Coryell Street and Bridge Street.
  2. Clearing the vegetation from the Lambertville lock walls.
  3. Felling three Ash trees from the east side of the Canal, upstream of the Lambertville Lock.
  4. Removing the trees growing from the stone wall, on the river side of the embankment, from the wing dam (in the River) and downstream.
Items #1 thru #3 should only take several days each and should be completed this winter.
Item #4 will take quite a bit of time and will most likely occur over several years depending on other emergent items that need to be addressed and may stop and restart within the same year.
Feel free to share this information with other concerned residents.
(No sender name identified)

I Guess that was the Public Notice. I forwarded a copy to the City of Lambertville. I haven’t seen any new notices or additional information about the canal work. Have you? The NJWSA is apparently continuing their work up the south end of town as described in the email.

Local railroad supporters on Facebook are urging residents not to “listen to rumors” and espousing the wonders of bringing the iron horse, full of tourists, to Lambertville to reinvigorate our little town.

🚂 Meanwhile if it quacks like a duck…  At the North end of town small crews and individuals with mowers and chainsaws are clearing the railroad tracks. They make no pretense about working for the Water Authority.

Feb. 26, 2019 Tuesday – Today NJWRA trucks and teams are clearing the rails and canal, between Coryell and Bridge, chipping as they go.

Eagles check nesting options
—By the way, the empty nest this late in the season suggests that Bald Eagles will not be nesting on the power tower over Alexauken Creek this year. In 2017 they raised three fledglings at the site, not far from the “Nifti” Railroad Bridge and abandoned rail car at the north end of the trail in Lambertville.


Residents who wish to communicate their concerns about the destruction of wildlife habitat, the need for trees and brush as a visual screen and natural noise buffer, and other concerns are urged to contact any or all of the individuals and organizations below:

 

The City of Lambertville
Mayor Julia Fahl
City Hall
18 York Street
Lambertville, NJ  08530
Telephone:  609.397.0110
 “Ask the Mayor”


John Hutchison
Executive Director
Delaware & Raritan Canal Commission
609-397-2000

John.hutchison@dep.nj.gov


Clinton Administration Building
1851 State Route 31
P.O. Box 5196
Clinton, NJ 08809
P: (908) 638-6121
F: (908) 638-5241

info@njwsa.org


Patricia Kallesser 
Park Superintendent 
145 Mapleton Road
Princeton, NJ 08540
Phone: 609.924.5705

Peace Out
— Christo

“Time for Little Gas Crisis…”

Leak Pressures Consumers as Local Pipeline Oppositions Build

The Colonial Pipeline sprung a leak, spewing gasoline, causing long lines at gas stations and price increases at the pump from the Southeast to the East Coast for over a week. The leak also provided the petroleum industry an opportunity to emphasize how important pipelines are to keeping gas in your tank and prices down. And darn it, we need those pipelines, and new ones too, and those pesky “protestors” are in the way!!


“You certainly can’t build any new infrastructure, because people are protesting against it,” said Barbara Shook, a senior reporter for Energy Intelligence.

She said attitudes toward pipelines in general could be affecting energy resilience.  

“A lot of our infrastructure is old, and getting it repaired is difficult because you have so many protestors who just want us to abandon all our infrastructure,” Shook said. “I guess we’re supposed to walk from Texas to New York now.”

—Marketplace, Sustainability Desk, A Single Pipeline Leak Slows the Southeast , September 19, 2016


Thanks American Public Media “Marketplace” for this ridiculous statement of oil industry propaganda. Could you guys at least try to remember that old concept of  “journalism” or “media responsibility”?  Would it be that difficult to just ask, “Does it make sense to use the term ‘energy resilience’ when talking about fossil fuels?” Or, “Can you provide details about protestors preventing the repair of existing infrastructure?” But no, just broadcast it verbatim. Sheesh.

Why not cover the real story? The petroleum industry is making a last ditch land-grab to connect a national pipeline network. The network, if completed,  will allow them to move, market, and export petroleum products—including fracked natural gas—which is too expensive to export with existing means (refer to Marketplace’s own pipeline promoting stories about petroleum in rail cars, safety, fires, explosions etc.) If they can get away with it, the corporations rely on “eminent domain” to trample the rights, property, regulations, and natural preserves of individuals and states that would otherwise never allow it. We’ve all heard now about the Dakota Access Pipeline and the Standing Rock Sioux water protectors. What is less known, similar pipeline battles are occurring elsewhere in the US, including the controversial “Penn East Pipeline” in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

So, how fortuitous for a price-bumping gas pipeline leak to affect so many people and garner press attention right as the Dakota Access Pipeline is on the front page of most news outlets! Seriously? Doesn’t this sound even the least bit like a Chris Christie “Bridgegate” job?

“Time for a little gas crisis!”

#StopPennEast

#NoDAPL

—Christo

These links open in a new window:
Oil Train Traffic is Down – for Market Reasons
Will the latest oil-train fire make people rethink anything?

 

 

What’s it going to be #Lambertville? 🐥Ducks in the streams? Or PIPELINE? #StopPennEast NOW!

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Find out more!! (Opens in a new tab) – thecostofthepipeline.com