Tuesday, January 7, 2014

In Pequannock, Up a Creek and With a Stop and Shop

Current Stop & Shop fruitbowl logo, shared wit...
Current Stop & Shop fruitbowl logo, shared with Giant-Landover (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
By Christopher Lotito

Stop & Shop recently announced that they will open a store at the old A&P site in Pompton Plains, effectively eradicating the food desert that had existed in Pequannock Township since Hurricane Irene struck in August of 2011.  However, some residents still believe it is only a matter of time before the next flood and evidence exists to support their concerns.

On June 20th 2013, Pequannock News reported a lack of progress regarding management of regional reservoir levels to prevent future flooding.  At that time, no meaningful legislation had been passed to reduce these huge stores of water which maintained at unscrupulously high levels and drained at the worst possible time at the height of floods, much to the chagrin of residents living downstream from them.  The full article is available here: http://www.pequannocknews.com/2013/06/one-year-ago-pequannock-pushes-for.html

Some have now asked if the Stop & Shop may face the same fate as the A&P.  While many factors of flooding in the region are beyond control, such as weather patterns, unethical storm-water distribution from New York State, and the unwillingness of developers to modify existing commercial sites to reduce the risk of catastrophic flooding, permanent steps could be taken by the State of NJ to protect communities from future disasters.

Unfortunately, despite formulating a robust 15 point plan of action for flood mitigation, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection's Passaic River Basin Flood Advisory Commission has failed to make any updates or complete any meaningful work in flood prevention since March of 2013.

Pequannock News reviewed the Commission's progress report (which the astute reader will note consists of problems and solutions identified but not acted upon prior to Hurricane Irene) and found that no updates have been made in almost a year: http://www.nj.gov/dep/passaicriver/docs/prbfac-progress-report.pdf

  • The NJ DEP working with federal funding and municipalities throughout the region has completed a huge number of home buyouts, the majority of which were directly on the banks of the Passaic River.  This action of course does nothing to preserve communities or to prevent flooding from happening again in the future.
  • Similarly, the NJ DEP has helped complete large numbers of home elevations using federal and state financing, ensuring that if the flooding cause is not resolved, generations of future homeowners will still have to evacuate their homes due to high waters, putting themselves and emergency workers in the path of danger.
  • The NJ DEP, under pressure from Pequannock and others, has finally agreed not to remove the historic feeder dams along the old Morris Canal, which have been found to actually provide additional flood storage for Pequannock and downstream communities.  This is good news, but no effort has been made or is planned to de-silt and maintain these structures in order to restore their water storage capacity to what it once was.

This list goes on, but fails to go anywhere meaningful.  Despite a lack of updates to the public, funds have continued to be available for municipalities to complete localized river and stream maintenance, removing fallen trees and other potential snags from the waterway.  That's good news, but it's not enough.  Without a comprehensive overhaul of the Passaic River waterways, whether from channelization, flood walls, or a true dredging of the river, Stop & Shop and other businesses along the river are only borrowing the land from mother nature in between floods.

That no updates have been made to either the Passaic River Basin Flood Advisory Commission website (http://www.nj.gov/dep/passaicriver/) or to the progress report sends a clear message that flood control is no longer a priority for the NJ DEP, a message sure to be poorly received by the thousands of homeowners still living in the flood zones of the Passaic River Basin.

Christopher Lotito is a member of the Pequannock Historic District and Open Space Commissions as well as the author of  "Torrent," a book about flooding in the region.  Lotito's personal mission is to reduce new taxes, drastically reduce flooding, and preserve more green spaces for our children.  Christopher Lotito Profile

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

New Pequannock History Book Fights Counterfeits

By Christopher Lotito

It would be easy to presume that the biggest obstacles to preserving local history in small-town New Jersey suburbia would be development, apathy, and maybe lack of funding, but few would imagine that counterfeiting would play a role in destroying the history of Pequannock Township.
Butler Genealogical Map

