UPDATE: Gorman Ave. Concerns Dominate Commissioners Meeting

A trio of residents complained to the borough government that the loud and inconsiderate behavior of Bistro Di Marino guests is disrupting their lives.

On an evening that had focused largely on the approval of such items as tax overpayment refunds and procedural issues related to expanding shared-services arrangements, the final moments of the Collingswood Borough Commissioners meeting heated up Monday when a trio of Gorman Avenue residents voiced their displeasure with conditions on the block. 

Robert Carlson, 47, an IT director; Gerald Kulpa, 60, a disabled retiree; and William Hummel, 57, a professional tennis coach, all said their problems stem largely from the meteoric success of Bistro Di Marino and the convivial attitude of its patrons.

“The reason we’re here is a two-pronged complaint,” Carlson said. “The noise that emanates from Bistro Di Marino, and also the parking situation on the block [are] totally out of control.

“Something needs to be done about it,” he said.

According to the residents, Bistro Di Marino is a persistent nuisance on the block, owing to its recent popularity as a special events locale. The tumult from loud, private parties and catered events on its swanky backyard patio frequently cascades down the block, Hummel said.

“It starts at 4 in the afternoon and goes until midnight; bonfires until three in the morning,” he said. “I gotta work in the morning!” 

Failure to communicate

Carlson’s chief complaint is that guests of Bistro Di Marino often ignore posted permit parking zones, taking street parking away from residents of the block illegally. The problem only worsens in the snowy months, he said.

“It affects our standard of life,” Carlson said. “We don’t have off-street parking,” he said. “People come up with kids and groceries and they can’t park.”

Collingswood Mayor James Maley said the borough was aware of ongoing issues with the property, and so revised its ordinances last year to address outdoor restaurant usage.

“I know there’s been calls in, but police have been responding to calls,” Maley said. “[Owner Jimmy Marino] was doing some weddings there, and receptions, and it changed."

Maley also urged strongly residents to call police to report these issues and complain directly at the time of the noise violation.

“When the police respond, the police can only file a complaint or charge them if he gets there and hears noise that’s too loud,” he said. “If people are willing to sign complaints, that’s a compromise.

"We’re working with them to address it. The best thing to do about the parking is to call the police.”

“We do,” Kulpa shot back.

“We’ll talk with [Marino],” Maley said.

“Good luck with that,” Kulpa retorted. “I was here when he requested the hearing for the outdoor dining [space], and he misrepresented it. I sympathize with him; he’s trying to run a business. But we’re tax-paying homeowners.”

“We moved here from Philadelphia,” Hummel said. “Call Lew Blum over with his tow trucks.”

“You start hooking some of these people up, they’ll get the message,” Kulpa said.

Problem tree

Kulpa also exchanged words with Commissioner Joan Leonard on the subject of “the disgusting ordeal of the maple tree on our block,” a diseased tree that is equal parts eyesore, fire hazard and culprit behind water intrusion in his home.

“The debris from this tree is clogging our drains,” Kulpa said, requesting that it be removed. “We can’t handle the upkeep.”

Leonard urged Kulpa to take his concerns to the borough shade tree advisory board, and promised an investigation into the issues. She said that borough ordinances designed to preserve the treeline in town preclude simply cutting down trees upon request.

“We can’t just take it down because you don’t like acorns,” Leonard said, adding, “I’m speaking figuratively.”

Kulpa, frustrated, told Leonard that the commission has investigated his tree previously, but not to his satisfaction. The trees on the block are all stricken with the same disease, he said; all are dying.

“It’s just a matter of time,” Kulpa said.

“For me too,” Leonard said. “I hope nobody chops me down today.”

“We’ll address it,” Maley said.

Shine a light

As long as they had the floor, the Gorman Avenue residents figured they’d best air all the laundry out, and cited a recent automobile theft as evidence that the darkened street could use more lamplight.

“We leave our porch light on all night long just to have some kind of light out there,” Kulpa said. “We need more light on that block.”

Maley said that some of the issue could be related to nonfunctioning streetlights on the block, and asked the residents to report any serial numbers on the existing lampposts.

