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Friday, May 29, 2020

Costco Wholesale keeps seniors guessing as warehouses adjust to panic shopping

SOCIAL DISTANCING: The Costco Wholesale warehouse in Teterboro, N.J., makes checking out during the Covid-19 pandemic easy by having an employee send members -- who form a single line -- to a usually empty checkout lane. I was next when I took this photo on April 21.
GUESSING GAME: But Costco keeps older members guessing by changing the hours for ages 60 and above at least 3 times in the last month or so. Now, those hours in Teterboro are 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. weekdays, forcing older members to show up an hour earlier than before.

Older members must deal  
with 3 changes in special hours

By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

HACKENSACK, N.J. -- A couple of days ago, I showed up at my Costco in Teterboro at around 9:30 in the morning to find no line of members outside the warehouse.

Inside, I found paper towels, toilet paper and spring water -- all of which were running low during our quarantine.

A week earlier, there were no paper towels to be had after a long line of members were allowed into the warehouse starting at 8 a.m., and sacked the place, as often happens at Costco warehouses and other food stores during the Covid-19 pandemic.

I wasn't aware that Costco Wholesale had revised opening hours for the Teterboro warehouse, as well as the special hour reserved for members ages 60 and over.

New hours

Now, older members are allowed in from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. weekdays -- an hour earlier than before, and the third time the special hour has been changed at the Teterboro warehouse, which opens to all members at 9 a.m.

But the Costco warehouse in Wayne -- known for its house-label imported and domestic wines, as well as premium brands of liquor -- doesn't open for seniors until 9 a.m. and for others until 10 a.m.

On May 4, the Costco Business Center in Hackensack closed to walk-in business so I can no longer go there from my home a couple of miles away, if I run out of an item.

You can find "Coronavirus Updates" on the website of your Costco warehouse.

Whole Foods Market in Paramus also reserves 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. for 60-plus shoppers.

Warehouse clubs

Costco is a multi-billion dollar global retailer with more warehouse club locations than either of its competitors, Sam's Club (owned by Walmart) and B.J.'s Wholesale Club.

In January 2018, Walmart announced the closing of 63 Sam's Clubs across the United States, including one in Fairbanks, Alaska.

A Costco Wholesale opened for business in the same building in November 2018, a few months after the Sam's Club closed.

In New Jersey

I am a loyal Costco shopper for many reasons, including an 18-inch food court pizza for $9.95, an increasing number of organic foods and produce; fresh wild-caught fish and a pharmacy.

I shop for food at Whole Foods and ShopRite, too, but Costco's prices are lower, and often there are sales or instant savings taken at the register on many items.

Costco Travel can save you money on tours, flights, hotel rooms and rental cars. 

Costco also has an auto buying and discount service program; and sells insurance and home improvements.

Free membership

Best of all, a Costco membership basically is free, if you use the Costco no-fee Visa credit card, earning 4% cash back on gasoline purchases (even at Costco), 3% on restaurant meals, 2% on travel and 1% on all other purchases. 

I have an Executive Membership for $120 a year, but earn 2 times or 3 times that much in cash back every year. A regular membership is $60 a year.

Friday, May 15, 2020

Calling all of you lazy, apathetic and stupid Hackensackers: You can vote from home

NO POSTAGE NEEDED: You were able to vote from home in the Hackensack school election, and no postage was necessary. I returned mail-in ballots for my wife, my son and I, marking them for the Three Dads: Michael R. Oates, Anthony F. Rodriguez and Christopher M. Coleman. We also voted "no" on the proposed $85.2 million tax levy.
NEARLY HALF YOUR TAXES: In recent years, the bloated Hackensack school budget has exceeded the city's own budget, and now accounts for nearly half of your property taxes.

Only 8.5 out of 100 residents
 had say in 2019 school election

Editor's note: The Three Dads were elected on May 12, 2020, to three 3-year seats on the Board of Education. See updated vote results in the comments section at the end of this post. 

By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

HACKENSACK, N.J. -- If you prize your right to vote, you might be shocked at how few residents bothered going to the polls in the 2019 school election.

Only 8.53% of registered voters -- or 8.5 out of 100 -- voted or mailed in ballots for the contest on April 16, 2019.

That means only 1,915 ballots were cast by 22,447 voters registered in Hackensack, according to the Bergen County Clerk's Office.

The turnout in 2018 was even lower: 

Only 1,638 ballots were cast by the 21,303 registered voters -- or 7.6 out of 100 -- in the April 17, 2018, school election.

The May 12, 2020, election set some sort of record, according to the Bergen County Board of Elections, which said 8,627 mail-in ballots were cast.

