TWO NIGHTS IN INDIA

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Starting Thursday night, the McKay Gallery will offer a special two-evening exhibit of images by documentary photographer Marc Steiner.

Titled “Deenbandhu: Relative of the Poor,” the collection follows the work of Father George Kavukatt, a Catholic priest who has ministered to Adivasi (tribal) people in the dry wasteland of Thane, the Mahasrashtra province for the past 30 years.

Fr. Kavukatt will be present at a reception Thursday night, and the show will run through Friday, before traveling to Texas, Florida, Chicago, London, Germany, Sweden and Italy over the next four months.

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LAWYER: STORE FACES ‘DEATH PENALTY’

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By LINDA G. RASTELLI

Red Bank’s legal offensive against the controversial Best Liquors store on Leighton Avenue is the economic equivalent of a ‘death penalty’ case, its lawyer argued Thursday night at the conclusion of a three-hour hearing.

The session wrapped up at about 10p without a decision by the Borough Council, which is sitting in judgment. The council instead opted to adjourn until next Thursday at 4p, when it is expected to rule on whether the store’s record of illicit booze and cigarette sales to minors merits action. Download best_liquors_charges_and_specifications.pdf

If so, the penalties, if any, could be as severe as a revocation of the store’s license to sell liquor, Mayor Pasquale Menna said earlier this week.

That possible fate is not lost on either Sunny Sharma, who owns the store, or his lawyer, Samuel ‘Skip’ Reale Jr., who ripped the case made against the store by Borough Attorney Tom Hall.

Reale said Hall was relying on “second- and third-hand hearsay” in an effort to shut the store down.

“Hall is basically asking for the death penalty,” Reale said in a summation to the council. “Is the evidence you’ve heard the type of evidence you’d want somebody to use in determing whether your business should continue or not?”

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‘HS MUSICAL’ PHENOM HITS BASIE STAGE

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By LINDA G. RASTELLI

First came the Disney Channel movie ‘High School Musical‘ in January, 2006.

Then the video and the soundtrack broke sales records, giving rise to a concert tour and an ice show. ‘High School Musical 2,’ the cable sequel, is coming out in August. There’s talk of Broadway. And though critical response has been lukewarm, ‘High School Musical’ is now practically an industry.

When Red Bank’s Phoenix Productions announced auditions for ‘High School Musical,’ 306 kids auditioned for 48 parts, says assistant executive director Elaine Eltringham. Running this weekend only at the Count Basie Theatre, the four-performance run is nearly sold out, with only balcony seats remaining.

Clearly, some people can’t get enough of ‘High School Musical.’

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WHERE HAVE I SEEN THIS?

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Reader Ernest Anemone was the first to get last week’s not too obscure pic, which showed a detail of the St. Nicholas Orthodox Church on at Pearl and Wall Streets.

At one time, the structure was the home of the Pilgrim Baptist Church, according to an entry we came across in one of those Randall Gabrielan photo histories of Red Bank. Pilgrim Baptist is now on Shrewsbury Avenue.

A joint entry by the Colmorgen boys, Bob and Carl, was also correct, as was one from Alex Turoczi. Well done, guys.

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McG’S STRATEGY: NUKE THE EX’S TASTE

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In what has to be one of the most bizarre court filings ever made by a former assistant county prosecutor and governor, Jim McGreevey is now saying his ex-wife’s tell-all book failed to sell in part because of the “inappropriate and ill-fitting ballgown with a plunging neckline” she wore on Oprah and her “unbelievable assertion that she did not know her husband was gay,” the Star-Ledger reports.

redbankgreen shares this dish only because McG’s ex, Dina Matos McGreevey, is scheduled bring her book tour to Red Bank on June 28.

But for sheer courtroom balls, the gay ex-Guv’s assertions in divorce papers must be read to be believed.

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SUBURBAN PREY: COYOTE STRUCK BY CAR

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The Asbury Park Press is reporting that a coyote was struck by a car in Middletown this morning and put down on the scene due to its injuries.

From the posting:

A motorist reported about 6:10 a.m. today finding a wounded coyote on Holland Road near the AT&T facility, according to a news release issued by the township.

