BLOOMFIELD, NJ — A sign in the downtown area, displaying placards that advertise businesses, has drawn the critical attention of some nearby merchants.
Approximately 25 feet high, the sign is wedge-shaped, with one surface facing Bloomfield Avenue traffic headed east, the other surface, Bloomfield Avenue traffic headed west. The names of businesses in the area are displayed on each side. At the top of the sign, the words “Glenwood Village” are prominently seen. Elegantly below this, but thinly scripted, are the words, “Bloomfield Center.”
The parcel of land where the sign has been placed had been a traffic island. But with the elimination of a short, vehicular thoroughfare which allowed motorists to make a right hand turn from Glenwood Avenue into eastbound Bloomfield Avenue traffic, the island was joined to the sidewalk of the commercial area, creating a plaza.
In the Bloomfield Engineering Department site plan of the proposed plaza, the sign is called a wayfinding sign. The rendering of the sign shows it with arrows pointing toward destinations such as “police,” “train station,” “library,” “supermarket,” and “park.” A description of the sign said it would be three-sided with the a “B” for Bloomfield on top.
But in reality, the sign prominently features Glenwood Village, is the two-sided, with the open side directly in front of Wise Optical Center, at 52 Washington St.
“It’s way too big and it obscures people from seeing us,” Leonard Safir, the owner of Wise Optical, said on Saturday, Dec. 5.
“It’s a highway sign,” said his wife, Cheryl. “The sign should be for a charming downtown, not a mall.”
“And all this is for them,” Safir said, motioning across the street toward the Glenwood Village redevelopment site. “And we’re staring at the back. It could have been three-sided.”
Safir said he had heard about three weeks ago that a sign was going to be put up. But he had no idea what it would look like and no one contacted him. He said he has been at the same location for 30 years.
“A sign that size must have cost a fortune,” he said.
“Oh my God, it’s big,” said Maria Martinez, a Bloomfield resident and customer in the store who asked Safir, “Is that for you, too?”
“You want charm,” Cheryl interjected.
Across the street, at Roxie Florist, proprietor Nick Zois, who has been in business for more than 60 years, had a similar reaction.
“That billboard, they snuck it by me,” Zois said Saturday.
He said when people drive by and look at the sign, they can see the words “Glenwood Village” but not “Bloomfield Center.”
‘We’re not Bloomfield Center anymore?” Zois said. “I had a flagpole out there that I had been taking care of for 30 years. They took it down a month ago.”
He said, if anything, he would have liked to see a statue of the United States flag being raised on Iwo Jima across from his flower shop. Zois pointed to a small decal of this iconic American image, affixed to the front window of his shop.
According to the site plan, the plaza will have a flag pole and plantings.
Next door, the owner of Kolby’s Place Barbershop, who gave his name as “Q,” made a comment similar to Safir and Zois.
“The sign doesn’t focus on the small businesses,” he said Monday. “It’s for the up-and-coming development.”
Another merchant, just around the corner on Washington Street, also expressed a feeling of isolation.
“The sign is OK but they should put all the business names around here on it,” Dan Kapadia, the owner of Taj Mahal Gifts, said on Monday. “But we shouldn’t have to pay. If they put everyone’s name, then people would know the store is here. Why should we pay? They put the sign there because they invested money. But we’ve been here a long time. I’ve been here 41 years.”
Mayor Michael Venezia, in a telephone interview earlier this week, said he became aware of some concern about the sign after several sources reached out to him.
“I think the biggest concern is the size,” Venezia said.
The sign was approved by the mayor and council about a year ago and was erected by the Bloomfield Center Urban Alliance, he said.
The BCUA is headed by Bill Colgan, the developer of Glenwood Village.
“There is going to be a meeting between Township Administrator Matthew Watkins and Colgan,” Venezia said. “I’m sure something can be done about it.”
Colgan could not be reached in time for this story.