Delayed election

The Covid-19 pandemic pushed back this year's election to May 12 from April 21, and all voting was by mail-in ballots.

So, the legions of lazy, apathetic and stupid voters in the city had no excuse for not weighing in on filling three seats on the 9-member Board of Education, as well as voting "yes" or "no" on the proposed $85.2 million tax levy.

Not only was your right to vote at stake in the election:

About 45% of your property taxes go to support the schools, so instead of constantly bitching and moaning about "high taxes," you should have gotten off your duff, mailed in your ballot, and had a say in how they are spent.

$131M budget

The proposed 2020-21 Hackensack school budget of $125.8 million grows to $131.7 million after federal and state aid, grants and entitlements.

The school budget totaled $117.8 million for 2018-19, and $128.6 million for 2019-20.

Pocketbook issues are supposed to bring voters out, but in past elections even fewer Hackensack residents weighed in on the proposed tax levy to support the school budget than voted on candidates.

The exception was a special election on Jan. 22, 2019, when the only item on the ballot was the school board's grandiose $170 million school construction and renovation plan.

To pay for a new junior high school and other work, taxpayers would have been hit with a tax hike of $308 to $650 and more a year for 30 years.

A total of 2,917 ballots were cast by 22,126 registered voters to defeat the plan, for a turnout of 13.18%.

2020 election

In the May 12 election, the candidates known as the Three Dads were running under the banner of Hackensack Smart Schools, the team that defeated the wasteful $170 million construction and renovation plan in January 2019.

And they were endorsed by Mayor John Labrosse and other City Council members, who in recent years have tried to wrest control of the school board away from officials loyal to the Zisa family political dynasty.

The Three Dads

Michael Oates, who was in ballot position 4, is a father of 3 children attending city schools, and a lieutenant in the Hackensack Fire Department.

His wife, Toni Imperiale, is an attorney.

Anthony Rodriguez, in ballot position 5, is a father of 3 (2 of whom are attending city schools), and a sales manager at a Fortune 500 company.

Christopher Coleman, in ballot position 6, is a trial attorney, and father of 3 children attending city schools.

Read more about them and their platform here: About the Smart Schools Team.

Their opponents for a 3-year term on the Hackensack school board were:

Jennifer Maury, who works in the Tenafly public schools; David Dungey, a Hackensack business owner; and Monica M. Pelaez, a surgical technician at Hackensack University Medical Center.


MAIL-IN BALLOT: The ballot had two parts, the candidates for 3-year seats on the Hackensack Board of Education, left; and the proposed $85.2 million tax levy, right -- about 45% of your property taxes. You could choose 3 candidates and vote "no" on the tax levy. If it was defeated, the City Council could review and possibly revise the budget.
ENVELOPES: Besides the ballot, voters received another envelope for the completed ballot, below; vote by mail instructions and a letter from Bergen County Clerk John S. Hogan.
DON'T FORGET TO SIGN: There were several places for your name, address and signature, above and below.


Thursday, May 14, 2020

An abundance of hope but little joy shown as I walk neighborhood during pandemic

On my late-afternoon walk in my Hackensack neighborhood yesterday, this sign expressing hope was rare but welcome ...
...And last week, this small sign at the base of a tree in front of a house on Anderson Street was a bright spot.
  
I discover corners
 of the Fairmount section
 of Hackensack I never saw
 from the car

There are no shortages of signs expressing thanks to healthcare workers and others who are keeping us safe, delivering essentials to our homes and keeping food stores stocked...
...This home and others along Summit Avenue fashioned their own signs.
A first in Hackensack was Tuesday's school election -- by mail-in ballot only -- to chose three members of the 9-member Board of Education.
This is one of the shuttered, abandoned or condemned homes I saw during my walks...
...While this structure on Euclid Avenue is being gutted and renovated after serving for many years as what neighbors suspected was an illegal rooming house.
I'm trying to remember when I saw a kid playing outside since people started quarantining in mid-March.

-- VICTOR E. SASSON

Thursday, May 7, 2020

In 2019, The Record and NorthJersey.com lost 16,000 readers daily, 19,600 Sunday

READERS FLEE: The Record of Woodland Park and the Hackensack Chronicle, a weekly that reprints stories and other material from the once-great daily newspaper.

How low can circulation,
 ad revenue go before 
 Gannett folds print edition?


Editor's note: At the end of this post, I've added a link to my July 2016 report on how the Borgs took Gannett's money and ran.

By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

HACKENSACK, N.J. -- The Record of Woodland Park and NorthJersey.com have slipped to 9th place among Gannett Co.'s major publications and digital platforms.