There are already a couple great books about Pequannock History, including Emil Salvini's and George Parr's.  Limited print run affairs, these works have become history themselves and so though a market exists among the hundreds of members of Facebook group such as "Friends of the Pequannock Historic District Commission" and others, a dearth of materials in print makes for a desperate situation when it comes to local history research and genealogy.  There is a thriving secondary market for used copies of these books, as well as works such as old Pequannock High School yearbooks and the Holy Spirit 25th Anniversary book, which is frankly pretty "gray" as markets go, with little concern as to where these works are sourced from and whether they will end up benefiting the public at large, or just a single enthusiast.  What readers may not be aware of is that there is a black market in knock-off historic Pequannock documents, photos, and postcards.
Aerial Detail, Pompton Plains, 1950's

Really, the counterfeit materials are not the problem, after all the Pequannock Township History Museum sells a limited run of local history postcards, and reproduction postcards are a wonderful way for everyone who wants or needs a copy of these historic images to add them to their personal collections.  The real issue arises when these images are reproduced month after month after month on sepia toned card-stock and then sold on eBay as the "real deal."  Collectors who buy these may not realize that they are really purchasing a reproduction, since these are often sold as legitimate.  Buying a counterfeit piece of Pequannock history off of eBay will cost you between $2 and $15 as of this writing, but the cost to local history is immeasurably higher as we start to see these counterfeit cards entering circulation and ending up in the hands of next-of-kin, again mistakenly thought of as legitimate antiques.  Add to this a high number of errors, mis-labelings (on the part of counterfeiters), and an overall low quality of reproduction and you have a growing number of obstacles to researchers working to educate themselves and others about the history of Pequannock.

Postcard, "The Pequannock River"
To combat this, I'm seeking to reduce or eliminate the demand for these low-quality counterfeits by publishing a photo-book, at the printing cost, containing high resolution and enhanced copies of hard to find historic images of Pequannock and Pompton Plains, and which is clearly a reproduction.  The book, "Lotito's Visual History of Pequannock - Vol. 1" includes 26 high resolution scans of historic images with a number of postcards, a ton of maps, unseen aerial perspectives, and original work spot-lighting specific historic eras and transformations (like the restoration of the Pompton Plains Railroad Station). (http://www.lulu.com/shop/christopher-lotito/lotitos-visual-history-of-pequannock-vol-1/paperback/product-21317312.html)

A complete list of plates follows:
List of Plates:
Pompton Plains R.R. Station (col. 1900's)(cover)
East and West Jersey (Worlidge, 1800's)
Pequannock, Montville, Boonton (1800's)
Butler Genealogical (1800's)
Pequannock Genealogical (1800's)
Pompton Plains R.R. Station #1-#4 (2004, unrestored)
Pompton Plains R.R. Station #1,2 (2012, restored)
Guardbank South of Spillway (1920's)
Culvert, Pequannoc (1920's)
Pequannoc Spillway (1920's)
2012 - Railroad North from Jefferson St. - Comparison shot.
Pompton Dam, Pompton Plains (2012)
Pequannoc Spillway, Pompton Plains (2012)
Railroad North from Jefferson St. (2012)
The Pequannock River (col. postcard 1900's)
Swimming Pool, Camp Madison (postcard 1900's)
Welcome Wagon / Country Furniture Shop (1950's)
First Reformed Church Postcard #1
First Reformed Church Postcard #2
First Reformed Church Burnt #1
FRC Burnt #2
Pequannock, 1950's Aerial w/ Church
Pequannock, 1950's Aerial w/ Village

The book can be purchased at this link for just $19.95: http://www.lulu.com/shop/christopher-lotito/lotitos-visual-history-of-pequannock-vol-1/paperback/product-21317312.html  -- Proceeds go towards producing more history books!

    Christopher Lotito is a member of the Pequannock Historic District, Open Space, and Flood Control Advisory Commissions as well as the author of  "Torrent," a book about flooding in the region.  Lotito's personal mission is to reduce new taxes, drastically reduce flooding, and preserve more green spaces for our children.  Christopher Lotito Profile