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RESTAURATEUR: GIVE SMOKERS THE CHAIR

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You’re on your way into a restaurant you’ve been dying to check out, and just as you near the door, it hits you: the cloud of nicotine exhaust you have to pass through thanks to the cigarette junkies huddled against the cold near the entrance.

Lovely, isn’t it?

Solution: Give smokers the chair. And a table. Preferably as far from the door as possible.

That’s the gist of an idea that Buona Sera Ristorante owner Chris Mariani pitched to the borough council in a recent letter.

He wants the borough to allow restaurants that offer outdoor seating through the warm months to do so year-round to entice smokers to less-trafficked corners of their properties.

“Just keep them away from the front door so it doesn’t look like a factory,” says Mariani, himself a cigar smoker. “It opens it up a little bit. Spread ’em out.”

Mariani’s idea quickly took to the air. Within minutes of its first mention at Monday’s council meeting, most of the governing body had endorsed it.

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CUTTING OFF THE CUT-THROUGH

Life can be pretty frustrating on Tower Hill Avenue near Harding Road.

Cars heading west and downhill on Harding often turn onto Tower Hill virtually on two wheels, and then barrel down the narrow street of tidy homes to the stop sign at Spring Street.

It’s not just a matter of all the side mirrors that have been clipped off their cars over the years, residents say. Towerhill1_ir Pedestrians and people entering or leaving vehicles parked on the street must take their chances with the hilltop speed demons, who use the maneuver to avoid a series of traffic lights beginning at Harding Road and Spring Street.

Homeowner Val DeFazio has been asking the borough to address the problem for nearly three years. “If they wanted to put up a parking garage, I bet it wouldn’t take three years,” he quips.

Now, though it may still be months away from taking effect, a solution is very much in the works, town and Monmouth County officials say.

“The idea is to cut off the cut-through traffic, which is a huge number of vehicles,” says Borough Engineer Richard Kosenski.

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WHERE HAVE I SEEN THIS?

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Christine Jahnig of Red Bank was the first of several readers to recognize the site of last week’s photo, which showed, in her words, “a lovely…formal boxwood maze.” The well-tended topiary can be found on Sycamore Avenue in Shrewsbury, just a few steps east of the historic Christ Church. [Clarification: reader Joel Davis correctly points out that the maze is actually closer to the Presbyterian Church at Shrewsbury than to Christ Church. Thanks, Joel. 12/2/06]

Christine’s a nearly lifelong borough resident and retired IBM-er who spends her time working in photography, pottery and, most recently, glass. She also passes by the hedges many times a week, she tells us. Congratulations to Christine on her first ‘Where’ win.

Now, what is that thing up above? Shout it from the rooftops if you must, but it probably would be more efficient to email us, thank you.

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A HALF-ASPHALTED JOB?

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What’s with the partial pave jobs on Hudson Avenue and East Bergen Place?

Almost two weeks ago, paving contractors laid down a 10-foot wide strip of steamy new asphalt along the north side of East Bergen. At the same time, they paved exactly half of Hudson—the western half of the north-south thoroughfare. Then the contractors packed up and left.

What gives?

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POSTAGE DUE ON THE WEST SIDE

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A year after the shutdown of the Westboro Post Office on Shrewsbury Avenue because of mold contamination, officials have set an estimated reopening date.

A postal service spokesman, George Flood, tells redbankgreen that the substation is expected to re-open by early March.

That would be a relief not only to West Siders, but to residents and business owners beyond Red Bank’s borders, in Fairview, River Plaza, northern Tinton Falls and elsewhere. Many were upset when the station was closed, and clamored for its quick reopening.

“The consensus is that the demand is there,” says Mayor-elect Pat Menna. “It was never a money-losing proposition for the post office.”

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WHITHER NEWSPAPERS? TIM-BER!

The accelerating shift of newspaper content from dead trees to the web will be topic A of a special program this Thursday evening (Nov. 30) at Brookdale Community College in Lincroft.