In 2016, the year the Borg family sold them to Gannett, the once-great daily newspaper and its website were listed 3rd (in readership or circulation) after USA Today and the Detroit Free Press, according to the annual report issued in April 2017.

The 2019 annual report released on April 18 lists circulation or readership of The Record and NorthJersey.com as 52,623 daily and 70,682 on Sunday.

That's a decline of 16,oo7 daily and 19,670 on Sunday from circulation figures listed for the print edition and website -- 68,630 daily and 90,352 Sunday -- in the 2018 annual report.

At the end of 2016, the combined circulation or readership was listed as 235,681 daily and 147,609 Sunday.

With daily readership in 2019 less than a quarter of what it was in 2016, and with Sunday circulation at less than half of the original, further losses in revenue might prompt Gannett to fold the print edition. 

A drastic decline in local news, and the decision in 2019 to limit some digital access to subscribers likely are factors in the plummeting readership.

Ad revenue sinks

The amount of circulation is the primary factor in the pricing of advertising space, meaning Gannett likely has had to reduce how much it charges for ads in The Record and on NorthJersey.com.

Print advertising alone accounted for about 37% of "our total revenue" nationwide as of Dec. 31, 2019, according to Gannett.

"Additionally, brick-and-mortar businesses are significant consumers of print advertising and with the rise of digital commerce many of these types of businesses have -- and continue to -- close retail outlets, which adversely affects the demand for print advertising," the 2019 annual report says.

10 N.J. dailies

Many of the department stores, restaurants and other businesses that Gannett has relied on for advertising revenue have been shuttered by the Covid-19 pandemic. 

The 2019 annual report says Gannett owns 10 daily newspapers in New Jersey, 6 weeklies and 2 production facilities.

Gannett lists the total number of its local media organizations in 46 states and on Guam as 261 daily newspapers and 302 weeklies, plus 72 production facilities.

More layoffs

On April 27, the New Jersey Globe reported The Record "axed" Editorial Page Editor Bruce Lowry, calling him "the latest casualty in layoffs occurring throughout the Gannett organization."

"The move comes four weeks after Gannett began furloughing employees due to the economic effects of the deadly coronavirus," wrote New Jersey Globe Editor David Wildstein, who referred to the paper as the "Bergen Record."

As an executive at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, Wildstein was a key figure in the Bridgegate scandal during the administration of Chris Christie, the worst governor in New Jersey history. 

Wildstein's New Jersey Globe reported "Gannett Statehouse bureau chief John McAlpin is on furlough this week, along with columnist Charles Stile and reporter Ashley Balcerzak."

More from Wildstein

"That's 3/5s of Gannett NJ's Statehouse idled at home when people want and need information the most," tweeted Bergen Record reporter Dustin Racioppi.

"Jennifer Jean Miller, who broke a huge story this month about 17 bodies being found at the Andover Subacute facility was laid off from her job as a reporter for the Gannett-owned New Jersey Herald," the Globe said.

"Other Gannett New Jersey reporters have also lost their jobs over the last three days," the Globe's April 27 report said, "including one journalist who is pregnant with a due date in the next two weeks."

"Dan Sforza, the executive editor of The Record, has not replied to four direct messages seeking comment on Gannett layoffs...." 



MOUND OF DIRT: The Borg family retained ownership of nearly 20 acres along River Street in Hackensack, where The Record's old headquarters gave way to many big mounds of dirt, foreground. The Borgs' plan to build luxury apartments, as well as work on other apartment projects on Main Street, have been suspended during the Covid-19 pandemic. 


GateHouse and Gannett

Last summer, Wildstein reported, GateHouse Media acquired Gannett for $12.06 a share. 

"The deal was structured to include a massive debt that would require hundreds of millions in cuts to pay back a $1.2 billion loan that was part of the deal to keep them afloat," he said, adding Gannett stock plummeted to 64 cents almost three weeks ago, "signaling immense problems ahead for the company.

"The stock is currently trading at 78 cents a share," Wildstein's Globe reported on April 27.




Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Stay home, wash your hands, wear a mask, but what about a sudden loss of intimacy?

BIRDS AND BEES: Spring has sprung in Hackensack, N.J., but sexual intimacy is out of bounds during the Covid-19 pandemic, so I find myself spending more time waiting on line to get into Costco Wholesale in Teterboro, N.J., below, and other food stores. 
PANIC BUYING: Last week, I lined up behind other Costco members wearing masks and gloves to get into the warehouse during special senior hours, only to find shortages of some of my favorite items. So, are cooking and eating comfort food the only pleasures we have left? 


