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May   9

Homeless Man Found Dead In Bloomfield

A homeless man was found dead Sunday morning at 9 a.m. at the Bloomfield Green.  Police identified the man as Raymond Szczesny, 50, of Bloomfield.  He was found sitting on the ground, leaning on a park bench, an empty bottle of vodka nearby, said Captain Michael Behre of the Bloomfield Police.  He said that Szczesny was well known to police officers, that he was "a big drinker" who had recently taken to hanging around the Green. The homeless man had asked police to take him to the hospital several times in the past few months due to intoxication.  Captain Behre said officers responded to a call, found the lifeless man, and called the paramedics who were unable to revive him. There was no evidence of foul play. Police were unable to locate any of Szczesny's family members.

The grim scene was witnessed by a reader who sent us a description of the scene and her reflections.

A man died on a bench at the Bloomfield Green today. And there was a fire at one of the apartment houses right in the heart of the historic area near Bloomfield College.  His body was covered with a white blanket- only his sneakered feet were visible.   I assume that it was a man-by the size of the sneakers.  I could be wrong. There were 3 patrol cars and several policemen who seemed to be waiting for a body pick up and anxious to go on with the rest of their day.  It was cold last night and I wonder how the man died.  Was he cold? Did he starve?  How did he live?  Did he fight in the war?  Why did he die alone? Was he evil? Did he want his privacy?  Was the park bench his resting place of choice? Will anyone be called to claim his body?  Was he a Dad? Maybe a deadbeat Dad. Possibly a favorite brother. I have 2 brothers.  He was someone's son.  I have 2 sons.  What will be their fate? Would I have given him a second thought if he were sitting on the bench alive?

I asked another dog- walker who surmised that he was probably a homeless guy.

So Yao, my very large poodle and I continued to walk.  Did not want to seem nosey.  But I did want to stay –keep him company while the policemen sipped their coffee, chatting and distancing themselves from the man.  I really wanted to see his face.  Yao, I am sure would have sniffed him.   

I was too embarrassed to linger. I moved on to the other end of the Green where a small crowd gathered around the fire engines chatting about the fire, hypothesizing about whose apartment and the nature of the blaze.  A homeless looking woman was smoking on a bench nearby.  She had red lipstick smeared well over her lip line and she clutched a ratty makeshift pocketbook.  She had tired blue eyes and smiled at Yao. She said he looked like a gentle soul.  I seized the opportunity and asked about the dead man.  "Honey" she snarled, "it's time for you to move on--go about your business". Yao and I walked back past the police cars.  I was insulted and embarrassed by my morbid curiosity.   

I am not sure what happened with the apartment fire or the lady with the smeared lipstick I do know that someone's child died alone on a bench at the Historic Green on a beautiful spring morning in May.  And that I need to move on.   

May 9, 2006 in Sirens | Permalink


Sad. Touching. But I don't think the correspondent above should feel embarassed by her curiosity. She had normal reactions. Expressed genuine concern. That's really quite a lot.

Posted by: cathar | May 9, 2006 12:23:50 PM

I knew Ray. This is very sad. He spent a lot of last winter sleeping out in the frigid cold and in a park. He had injured one of his hands roofing and felt he could not find work. Rehabs and 12-step meetings did not seem to work for him. He seemed to deteriorate a lot past 6 months. So much suffering. May he finally rest in peace.

There are not enough resources for the Homeless, not at all. He probably needed a year or two to rehabilitate from the alcohol alone. Maybe some people are "hopeless" - I don't know. Our society is rough on people.

Let's see if we can help the other homeless. And there are others -- in Bloomfield and Montclair. There are plenty.

Posted by: quaker-oats | May 9, 2006 12:26:41 PM

The refuge for most Homeless is the Public Library and public places.

Montclair was issuing anti-loitering tickets to the some of the Homeless last year. The ACLU informed the township that they were misapplying the Ordinance.

The ACLU said police can only issue a ticket if someone is hindering the passage of passers-by. In other words, not because someone "looks like they are homeless", or they appear to be a "neer-do-well". (my words)

Some of these people receive $700 per month to live on. Gee, I wonder why they are homeless?? Some receive no money at all.

Show them some kindness if you can, it helps I think.

Posted by: quaker-oats | May 9, 2006 12:34:34 PM

quaker-oats, there does remain the issue of how comfortable someone else (it usually seems to be a woman, but not always) may feel to be "stared down" by a homeless person across a library table.

Remember the heady days of Richard Kreimer in Morristown? Now that was a ridiculous lawsuit. And yet the town ended up paying Kreimer off (to little eventual avail)to go away. That the ACLU has lectured both Montclair and Morristown on this matter, too, doesn't necessarily speak well of that organization. Its concerns have seemed solely for the loitering homeless, not for the emotional (maybe even physical) security of those actually using the library. (Mumbling into an issue of "Cat Fancy" doesn't count.) There has to be a better way, one that combines charitable impulses with others' desire to actually read and do work in the library. But the ACLU seems so uninterested in this.

