Farewell to Federal Hill



Bloomingdale’s bubble has burst.


My mother predicted its demise as safe, quiet suburban town decades ago. An experienced construction trade reporter, she scorned the local residents who prided themselves on their non-urban town.


“One day, their bubble is going to burst,” she declared. “Then they’ll see.  You can’t keep out progress forever.  There’s too much money and corruption to hold it off indefinitely.”


Yet that’s exactly why my parents moved us to Bloomingdale in August of 1961. They were city people.  They moved here to get away from the crime, the drugs, the overcrowding, the pollution, the filth and urban decay.  Even then, the quarry owners were pounding away at Federal Hill.  The demolitions were so strong that they drove the snakes out of Federal Hill and onto our hill.


On Tuesday, I went to visit my 92 year-old mom. Next month, she’ll have lived in Bloomingdale for 55 years.  In her 15 years as a construction reporter, she’d seen many pristine woodlands denuded to make way for suburban tracts as well apartments.  She always deplored the clear-lot method of developing (cutting down all the trees).  She warned that such practices would lead to soil erosion and flooding.


She chose the Jeffrey development because she’d researched the developer and found he held her view on not cutting down the forest for the keys. I remember riding in our station wagon up Jeffrey Drive before it was completely paved.  The road was a switchback road because the grade was so steep.


The road was also completely muddy and we got stuck a few times before we reached the top. It was winter.  We passed the built houses and drove on into the ongoing development.  Our house was merely a frame at the time.  We were there because the house was built atop an enormous rock formation.  The developer feared to blast any more of the rock away because it might bring down the other houses.


So we settled for a half-basement and crawl space.


The residents of that time were just as unhappy as the current residents are now. The Jeffrey hill had once been a favorite picnic spot.  From the very top, they said you could see the New York skyline.  There were brooks for fishing and meadows for romping.  We used to romp in the meadows of the Federal Hill tract (Washington Hill, actually).  So did the Nazi youth, World War I arms smugglers, derelicts, and hippies.  We had Brownie, the Rhodesian Ridgeback with us, though, so we were safe enough.  The hapless mutineers of the New Jersey militia, who simply wanted food and clothing, met their fate there.


For 55 years, I’ve gazed with pleasure at the Federal Hill ridge. But always my mother’s warning was in the back of my mind.  One day this whole place would be nothing but apartment buildings, derelicts, criminals, and garbage.  Lots of garbage.


The drug dealers settled into the woods of upper Passaic County some 20 or 30 years ago, when Bill Clinton decimated the Border Patrol, allowing illegal immigrants to take up residence in our woods and ply their trade. The woods are said to be the home of meth factories.  The “workers” board N.J. Transit 196 or 197 and “commute” to their “factory” jobs in the morning.


Then they come home in the evening and peddle their wares in our own neighborhoods at night. Thank you, Millennials.


In addition to influx of drug dealers, we’re also be invaded by over-crowded New Yorkers, specifically Long Islanders who can no longer afford the cost of living on the island. They have plenty of money; that’s who Mayor Dunleavy thinks of in terms of “money”.  They don’t give a hound’s tooth about mowing lawns, keeping homes, or growing gardens.


Life, in their view, is getting in their expensive cars, speeding, tailgating, and weaving in and out of traffic on Routes 23 and 287 at high speed. Union Avenue residents, many of whom have “No Quarry Expansion” signs on their lawns evidently don’t realize their danger.  I tried to point it out at a town council meeting (which the Suburban Trends did NOT cover) when I asked them whether Union Avenue would be expanded.


What a panicked reaction I got from this question. The council members had to whisper to one another before one final whisper from Mayor Dunleavy brought forth this answer:  “Oh you mean right in front of Avalon Bay?  Well, yes, Union Avenue will have to be expanded there in order to create turning lane.”


That’s not what I meant, I told them. So Mayor Dunleavy pointed out that it was a county road over which Bloomingdale had little jurisdiction.  Never fear though.  As easily as the town and whatever bureaucrats were involved to get that tract of land declared an “urban blight zone,” those current homes on Union Avenue will be cleared away, by court order if necessary, for the good of the town to build a road for a development the residents never wanted in the first place.


The Trends reported on Wednesday that the town council has magnanimously granted a two-week extension for residents to display the sign; an extension of rule no one can find on the books, apparently. But it’s already two weeks.  In another two weeks, Tilcon will have already cut through the woods right down to Union Avenue, creating a direct path between Bloomingdale and its crime-ridden neighbor, Pompton Lakes.  Anything to make life for the drug dealers easier.


Federal Hill will be gone. Tilcon will be gone, counting its money.  The town council will probably be gone.  The red crane on top of Federal Hill on Tuesday was Tilcon (and by association, the Bloomingdale mayor and town council) giving the residents of Bloomingdale the middle finger.


May the ghosts of Federal Hill haunt them and those who live there for eternity.







Published in: on July 14, 2016 at 2:51 pm  Leave a Comment  

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