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Latest News in Harding, NJ

This is how NJ intends to fight home contractor fraud

TRENTON – Home improvement and home elevation contractors would need to have professional licenses from the state, under a long-discussed bill that has finally taken the first step through the Legislature.The timing of the bill’s consideration in relation to New Jersey’s bad-weather history was noted – just over one year since Hurricane Ida, with the 10th anniversary of Superstorm Sandy a month away – though the headaches residents have with fly-by-night contractors aren’t limited to the recovery af...

TRENTON – Home improvement and home elevation contractors would need to have professional licenses from the state, under a long-discussed bill that has finally taken the first step through the Legislature.

The timing of the bill’s consideration in relation to New Jersey’s bad-weather history was noted – just over one year since Hurricane Ida, with the 10th anniversary of Superstorm Sandy a month away – though the headaches residents have with fly-by-night contractors aren’t limited to the recovery after a storm.

The bill, A2138, would establish a new board overseeing home contractor licensing that would determine if someone had completed an apprenticeship program or has the relevant experience and passes a knowledge exam. There would also be continuing education requirements and a code of ethics.

Assemblyman Paul Moriarty, D-Gloucester, noted that to paint nails as a manicurist in New Jersey, someone need 300 hours of instruction and to pass a state exam.

“But if you want to pound nails and build someone a new addition to their home, you don’t need anything except just pay for a business license,” Moriarty said. “And it’s just preposterous and ridiculous. And we need to fix this.”

At the Assembly Consumer Affairs Committee meeting where the bill advanced, four residents who endured terrible experiences with home contractors testified in favor of the proposed changes.

Subi Koppula of Nutley said the oversight is what’s needed to prevent fraud.

“I don’t believe that this bill would make doing business hard. In fact, I believe that legitimate contractors would go the extra mile to get licenses,” Koppula said. “Fees may go up, but it will be well worth it. There will be less fraud, less legal issues, and the bad contractors, they’ll be exposed very quickly.”

Koppula has been a licensed engineer for 13 years and experienced in the field for 20 years and said it baffles her that the contractor who builds the plans she creates doesn’t need to be licensed.

The bill exempts from licensure anyone currently registered as a home improvement or elevation contractor in the state for at least five years. David Brook of Hillsborough said that should only apply to people without complaints or court proceedings against them.

“We need a law that will establish one word for contractors that has been missing for so long. That word is accountability,” Brook said.

Moriarty said that part of the bill is unlikely to change. In fact, it was altered at the behest of business groups to apply after five years, rather than 10 years. He noted contractors would not be grandfathered from every requirement, such as insurance and bonding.

“This is a big step, going from no licensing to licensing,” Moriarty said. “We have so many thousands and thousands of contractors. It might be frankly impossible.”

Moriarty worked with groups such as the New Jersey Builders Association on a series of changes, including ones that apply the bill to home renovation contractors but not original builders of single-family homes.

Tom Bovino, president of the New Jersey Builders Association, said the group had concerns about the original plan but considers the new version “a major step forward.”

He said bad contractors will be held accountable and that the proposed continuing education mandate would mean only qualified professionals are working in the field.

“We share the goal of this legislation to go after the unscrupulous contractors that perform shoddy work and unfortunately rip off our residents who deserve consumer protection and quality workmanship,” Bovino said.

Michael Symons is the Statehouse bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at [email protected]

Natasha Harding absent from Wales' World Cup play-off squad as Jess Fishlock returns for big role

Wales’ bid to reach a first-ever major tournament has taken a knock with striker Natasha Harding left out of Gemma Grainger’s 26-woman squad for the upcoming World Cup play-off campaign.Harding's absence is due to personal reasons, according to Grainger. The Aston Villa forward has won 103 caps and scored 26 goals for Wales. Under Grainger, she has started every match, scoring six goals and creating two more to cement her status as a key performer in the Wales setup. Bristol City midfielder Chloe Bull has been called up as...

Wales’ bid to reach a first-ever major tournament has taken a knock with striker Natasha Harding left out of Gemma Grainger’s 26-woman squad for the upcoming World Cup play-off campaign.

Harding's absence is due to personal reasons, according to Grainger. The Aston Villa forward has won 103 caps and scored 26 goals for Wales. Under Grainger, she has started every match, scoring six goals and creating two more to cement her status as a key performer in the Wales setup. Bristol City midfielder Chloe Bull has been called up as replacement.

Grainger acknowledged the important role Harding plays in terms of both leadership and output, but she stressed that the absence presents Wales with another opportunity to showcase their ability to adapt in the face of adversity.

