What Are Your Rights When It Comes to Nearby Construction?

Spring is near, and for many that means it’s time to gear up for construction season. But with unseasonably warm weather in many parts of the country, it appears development is already well under way.

Image result for What Are Your Rights When It Comes to Nearby Construction?In January, building permits were issued for nearly 1.3 million privately owned housing units in the U.S., an increase of more than 8 percent compared to January 2016, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Whether you live in a downtown area experiencing significant new development of condominium and apartment buildings or in a suburb seeing expansion as more homeowners seek less-expensive property, construction near your home can be a headache.

From early-morning drilling to blocked sidewalks and street lanes, many residents are inconvenienced by construction projects that can last many months, and the growing volume of those projects are cause for ongoing suffering.

Most state and city laws specify that residents have a right to quiet enjoyment of their home, which includes limiting excessive noise from nearby properties under construction.

Construction in Your Building

If you rent and construction is going on elsewhere in your apartment building, excessive noise disrupting your work or relaxation time can feel a little more personal. This kind of disturbance should be taken up with your landlord, who is likely the one who approved the work.

Inquire with your landlord about the duration and expected noise level – whether it’s a single apartment unit renovation, building expansion or heavy-duty maintenance. If it’s a project expected to have intermittent hammering or periodic drilling, you’ll likely have to deal with it, explains Brenda Konkel, executive director of the Tenant Resource Center inMadison, Wisconsin.

“It’s going to be hard to argue that’s a problem,” Konkel says. “But if they’re running equipment that makes a lot of noise all day long, and for more than one day and maybe even past business hours, then it’s going to be a completely different situation.”

The best course of action is to try to work with your landlord to reduce your inconvenience while still completing the construction. If you work from home and live in a large building, it’s possible the landlord can offer you use of a vacant apartment or business center away from the construction during your work hours. Another option is the landlord notifying residents precisely when excess noise is expected.

If the building work makes it impossible for you to continue living there, you could pursue a constructive eviction, which means the landlord has been unable to fulfill your right to quiet enjoyment, effectively ending your lease.

But a constructive eviction is a process, Konkel stresses, and you can’t simply move out and stop paying rent. “The landlord has to be given a reasonable amount of time to try and fix it,” she says. If your landlord disagrees with the constructive eviction claim, you may have to argue your case before a judge, who will determine whether you owe money for the remainder of the lease.

Neighborhood Construction

In many cases, city ordinances identify specific decibel levels for various times of day. Any noise that exceeds the designated decibel level is considered a nuisance to the surrounding community.

Construction equipment like a jackhammer or pile driver can easily violate this level, and as a result must be permitted for use with the city so local officials are aware when construction noise will be excessive.

Unfortunately, nearby residents aren’t always notified of permitted loud work going on, even if it’s after normal working hours, which often extend from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. but vary based on local ordinances and are shortened on weekends. When you are bothered with excessive noise, document it by filing a formal complaint with the city. This way, any unpermitted noise can be investigated, while you may also get further details about how long any permitted noise is expected to last.

Who Do You Call?

Many U.S. cities keep noise complaints under the jurisdiction of the police department and recommend residents call the local precinct’s nonemergency line to file a complaint, as you would if your neighbor were having a loud party. Local government websites often provide details on how to file a formal complaint.

The New York City government, for example, has streamlined the construction noise-complaint process by creating online forms to report the location of the noise and time. Separate forms allow you to report after-hours construction, construction during permitted hours that’s too loud and noisy jackhammers, which require additional permitting to be used in the city. These same complaints can also be reported by calling the city’s nonemergency reporting number, 311.

Boston handles the noise-complaint process differently. The city delegates complaints about construction sites and equipment noise to the Boston Air Pollution Control Commission and lists construction sites with approved after-hours work permits on itswebsite.

When It’s Not Just Noise

Construction near your home isn’t always just a noise issue, as a nearby worksite can mean blocked sidewalks, damaged roads and even structural damage to your home. Heavy-duty work can cause vibrations in the ground strong enough to damage your property. John Zeigler holds a doctorate in organic chemistry and is the author of “The Construction Vibration Damage Guide for Homeowners,” which serves as a guide to consumers for identifying vibration damage from nearby construction, how to document it and properly filing an insurance claim.