Posted by: cathar | May 9, 2006 1:05:59 PM

Cathar, if you could let us know about all those incidents in which homeless people have attacked library patrons, your argument would be more valid. Just because a person feels uncomfortable doesn’t mean the “offending” person should be booted. I get uncomfortable when huge guys with tattoos come within 10 feet of me, that doesn’t mean I have the right to get the ejected from wherever we happen to be.

Posted by: tattler | May 9, 2006 1:08:43 PM

Cathar, if I recall, that Morristown issue was regarding the guy's offending stench. http://www.libr.org/juice/issues/vol1/LJ_16.html

Posted by: Krys O. | May 9, 2006 1:24:25 PM

tattler, during the "Kreimer days," he was regularly ejected from the Morristown Library because others felt he was somehow "menacing" them. He certainly knows how to cast a greatly baleful stare, that I can personally testify to along with the odors he brings with hin..

When you get antsy if large fellows with body ink are nearby, you can finish your beer quickly and leave the premises. That isn't so easy in a public library. In any case, a bona fide library user might ask, why should he or she have to move? (Why, even, as used to occur with Kreimer, does the public restroom of a library suddenly have to become someone else's private bath?)

As for the true menace posed by the homeless, it's a tricky thing, no? Any search of the records the last several years in fact shows people who were injured or even murdered by the felonious homeless merely for "looking" at them.

Simple truth: most of us don't know just by looking at them, usually, who is or is not "dangerous." But I can understand others' unease in such situations, especially re someone mumbling senselessly into an issue of "Cat Fancy." It is thus the ACLU's lack of empathy for bona fide library users that concerns me. Whatever else it is, after all, not even generous Andrew Carnegie intended the public library to be a space where daily the homeless could assemble simply by virtue of habit. Or by assumed right. The ACLU is being much too adamantine in its position here, at the expense of so many others' emotional comfort. (Though not, I suppose now, you, whom I also know now I'll probably never meet at the Great Notch Inn.)

Posted by: cathar | May 9, 2006 1:27:53 PM

Krys, it wasn't just his reekiness. (You might even sniff out worse on your average night on the dance floor at Red Cheetah.) The guy also scared people, pure and simple. The odors thus became the excuse for his ejection.

Posted by: cathar | May 9, 2006 1:35:17 PM

There are many times I’ve felt uncomfortable because I feel a homeless person might be threatening. And I remove myself from the situation, because since I don’t know if they’re harmless or not, how can I ask for them to be removed? That’s life. I don’t have the ability to throw someone out of a public place because I think they are threatening, homeless or not.

Posted by: tattler | May 9, 2006 1:35:45 PM

I agree with cathar. I recall about a dozen years being at the Bloomfield library with my son who was about 3 years old. It was mid day, and this woman was carrying on. She was screaming profanity, as well as using derogatory terms for Blacks and Jews. I was offended as a matter of principle and asked the library clerk why they allowed this to continue - why not call the police. She said the staff was not allowed to call the police - could do so only if it was requested by a patron. So I said - go ahead, I'm asking you to call. Two police officers arrived, and then the show really started. She was running around the library, in addition to screaming her profanity. Completely disruptive. Another homeless woman would lurk around by the fiction books and yell at anyone who came down "her" aisle. That's when I got my CECL card and started using the Nutley Library.

Posted by: g | May 9, 2006 1:38:06 PM

There's quite a difference there. If someone is running around screaming profanities, fine, eject them. You would if they had a home or not. But if someone’s just sitting there making you uncomfortable, so what? Being comfortable is not a constitutional right but being able to stay in a public place is.

Posted by: tattler | May 9, 2006 1:41:21 PM

What if they *really* stink?

I'll bet our library is supportive of its homeless housing mission.

Posted by: Right of Center™ | May 9, 2006 1:47:01 PM


I haven't checked in for a while, but you never disappoint. What a total jerk you are. You talk about "emotional comfort"? How about the emotional comfort of not having a place to live, not having a job, being an addict and/or having emotional or psychological problems? Have a little f**k'in sympathy.

If you don't like the way someone smells, go sit somewhere else. Would you call the cops on a woman who simply had too much perfume on, or someone who stank of cigar smoke? I took my kid to the circus and I could smell the elephants from 200 feet away. Should I have called the police?

If the ACLU got involved it was because the town was misapplying a statute in a way that raised constitutional concerns for them. Yeah, I know they take it too far sometimes, but I'm glad someone is looking out for the Bill of Rights. If it were up to people like you, we'd all be marching down the road toward the benevolent fascism of Bush's "unitary executive" a lot faster.

Have a nice day.

Posted by: Guido Santa | May 9, 2006 1:52:10 PM

It's a debate, tattler. And comfort levels vary. I might not mind the gang at the Great Notch Inn, you might. We both might be able to stare back down some homeless sort in a library, whereas little old ladies or little kids doing their homework might not be.

As for the library being a public place, yes, it is. But also intended by the prime movers behind the public library movement (like Horace Mann) as a place where work is done. Which the homeless are generally not there to do.