By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

HACKENSACK, N.J. -- Before the Covid-19 pandemic altered my life and the lives of millions of other older Americans, I spent most of my time shopping for food and volunteering at a hospital.

After the hospital's Volunteer Office closed, I and millions of others were told to stay home, wash our hands frequently and not to touch our faces -- or, presumably, our wives' face.

So, I made sure to touch my wife only below her neck.

But as we spend so much more time together, are all forms of affection and sex out of bounds?

Are cunnilingus and fellatio safer than intercourse? 

If all forms of affection and sexual intimacy are dangerous, what is left?

Comfort food? 

Are cooking and eating too much all we have left as we try to stay safe from this killer virus?

Saturday, April 25, 2020

'Don't Panic, Eat Organic' are wise words to live by during the pandemic or any time

DIRTY DOZEN: I buy organic strawberries at Whole Foods Market in Paramus because conventionally grown strawberries top the Dirty Dozen, 12 crops that farmers typically use the most pesticides on, according to the Environmental Working Group. And they are most likely to contain pesticide residue even after they are washed, AARP says.
CHEAPER THAN AT COSTCO:  I also buy Organic Carrots at Whole Foods Market because they are cheaper by the pound at the Paramus supermarket than they are at Costco Wholesale in Teterboro.

AARP article distills new book
on organic food, eating local


By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

HACKENSACK, N.J. -- With the U.S. death toll from the Covid-19 virus passing 50,000, many of us are spending more time at home preparing our own meals and taking another look at what we eat.

Many people in quarantine are stocking up and binging on cookies, cakes and other sweets, according to news reports.

But in my home, we are pretty much staying the course, trying to buy as many organics as possible and eating only wild-caught seafood, and meat and poultry free of harmful antibiotics.

Now, AARP, the nonprofit interest group for older Americans, is exploring whether the health benefits of eating organic and locally grown food are worth the cost.

The short answer is yes.

Eating organic

"Why Eating Organic Matters" is the main headline over an article in the March 2020 issue of AARP Bulletin, a glossy tabloid, adapted from a book by Mark Bittman and Dr. David L. Katz.

The book, "How to Eat: All Your Food and Diet Questions Answered," cites a recent study in France, where researchers found "a significant difference in cancer incidence between those who eat organic routinely versus those who don't," AARP reports.

"Those people who ate organic had the least cancer, as you'd expect," according to the article.


ORGANIC V. NON-ORGANIC: Organic apples can have no more than 5% of the pesticides in conventional produce, but 80 percent of non-organic apples are treated with diphenylamine, which is banned by the European Union as a potential carcinogen, AARP says.


If you can't afford organic?

"A non-organic apple is better than no apple, and better than most other choices," the AARP article reports.

"So, yes, get the non-organic apples and wash them well [to reduce pesticide residue]. It's almost safe to say, 'Never pass up an apple.'"

As for eating local, AARP says, "No one but a fanatic could eat only local food, but concentrating on these attributes would mean you are eating better, more ethically, more sustainably."

"If you know your produce is being grown on a local farm where chemicals are not being used, you know that you are avoiding those chemicals," AARP reports.

Grass-fed animals

"When animals graze on grass, as opposed to grains, they keep the soil healthy and produce better meat."

"And pasture-raised animals may have lower risks of industrial food-borne scourges, like E. coli 0157:H7, a strain that can cause severe infection and even kidney failure," the AARP article says.

The article concludes:

"It's ... important to have a plant-dominant diet, along with balance and variety."

Costco Wholesale carries 100% grass-fed burgers (beef or lamb), Polish sausage and sirloin steak.

AARP headlines

Thanks to AARP Bulletin for the headline on this post, "Don't Panic, Eat Organic."

But I disagree with a subheadline that says "organic and locally grown foods are all the rage."

The organic movement began decades ago, and residents of New Jersey (and many other states) have always prized local food, including Jersey tomatoes, corn, wild-caught fish and other seafood.

I'd also like to point out the Your Health article on why eating organic matters contrasts with others AARP has published in recent years on food of dubious quality:





MORE AFFORDABLE: On Thursday, I shopped for organics at Whole Foods Market in Paramus during the senior hour -- 8 a.m. to 9 a.m.  Above, as an Amazon Prime member, this woman, like me, gets special deals and an extra 10% off on sale items. I also get 5% cash back by using the Amazon Prime credit card to pay for my purchases.
LINING UP TO SHOP: At 9 a.m., a long line of shoppers under 60 year old began to enter the natural and organic food supermarket.
TURNING A CORNER: The line wrapped around the corner of the building at the Bergen Town Center.