Vibration damage can appear in the form of cracks on concrete patios, slab floors, door or window frames and in the corner of a room, according to Zeigler. He has reports on over 500 different construction projects homeowners believe have caused vibration-related damage to their homes.

“In most U.S. locales, insurers routinely deny coverage under homeowner’s policies by invoking ‘earth movement’ exclusion originally intended for earthquake damage,” Zeigler says.

You’ll likely need to work with an attorney to pursue a claim against either a private developer or the local government – depending on which is funding the construction – especially if the damage is estimated over $10,000.

As with simple noise complaints, Zeigler stresses the importance of documenting the problem with dated photographs, reports from structural experts and any correspondence you have with the city or a developer. You’ll want to keep track of the damage itself and equipment and procedures used at the nearby construction site, as well as use a seismograph to monitor vibrations. Otherwise, he says, “any damage claim is virtually certain to be denied.”

7 Spring Home Fixes to Get on Top of Now

It’s now officially spring, and that means it’s time to do some deep cleaning around your house.

Image result for 7 Spring Home Fixes to Get on Top of NowAs warmer weather creeps back into your life, be ready to scrub away the remnants of sidewalk salt left behind from winter, throw away items you don’t need and assess what needs repair in your home.

“It’s always good to do a really thorough walk-around of the house and just check everything,” says Carrie Bonney, director of public relations for Farmers Insurance.

Common spring weather patterns – from end-of-winter deep freezes to frequent rain storms, high winds, hail and tornadoes – can cause significant damage to your home. Farmers Insurance compiled historic data for insurance claims from homeowners in different parts of the country and found 60 percent of claims in the south central U.S. were related to hail between March and May. During the same period, the Southwest saw 41 percent of claims relating to water damage, while New England homeowners filed the most claims (32 percent) caused by ice dams and other snow or ice damage.

As you shift into spring cleaning mode, ensure your home is ready to take on the next round of difficult weather conditions. But don’t stop at the exterior; maintain appliancesand internal systems to get your home through spring, as well as summer and next fall.

The biggest question on many homeowners’ minds when it comes to routine maintenance and repairs is whether to call a professional – and all too often that question serves as an excuse to put off maintenance altogether.

A simple rule of thumb for tinkering around: If you have to deal with anything electrical, it’s best to bring in a pro, says Chris Granger, vice president and general manager for Sears Home Services. Granger says this is especially true when it comes to appliances connected to plumbing. “When I have water and electricity together, I call a professional,” he adds.

Here are seven repairs to get on top of this spring.

The roof. The roof over your head often takes the most abuse from the weather in winter and spring – from snow and ice to downpours and wind gusts. Once the snow and ice are gone, take a close look at your roof and note where you see loose shingles or cracks.

Knowing you’ll need your roof to be in top shape to keep out potential water damage from future rainstorms makes spring “a really good time for them to get up and look,” Bonney says.

The gutters and drains. Being the proactive homeowner you are, the gutters were likely cleared of leaves and debris in the fall, but now is the perfect time to make sure there’s nothing there to block water flowing away from the side of the house.

Bonney says you should also consider adding French drains to your property. The drains are a trench with gravel or rock that runs along areas that see a buildup of surface water and will help lead water away from your foundation and toward the street. “That’s something that will actually divert the water away from your house,” she says.

External vents. The next thing to look at would be vents that lead outside, which connect to your heating and cooling systems, dryer and more. A damaged or missing vent cap could allow birds or rodents in, clogging the vent and potentially releasing toxins into your home.

Dave Lavalle, founder of Dryer Vent Wizard, a national service based in Farmington Hills, Michigan, says the first warm weeks of spring send many birds into dryer vents looking for an ideal nesting spot, particularly when fruit trees begin blooming.

“That’s the time when birds are going to immediately want to nest. Couple that with some nice weather, and within a day or two things can change dramatically,” Lavalle says.

You can buy a kit to clean the dryer vent from major stores such as Home Depot and Lowe’s, Lavalle says, but suit up with protective gear, including a full respirator, to avoid breathing in bacteria and other toxins common in bird’s nests. When in doubt, call a pro.

The windows. As you do some of your simpler household spring cleaning, take a close look at window glass and casing, keeping an eye out for any cracks or gaps. You want to be sure all windows are properly sealed in anticipation of heavy rainstorms.