The male coyote, which was less than one year old, had been hit by a motor vehicle and was severely wounded. The animal was euthanized, the release stated.

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TREES, GOOD; TREE ORDINANCE? YES & NO

By LINDA G. RASTELLI

Although everyone who spoke at a Fair Haven public hearing on a proposed tree-protection ordinance said they supported the idea of one, the one on the table Monday night was divisive.

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A self-proclaimed “tree guy” who supported the law, Steve Garcia of Navesink Ave said he was upset to hear one neighbor advising another to take down his trees before the ordinance passed.

“Something’s got to get done,” Garcia said. “When people want to remove all their trees, I say, ‘Why didn’t you move to the desert?’ We’re losing so many of our mature trees. We’re running out of oxygen.” His remarks sparked strong applause.

But Councilman Tom Schissler said that while he supported the concept of an ordinance, he found the borough measure “unduly burdensome” as written and too expensive for residents. He argued it would cost more for residents to comply with than to ignore the law and pay the fines.

“This is not good to go,” he concluded before casting the lone ‘no’ vote. Still, the ordinance, similar to one in Rumson borough, passed.

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MATOS-McG HEATS UP AS SHE HEADS HERE

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The mud is flying again in the Jim McGreevey v. Dina Matos McGreevey marital spat, with the ex-Mrs. McG claiming in a lawsuit that the former governor’s accusation that she’s a homophobe have hurt sales of her newly released tell-all book.

A book, by the way, that she’ll be in Red Bank to flog later this month.

The Associated Press has a story, carried by the Asbury Park Press, which reports:

A little over a month after filing libel and defamation claims against her estranged husband for calling her homophobic and saying she made anti-gay statements, Matos McGreevey has charged in court papers that his claims have negatively affected the sales of her recently released memoir.

Matos McGreevey said the former governor “used his experience in manipulating the media” by making his claims “shortly before the publication of (her) much anticipated memoir.”

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SPARKS RAIN ON RUMSON’S PARADE

Buried in today’s Asbury Park Press account of Rumson’s centennial parade Saturday is word of a bizarre accident that injured a spectator.

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From the story:

At approximately 2 p.m. near the parade’s end at Victory Park, a streamer shot from one of the vehicles in the parade was blown into a primary power line. After being struck by the streamer, [Fire Chief James] Fenn said, the power line shorted, and “sparks rained down on spectators.” One person was taken from the scene in an ambulance with minor injuries, but Fenn did not have any further information about the person.

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EXITING BENCH, STILL BANGING PAY DRUM

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With just a week to go in his short tenure as Chief Justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court, James Zazzali of Rumson is continuing to lobby for higher judge’s salaries, telling an audience in Paramus yesterday that judiciary pay is “a disgrace,” according to a story in today’s Record of Hackensack.

Reprising remarks he made at Brookdale Community College in February, Zazzali told a gathering at Bergen Community College that, because of lousy pay, “Judges are leaving the bench; that hurts judges, but it also hurts the public. It’s an absolutely abysmal situation.”

The chief justice’s salary is $164,250, according to the Record; associate justices earn $158,500.

From the story:

Zazzali said that New Jersey Supreme Court justices have not had a raise in seven years, despite being the “third [or] fourth” most productive court in the nation. At the same time, he acknowledged that until the state’s budget problems were resolved, raises would be unlikely.

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DIG DEEP IF YOU’RE BUYING IN MONMOUTH

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The median price of all new single-family homes built in Monmouth County last year was $810,000, more than 3.5 times the national median of $230,000, according to a new report from the county Planning Board.

Typical size: 3,875 square feet, on three-quarters of an acre of land.

Cheapest available from a developer: $400,000, at Laurel Estates in Hazlet.

And if that’s your price point, you’d better move fast. The county divides all new homes into five price clusters, from low to high, and prices in the lowest range jumped a whopping 25 percent from 2005, while all of the other categories posted single-digit increases.

Since 2000, prices for the cheapest homes have soared by 212 percent, twice as fast as in the top price tier. We’re not talking shoeboxes, though. Even in the lowest price category, homes sizes ranged from 2,401 to 4,400 square feet.