" Adaptability is a strong theme in any successful team, andthat’s something we took from the last camp,"Grainger said, pointing to Manchester United starlet Carrie Jones' impressive displays in place of the injured Jess Fishlock, in which the 19-year-old scored her first international goal.

"We’ve gotten through the campaign with different players at different times. It gives us great confidence in our preparation. Every player here is preparing themselves for whatever role they will play in the team, whether that’s as a starter or as a contributor when they come on."

Wales have their sights set on World Cup qualification after sealing an historic play-off berth with their second-placed finish in Group I earlier this month. Wales will host their semi-final playoff against Bosnia and Herzegovina at Cardiff City Stadium on 6 October. Victory would see Wales travel to Switzerland in one of three play-off finals on 11 October.

The two best-ranked play-off final winners secure places at the 2023 World Cup in New Zealand and Australia, with the third entered into inter-continental play-offs taking place next February.

Wales are likely to be the side headed into the inter-continental play-offs should they defeat Bosnia-Herzegovina and Switzerland.

Fishlock fitness provides major boost

In a major boost, Fishlock has been included in the Wales squad, and Grainger is confident that the centurion can play a key role in the upcoming matches. Fishlock missed Wales’ final two World Cup qualifiers due to a slight hamstring tear suffered earlier in the previous camp. The magnetic midfielder’s absence was duly felt as Wales struggled to find moments of quality in the final third, scoring just one goal through Jones.

Since returning to the United States three weeks ago, Fishlock has enjoyed more than 100 minutes of competitive football with the OL Reign, drawing the game-clinching penalty seconds after coming on in the Reign’s clash with NJ/NY Gotham FC while helping to secure a position in the NWSL playoffs.

"From the moment [Jess] left, we contacted the club and wanted to put her at the centre of all of our decisions," Grainger said. "Jess has had a fantastic time at club level. She’ll be playing this weekend then jumping onto the plane and we’re very much looking forward to seeing her."

When asked whether the playoffs were in mind when the decision was made to keep Fishlock on the bench for Wales' final qualifiers, Grainger admitted that forward-thinking was necessary in order to keep Fishlock firing on all cylinders on the international and club front.

"We’re not going to put our players at risk if that wasn’t the right thing to do, and it wasn’t the right thing to do," Grainger said. "For Jess to be at the stage she is in her career, taking care of her so she can play for as long as she can is our number one priority."

Favourable opponent doesn't change game-plan

Of the teams competing in the playoffs, Bosnia-Herzegovina are the weakest according to Fifa rankings, with Wales ranking 33 places above their semi-final rivals. Grainger acknowledged that the competition is favourable, but dismissed any suggestion that gameplan preparations will deviate from those previous, citing a steadfast line from her managerial armoury that no easy match exists on the international stage.

"We are respectful of any opposition. Bosnia will be in a position where they want to come and give a good account of themselves. They’ll want to make it as difficult as possible for us just like any team," Grainger said.

"The focus remains on us and making sure that we deliver our gameplan against Bosnia."

Grainger appreciates the pressure on the squad given the unprecedented opportunity but stated the challenge is one that she and the squad relish.

"I think we’ve always taken it one step at a time with this team. We know we want to dream big with this team. We want to qualify for a major tournament. When we celebrated in Cardiff [after Slovenia], for us, it was about the players taking the opportunity to take the next step as a team and that’s what we’re looking to do again, and that’s Bosnia.

"For me, it’s exciting because this is tournament football. You’re looking at Bosnia because it’s the next game but you’re also looking at Switzerland because of the tight turnaround so it’s a little bit of both. But between the staff and players, we’re looking to put in a professional performance against Bosnia and leave the pitch proud."

Wales have already sold over 9,000 tickets for their semi-final at Cardiff City Stadium. Grainger is hopeful that fans can once again make history by shattering the 12,741 attendance record set against Slovenia.

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Eight NJ counties in top 50 most vulnerable U.S. housing markets

While the Federal Reserve's third straight three-quarter percentage point interest rate hike was the flashy economic headline Wednesday, the Fed's actions both already taken and still to come are weighing on trends in a housing market that, until recently, was historically hot.Imminent failure — or a housing crash like the one seen 15 years ago — isn't predicted if the United States enters a rece...

While the Federal Reserve's third straight three-quarter percentage point interest rate hike was the flashy economic headline Wednesday, the Fed's actions both already taken and still to come are weighing on trends in a housing market that, until recently, was historically hot.

Imminent failure — or a housing crash like the one seen 15 years ago — isn't predicted if the United States enters a recession, according to Rick Sharga, executive vice president of market intelligence for ATTOM Data Solutions, but certain markets could be particularly vulnerable.