The HVAC. Aside from its ability to properly expel exhaust, you should always make sure your heating, ventilating and air conditioning system is functioning properly. Clean or change filters regularly, and if you didn’t have a routine check done on the system in the fall, do so now.

Granger recommends calling a pro especially if you’re planning to put your home on the market this season. Since the HVAC is an expensive system to replace, it’s a major part of a home inspection. A malfunctioning HVAC could cause problems with a pending deal.

“Have a preventative maintenance check done on it to make sure the area around it isn’t filled up with junk,” Granger says.

The refrigerator. A deep clean of the kitchen is almost certainly in order as part of your spring cleaning to-do list, so don’t forget about the refrigerator coils, which are located either at the back of your fridge or beneath it, accessible by removing the panel below the door.

“If they’re not clean, the refrigerator has to work harder to cool,” Granger says, noting pet hair, food and other dirt collects down there and is neglected by quick sweeps of the kitchen. Simply use the handheld hose on your vacuum to clear the coils – but take the time to do this more often, not just during spring cleaning.

The washer and dryer. Wipe out your washing machine and dryer in your laundry room, as laundry detergent, residue from dryer sheets and fabric softener can build up in the drum, detergent dispenser or lint trap and reduce the appliance’s effectiveness.

When you do notice a problem – a dryer that has suddenly stopped drying clothes fully, for example – check first for other issues. “Most often the consumer assumes the dryer is either broken or that [it’s old],” Lavalle says of a bird’s nest clogging a dryer vent. Before you replace the washer or dryer, give the appliance a thorough cleaning and check that other factors aren’t the cause of the problem.

Need a Room Painted? This New Startup Wants to Streamline the Whole Process.

The Internet has solved many of life’s little headaches. With a couple of swipes of your finger, you can order your groceries to your doorstep, find a doctor who can see you immediately, rent an apartment halfway around the globe or hitch a ride in a stranger’s car.

And today, with the official launch of New York City-based PaintZen, you can now order a painter to come to your home or office and paint your walls for you. Rejoice!

The service gives people an instant online quote, helps them pick their paint colors and secure any building insurance and then sends a team of qualified painters (with paint, supplies and equipment) on a date and time of the user’s choosing.

Need a Room Painted? This New Startup Wants to Streamline the Whole Process.

The idea is to take the hassle of what’s often a daunting process. Sure, you may be able to manage to paint a room yourself. But, first you have to lug paint and painting supplies to your home (no small task for city dwellers who live sans car) and then you have to spend your weekend on a ladder, covered in paint. In many cases, what actually happens is your living room never gets painted.

Real-estate mogul and Shark Tank investor Barbara Corcoran agrees. She is one of the investors who participated in PaintZen’s $1.8 million seed round, announced today.

The company, which painted 4,000 rooms in its testing phase, is launching only in New York City and San Francisco, though CEO and co-founder Michael Russell wants to eventually expand the service nationally.

All of the painters who work with PaintZen — called “Paintmasters” — have a minimum of five years of interior painting experience. Also, they are reference checked and insured. You can be at your home — or not — when they come. Paintmasters will spackle the cracks and holes in your walls. One drag: you have to move all the furniture in the space you want painted to the middle of the room. (Soon there will be an app for that, too. One can hope.)

In an age when you can order a manicurist to come to you with the click of a button and give you a fresh pedicure, it’s about time there is a way to order a paint job for your bedroom.

With HomeLane, upgrade house to your dream home

So, are you planning to transform your house into your dream home? And for that you need to call carpenter 100 times a day and further rely on the interior designers. Veteran entrepreneur Srikanth Iyer and four of his friends went through the same hassle of dealing with carpenters, suppliers and interior designers to get their home furnished which ended up in giving them a harrowing experience. Together with his friends, he chalked out a way to simplify the process, cut down costs and provide with an efficient and specialized interiors solution to home-builders by establishing his own venture– ‘HomeLane’.

“Dealing with this completely unorganized market was very troublesome for me and that’s where I saw a scope to organize a segment, which was completely chaotic and it comprised carpenters and brick-and-mortar furniture stores which is hugely labour-intensive, with overall delivery and quality standards being poor, and timelines were hardly met in most cases. That’s how the idea to start-up HomeLane kicked in,” said Srikanth Iyer, Co-founder, HomeLane.

