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NO SALE FOR FORTUNE HOUSE, FOR NOW

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A proposed deal that would have put the historic T. Thomas Fortune house into the hands of developers is dead for now, redbankgreen has learned.

Real estate broker Geoff Brothers, who is handling the sale, confirmed that the would-be buyers, who have not been publicly identified, have withdrawn their offer.

George Bowden, chairman of the Red Bank Historic Preservation Commission, said the demise of the deal is, “in many respects, happy news.

“We’ve been sweating that one out for months,” he said.

Preservationists earlier this year won a key historic designation for the house, which was owned and occupied early in the 20th century by Fortune, a pioneering African-American journalist.

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COOLAHAN SAYS MENNA LEAKED INFO

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Red Bank GOP council candidate James A. Coolahan today accused Mayor Pasquale Menna of having leaked information about financial difficulties Coolahan has experienced, in possible violation of attorney ethics rules.

Coolahan made the allegation in an interview this afternoon with redbankgreen, which had been alerted to a Monmouth County Sheriff’s sale listing of Coolahan’s residence by a reader. The reader said she happened upon Coolahan’s name while perusing the list for real estate bargains.

The county lists the sale of Coolahan’s William Street home as having been scheduled for Sept. 24 as a result of a $445,000 judgment.

Further investigation by redbankgreen uncovered a filing for federal bankruptcy court protection made by Coolahan last Friday. Download coolahan_ch_13_petition.pdf

In a telephone interview, Coolahan acknowledged the pendency of bankruptcy and county-court actions, though he said the sheriff’s sale has been postponed to a future date. He said that he is well on his way to getting his finances in order after a long string of medical problems, and added that he is hopeful of saving his home from a mortgage company that is his primary creditor.

He also said he had consulted with Menna, who is an attorney, about his financial situation, and accused Menna of having leaked the information to parties Coolahan didn’t identify.

“I guarantee you got it from somebody who got it from Pat Menna,” Coolahan said. “I haven’t heard it from anybody else. Who the hell peruses the foreclosures, other than real estate people?”

Reached at his Shrewsbury office for comment, Menna, a Democrat, called the accusation an “absolute fucking fallacy. It’s a lie.”

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MENNA PARTNERS WITH BECK SLATEMATE

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Mayor Pasquale Menna, a lifelong liberal Democrat, has merged his one-man legal practice into a three-lawyer partnership that includes Republican Caroline Casagrande.

Yes, that Caroline Casagrande, who’s running for a 12th-district Assembly seat on the same ticket as state Senate hopeful, Assemblywoman and former Red Bank Councilwoman Jennifer Beck.

The new firm, called Menna, Supko & Casagrande , also includes Michael P. Supko, Jr., from the Red Bank office of Gluck Walrath, co-headed by former Fair Haven Councilman Chris Walrath. Casagrande comes from the Matawan firm of Cleary, Alfieri, Jones & Hoyle.

The threesome set up shop at 167 Avenue of the Commons in Shrewsbury last Friday. Menna’s former office was in the onetime Sun Bank branch opposite the post office on Broad Street in Red Bank.

Partnering with the opposition? Moving out of Red Bank? What on earth?

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A CRIME AFOOT IN RED BANK?

A Pennsylvania couple who owned a purported Red Bank investment firm that offered specialized financial services for podiatrists have been indicted on state charges of bilking their clients out of more than $500,000, the Star-Ledger is reporting.

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From the article:

Jeffrey Lafferty, 39, and Vincella Ross, 38, were charged in a five-count indictment handed up in Trenton yesterday by a state grand jury, Attorney General Anne Milgram said. They are charged with conspiracy, money laundering, securities fraud and other counts.

The couple ran Lafferty & Partners LLC, which specialized in providing wealth management for podiatrists and was affiliated with a member organization for podiatrists, authorities said. Lafferty and Ross allegedly spent the money investors gave them on a home in Green Lane, Pa., and for expenses including airline tickets, hotel rooms and mortgage payments, authorities said.

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PRESS: FOXTONS RUNS OUT OF GAS

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Its signs, and tiny cars, may have seemed ubiquitous. And the basic idea — transacting home sales at commission rates lower than those typically offered by real estate brokers — seemed like a winner.

But local upstart Foxtons is sputtering to a close, today’s Asbury Park Press reports.

The West Long Branch firm announced last night that it was done in by the sharp slowdown in the residential market and will lay off 350 of it’s 380 employees, the Press reports.