Yet even the idea of a public library, tattler, is hardly a "constitutional right," after all. All I've suggested is that the ACLU has taken a wholly predictable position here for the ACLU, one that may not serve "the people" as genuinely as the ACLU claims. There are other interested, affected parties here other than the homeless. Time and again, the ACLU consciously ignores such parties in its assumption that its own position is perforce the only true virtuous one. The abridgement of "civil liberties" in library cases may not be as one-sided as the ACLU understandably bleats. I hope you might at least half-way agree.

And sometimes, as in the Kreimer case, this can prove financially painful to a town and its library system. Really, the money they offered up to Kreimer as a settlment could have been better spent on books and computers, the very items Kreimer conspicuously ignored on his own library jaunts.

Posted by: cathar | May 9, 2006 1:53:48 PM

(the above post is approved under the Lasermike Online Conduct Guidelines)

Posted by: Right of Center™ | May 9, 2006 1:54:27 PM

(well the one above the one above)

Posted by: Right of Center™ | May 9, 2006 1:55:44 PM

Why don't you apply to join the ACLU board? I hear they are trying to diversify. Surely civil libertarians and straight-up libertarians have some common ground? Change starts from within.

Posted by: Veronica | May 9, 2006 2:03:32 PM

Guido Santa (I still think of someone handing out Christmas presents at Joey's or Red Cheetah while wearing a sharkskin suit), I don't need to "check" to reinforce my similarly unfavorable opinion of you. (Which comes without asterisked profanity, verbally unblemished.)

If you smelled the elephants the last time you were at the circus, however, I hope you also noted that they posed no threat to you. Nor muttered any. Were even clean and neat in their elepahntine fashion.

Personally, I'd much prefer pachyderms to clones of Kreimer. Or even to a freshly bathed version of you. Mind the dung as you leave the tent to flee from "fascism," too, there's a good lad.

Posted by: cathar | May 9, 2006 2:05:40 PM

Just because you assume someone poses a threat doesn't mean they do. Ever read 1984? The Thought Police weren't mean to be good guys.

Posted by: tattler | May 9, 2006 2:08:27 PM

If I recall correctly, Mr. Kreimer was awarded a substantial sum (millions?), moved out west and still lived a "homeless" lifestyle. I think it was a "choice" thing with him, not a "money" thing.
A few years ago, there was a homeless man named Frank who hung around Church Street. I think he actually had an apartment in Newark. He had good and bad days. I would offer to buy him a cup of coffee and sometime he would accept and other times he would thankfully decline saying he had just had a cup. On his bad days he would just stare at you sullenly. If you didn't know him, he could be scary but he was harmless.

Posted by: BeanCounter | May 9, 2006 2:08:49 PM


it is my understanding that only the LASER himself can approve posts under the Lasermike Online Conduct Guidelines.

you are approving posts without the laser's sanction. please cease and desist!

Posted by: pissant | May 9, 2006 2:14:17 PM

I actually remember Frank (tall, thin, black guy?) I think he passed away a few years ago. He always hit me up for spare change but I never found him threatening in any way.

What's really sad is how someone's life can get so totally out of control (i.e., Kreimer, Raymond Szczesny). I'd like to believe that if certain support systems had been in place, they might be in a better place today. By support systems, I don't mean government handouts necessarily but friends and family, extended and immediate.

Posted by: Miss Martta | May 9, 2006 2:15:40 PM

Yes, Miss Martta, that was Frank. He would usually sit on a bench and cheerfully greet his regulars but, at times (off his meds?) would get cranky. He had a mother in Montclair, but I'm not sure what kind of relationship he had with her.

Posted by: BeanCounter | May 9, 2006 2:21:38 PM

Why thank you. I approve that post.

Posted by: lasermike026 | May 9, 2006 2:22:02 PM

Cathar, you amaze me. Trying to legislate comfort levels? Last time I looked this was the good old US of A. Like it or not, the homeless have as much of a right to hang out in front of the library than those hoodlums with skateboards and in-line skates do. (I bet they were never cited and have even LESS intention of actually using the library)

And by the way, as a woman, I've been stared down by millionaires, I've been stared down by the homeless and everything inbetween. Doesn't make it right, but also doesn't mean that the law should be enforced only for the destitute.

And to quote you, "Simple truth: most of us don't know just by looking at them, usually, who is or is not "dangerous." Isn't that true of ALL human beings? What a stupid comment.

Another stroke of genius by cathar: "Any search of the records the last several years in fact shows people who were injured or even murdered by the felonious homeless merely for "looking" at them. Good lord. How many crimes -- overall -- are perpetrated by the homless? A small percentage, I reckon.

Plain and simple, the homeless certainly haven't cornered the market on creepiness, unblinking stares or violent crime for that matter. Let's not put all of the homeless into one little box and mark it "menacing," shall we?

Cathar, you wouldn't last a day in a big city, where the homeless are everywhere and share the same rights, civil liberties and library entrances as the rest of us. Man, you suburbanites are soft.

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