HomeLane is an organized tech-based solution for semi-furnishing market in India. Following a hybrid model, a startup guarantees home owners, asset-light furnishing solutions which rely on technology and lean manufacturing with customizable, home setup solutions including kitchens, wardrobes and entertainment units.

 Being a team of over 200 employees, startup enables its customers to choose the designs, fixtures and customized fittings online, which are delivered by HomeLane’s operations team. It further offers its customers an industry-first 45-day delivery guarantee. Further, HomeLane has recently launched a VR-based device called Kaleido which enables users to envision different looks for kitchens, bedrooms and living rooms in real time, thus helping them make an informed home decor choice.

Currently operating in Bengaluru, Pune, Chennai, Hyderabad, Mumbai and Kochi, the startup aims to expand to other metros and to tier II and III cities shortly. The venture aims to become one-stop solution for all home-furnishing needs and design consultation. “While our core business will be to offer customized fixed furnishings, because of the huge demand in the market we have also ventured into additional home design services like furniture, lightings and more. However, we don’t provide home to these additional services as a stand-alone offering,” said Iyer.

Currently, closing orders worth $1million a month, the startup expects it to grow to $5 million in the next six months.

In conversation with Entrepreneur India, Iyer talks about his entrepreneurial journey and what are his plans for the future growth.

Specify your professional background and how it helped in your venture?

Previous to HomeLane, I founded two startups in the ed-tech space, Edurite and Diksha Technologies. Later, TutorVista acquired Edurite and I joined TutorVista as its CEO. When Pearson made its foray into India, they acquired TutorVista and I joined Pearson as their India CEO.

However, I thrive on being a startup person as I have been an entrepreneur for most of my professional journey; hence, the decision to structure a startup was not difficult but the obvious choice.

What challenges did you face while taking your product to the market?

With HomeLane, we wanted to make home furnishing a seamless and enjoyable experience. The whole concept of furnishing homes with complete transparency and more importantly in a timely manner with quality products and quality service was a welcome change for new homeowners. Consequently, we found great market acceptance right from the start.

Other companies dealing in your space are acquiring certain apps or a venture. Do elaborate on that as well.

In June this year, we launched our tech-based VR offering, HomeLaneKaleido, which is a décor-envisioning tool. The Kaleido is an important part of HomeLane’s ‘showroom in a box’ philosophy. By using this, Google Cardboard powered immersive device along with other tools, the company is trying to bring the emporium to the buyer’s doorstep; thus bridging the gap between imagination and reality.

At HomeLane, we are making constant endeavors to strengthen our home visualization offerings and to take another step forward in this direction. We recently acquired a virtual home-décor platform Doowup, a tech-start-up and its expertise lies in defining the future of retail consumer experience through disruptive visualization technology.

This acquisition, therefore, will significantly boost HomeLane’s technology play for life-like home illustrations. This is definitely a step further to HomeLane’s fundamental goal to make dream home furnishing an enjoyably simple and time-efficient experience for all new homebuyers.

Do you think acquisition is one of the fastest ways to scale operations?

I believe acquisitions are good only when they are done to further the strategic objectives of the business. One must ensure the two companies complement each other’s capabilities and also find a great cultural fit in each other.

How HomeLane is different from other companies catering in the same sector?

At HomeLane, we are solving the interior design problem with technology. We promise transparency, timeliness and quality execution and we stand by it. Most middle-class customers cannot afford to hire a bonafide interior designer for furnishing their homes. HomeLane is bringing access to interior designers to this segment for the first time.

A customer will choose HomeLane to get a high-quality modular kitchen, a wardrobe, an entertainment wall unit (or any other fixed furniture) designed, made and installed at her home within 45 days of ordering. If the delivery is not made in 45 days, HomeLane would pay the rent.

Sector Overview

If we look at the figures, organized tech-based solution for semi-furnishing market in India is pegged to be close to $10 billion in market size in 2015. Sensing the opportunity, startups like LivSapce, Urbanladder, FabFurnish, PepperFry and many more have started entering into this space.