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CANOES TO TANKERS, HE KNOWS BOATS

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By LINDA G. RASTELLI

Back when he had water rights on the Navesink, marine engineer Rik van Hemmen would paddle a homemade canoe to work in the summer, thus combining three of his many passions — engineering, wooden boats, and nature.

The two-mile commute, or should we say canoete, from Fair Haven to the Molly Pitcher’s dock took 45 minutes, during which van Hemmen enjoyed the stillness of the river in contrast to the background roar of air conditioners atop Riverview Hospital and trains passing through Red Bank. He also savored unexpected pleasures such as finding an osprey nest or fish sleeping on the river’s surface.

It only lasted four years, says the Dutch immigrant, but was “a huge high.”

Today van Hemmen combines his knowledge of boating with his love of problem-solving as vice president of the Navesink Maritime Heritage Association, a local non-profit group that promotes wooden boatbuilding skills to kids.

There’s a level of experimentation and risk involved in boatbuilding, he explains, that’s missing from classroom learning.

“It’s nothing to do with boats,” he says, “It’s the experience of creating something.”

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WHERE HAVE I SEEN THIS?

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Word on the street is that the Colmorgen boys, Bob & Carl, were running all over town on hunches as they tried to figure out where they’d seen last week’s location.

In which case Bob, who lives in Eatontown, probably drove right past it more than once. Yet neither he nor Carl nor anyone else for that matter was able to call it.

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COYOTE HUNTERS AIM TO CALM NERVES, TOO

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State wildlife officials hope to cool some of the fears raised by the presence of coyotes in Middletown while employing night-vision technology to try to find the canine predators, the Asbury Park Press reports today.

State and local officials were meeting today to make plans for a public education program in the community, the state Department of Environmental Protection says in a new press release on its website.

From the release:

“To help ease the understandable public-safety concerns in Middletown, we will do more to educate residents about coyotes so we can replace fear with facts,” Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Lisa P. Jackson said in a news release. “We’re also using more aggressive strategies to find the coyotes that have eluded traps for several weeks and remove these problem animals from Middletown neighborhoods.”

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CELL TOWER PLAN CRITICIZED

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About 50 Fair Haven residents turned out for a special meeting of the zoning board last night to object to a proposal by two wireless phone carriers to build a 125-foot-tall cell tower next to the Church of the Nativity on Ridge Road, the Asbury Park Press reports.

Some of the complaints centered on the purported health effects of radiation from the tower. From the story:

“The tower is proposed to be over my backyard. I’m concerned for my five children,” Marianne Grosso of Dartmouth Avenue said. “If it’s perfectly safe, it can go somewhere else where there are no people.”

However,

The board’s radio frequency expert, Bruce Eisenstein, testified that the tower proposed by Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile is about 400 times lower than the Federal Communications Commission standard for electromagnetic emissions.

“That puts it substantially below FCC limits,” Eisenstein said. “That’s all they (the applicant) have to show.”

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END TO OCEAN TESTING CHALLENGED

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Environmentalists voiced concern yesterday that the federal government has abruptly halted long-standing tests that can predict brown tides of the kind seen along the coast over the Memoral Day weekend, the Star-Ledger reports.

The tests, which have been conducted along the coast via Environmental Protection Agency helicopter for three decades to measure the level of dissolved oxygen in water, can be used to forecast fish kills and algae blooms.

From the story:

Federal officials downplayed the controversy, saying they had advised state officials they were pulling the plug on a test they said wasn’t getting the job done. They pledged to add new tests next year that would be a better gauge of pollution.

Environmentalists were outraged, however, that the familiar EPA helicopter that has hovered over the shoreline for 30 years and sampled water to test dissolved oxygen levels would be missing this summer. The test can predict potential fish kills and warn of harmful algal blooms.

“We were very shocked and alarmed to learn that EPA has discontinued its monitoring,” said Cindy Zipf, executive director of [Sandy Hook-based] Clean Ocean Action. “Dissolved oxygen is a very important sentinel for what’s going on in our ocean waters, and it’s just stunning that EPA has decided unilaterally to take this important indicator off of the monitoring list.”

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