He said it is easier for the borough to bring out PSE&G to reconnect power to them than to erect new ones, but he didn’t rule out the possibility of adding more.

“Talk to your neighbors; see what they say,” Maley said.

“We don’t want to get a light up and somebody will say, ‘Oh it’s shining in my bedroom,’” said Commissioner Mike Hall.

“That won’t happen on our street,” Kulpa said, adding that he’s surrounded by renters “and the people that are attached to me are The Addams Family.”

At the end of the meeting, the first person to speak to Carlson, Kulpa, and Hummel was Collingswood Police Chief Richard Sarlo. The four chatted for several minutes about ways in which to collaborate on enforcement of borough ordinances on the block.

**UPDATE: 11:15 a.m., Oct. 2, 2012**

In an e-mail to Collingswood Patch this morning, Robert Carlson asked us to clarify a few things regarding the nature of the complaints made last night.

1. Bill Hummel's comment about bonfires was made regarding the activities of his next-door neighbor, "who occasionally has (as late as the past saturday) had parties that go on until 4am," Carlson wrote. "They have a fire pit and from his window the smell and light are quite noticeable. He was not referring to Bistro Di Marino."

2. Carlson also pointed out that Kulka's complaint regarding the tree was a separate issue unrelated to the street-wide problems with noise and parking, for which the group was speaking on behalf of 14 signatories, which he deemed "well over a mjority of residences on the block.

3. Finally, Carlson said his issues aren't with Bistro Di Marino itself, at which he and his wife have eaten eaten"and patronized the take out many times and have promoted the restaurant to our friends and family."

"We have a problem with lack of courtesy to neighbors," he wrote.

Carlson also provided to Patch a copy of the text of the complaint presented on behalf of Gorman Ave. residents, which is visible in .PDF form (above right, with the photos of the story.)

