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THE CODE OF SEATING ARRANGEMENTS

A presentation on code enforcement matters drew a pretty sparse and rather muted crowd Wednesday night.

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But redbankgreen was distracted, we admit, by who showed up and sat together at the table nearest Borough Administrator Stanley Sickels as he spoke to 30 or so residents in the River Street Commons auditorium.

Sunny Sharma (in hat), owner of Best Liquors on Leighton Avenue, sat opposite John Ross (in green t-shirt) and John Tyler (in orange shirt). Tyler and Ross are Leighton Avenue homeowners who have been demanding that the borough put Sharma out of business over noise, litter and other violations.

The three came to be seated together, it seems, because the tables were marked for residents of particular streets to cluster for a session on Neighborhood Crime Watch that preceded Sickels’ presentation.

At first, we sensed a lot of tension at that table. But near the end of the evening, we saw Sharma and Ross sharing a laugh.

Afterward, Sharma said his differences with Ross and other neighborhood residents have never been personal, and that they are able to amicably discuss the issues that divide them.

Sickels, meanwhile, gave an interesting history—no kidding—of code enforcement in Red Bank. He also detailed present efforts to deal with what he likened to a burgeoning “flophouse” environment that arose in the mid-1970s, when deinstitutionalized mental patients were filling rooming houses in town. Only now, there’s a large influx of immigrants hoping to share housing costs.

Last year, Sickels said, the borough issued 938 summonses to landlords for housing violations, and will soon start issuing them to tenants who break the law.

As reported here, the borough last week hired a part-time inspector to keep an eye on trash and recycling. In addition, the town is looking for two, bilingual full-time inspectors, plus a couple of clerical workers, to bolster the present staff of 15 full- and part-time inspectors.

When the floor was opened for comments, John Ross said that 70 Leighton Avenue “has probably had five occupancy changes over the last year and a half,” each of which should have required notices to the borough, inspections for certificates of occupancy and new registration statements identifying the tenants. Yet a whole host of obvious violations at the property has persisted, Ross said, including dangling wires, broken windows and a hazardous sidewalk.

Frank Woods, a code officer present, took down Ross’s complaint. But he gave no indication of why conditions that Ross said he had previously reported to the borough appear to have continued.

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