Decorate With Intention: Let Your House Help You De-Stress

With the light waning earlier each evening as I write this in early November, it’s natural to be craving more downtime. After the seemingly endless shopping, working and errand running, it’s a relief to come home and finally rest up — but when we slip into that all-too-familiar routine of screen time and snacks right up until bed, our bodies and minds don’t have a chance to fully recharge. By setting up your space with care and establishing a few simple new routines, you can choose to replenish your energy instead. Take these 12 tips to heart and add your own favorite ways to undo stress in the Comments section.

1. Tend to green plants and fresh flowers. Living plants add fresh oxygen to the air and remove toxins, which is especially important for our homes in fall and winter, when we open our windows less often. But beyond plants’ air-purifying effect, the act of tending to living plants or arranging cut flowers is a wonderful way to let go of stress.

Decorate With Intention: Let Your House Help You De-Stress

2. Do something that recharges you beforeturning on the TV. If you are having trouble cutting back on a TV-watching habit, try this instead: Tell yourself that you are free to watch as much TV as you want, but first you must do something unplugged. Make a list of little treat activities you never seem to find the time for and pick one of them to try each night.
 3. Engage your senses.Create a haven for your senses with a fluffy rug and luscious textiles, beautiful music, favorite art and photography books, and a delicious room fragrance. Close your laptop, shut off the TV and allow yourself the simple pleasure of delighting your senses.

Decorate With Intention: Let Your House Help You De-Stress

4. Lower the lights before bed. Artificial light can throw off our natural sleep rhythms, especially at this time of year. Try getting out in the sun a bit each day and gradually lowering the lights for an hour or so before bed for a sounder sleep.

5. Establish boundaries between work and home.A fact of modern life for many of us is that we simply cannot leave work at work. But even if you must do some work at home, setting limits will go far toward preserving your personal space. Setting a cutoff time works well for many people (for example, no work after 9 p.m.), but try to give yourself a whole day completely without work as well.

Decorate With Intention: Let Your House Help You De-Stress

6. Set up a staging area near the door. Make a point of putting down everything you come in the door with — coat, bag, shoes and so on — as soon as you come in. Changing into comfy slippers and leaving your work and mail behind you will help signal a shift from outside worries to the comforts of home.

7. Fill your fridge and pantry with real food. When our schedules are overfilled, it seems easier to rely on takeout, but having healthy ingredients for meals and snacks on hand is often faster and cheaper than going to pick up food from a restaurant. If you’re truly strapped for time, perhaps try swapping out a few takeout meals with healthy snacks and high-quality ready-made food from the market.

Decorate With Intention: Let Your House Help You De-Stress

8. Set your table every night. No matter what you are serving, setting the table with real dishes, cloth napkins and candles nourishes more than just our bellies; it signals us to slow down and appreciate what we have.

9. Practice mindfulness while doing small chores. After dinner, instead of dreading the cleanup, view it as an opportunity to start a mini meditation practice. Focus on your breathing as you attend to the task at hand; when you notice your mind wandering, gently remind yourself to refocus on your breath.

10. Get social. Shake up your weeknight routine by inviting a friend over to share coffee and dessert, or even start a group around a common interest. If a book club sounds too serious, get creative — how about a wine- and cheese-tasting club, a periodical society to discuss favorite magazines, a film club or a crafts night?

Decorate With Intention: Let Your House Help You De-Stress

11. Make your bed every morning. Sometimes one simple thing can make your whole day go more smoothly, and I’ve found that making the bed is definitely one of those things. No matter how rushed your mornings, taking a moment to smooth those covers will give you a sense that things are in order.

12. Develop a simple 10-minute bedtime routine. Before turning in, take just 10 minutes to walk through the house putting things in their places. Run the dishwasher, toss laundry in baskets, put away books and papers, and set out your clothes and bag for the next day.

This Startup Might Have The Blueprint For Your House

Decorating a whole house or even one’s own bedroom isn’t everyone’s cup of tea.  From the sea of data on the internet, it is so hard to find out how you want the place you’ll live to look like. It’s your house and it should represent you. If only you had a team of architects to help you through!

This is exactly what these expert architects with 26 years of experience are doing. Knowing the home decor business like the back of their hand, these architects will leave a great legacy – loads and loads of data and information about the home décor business they’ve gathered over the years through a startup called ‘Renomania’. They claim that there is nothing you’ve wanted to know about building a house you wouldn’t find on Renomania. Co-founders Ritu Malhotra and Navneet are graduates from the School of Planning and Architecture who met their third Co-founder Rahul Lodha who is a graduate from IIT Kharagpur.