A bankruptcy filing remains a possibility, a company official told the newspaper.

From the story:

“The plain fact is that we have been battling against a real estate market that recently has turned into a sharp decline, and the company no longer has the liquidity to operate as a going concern,” said John D. Blomquist, Foxtons’ senior vice president and general counsel.

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IS THAT… WAYNE IN THE NEW YORK TIMES?

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We here at redbankgreen weren’t the only ones who did a double-take on opening last Sunday’s New York Times Magazine to page 39.

“Is that who we think it is in the full-page patient testimonial for Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York?” we asked ourselves.

In fact it was, and is, Wayne Fisler, owner of Wayne’s Market on West Front Street.

Still, some of Fisler’s friends calling from around the country aren’t completely sure it’s him staring back at them from the magazine.

“A lot of people didn’t know it was me right away because I don’t have my glasses on,” Fisler tells us. “It makes me look like an old man.”

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A LESSON IN TASTE BUD EUPHORIA

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Last Friday, the 25 students of the West Side Christian Academy in Red Bank took a field trip to Eastmont Orchards in Colts Neck for some apple-picking.

Over the weekend, the apples they selected were transformed into more than a dozen succulent pies, strudels and cakes.

And Monday morning, the baked goods arrived at school with the children for the K-through-12 academy’s annual pie-tasting event.

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FAIR HAVEN ‘NOT HAPPY WITH’ ENGINEER

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By LINDA G. RASTELLI

Mayor Mike Halfacre and the Fair Haven borough council got tough Monday night with its engineering firm for presenting a contract change order that would cost the borough an additional $67,000 for work on its $480,000 River Road streetscape plan.

“We’ve got issues,” Halfacre told principal engineer David M. Marks of T&M Associates in Middletown, which is responsible for the sidewalks, lighting, and new curbing on River Road in the downtown business district. “This is well over what the project should cost.”

The disputed charges include additional landscape ties, pipe for electrical wiring that was originally to come from Jersey Central Power & Light, and other items the borough is being billed for that the mayor insists were “not specified in the contract.”

Councilman Jonathan Peters insisted that T&M “deliver on what was promised. These problems come from T&M.”

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CURLEY: ‘NO’ ON LIBRARY COST CHANGES

It’s not often that firebrand Republican Councilman John Curley makes much headway against the tide of the Democratic majority.

But for a fleeting moment last night, Curley seemed to have raised concerns that just might bring the Dems around to his point of view.

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In the end, though, uh-uh.

The issue was a series of invoices, known as change orders, that would increase the cost of the ongoing $1.6 million renovation of the Red Bank Public Library by $8,350.

Curley raised questions about the particulars, and — to his evident surprise — found his concerns echoed and expanded on by Democrat Art Murphy III and even his main adversary in the post-McKenna era, Michael DuPont.

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RIVERCENTER NAMES NEW EXEC DIRECTOR

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Red Bank RiverCenter’s new executive director is Nancy Adams, a downtown revitalization consultant from Maplewood, who replaces longtime agency head Tricia Rumola.

RiverCenter announced the hire in a press release issued this afternoon.

redbankgreen hasn’t yet heard back from Adams after leaving her a telephone message. But going by her resume, she appears to have extensive experience with special improvement districts, the legislatively authorized taxing authorities charged with revitalizing business districts.

In addition to helping create the Springfield Avenue Partnership SID in her hometown, Adams has also worked with South Orange, West Orange and Newark, a website for her firm, Directions Downtown, says.

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KARCHER: BECK VIOLATED ETHICS RULES

The 12th-District Senate race between incumbent Democrat Ellen Karcher and Republican Assemblywoman Jennifer Beck, already framed by both sides as a contest over which candidate is the most committed to ethics reforms in Trenton, got personal yesterday.

Karcher accused Beck, of Red Bank, of violating ethics rules by using state letterhead and other trappings of office for political purposes within 90 days of an election.

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The complaint concerns a letter written on Beck’s legislative stationery to residents of Seabrook Village in Tinton Falls. It highlights Beck’s opposition to a plan by the Navy to allow some 300 civilian families to occupy military housing at the Naval Weapons Station Earle, and refers readers to “our online petition” expressing opposition to the plan.

The website location of the petition — nociviliansatearle.org — is prominently marked as “Sponsored by Beck for Senate and O’Scanlon and Casagrande for Assembly,” referring to Beck ticketmates Declan O’Scanlon of Little Silver and Caroline Casagrande of Colts Neck.