Stephanie October 02, 2012 at 08:51 PM
Oh and those of you leaving nasty comments..... 1.) If you do not live here, nor are bothered by any of these events, why even chime in? 2.) If you cannot even leave a real name, it looks like you are more of the one who needs to get a life, rather than leaving immature comments on a wonderful website that is really only here to keep us all updated on news and events! Thanks for everything Patch!
Matt Skoufalos (Editor) October 02, 2012 at 08:58 PM
We'll take any 'attaboys' you've got, Stephanie! Thanks for reading—and to the rest of you, thanks for a great, civil, on-topic discussion.
Ron morze October 03, 2012 at 12:09 AM
If you were going blast the renters I would have never signed your petition u grumpy old man,besides the car stolen was parked near a street light with keys in it duh! The music isnt that bad sometimes Ron m
DougG October 03, 2012 at 01:03 AM
We live within a block from Bistro. Occasionally people park in our spots, as well as visitors to Garfield. It's one of the less desirable aspects of living in Collingswood. An issue for everyone. Many people do not have driveways, parking can be a problem. Everyone knows this, and its a pain to deal with at times.As far as noise? We never hear anything coming from the courtyard. Wednesday band nights at the Old Home have been louder. The Marinos are doing a great job. Kudos to the home town boys for cleaning up that block and the success and niche they have found in a very difficult bussines. Doesn't anyone remember the long list of businesses that were in and out of those store fronts? And hey? I'll bet the Marinos are not making pilot payments to Collingswood, unlike some of the other establishments on Haddon Avenue.There is more noise traveling down the river from Connie Mac's on Saturday nights until 2 am, or from the rowing events on the river.You can hear the Football games on Friday nights . We can all appreciate and relate to wanting to keep the noise level at a minimum when having small children that need to sleep, or even getting to bed early when you have to get up for work at 5 am, however we are living in a community where most properties are very close together. Its something that really cant be avoided. Shut the window. If there is an ordinance that is being violated call the police.(RE: the 4am partiers) perhaps the police can hand out some more tickets!
M Ignatier October 03, 2012 at 01:51 AM
Well, I know for a fact that the gentleman in question has on more than one occasion been the cause of "parking troubles of his or her neighbors", and was even visited by the police on several occasions for these troubles. Including allegedly slashing the tires of one of the "Addams family" as he puts its car (who happened to have a toddler with cp. Also the theft happened under the working street light so the point in moot.
catherine a marks October 03, 2012 at 02:14 AM
Well said Stephaine!!!
Stephanie October 03, 2012 at 02:30 AM
Ron-- I honestly do not think that the "renter" comment was geared towards you at all...
MAJ-13 October 03, 2012 at 12:55 PM
Stephanie- It's not the restaurant's responsibility to put up "polite little signs" that say where and where not to park, believe it or not, even though it's permit parking, and as unfortunate as it may be, some people don't care. I personally don't use the kiosks on the avenue and park wherever there's a spot, and believe it or not, it's only a $19.00 ticket, way cheaper then parking in Philly. Not sure how much Gorman is, but point being, polite little signs or not, people will do what they want; you need your "elected" officials who run the town to step up a bit more, not BDM.
MAJ-13 October 03, 2012 at 12:59 PM
Again, I disagree here. You take a few isolated incidents and act as if BDM is Top Dog, which clearly it's not. Some music on the weekends into the late hours, well, guess what, it happened and lived through it and survived and now you're here on Patch telling us about it. Guess what I'm trying to say is, even though at times a higher crescendo of music (not club music, that's not BDM's scene) can be annoying, it's not life threatening. Who do you blame when there are loud thunder storms?
MAJ-13 October 03, 2012 at 01:03 PM
1) lived in Colls my entire life and frequent BDM, their events, etc...great people, even better family, and have done tremendous things for that dilapidated section of Haddon Ave; and if you've lived here as long as I have, you'd know first hand that this section of Haddon was an eyesore and rather creepy with how run down it was. 2) and Stephanie, my first name is Michael, if you require a last name I can give that to you upon request.
Gary B October 03, 2012 at 09:20 PM
If each and everyone of us gathered all of our problems and tossed them into a pile and got to look at everyone else's problems; we would fight like hell to climb back into that pile and get our problems back. Point is, all of Collingswood has some form of noise pollution, varying one degree or another. The Rt. 30 side has screaming ambulance and police cars whizzing up and down the street every ten minutes ALL.DAY.LONG. ...the Rt. 130 side has, well Rt. 130, Collings Ave has the schools where kids and cars are darting in and out of the street ...Be thankful that you live on a dead end street that is all but half a football field long and has an establishment that gives some entertainment and life to the block :) Parking sucks in Collingswood, especially closer to downtown, we all know this and so does everyone else from out of town who wants to patronize the restaurants. The parking situation is the fault of poor management from the borough, not a restaurant. Also, if someone is looking for things to complain about here in Collingswood, I can provide a laundry list of issues, and noise is not anywhere near the top. I am thankful for the people who still spend their money here. These are frustrating economic times, be thankful that we have people who still want to spend their hard earned and few dollars on entertainment in our town! :)