Count eight New Jersey counties within the New York or Philadelphia metro areas among those, as they ranked among the top 50 most vulnerable housing markets in the country in an ATTOM report released last week.

Bergen, Camden, Essex, Gloucester, Ocean, Passaic, Sussex, and Union joined various counties in California and the Chicagoland area to make up more than half of the 50 as of the end of the second quarter of 2022.

Sharga reminds residents of the Garden State that although it's famously "not New York, not Philadelphia," New Jersey's geographic ties to both locales sometimes seal its fate.

"It's really indisputable that as those cities go, so go the numbers for the state of New Jersey, and candidly, neither of those metropolitan areas has fully recovered from the COVID pandemic yet," he said.

That being said, Sharga added that much of the middle of the state isn't in the same risk profile.

And while interest rates will continue to be raised, he said it's likely home prices will finally come down.

"We're coming out of a period of several years where, year over year, home prices were increasing by 15% to 20% across the country. Those days are over because of rising interest rates," Sharga said. "One of (the Fed's) initiatives, although it hasn't really been directly addressed, was to slow down the rapid growth in the price of housing."

Rental prices should backtrack too, Sharga said.

The caution here, according to Sharga, is that whenever the Fed decides enough is enough with the rate hikes, history says a recession customarily follows — eight out of the last 11 times dating back to the 1950s, he said.

But there's hope that such a downturn would be short-lived, and not lead to massive unemployment.

"If we do start to see unemployment numbers come up, that's likely to lead to more mortgage delinquencies, which will lead to more foreclosures, which could have a definite impact on the housing market," Sharga said.

Patrick Lavery is a reporter and anchor for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at [email protected]

Bad news for NJ homeowners trying to apply for tax relief

TRENTON – New Jerseyans have swamped the state’s property tax relief hotline in the first few days since application instructions went out, averaging around 26 calls a minute Monday in a wave that left many inquiries unanswered.Treasury Department spokeswoman Danielle Currie said more than 14,000 calls were received on the hotline – (888) 238-1233 – between 8:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Monday, compared with 18,000 in the entire month of August, a month when 98.5% of calls were answered and assisted.The hotlin...

TRENTON – New Jerseyans have swamped the state’s property tax relief hotline in the first few days since application instructions went out, averaging around 26 calls a minute Monday in a wave that left many inquiries unanswered.

Treasury Department spokeswoman Danielle Currie said more than 14,000 calls were received on the hotline – (888) 238-1233 – between 8:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Monday, compared with 18,000 in the entire month of August, a month when 98.5% of calls were answered and assisted.

The hotline had been used for the homestead benefit program but was accepting questions for both that and the replacement ANCHOR program in August, Currie said.

“The ANCHOR hotline is experiencing incredibly high call volumes, as triple the amount of New Jerseyans are now eligible for the program compared to the homestead benefit,” Currie said.

“In anticipation of the significant call volume, the Division of Taxation doubled the number of staff dedicated to answering the ANCHOR information number, but call volume remains high and agents are working diligently to answer as many calls as possible,” she said.

Rather than tell people that due to call volume they can’t be accommodated, the state is going to allow more callers to be placed on hold. But callers should be prepared to remain on hold for 30 minutes.

People who call the number for filing by phone – (877) 658-2972 – will not be dropped or rerouted if they select option 1 for filing. If they select option 3 for general questions, they are likely to be sent to the general information line and either wait 30 minutes or be told to call another time.

Residents can also apply online through a website – https://www.state.nj.us/treasury/taxation/anchor/index.shtml – that may already have the answer to residents’ questions, eliminating the need for a phone call.

“It’s important to note the ANCHOR deadline is not until Dec. 30, 2022, not to be confused with the Senior Freeze deadline of Oct. 31, 2022,” Currie said.

The state had earlier asked that residents not call for help until 10 days after the information and instructions were mailed to homes in their county. Those mailings were supposed to start Sept. 12, and were even touted by Gov. Phil Murphy that day, but that got delayed a week and started Monday.

Here is the revised mailing schedule:

Michael Symons is the Statehouse bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at [email protected]

Anonymous group stirs up backlash against Netflix plan for NJ

Ahead of an announcement on which project has been chosen for the redevelopment of a large parcel of vacant land in Monmouth County, one anonymous group of “local residents” has launched an anti-Netflix grassroots campaign.“No2Netflix” has created its own website and social media accounts. It is self-billed as “a group of people who live and work in the communities around Fort Monmouth.”“We just want people to inf...

Ahead of an announcement on which project has been chosen for the redevelopment of a large parcel of vacant land in Monmouth County, one anonymous group of “local residents” has launched an anti-Netflix grassroots campaign.