In letters sent yesterday to the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Ethical Standards and the state Election Law Enforcement Commission, Karcher asks for investigations into whether state legislative funds were improperly used for campaign purposes. She contends the letter was sent out in August, within the 90-day moratorium.

From the news blog PoliticsNJ:

Beck responded that the complaint was “frivolous,” and that she never mailed the letter. Instead, she handed it out during a visit to Seabrook Village, a senior living center in Tinton Falls. Beck said that handing out the letter did not violate the “spirit or letter of the law.”

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FLEET’S IN, AND IT PLUGS IN

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Is Red Bank about to start buzzing with funny-looking little electric cars?

Could be, if early adapters follow the leads of two trendsetters.

One is a furniture store known for impeccable taste in modern design. The other, as unlikely as it may sound, is the Borough of Red Bank itself.

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JUST IN: NEWSSTAND DROPS MAGAZINES

Bonney_92407There’s lots of empty space as Michael Bonney transitions his Monmouth Street shop from a newsstand to a convenience store.

By LINDA G. RASTELLI

When Michael Bonney bought Red Bank News in May, it seemed the decades-old monument to print journalism, deemed “a Red Bank treasure” by one regular, would continue much the same as before.

Patrons could still lose themselves browsing the racks of newspapers and magazines that took up most of the shop’s floor space.

But today, what was once a crowded warren of newsprint and glossies is open space that mainly draws the eye to the checkered black and white floor (soon to be replaced by hardwood or linoleum, Bonney said).

The magazine racks are gone, as Bonney has drastically pruned his 500-title magazine inventory, which he’s planning to replace with more household items, including dairy products and toiletries.

“It’ll be more like Prown’s,” he explained, referring to the much lamented Broad Street five-and-dime that closed in 2003 and for many residents remains the symbol of a slower, more stable, less gentrified downtown.

Now it seems that the Red Bank News known to generations of customers is also about to begin slowly fading into the collective memory, as newspaper and magazine sales become more of a sideline to its business than its mainstay.

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RED BANK FISH MONGER

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Miami Dolphins fanatic Robert Greene in his field of dreams on Chapin Avenue, where the kick is always good and no opponent dares show his face.

Just once a year, barring an extraordinary playoff situation that adds another matchup, the Miami Dolphins visit the New York Jets at Giants Stadium.

That annual contest is tomorrow, beginning at 1p.

By late afternoon, Robert Greene of Chapin Avenue will either be celebrating some combination of the Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, Christmas and hit-the-lottery day, or he’ll be wishing he was dead.

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CULTURAL CENTER GOES UP-DEMO, AGEWISE

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Starting next month, Diney’s Place/The Children’s Cultural Center won’t be just for kids anymore.

Turns out that investing a ton of money to transform the former Red Bank municipal building and police station into a learning center full of digital technology for kids 11 and under hasn’t paid off as well as the folks at the Community YMCA expected.

Even with art and dance classes for Red Bank Catholic students, the grand old red-brick building with the awesome arched portico is “pretty quiet” most of the day, someone who works there tells redbankgreen.

And after school â?? well, ditto. With Mom and Dad both at work, who’s going to transport little Johnny or Jasmine to the downtown center in the middle of the afternoon and then pick him or her up a couple of hours later?

“For working families, it’s just tough to get them here,” says Gary Laermer, president and chief executive of the Y, parent of the cultural center.

One result? “Participation hasn’t been as good as we would have liked,” says Sean Byrnes, a member of the Y’s board of directors and its former chairman.

Another? Well, even though the nonprofit Y got the Monmouth Street building from the borough for just $1 in 2002, it’s got a $1 million mortgage on it, according to Monmouth County records. That’s got be met.

So it’s time for Plan B, which calls for bringing in some culture-hungry geezers, relatively speaking.

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A TWIST ON DUAL OFFICE-HOLDING

Dale Connor, the tax court clerk in Fair Haven, is getting a new office.

Not a bigger one. A second one, right next to the workspace she already uses. And she’ll be required by the state’s highest court to split her time between the two.

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According to today’s Asbury Park Press, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that Connor can continue to serve as both the borough’s tax collector and its municipal court clerk — as long as she does the jobs in different workspaces.

She’s been working part-time in both jobs since at least 1980, according to an earlier report. And as far back as 1994, the court had given her he thumbs-up to continue doing so, even though she was the last of a breed in Monmouth County: a court clerk who also had administrative duties in local government.