MJT530 October 06, 2012 at 01:30 AM
Hi Matt - Good article about issues that need the attention they are obviously receiving based on the comments left on Patch. Question for you though...why is it necessary to include what people do for a living in the article? I don't see the need to clarify whether someone is an IT Director or any other profession for that matter. By doing so, it obviously spurred a bullying type of comment by MAJ13. These gentlemen brought an issue to the table for the betterment of the our community and MAJ13 either didn't attend the meeting and/or is unable comprehend the article to discern what the real issues are....enforcement. BDM is not the bad guy here and these gentlemen are not saying that BDM is the bad guy....it is BDM's patrons. They brought the issue to a public forum to express the lack of parking enforcement in the neighborhood. Also, the bonfires are a totally separate issue that doesn't even pertain to BDM and I'm not sure how MAJ13 figured it was. I'm not beating up the CPD. We all know they have their hands full and I personally appreciated the job they do. I do feel that more attention could be paid to the area in question however. MAJ13 wants to know what these gentlemen bring to the community besides verbal complaints. I would like to know what MAJ13 brings to our community besides name calling, bullying, and bashing freedom of speech for these guys. Hopefully he can learn how to comprehend a simple article someday.
Matt Skoufalos (Editor) October 06, 2012 at 12:33 PM
Thanks for the note. The details about who does what for a living are really just extra information that is part of basic reporting. Sometimes it's more relevant than others. As far as allowing bullying on the site, the other commenter was asked to curb his remarks and did so. We do our best to keep these places where discussions can be held. It's also up to the commenters to do their part.
MAJ-13 October 06, 2012 at 02:06 PM
I can comprehend things just fine, and "bullying" is just a tad dramatic from your end. In my initial posting I was out of line, Matt Skoufalos brought it to my attention and I assured him it would never happen again, and it didn't. As for the bonfire comment, I read (AFTER my posting) that it hadn't pertained to BDM, so that was also noted. And as for what myself and my family have brought to the town, the answer to that is more than this comment box will enable me to fit. We should sit down in the courtyard at BDM, order some delicious apps off of their blackboard courtyard menu, and I will tell you of the many things my family has done for the community, BDM, Collingswood Little League, Knights Park, so on and so forth. Lastly, a majority of the complaints are with BDM personally, not the patrons. I know for a fact that the owner of BDM is harrassed regularly on the weekends by CPD from Gorman Ave residents who continually call CPD and complain about "noise."
MJT530 October 06, 2012 at 11:23 PM
@MAJ13 -Based on what you posted, as well as, Merriam-Webster’s definition of bullying, I feel I was spot on. Albeit I think it would be entertaining to spend time listening to you pat yourself on the back with all that you have done for Collingswood, it would do nothing to rectify the problem at hand. Let me take this opportunity to thank you for all you have done though. Since you are an upstanding citizen of the community, I would rather you focus your energy on working towards a solution. Your fellow citizens and business owners would be very grateful. Here is an idea. Why don’t you use your sphere of influence within the community to get the owner of BDM, the 3 fellows from the neighborhood, and Chief Sarlo all together and hash things out. Address both the parking and the noise. There are ordinances for both and as I stated in my original posting, the issue here is ENFORCEMENT.
MJT530 October 06, 2012 at 11:24 PM
@MAJ13 –(cont’d) It seems you have firsthand knowledge of the “harassment” directed at BDM by the CPD and not their patrons. If the CPD stop in BDM to warn of a patron parking or noise issue, I’m not quite sure if I would call it harassment. If anything, it’s a courtesy on the part of the CPD. It gives BDM’s management the opportunity to ask the patron to move their car. That should make everyone happy. The neighbors get what they want, the patron doesn’t get a ticket, and BDM retains their customer. It is well within the neighbors rights to have the CPD called if an ordinance is being violated. The constraint is that parking in the area sucks but there has to be a happy medium somewhere with this. Maybe BDM can use the parking at the Garfield school lot on Fri/Sat/Sun nights. Just an idea. Maybe you can make that happen! I think we all can agree that we love Collingswood and we all want to enjoy it. Let’s work together with positivity to make it a better place to be.
eamonn shields October 07, 2012 at 01:04 PM