Interviewing Ritu, we found out that they say they are selling ideas and their idea can give you the house of your dreams.

From architecture to entrepreneurship

We have been entrepreneurs for 26 years now with A.A Design Consultants. Renomania.com has been a dream project that we, as architects, wanted to come up with after understanding the pain points of the homeowners. We have been in this industry long enough to understand how difficult it is for people to explain what they exactly want in their house. We have seen people getting magazine and newspaper cut-outs and online picture-prints which were all from international homes from international websites. The results, thus, were never really the same considering the difference in culture, weather and tradition. That’s when we decided to build Renomania as a solution for anything related to Indian home decor. From inspirations and ideas to a community of home professionals and homeowners, the idea was to provide the users with all information on a single platform. Our clients would ask questions regarding finishes and costs and sourcing of products seen on foreign sites or a hotel they visited. Renomania is providing all the answers.”

How does Renomania work?

We believe that home owners require inspiration, inspiration which comes from relevant content, variety of ideas and being part of a similar yet diverse community.

Most others in the Home space are in the Transaction space like selling furniture or in the Home service space that is to provide handymen. The content in these platforms is Transaction oriented.

Renomania is into the business of selling ideas. It is a community of homeowners and professionals where they can easily discover each other and interact. It is not a usual e-commerce website that sells furniture or a readymade look. It aims at attempting to maintain the fun and ease factor in home building and home décor experience. It is helping people ‘discover’ – the kind of house they’d like to live in and the professionals they would like to work with.

Why need a home décor database?

Renomania is an online platform that helps homeowners discover a million new ways to make their homes more beautiful.

Design Consortium

Since, we have a strong experience of 26 years in this field, we understood the problems that homeowners were facing, and we knew that someone had to work towards it. We built the largest catalogue of beautiful Indian homes, helping homeowners get ideas and inspiration for designing everything from a room or a corner to an entire house. Renomania also helps homeowners convert their inspired vision into reality, by connecting them with an ever-growing community of millions of other homeowners, interior designers, architects, contractors and product providers across the country. Whether you’re looking to renovate a room or a corner or an entire home, Renomania is everything you need to create a beautiful home. With over 1,00,000 high-resolution inspiring photos of home interiors that you can browse, save and share, we wanted the consumers to find everything related to their home at one place. We also have a 3000-member strong verified active professional community, from architects and contractors to designers and more, who help make your dream home a reality. Consumers can findout the source of the products tagged in the photos and above all, get hundreds of tips and recommendations to make their home remodelling a pain-free process.

Future of home décor data

The digital world is booming by the hour and everyone is perpetually connected to social media. This change has automatically resulted in the boom of the online home décor market as well. People go online for everything nowadays, whether it is to buy a product or to get ideas. We notice an increase in adoption of online purchasing by a younger audience. Statistically, Home interior is a $20 Billion market currently and the growth options are immense.

We are targeting to reach the half a million unique visitors on the website by end July orend August this year. Simultaneously, we are looking to grow our catalogue to beyond 100,000 pictures within this period. We have launched our mobile app for iOS and Android users and are awaiting a new feature that will allow users to discuss their home design ideas and dilemmas with one another.

How they document works of architecture

Firstly, most professionals in the industry have not documented their work and are offline. It took a lot of research and work to track all the architects in the country, reach out to them and explain how Renomania would actually prove to be beneficial for them. We hired photographers who documented the homes for these professionals across geographies. To get access of thousands of designers and create a library of curated high definition pictures of real Indian homes was a big challenge. But, this challenge has actually turned into an opportunity as we are building up this asset at great speed and of course our content is not copied and is our copyright.

Kumar Moorthy & Associates

Secondly, to build a discovery platform is a challenge in itself. There is a lot of back end coding that is required to be done in order to give the best experience to the user. When we started, we knew that we want to be a platform where users can search for anything related to homes and the search results they get are most relevant. Tagging and associating relevant and multiple keywords for each picture have been a task, something we knew will pay off well and it did!

These professionals are so good on the field but believe that they need to work on their social media game since they’re growing monthly unique at 50% month on month. Ritusays, “we are in the back to school mode. Spending nights understanding the nuances of the digital world.”