“No2Netflix” has created its own website and social media accounts. It is self-billed as “a group of people who live and work in the communities around Fort Monmouth.”

“We just want people to inform themselves about the realities of a film studio and we believe that they will say NO to Netflix too,” according to the No2Netflix site.

The Fort Monmouth Economic Revitalization Authority received four bids by the deadline in June regarding the nearly 300-acre “Mega Parcel” spanning parts of Eatontown and Oceanport along Route 537.

The U.S. Army base closed in September 2011 and many buildings on the site have fallen into disrepair.

There is no estimate as to the group’s membership size, as they have remained completely anonymous in setting up the accounts, saying they fear legal retaliation by the streaming giant.

Under the self-posed question “Do you back some other project instead,” the No2Netlfix site says “Netflix’s plan is to create what amounts to an industrial site on 300 acres of Fort Monmouth."

"We don’t think that that meets the spirit of the economic redevelopment plan and we don’t think it is a positive addition to the community.”

Of the three other bids, critics of the Netflix plan said “each proposal should be made public."

"Our tax dollars are being used and our citizens and community will be impacted. But the other bids seem to be a combination of retail, housing, parks and community spaces, education venues, and areas for business and tech development.”

On the No2Netflix site, there is an entire section named "The Jobs Creation Lie."

It counters the support of New Jersey Business and Industry Association President and CEO Michele Siekerka for the high-profile Netflix bid, saying such support "highlights the aspirational, wishful thinking that deludes communities, business leaders, and politicians into believing that a film studio will create high-tech, high-income, recession-proof jobs."

The NJBIA believes Netflix will be a boon.

“We maintain that Netflix’s arrival will indeed bring job creation to New Jersey, be an economic driver for Monmouth County and surrounding areas, and help New Jersey grow as an East Coast hub for the film and television industry,” Bob Considine of the New Jersey Business and Industry Association said in a written statement to New Jersey 101.5.

“It’s been over a decade since Fort Monmouth closed its doors and jobs disappeared. It is time we realized the Fort Monmouth economic promise.”

Under a “resources” page, the No2Netflix site says “Netflix is bad for Fort Monmouth. Actually, any film studio is bad for Fort Monmouth. But don’t just take our word for it” — followed by a list of 31 specific links to articles, some dating back over a decade from far beyond NJ — and some from other countries.

The first link, “Tax Foundation: Movie Production Incentives in the Last Frontier,” is a 2012 article from the independent tax policy nonprofit.

A more current look at film tax incentives across the country can be found at the National Conference of State Legislatures site, which in May said that at least 15 states in the past two years, alone, have enacted measures to implement or expand film tax incentives.

The same section of the No2Netflix site includes several links to previous coverage of the company that owned the film studio in Albuquerque, New Mexico, which filed for and emerged from bankruptcy before the property was ultimately bought by Netflix.

“An estimated 9,000 New Mexicans are employed by the New Mexico film, television, and digital media industry and a 2021 economic impact study indicated the industry generated an estimated $1.37 billion in economic output from FY20-21,” according to the New Mexico Film Office in a March press release.

When asked about the grassroots effort against one of the bids for which Gov. Phil Murphy has voiced support, the Governor’s Office declined to comment on Monday.

When announcing the four accepted bids in June, the panel said that the selection process could take “several months.”

RDR Partners involves stakeholders Russo Development, Dinallo Development and River Development Equities.

Extell Development Company is a New York-based real estate company.

The remaining bidder, Mega Parcel Development, was filed with state officials in January, with Joseph Saadia as its registered agent. It includes development, architecture design, engineering, and consulting firms.

One of the issues that No2Netflix has repeated about the Netflix plans is that it would amount to an industrial site on what is currently vacant property.

Of the other bidders, Mega Parcel has shared some of its plans for a multi-district site for the nearly 300 acres — including “a home for flex structures that can accommodate film and TV sound stages, and related production facilities."

Another of the bids, RDR Partners, reportedly pitched three districts, one for movie and film production companies — with residential units and space for tech and innovation companies and retail mixed in, as reported by the Asbury Park Press.

In 2019, concerns had already spiked about whether the field would stay "open" enough for some local residents' tastes.

“I can tell you there has been no decision made as to the ultimate disposition of Greeley Field; it will remain forever green but it was never perceived to remain unused,” according to a previous report by The Two River Times quoting FMERA executive director Bruce Steadman.

Whether a bid meets the redevelopment criteria has been laid out in the volumes of documents posted online by FMERA.

Erin Vogt is a reporter and anchor for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach her at [email protected]

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