Collingswood has always had a parking problem, ever since the revival. Unfortunately, because of the large amount of restaurants which bring in a lot of out of town business, this will not go away anytime soon. The mayor should be more sympathetic to the plight of residents, particularly on streets without driveways. This is hardly the restaurant owners problem. Restaurants, it seems, are the only types of business that thrive in the town. As for renters, over twenty per cent of collingswood residents rent, and while they don't pay taxes, I can assure you the property owners do. When the heights was at eighty five percent occupied, about three years ago, the parking spill over went into the camden county parks parking. It won't improve anytime soon, unless of course the mayor bulldozes properties to provide for more parking, and parking lots, I can assure you, do pay taxes.
MAJ-13 October 07, 2012 at 01:44 PM
@MJT530: Haha, you're funny...def not "bullying," and still very dramatic of you to use that term. Like I said, my initial post was out of line, but I was reprimanded and it's over with, you just can't get over it and move on, or maybe you just wanted show off and let the entire PATCH world know you recreationally read dictionaries. Anyway, I wasn't patting myself on the back, was just emphasizing that you haven't lived here your entire life, and you haven't seen the avenue blossom into what it is now, and our families (mine, BDM's, and many more) helped in the transformation of what you see today, and what was probably a huge deciding factor for you to move here. As for using Garfield school parking lot, we tried a myriad of times. Too many tight___es who don't feel that BDM has "earned the right" to use that as parking. This is the only thing you and I agree on, it would resolve the parking issue, but just like any other small town, there are the "small town" politics that come with it. Some of the "decision makers" in town are apprehensive to give that privilege to BDM because if they do that, where does it stop? In other words, you give something to one restaurant, the rest of the restaurant owners in town will be lining up with their hands out for something; overlooking the fact that using Garfield school would resolve the parking issue for residents of Gorman/Crestmont Ave.
MAJ-13 October 07, 2012 at 01:54 PM
@MJT530 - (Continued) So my sphere (as you called it) was used and BDM tried countless times, but no one is budging on the usage of Garfield school lot, not even in the summer months when school is out, or on the weekends, it isn't happening. And when you're dining in the courtyard at BDM, and CPD show up more then three consecutive times on a weekend night because paranoid neighbors are complaining about noise when it's a normal weekend night and normal dining activities/noises are occurring, yes, that's harassment to BDM and its owner. Funny thing is, when certain CPD workers tell you that "it's getting old" and "Gorman Ave residents call as early as 4:00pm" that's harassment to BDM and its owner. People are calling before BDM is even truly open just to file their complaints early and get CPD on the scene. But, everyone has a job to do, residents have to complain, CPD has to come out and follow up on the registered complaint, Chief has to then follow up with all of the complaints and sometimes BDM after that, then there are town meetings, then there's PATCH, then there's you and I wasting our time commenting on it. Until that chain of events can be altered, nothing with the current situation(s) will change.
MAJ-13 October 07, 2012 at 02:06 PM
@MJT530 - Lastly, not sure what it was that I said that struck such a nerve with you, but you need to not take things so personally and realize we all have a freedom of speech to say/comment however we want. We may not always agree with one another, but we all have to respect one another's opinions. I don't agree with anything you said (sans using Garfield school as parking) but I do in fact respect your opinion. You on the other hand used this platform to take a personal attack on me in complete anonymity, but that's cool and that's your right. Just weird that you focused your efforts at me directly. Anyway, enjoy your Sunday, Go Birds...
eamonn shields October 07, 2012 at 02:10 PM
That was meant to read " do not pay taxes"
MJT530 October 08, 2012 at 01:35 PM
@MAJ13 - A personal attack on you? Really? Who is being dramatic now LOL. Let me apologize for calling you an uptight loser..oh wait that was you. Let me apologize for calling you a nerd...oh wait that was you. Let me apologize to Mr Hummel for saying he has nothing better to do..oh wait that was you. Let me apologize to Stephanie for shooting down her suggestion to have BDM put a sign in their window...oh wait that was you. I'm curious how you have drawn to the conclusion that I have attacked you. I asked you one question. Other than that question, I have suggested a possible solution(which you and I agree upon) as has Stephanie(which is a great idea). But you are negative in your replies and offer no substantial suggestions. Bottom line is...if you have nothing nice or positive to say. Don't say anything. Your postings make you look foolish and like you are a grumpy old man. I think anyone reading these comments will agree with me. Maley and his cronies..blah blah blah such BS. If they are really that bad, do something about it. Run for office, get elected, and take over!
MAJ-13 October 08, 2012 at 02:19 PM
