Here’s a feud that must make for some chilly encounters on the SeaStreak Ferry gangplank.

The Asbury Park Press has a story today on an escalating four-year battle between a couple of Wall Street bigs with adjoining estates on West River Road in Rumson.


On one side is Pete Dawkins, vice chairman of a unit of Citigroup, former Heisman trophy winner and onetime U.S. Senate candidate who has built one lavish monument to himself in the form of a Navesink River mansion, and another in the form of a website.

On the other is Mickey Gooch, majority owner of an obscure yet soaring Wall Street firm and author of a rambling, exclamation-filled first-person column in the weekly Two River Times, which he owns with his wife, Diane.

Combined size of their Navesink River properties: 19 acres. Combined assessments: $15.8 million. Pettiness level of their dispute: pretty high.

According to the Press, the spat is over a plan by Dawkins and his wife, Judi, to knock down an 1,800-square-foot pool house on their property and replace it with a 2,750-square-foot caretaker’s residence. The Rumson zoning board approved the request and a plan for new tennis courts just over a year ago.

Apparently, the Gooches’ main gripe is that they don’t want to see what the Dawkinses are putting up, because at one point, there was a proposal to install landscaping that would make the new house “disappear,” to which the Gooches agreed.

But the board approval language requiring the house to be invisible—it called merely for “reasonably substantial screening”—wasn’t good enough for the Gooches, so they appealed, claiming they’d only agreed to the settlement terms because the board has signalled its leanings towards the Dawkinses.

Then, when the board cut short the appeal, the Gooches sued. Most recently, Monmouth County Superior Court Judge Alexander Lehrer—who visited the site to see what the fuss was about—kicked the whole thing back to the zoning board to allow the Gooches to give more testimony and put on an “expert” witness.

David Copperfield, perhaps?

If the case isn’t resolved before early December, it goes back to Lehrer for review. And the Press drops and enticing hint as to how things might play out in that event.

The newspaper reports that during a court hearing last week, Lehrer noted that Lewis M. Eisenberg, the former Port Authority chairman who lives on the other side of the Dawkinses, has filed no objections to the Dawkinses plan—and his shack is even closer to the proposed new house than the Gooches’ digs.

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