Resistance building in Central Jersey to GOP’s healthcare policies

A group of more than 50 protesters rallied outside Rep. Leonard Lance’s office in Westfield on Wednesday to call for the protection of the Affordable Care Act under President Donald Trump’s administration. Nick Muscavage/Staff Video

Protest

WESTFIELD – Armed with signs reading “Resist Trump,” “Down with Trump, Down with Lance,” “Medicare for All” and “Resist and Persist,” they gather every Wednesday on the sidewalk outside Rep. Leonard Lance’s (R-District 7) office on North Avenue to show they don’t like what’s going on in Washington.

This Wednesday, more than 50 people, most proud to be called “progressives,” braved a chilly wind during evening rush hour to protest the possibility of changes to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and cuts of federal aid to Planned Parenthood.

Sometimes it was hard to hear what they were saying or, in some cases, singing because of the car horns being honked in solidarity.

The protesters ranged in age from the freshman president of the Westfield High School Young Democrats Club to those who took part in protests against the Vietnam War in their college days.

“This is amazing,” Christine Sadovy, advocacy director of Planned Parenthood of Central and Greater Northern New Jersey, said about the turnout. A rally was also scheduled at the same time outside Lance’s office in Raritan Township.

Sadovy said the Republican majority in Congress may remove Planned Parenthood from the Affordable Care Act, making birth control and other services of the organization unaffordable for women.

“Being a woman is no longer a pre-existing condition,” she said. “That’s not fair.”

“If Planned Parenthood is defunded, millions of people across the country would lose access to the vital preventive reproductive health care services they rely on,”  Sadovy said. “New Jersey residents do not want to see reproductive health care under attack, and that’s why we are making our voices heard loud and clear.”

“Women deserve access to health care no matter their insurance level,” said Mara Natale of New Providence.

Her friend, Plainfield resident Robert Sanchez who carried a sign, “Bad Hombre and Nasty Woman for Planned Parenthood,” said he came to the rally “to support Progressive values at a grassroots level.”

Edison Amtrak worker pleads guilty to over billing rail company

EDISON – A 64-year-old township man, who formerly worked as an Amtrak supervisor, has pleaded guilty to fraudulently over billing the rail company for overtime and regular hours.

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U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman said Richard Vogel pleaded guilty Wednesday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Joseph A. Dickson in Newark to converting federal government funds to his own use in connection with claiming to be working while Vogel was not present at Amtrak work sites.

According to court documents and statements, Vogel worked for Amtrak from January 1977 until July 2016 when he retired. Vogel supervised about 35 employees in work gangs on the construction signals side of the Communications and Signals Department, New York Division.

Between November 2015 and June 2016 Vogel billed Amtrak for 41 regular hours and 685.75 overtime hours when he was not present at Amtrak work sites, a loss that cost Amtrak $71,000.

With the plea Vogel faces a maximum one year in prison and fines up to $250,000 when he is sentenced on May 22. The plea agreement requires Vogel to make full restitution for $71,946 in losses to Amtrak

Lehigh Township Residents Voice Opposition Against Wal-Mart Development

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Residents of Lehigh Township gathered Wednesday evening at a meeting of the township’s Planning Commission to learn more about the development of a Wal-Mart within the township—and to voice their criticism of the project.

The proposed Wal-Mart supercenter would be located at Route 145 and Birch Drive. The supercenter would also feature a gas station and a Wal-Mart convenience store.

Adam Benosky of Bohler Engineering attended the meeting on behalf of Wal-Mart to address any questions or concerns that residents had. Residents responded to Benosky’s plan with strong concerns that the project would negatively affect their community and quality of life.

Among the concerns were questions relating to crime, increased traffic and the store’s potential proximity to residential homes.

Lehigh Township resident Kate Popejoy questioned the crime levels associated with Wal-Mart stores. She asked, “How are you going to deal with the crime rate that happens with Wal-Mart? The crime rate is really not a pretty sight at most Wal-Marts.”

The commission said that next year’s budget will allow for the hiring two additional police officers, totaling 12 for the township, but the amount of police on duty at a given time will not increase, with two people on full-time according to the planning commission.

The addition of two officers to the police force did little to quell the unease in the room, as Popejoy referenced a Bloomberg news article which described a “tremendous load on police forces dealing with Wal-Marts.”