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The event, titled “The Changing World of American Journalism,” will bring together an academic and four working journalists, each of whom will give a short presentation on newsgathering and publishing in the digital age. (See shameless plug, below.)

The event is free and open to the public. The audience will be encouraged to ask questions and raise concerns.

Particular emphasis, says event organizer Art Kamin, will be on what web-based journalism might mean to society, and yea, even democracy.

“Newspapers help make democracy work, but digital-age changes in newspapers are here and more are coming,” says Kamin. “This program will examine what the future may hold for journalism and how it will affect our lives—especially in New Jersey and in Monmouth County, where newspapers play a critical role serving as a government watchdog.”

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GARMANY LINING UP ‘HIGH END’ TENANT

No big surprise, but don’t look for a Dollar Shoe store to take over the old Garmany space at 105 Broad Street.

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Owner Larry Garmany tells redbankgreen he’s close to an anchor lease deal for the red brick building, which is just one door north of the present Garmany emporium. And while he says he can’t disclose the name of the prospective tenant—or discuss rumors of a Tiffany Inc. move to town—Garmany says it is a merchandiser of big-ticket goods.

As reported here last week, Garmany plans to divide the building, which served as a post office from from 1931 to 1965, into three stores.

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ASBURY’S SOFT PATINA, UPSTAIRS

“Some people absolutely love Asbury Park,” Bob & Elisabeth McKay of the McKay Gallery say in a statement about their next show. “Others remember it fondly as they take great care to drive around it.”

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Artists, of course, are among those who can’t get enough of the place. Which meant the McKays had plenty of material to choose from when they decided to feature Asbury Park in their second curated show of urban photographs focused on life in a single city (the first, in September and October, was New York City).

And though the subject matter of a haunted boardwalk environ may seem overly familiar, “it was impossible to predict the beauty and sentiment that the ruinous cast of many of the images would portray,” the couple say.

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SOUP, SAUSAGE AND STAYING POWER

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Ten quick questions for Gary Sable, owner and sole employee of That Hot Dog Place, 30 Monmouth Street (next to the Dublin House). Gary’s 54, married, lives in Hazlet and has two grown daughters.

Did you have another career before you started this business?
Yeah. Before this, I had bar & restaurant in Perth Amboy called The Triangle Café with my brother, Scott, for 23 years. It was a family business. My father bought it in ’66, and then he started getting sick. I went in in’73, and my brother came in two years later.

The bar business is good when you’re young, but once you get past 35, you don’t want to be in that business anymore. The hours will kill you. Absolutely kill you.

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ROUGHING IT AT DANNY SANCHEZ

Here’s an event we’re really looking forward to, brought to life by the Freedom Film Society, the people behind the annual Red Bank International Film Festival.

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On Saturday, Dec. 2, photographer Danny Sanchez will open up his Bridge Avenue studio for a screening of “Old Joy,” a 76-minute film by Kelly Reichardt about two 30-ish guys on a camping trip in the woods of the Cascade Mountains near Portland, Ore.

Starring Will Oldham and Daniel London, the film also features the input of some of our favorite New Jersey-rooted artists. Hoboken rockers Yo La Tengo did the soundtrack, adding to a growing list of YLT film scores that also includes last year’s “Junebug “and this year’s “Shortbus.” And Fair Haven’s Peter Sillen, director of the 2000 doumentary “Benjamin Smoke,” manned the camera for “Old Joy.”

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TERRY GROSS WAFTS INTO TOWN

Terry Gross’s National Public Radio interview show, called Fresh Air, could hardly have a more apt name.

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The variety of fascinating personalities that cycles through her studio at WHYY in Philadelphia is proof that there is an alternative to the same-old lineup of guests making the talk show rounds to hawk big-budget movies and other dreck.

A recent week’s roster included filmmaker Stephen Frears; the authors of new books on the Bush Administration and the Holocaust; and Ray Manzarek, formerly of the Doors.

