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Morristown 'hippies' poke some fun at town inspector

Couple calls caricature on wall a 'practical joke,' but worker finds it insulting

By Minhaj Hassan • Daily Record • September 5, 2008

MORRISTOWN -- A painting on the retaining wall of a Mills Street home is a caricature of a town property maintenance inspector who has issued citations to the self-proclaimed hippies who live there.


Jeffrey and Barbara Broido have received several summonses issued by town property maintenance inspector Hernan Velez over the years. Property maintenance records indicate they were fined $100 for the following violations:

• On April 11, 2007, for having peeling paint on their house;

• On May 8, 2005 and again that year in October for untrimmed hedges that were encroaching on town sidewalks;

• On Feb. 25, for not removing snow from a sidewalk promptly.

Jeffrey Broido said they believe their house is in good shape, though it would be even better if they had more money. He said he was laid off from his last full-time job about seven years ago, and he currently makes a living as an artist and selling things on eBay.

The latest violation, which they received last month, was for having what property maintenance officials described as a structurally deficient retaining wall.

Jeffrey Broido, who has lived in the house for 28 years, said he paid the $139 violation though he didn't believe the wall was deficient. He said he believes the summons had more to do with aesthetics.

Over a period of several years, Jeffrey Broido said the L-shaped wall surrounding their property on the corner of Mills Street and Tuxedo Place has been struck numerous times by speeding cars.

Every time a car struck their 150-foot long, 2 -foot high wall, Broido patched the wall with liquid concrete. Over time, the colors began to fade, and some patched spots stood out more than others.

Jeffrey Broido said Velez told him that the wall looked awful and said it had to be painted. The homeowner said that Velez told him that he could "paint anything on the wall as long as it is maintained."

The idea for the caricature came over the weekend when the couple was discussing their story with friends. One of those friends is an artist -- as is Barbara Broido -- and suggested the caricature, which Barbara painted late last month.

The image has Velez sporting a black flattop haircut and wearing a collar shirt, against a yellow bubble, giving it a pop art-like sensibility. The image was based on a photo of Velez on the town Web site.

Broido said Velez told him when he visited the couple's house that he found the image insulting and told him to take it down.

"I said you should think of it as honoring you," Broido said.

Velez declined to comment on the caricature.

Mayor Donald Cresitello, who lives on the same street as the couple, said he hadn't seen the mural but didn't think it was very nice of the couple to pick on a town employee.

"He is just doing his job," Cresitello said, adding that town neighborhoods are frequently checked for property maintenance.

"I doubt he was being overzealous."

He said he doesn't know for sure if the couple was violating any town codes with the image, adding that "there might be a freedom of speech issue" in play.

Jeffrey Broido said the picture is not meant to be offensive, and they are not being vindictive.

"It's just sort of a practical joke," he said. "We didn't say anything bad about him."

The mayor joked the image of Velez should be replaced with one of himself.

"I wouldn't have a problem with that," Cresitello said.

Minhaj Hassan can be reached at (973) 267-9038 or mhassan@gannett.com.

In your voice

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Roadgod wrote:
Fines because the paint on their house was peeling?

Are you serious???

I see the Mayor lives on the same street.

But no, they are not being targeted.

I bet I could find some town owned places that could be fined as well.

I think the mural is far out! :)

9/5/2008 3:41:10 PM
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azz710 wrote:
(continued from prior post)

As I'd been meaning to paint the wall for years, to make it more visible to the intoxicated souls who cruise down Mills Street at 90 MPH at 3AM, so I agreed. But I begged him to allow me until the end of August. After much discussion, he reluctantly agreed. As he was leaving, I asked him if we could decorate the wall or if it must remain white. He appeared amused, and agreed we could paint what we like as long as it looks maintained.

I did a lot of research and bought a $150 paint sprayer and four gallons of off white masonry paint for a total of about $250. I put two coats of paint on the wall and, when it was dry, Barb did the caricature, we made a transfer and Barb painted the caricature on the wall.

There was no malicious intent. As for "getting a real job", that's a joke! I spent over three years looking for a job in my field and, then, any field, all to no avail as no one these days will hire a sixty-one-year-old or, for that matter, anyone!
9/5/2008 3:37:57 PM
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azz710 wrote:
(continued from prior post)

You should understand that our street is something of a drag strip, this despite many pleas from us over the decades for a speed bump, more stop signs, etc. Over the decades, our wall has been hit by cars at least fifteen times. Each time, I use concrete to patch the surface layer which is knocked off. This is a constant process but, despite all of the damage, the underlying structure is 100% sound.

This time, I missed the deadline the inspector imposed, was issued a ticket with court appearance required. I spent the morning waiting for the judge to arrive, was fined $100 plus $39 court costs and, when I went to pay the fine, the inspector pulled me aside. He told me he'd seen my latest repairs, and they were fine, but that I "need to paint the wall". I asked if this is a code issue, and he said it's not, but that he'd compell me to do it, in any case. He gave me to the end of the next week. (continued in next post)
9/5/2008 3:30:41 PM
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azz710 wrote:
Hi. This is Jeff, one of the co-perpetrators of this caricature. I would like to clarify a couple of points. First, I'm not an artist; my wife, Barb, has been an artist her whole life. I'm a computer programmer or, I should say, I was a computer programmer for three decades, until my advanced age (I'm 61) and the exporting of much of the mainframe computer business overseas scuttled my career in 2001.

As to the painting, it was NOT meant to embarass anyone. It doesn't identify the man, in any case. We were witnessed painting it by a police woman, and she recognized his likeness, for what it's worth, was amused, and was certain he wouldn't be offended but, of course, she was wrong.

We were inspired to do this not out of vengeance but in the spirit of a gentle practical joke. Here are some facts. In May of this year, we were cited for the structural soundness of our 150-foot-long retaining wall. I did not agree that it was unsound (continued in next message)
9/5/2008 3:24:15 PM
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Blossom_rock wrote:
I know where the inspector lives and you should see the state of his house! The roof looks like it's about to fall off, for one thing.
9/5/2008 3:05:14 PM
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