Some residents brought up the idea of the township intervening with Wal-Mart’s security, but Solicitor Michael Corriere said such actions are not within the township’s power.

“We can’t get involved with the internal security of Wal-Mart,” Corriere said. “In terms of the security, our officers will have to respond and handle it accordingly.”

Traffic is another concern that frightens Lehigh Township residents. Benosky could not provide specific numbers for the amount of tractor trailers that will enter and exit the property, but said he will inquire about an estimate and get back to the Planning Commission.

Vice Chair of the Planning Commission Cynthia Miller said she will do all in her power to restrict tractor trailers from using Birch Drive.

Residents seemed to have an overall negative reaction to the development, showing pessimism when discussing the future of the community.

“Why was this site chosen?” one resident asked. “We don’t need one.”

Residents argued that the construction and close proximity of the supercenter would prove disruptive for those who live nearby.

Alec Bodzin, a professor at Lehigh University and Lehigh Township resident, expressed that the Wal-Mart would require him and others to sell their homes. Bodzin said the Wal-Mart and the increased activity around it will cause property values to plummet, while providing an undesirable atmosphere for residents.

“I’m going to have to put my house of for sale,” he said. “When do I need to get a for sale sign in my yard?”

Regardless of the pleas of the community, it appears that there is little room for them to disrupt development. The land is zoned for commercial use and any client fitting the requirements of township ordinances will likely receive approval according to the Planning Commission.

“This is zoned commercial,” said Planning Commission Chairman David Shulman. “It could have been a supermarket, it could have been a strip mall, it could have been any number of uses that are permitted in our general commercial district. It just happened to be a Wal-Mart. We cannot change the zoning now that they submitted the plan for this site.”

Benosky, in an attempt to try and calm the concerns of residents, told attendees, “We’re trying to be cognizant of your concerns.”

After a resident asked to speak with Wal-Mart representatives directly, Benosky said that there is the possibility of getting Wal-Mart representatives to come answer specific questions which he could not provide answers to.

Numerous steps still need to be taken before the project is approved by the township, and it will ultimately be decided on by the Board of Supervisors before moving forward.

Mountain View Wesleyan Church Makes Mats For The Homeless

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Earlier this year, several women from their crochet club discussed making mats for the homeless out of plastic bags. Little did they know it would lead into a ministry of its own. Today they have a group that gets together every Tuesday morning from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. at the church to prepare the plastic bags for another group of crocheter’s, many who are a part of their crochet club that meets the fourth Tuesday of every month.

The process started with collecting bags, as each mat takes approximately 600 bags to complete. Next they started to prepare the bags- flatten, trim, cut, open, tie and roll into balls. When they soon realized the project was really in preparing the plarn (plastic yarn) and decided that we could involve others from the church in the project. So in July, they began meeting at the church every Tuesday morning to make the plarn. The ladies really enjoyed the time of fellowship and have now prepared enough plarn to complete ten mats (over 6,000 bags).

During the process we made contact with a few organizations that work with homeless people that we could donate the mats to. We quickly realized the need and for now, have no plans to stop making them.

It is with great honor that the first ten mats will be going to Franklin Homme, Commander of Disabled Veterans Lehigh Valley Chapter Seven (pictured below). Homme works for the Department of Veteran Affairs, helping vets get back on their feet.

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This project has gotten so many people involved, both inside and outside the church. They have several places that collect the bags for them. Lattemann’s Corner Store and Deli has a collection box as well with one of the mats on display. The Hair Hut in Walnutport has a young lady collecting bags for them as her service project. Several local stores allow them to collect from the recycled bag collection boxes as well.

Making the plarn has several steps and takes long to make, so recently another church, Bender’s Mennonite in Pen Argyl as gotten a group together to help make the plarn and plan to meet every other Monday from 12 until 3 p.m. at their church.

This project has branched out and become a blessing to so many and they haven’t even reached their intended destination yet. Perhaps the only thing better is they haven’t incurred any cost for this project. However, if the group continues to grow they may need to find a couple heavy-duty paper cutters.

As long as there is a need and the help is provided, the mats will continue to be made.

If anyone would like to help by collecting bags, prepping or crocheting a mat, call MVW Church at 610-759-7553 and leave a message for Gloria Koch.