But that’s just the beginning. Gross is a seductive can-opener of an interviewer, one who almost always manages to get her guests to reveal surprising aspects of themselves and their relationships to their work.

Then again, sometimes she doesn’t. Next Saturday, Dec. 12, Gross comes to the Count Basie Theatre to show that it doesn’t always work out as well as it sounds on the radio.

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WHERE HAVE I SEEN THIS?

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Last week’s ‘Where’ showed a a drab, boarded-up shop with eye-catching turquoise trim. We can now reveal that the building is located on Cedar Avenue in Fair Haven.

And it seems fitting that the first person to identify it was Michael Halfacre, Fair Haven’s blogging mayor-elect and ‘Where’ regular.

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THE UNSTUFF OF LIFE

Somewhere along the way, our lives tend to get filled up with all sorts of stuff that we’ve settled for. Unsatisfying jobs. Unfulfilling relationships. A million little things that crowd out who we want to be.

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Bill McDonald, a personal coach who calls his service Open Passage, will lead a three-part program beginning next week for individuals looking to ‘declutter’ their lives, identify what they really want, and get onto a path that might lead them there.

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BIG SHOE AT GARMANY

Apparently, it’ll take three feet to fill the big empty shoe left behind by Garmany when it vacated the old post office for its current space in the longtime Steinbach’s building last year.

The high-end clothing retailer has submitted a plan to the borough to subdivide its former home into three stores.

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Meanwhile, three years after Garmany announced plans to move out of the building that served as a post office from 1931 to 1965, the rumor mill is still buzzing that Tiffany Inc. is a prospective tenant for the site. But the folks involved in marketing the property for Garmany aren’t talking.

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GO WEST, YOUNG MENNA!

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Two weeks after his election, and six weeks before he’s to be sworn in, Mayor-elect Pat Menna moved to put his stamp on Red Bank Monday night, introducing a plan to expand the special-assessment business district known as RiverCenter to the West Side.

Casting the move in terms of rising competition with nearby towns for shopping and entertainment dollars, Menna and RiverCenter executives said the plan, if approved by the Borough Council, would push the western edge of the Special Improvement District west along Monmouth to Bridge Avenue.

On Bridge, the district would reach south to Chestnut Street and north to the Navesink River. Also included would be the Oyster Point and Molly Pitcher hotels, and the new Hovnanian headquarters.

Excluded entirely is Shrewsbury Avenue.

Given what he termed the “positive” reception to the idea, Menna says he hopes to have an ordinance introduced, passed an enacted before he takes office on Jan. 1.

“The only time to move is the present,” he told redbankgreen this morning.

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WHERE HAVE I SEEN THIS?

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Never mind ‘Where have I seen this?’ The question Kim Sandbach hopes will soon be on everyone’s mind is, ‘What’s That Smell?’

Believe it or not, What’s That Smell is the name of Sandbach’s new business, a fragrance, cosmetics and skin-care products shop she’s opening at 80 Broad Street.

The unfinished storefront for What’s That Smell was featured in last week’s ‘Where,’ which attracted an unusually high number of correct responses. Once again, though, the winner was Jenn Woods of Red Bank, who seems to be establishing herself as the game’s most dominant player.

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GOING NOWHERE, AND SLOWLY

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More dark news for people trying to sell homes, and for all those businesses dependent on home-sales activity: the number of houses on the market continued to climb locally in the July-through-September period.

According to a report issued yesterday by the Otteau Appraisal Group, an East Brunswick-based firm that closely tracks residential market data, Monmouth County had 6,919 homes on the market at the end of the third quarter. That’s a whopping 51 percent increase from the end of the third quarter of 2005, a point at which the real estate market was already well into its present stall-out.

The latest figures translate into an oversupply that could take 11 months to work down, if the market were even conducive to sales, Otteau reports. A year ago, the market had a five-month supply.

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