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By Bill Cleary


GLOUCESTER CITY NJ--Sometimes you shake your head and wonder why there are so many empty store fronts in Gloucester City.  A great community like “The Holy City”, located on the bank of the Delaware River, with great residents, should have a bustling business district. But, dig a little deeper and you will find some disturbing circumstances that will point to maybe one reason why businesses are not settling here.


For example, Joe Feldman, owner of Boardwalk Bail Bonds, applied for a certificate of occupancy with the city housing office in July to open his business at 112 North Broadway. That building has been empty for the last two years. Feldman said everything was going along smoothly until Robert Booth, the president of the Gloucester City Business Association (GCBA) filed an appeal with Joe Stecklair, the City’s Zoning Officer, to block the opening. 


Booth’s written objections states in part, “A bail bond store is not an expressly permitted use in a Retail and Commercial (RC2) Zone.” Booth objection implies that he has the support of the GCBA’s membership as he signed the document, Robert C. Booth, president, GCBA.


Booth is also a member of the Gloucester City Economic Development Corporation (GCEDC), an organization founded in 2012 to promote the city’s business community. He is also the owner of Gloucester Travel, 114 N. Broadway, and is the owner of the dilapidated building that sits on the corner of North Broadway and Mercer Street across the street from his office. That building has been in disrepair for the past decade, if not longer. Booth has owned it for the last two years. Gloucester City owned the property before him. 


Booth’s complaint will be heard at the zoning/planning board meeting on Wednesday night, 7:30pm, at the police administration building, 313 Monmouth Street. 


Booth appeared at the August council meeting and asked council for a hearing with the zoning/planning board to air objections to the certificate of occupancy for the business. 


“We are not really against a new business smack in the middle of the town, we just want to know if the use is permitted in the code,” Booth said, according to a newspaper report on the meeting.


Mayor William James said, according to the same newspaper article, “We are very fortunate to have the business association in town and we will go over the matter.”


Feldman said his company, Boardwalk Bail Bonds is licensed by the New Jersey Department of Banking and Insurance. The certificate he received is dated June 1, 2013. It is signed by Commissioner Kenneth E. Kobylowski. Feldman said the City’s Schedule of District Regulations allows for an insurance business to open in a RC2 Zone. 


“I went to Booth’s office to discuss his objections. I showed him my license and he says, “I just don’t want you there. I don’t want that type of business next to my office. You should of come to me first and cleared it with me.’ ”


“I was shocked! I think to myself, who is this guy, the Godfather of Gloucester City?”


“I told him I had already checked with Joe Stecklair, Housing and Zoning Official and the city solicitor and they both said that it was okay to open my office. That the city code allows for my type of business.”  


“My attorney, [Andrew R. Imperiale, of Ventor NJ] also looked at the city’s zoning laws and agreed that I was in compliance with the code.” Asked how much this delay in opening his office has cost him, “Approximately $10,000 a week.” 


According to Feldman, “Booth said there will be criminals coming in out of my business which isn’t so. Most of the time family members will bring in the bail payments. Or they send the money to me via the Internet. And yes there would be times when a person who is out on bail will come to my office. But isn’t he or she innocent until proven guilty?”


“I believe that Booth is behind a rumor that claims I bailed out a child molester, and that person molested someone else as soon as they got out. That is total BS. He started a petition to ban my business. The nearby Heritage Store [Broadway and Hudson Street] has a copy of it behind its counter.”

Feldman was asked how did he know it was Booth that started the rumor. How did he know Booth was responsible for the petition?

“He might not have been directly involved in writing up the petition but I do feel he has some involvement. Who else would it be? He is the only one that has asked the zoning/planning board to overturn the zoning officer’s decision. As for the rumor, I have a good source who gave me that information.”

We were able to obtain a copy of that petition from an anonymous source. It reads, “We, the undersigned residents of the city of Gloucester, county of Camden, state of New Jersey, do hereby petition the Gloucester City Planning and Zoning Board to overturn the Zoning Officer’s decision to approve a certificate of occupancy for Boardwalk Bail Bonds at 112 N. Broadway. We believe it is not an expressly permitted use and will adversely effect the public good of our neighborhood.” At the bottom of the petition the name of the sponsor is missing. One of the store clerks was asked who was soliciting the signatures. “I don’t know. But I think it is a stupid petition. Who in their right mind would be against a new business opening in town?”

Feldman started his own petition which asked those who signed it to support the opening of Boardwalk Bail Bonds. He has collected 75 signatures in a matter of few days in favor of his business. 


Booth was contacted for a response to Feldman’s allegations. In a written statement Booth said,  “Thus far, I have spoken with him [Feldman] twice -- once by phone and once when he visited the agency. In neither conversation did I make any of those comments mentioned.  My comments to Mr. Feldman were exactly the same as I made publicly before Mayor and Council which were reported in the Gloucester City News. I am aware of a petition being circulated by residents. The petition is not sponsored by GCBA or me.”


Booth was asked, “As president of the GCBA, and a member of the GCEDC, shouldn't you be doing all that you can possibly do to encourage businesses to come to Gloucester City?” 


He said, “I would suggest that you speak with some of our new and prospective businesses regarding the time and financial resources devoted by volunteer GCBA board members (including myself) to revitalize the business community and move Gloucester City forward.”



Feldman was asked, “After this experience with Booth, would you join the GCBA?


“Absolutely not”, said Feldman. “Nor will I patronize any business that is a member of the GCBA. This experience has left a sour taste in my mouth. I am optimistic. I am sure the zoning/planning board will see that I am in compliance with the local laws. Booth’s appeal will be thrown out. If they deny me, I intend to file a lawsuit against the city.”


“Once my office is opened I plan on hiring two secretaries full-time, and several part-time employees. I will pay to send these individuals to school so they can get their insurance license. I will look for local people first before hiring someone outside of the city. My kids are into sports. Once I am opened I plan on sponsoring some of the youth teams in the community.”


His hours of operation will be 9 am to 9 pm, seven days a week. He does provide 24-hour service. If he gets a call late at night, he will not meet the client at his office, instead he would meet the person at the jail. Feldman and his family have lived in Gloucester City for 10 years. 


After taking the photo of the building, we asked nearby neighbors if they had any

A large tree blocks the front of the Boardwalk Bail Bonds office at 112 N. Broadway. Gloucester Travel, is located two doors down. photo credit/
objection to a bail bond business opening in their block. Jim from Chuck’s Appliance said he was happy to see the empty building being used. Mark, who lives on the other side of the commercial property, said he too, welcomes the new business. Nancy, who lives in the apartment behind the office, said the same and added, “It is Booth who is making all the fuss. He is a trouble maker.”



In 2009 two taxi-cab businesses wanted to open offices in Gloucester City, but both requests were denied by the city because that type of business was forbidden by the city’s zoning laws. One of those companies opened in nearby Westville and the other opened in Bellmawr. Also, not too long ago, a check cashing business also wanted to open a store front, but he too was denied because of the city’s zoning laws. That individual opened on New Broadway in Brooklawn. 


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