@MJT530 - Go back and re-read, I didn't say you were being dramatic, I said the use of the word bullying was dramatic...And bottom line is, just like you, I will say whatever I choose, positive or negative, and nothing I said was negative...my comment on the IT person was derived from any/all experiences I've ever had with IT people, my comment on Hummel was derived from knowing him personally, and the last guy, well he was the one who made his claim with the "tire slash" comment. So I don't see where I was out of line. Don't think I look any more foolish then the next person who wrote on here, yourself included, anyone is allowed to say whatever they want/feel. And I am grumpy, it's from years of working in the service industry and dealing with people like you; but I am not an old man, only in my mid 30s. I'm glad I provided you with purpose the last couple of days, think about how you would have had nothing to do/talk about had we not gone back and forth on PATCH. BTW @MJT530, BDM is now featuring pumpkin creme brulee, complimentary hot apple cider, and complimentary blankets for when dining in the courtyard on these cool autumn nights.
MJT530 October 08, 2012 at 02:37 PM
@MAJ13- Stop deflecting. You still haven't answered how I have personally attacked you. Its because I haven't. How come I'm not grumpy being that I have been in the service industry for over 20 years? I agree that this forum is for anyone who wants to comment. Don't you think that if you had something constructive to say about the topic that we wouldn't be having this conversation?
MAJ-13 October 08, 2012 at 03:05 PM
@MJT530 - I'm not deflecting at all, at the time it seemed you were really taking personal offense to some of this back and forth gibberish we've compiled and I really had struck a nerve with you, and when I read your comments/rebuttles I perceived it in an attacking way. So, my fault on poor internet interpretation, but it's all good, we're past that, I'm more interested in BDM's delicious new appetizers, have you tried the sliced long hot stuffed with hot sausage? They're incredible. And I'm happy that you've been in the service industry for over 20 years and you're still as happy as you were when you began, my statement was predicated on my experiences from being a dish washer, waiter, and bar tender, etc. Fortunately now I work for the Federal Government, so I am slowly beginning to like people again and lose my grumpy edge. Lastly, glad we agree on how this forum should be approached, I enjoy mindless banter between people I don't know, and I enjoy PATCH. And who are you to deem what's "constructive," are you the co-editor? Constructive or not, we both (and everyone/anyone else who felt passionate enough to comment) expressed ourselves, we brought topics up for discussion, and we gave exposure for BDM. And we both (in some ways) feel we are right and entitled to our opinions, so that's why we're having this conversation.
MJT530 October 08, 2012 at 06:05 PM
@MAJ13 - LOL too funny! TMI my friend TMI..didn't need to know you are a federal employee. It explains a lot. I'm going to refrain from commenting further. Its been an interesting exchange for sure. You enjoy the apps at BDM. Take care!
MAJ-13 October 08, 2012 at 07:11 PM
@MJT530 - why is where I work "TMI" and "too funny?" Please don't refrain either, you are anonymous and be as brash as you'd like; I'm interested in knowing what it is you think you know about someone whom you've never met based on where they work. I find it odd that it "explains a lot," wish you'd expand on your instant assessment by me saying what I said. You being a waiter explains a lot, and I'll refrain from commenting further??? (sounds weird and rather judgmental doesn't it?) Thanks for the entertainment and be sure to check out Bistro to Go for nights that you don't feel like cooking, and just to be clear, we are not friends.
MJT530 October 08, 2012 at 07:23 PM
@MAJ13 - I never said that I'm a waiter. There are more professions that are considered "service industry" jobs. Your friend, MJT530
Matt Skoufalos (Editor) October 08, 2012 at 07:51 PM
MJT530, MAJ13 - I think we've taken this as far as it can go, fellas. Judges score it a draw, back to your respective corners, and let's move on to the next productive area of discussion. You both seem to have too many ideas to waste them on this back-and-forth stuff. Let's get out there and attack the next big problem in town, whatever that may be. With love, Your friendly neighborhood Patch editor
Christine October 10, 2012 at 06:19 PM
Well, I haven't waded through all the back-and-forth comments here but I would like to add that I live within 1 block of Bistro Di Marino on Haddon Ave., which does not even have permit parking. And yes, sometimes the spaces in front of my house are taken by restaurant patrons (or, more likely, Garfield School personnel). Also, I can hear the music from BDM if I am outdoors or if the windows are open. However, I see this as all part of the give-and-take of living in a TOWN rather than the middle of nowhere. It's part of the vibrancy that drew me to Collingswood in the first place. It's not the kind of place (cough::CherryHill::cough) that one can live a hermetically-sealed existence and not interact with one's neighbors. I chose to live here BECAUSE of the (limited) hubbub. And BDM is a fantastic asset to the neighborhood, overall. For that I will walk a few extra feet to my house or enjoy the music (or close my windows). Thanks, BDM, for investing in Colls. And thanks, Patch, for the forum.


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