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THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY

Monica Oswald, the Riverview Medical Center nurse who caught a monster fluke in the Atlantic Ocean last month, has been denied the world record designation over a technicality, today’s Star-Ledger reports.

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The International Game Fish Association, which has jurisdiction over such things, disallowed the 24.3-pound fluke as a record catch “not because [Oswald] lied as the critics claimed — she passed a lie-detector test about whether she caught it — or allowed the fish to be eaten by a wild animal,” the Ledger reports.

Instead, it was because the 45-year-old Neptune resident broke a rule.

While reeling in the hulking specimen of the coveted saltwater fish, Oswald temporarily rested her pole on the rail of her boat. She volunteered that information to the IGFA — sort of the Olympic committee of the recreational fishing world — and was disqualified.

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SEA BRIGHT LOCKUP: SAME OLD PROBLEM

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For 20 years now, Sea Bright’s temporary lockup has failed state Department of Corrections inspections because of an enduring deficiency, today’s Asbury Park Press reports.

The jail doesn’t have a secure facility for moving prisoners in and out of the building, known as a ‘vehicle sally port,’ the paper reports. And the problem won’t go away until a new jail is built or the existing one gets a makeover, it seems everyone involved agrees.

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EXIT 109 MOM: ‘INSTINCTS KICKED IN’

Christela Diaz, the Aberdeen woman who gave birth to a boy in her car near exit 109 of the Parkway Tuesday, tells the Asbury Park Press that she and her husband were shocked by little Zachary’s sudden arrival.

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For one thing, the baby wasn’t due until Oct. 16. And the couple “had just left a doctor’s office in Holmdel on Tuesday after a routine checkup with Diaz’s doctor when the 26-year-old woman began experiencing contractions,” the Press reports.

Diaz and her husband, Anthony Nina, were heading south on the Parkway when Diaz “suddenly began clutching his hand and yelling that she could feel the baby coming.”

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Nina said he tried to hurry to Riverview Medical Center. But by the time he got off the Parkway at Exit 109, his wife had already given birth in their Nissan Murano sport-utility vehicle and was holding a 6 pound, 2 ounce baby boy against her chest, wrapped up in her blouse.

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WHERE HAVE I SEEN THIS?

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Jenn Woods didn’t know the name of the building that features the window array shown in last week’s ‘Where.’ But she knew it was across East Front Street from the Welsh Farms store, and she beat another regular, Bob Colmorgen, to the “send” button.

Bob knew both its present name — Riverview Terrace — and its former one — the Teller Building. Back in the days when he was on police patrol, Bob tells us, he used to check the Teller Building doors at night. But the big window with the splendid view of the Navesink wasn’t there then.

Congrats to Jenn and Bob.

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TUNA LAWSUIT NETS FOOD BANK WINDFALL

A lawsuit brought by a Tinton Falls man over mislabeled tuna fish has resulted in a cornucopia of canned foods for a Mercer County food bank, the Trenton Times reports today.

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Last month, Del Monte Foods shipped 33,000 pounds of food to the Mercer Street Friends Food Bank in Ewing as part of a settlement of a class-action suit brought by Nick DeBenedetto, the Times says.

Thew newspaper reports that DeBenedetto sued Del Monte instate Superior Court in Middlesex County last year…

after he bought a four-pack of StarKist tuna cans and discovered that the nutritional information on the outside plastic wrapping differed from the nutritional information he discovered on the can labels inside, according to Andrew R. Wolf, De Benedetto’s lawyer.

Wolf said DeBenedetto filed the suit because he’s interested in nutrition and was concerned about the labels, which had inconsistent figures for calories, fat, protein and cholesterol.

The nutrition label on the outside packaging gave lower amounts for all four categories than the inside labels.

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EXITING AT 109: BABY ZACHARY

A pregnant woman enroute to Riverview Medical Center from exit 109 of the Parkway gave birth to a son in her car yesterday afternoon.

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The Star-Ledger says the woman’s husband, who was driving, called the Monmouth County 911 Communications Center to say his wife was in labor. Christine McCarthy, an experienced EMT on just her second day of work as a sheriff’s 911 dispatcher, advised the man to pull over, which he did, on Newman Springs Road.

But baby Zachary apparently couldn’t wait to make his debut.

From the story:

“Before she could even give (the father) any information and help him out, the baby was out,” Monmouth County Undersheriff Cynthia Scott said, describing the exchange. “(McCarthy) said she was excited
— (it’s) a lot different than helping deliver a baby when it’s right there in front of you.”

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