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PISCOPO: CHANNELING ‘THE OLD MAN’

Img_9220Joe Piscopo at Retromedia Sound Studios with Joe Muccioli, left.

We spotted Joe Piscopo trolling the rainy streets of downtown Red Bank earlier this week.

Hunched over the wheel of an enormous black vehicle with a license plate that proclaims his essential Jerseyness, Piscopo appeared lost. His darting, googly eyes, and slow speed, were dead giveaways.

Soon, though, we were climbing the stairs together to John Noll’s Retromedia Sound Studios, where Piscopo had come to record a radio ad touting his Dec. 12 concert at the Count Basie Theatre.

Um, concert? That right. Joe Piscopo, the former Saturday Night Live comedian who killed with his broad aping of Frank Sinatra, is a legit singer now, an entertainer. And he’s doing his ‘Sinatra’s Birthday Bash’ on the 92nd anniversary of the late singer’s birth in the town of Basie’s birth. He’ll be backed by the 17-piece Red Bank Jazz Orchestra, led by Piscopo’s longtime music advisor, Red Bank’s own Joe ‘Mooch’ Muccioli.

A father of four who lives in Hunterdon County, Piscopo is going through his second divorce and “closing in on my third,” he says. “I’m looking for the future ex-Mrs. Piscopo.” He took time out from the hunt, and from show rehearsals, to talk to redbankgreen about his lifelong love of Sinatra.

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FAIR HAVEN KICKS DPW HEAD TO THE CURB

Pavelines2The lines are a little wobbly, but temporary, says Borough Administrator Mary Howell.

By LINDA G. RASTELLI

In a cost-cutting move that Mayor Mike Halfacre says he’s been suggesting for a year, Richard Gardella will become the borough’s engineer and the public works superintendent has been “let go.”

The “most visible example” of the need for a borough engineer, the mayor explains, was friction with its contractor, Earle Asphalt, of Farmingdale, over the height of new curbs downtown.

After an initial paving, the curbs were too shallow, and the council ordered Earle to do the job over. Strict oversight by a borough engineer could have prevented the problem, Halfacre says.

“The curbs just confirmed the direction we were heading in already,” says Halfacre, who is trying to cut costs.

Meanwhile, the now-ex-superintendent, Tom Curcio, had been asking for a raise from his $83,000 salary after two years with the borough, Halfacre says. Instead, the borough will pay Gardella — who’s leaving a similar position in Neptune — $90,000. He starts Dec. 17.

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NEW OLIVE OILERY MAY POP YOUR PIMENTO

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By TOM CHESEK

Even if you don’t think of yourself as a frantic foodie, chances are excellent that you’re likely to reach for the olive oil any time you make some noise with the pots and pans, be it a dab from an 8-ounce bottle or a dousing from a Mama Leone-sized aluminum can.

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But before you pluck that pale Progresso off the supermarket shelf, you should be aware that there exists a whole international “olive underground” of connoisseurs out there; a network of enthusiasts whose knowledge of (and romance for) the salty Mediterranean fruit rivals the religious zeal of the most dedicated vineyard-hopping oenophile.

And as you might have guessed, Red Bank is ahead of the curve in bringing this oleaginous subculture to our suburban doorstep, with the debut of a shop that’s described by a co-owner as “a store unlike any other on the East Coast.”

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ANSORGE CASE INCHES FORWARD

A trial in the DWI fatality case against Red Bank Red Hot publisher Claudia Ansorge may be scheduled for January or February, her attorney said this morning, following a procedural hearing in Red Bank Municipal Court.

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Attorney Peter O’Mara of Little Silver updated Judge William Himelman on the status of requests for evidence he’s seeking as part of the defense. He’s made arrangements to obtain a videotape of Ansorge made by Red Bank Police following the April, 2006 incident, and is awaiting paperwork related to a State Police analysis of a blood sample given by Ansorge after the accident.

Borough Prosecutor James Butler was not present this morning, O’Mara said.

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WEST SIDERS DEMAND BETTER SECURITY

Img_9501Two Montgomery Terrace residents confer with Human Relations Commmittee member Henry Tindall, center, and Red Bank Police Lt. Mike Clay after last night’s HRC meeting.

Montgomery Terrace residents last night called for more attentive policing, leaseholder ID cards and other security measures in the wake of the Monday shootings at the apartment complex that left two adult brothers in critical condition.

Other West Side residents, meanwhile, said the crime underscores the need for both a West Side police substation and a community center to give youngsters constructive activities and perhaps ward off future such incidents.

Tabitha Jamison, a Montgomery Terrace resident, said that just outside the doors of the 40 units at the borough-owned apartment complex are men loitering, shooting dice and drinking, yet the police make little effort to determine whether they live there or to shoo them away when residents call to complain, she said.

“What do you do when you are a good citizen? Do you stay in your apartment?,” she said. “A bullet has no one’s name on it. I don’t want to drive into my complex and have my son seeing illegal activity.”

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WHERE HAVE I SEEN THIS?

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Turns out that last week’s image had some of our regulars, including Kathy Lou Colmorgen (of the famous Colmorgen Kids) and Jenn Woods striking out.

Nope, it’s neither the Globe Street parking garage nor the new one at West Front Street and Pearl Street.

It’s the parking lot beneath the office building at 3 Harding Road.

IslanderE2 got it (or was close enough, giving the address as 1 Harding).

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LITTLE INFO ESCAPES LID ON SHOOTING

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With authorities clamping down tight on information about Monday night’s shooting at Montgomery Terrace, details that might normally be available can only be teased out from a rumor mill of sometimes conflicting accounts.

The Monmouth County Prosecutor’s office, which is leading the investigation, has declined to identify the victims, say where they are hospitalized or describe the circumstances of the shooting, among other details. Red Bank police have followed suit.

First assistant Monmouth County prosecutor Peter Warshaw says the blackout is necessary because the shooting suspect, Anthony Sims, is on the loose, armed and dangerous. Information is being withheld, he and local police officials say, to protect the victims and their families as well as the integrity of the investigation itself.

Sims, 19, gives addresses in both Red Bank and Eatontown. He has been charged in absentia with three counts of attempted murder.

According to residents of the 40-unit apartment complex who spoke to redbankgreen on the condition that they not be identified, the two victims were young adult brothers, one of whom had a girlfriend living in the complex.

One of the men was shot in the neck and the abdomen, the neighbors say, and may be paralyzed. The other was shot in the shoulder and is expected to fully recover, they say. (Another version of this says that one brother was shot in the neck and shoulder and the other was hit in the stomach.)

Neighbors say they knew the men only by their street names, which they declined to give.

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FAIR HAVEN PARES BORROWING PLAN

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By LINDA G. RASTELLI

In the last month, Fair Haven’s council, led by Mayor Mike Halfacre, has cut the town’s anticipated debt by $3 million by selling the former Masonic Temple and slicing its borrowing for 2007 by $2 million.

But that hasn’t stopped the public from criticizing its spending and the rumor mill from turning.

Word around town is that “we paid a lot more than we actually did” for the temple, the mayor acknowledged recently. And River Road resident Ruth Blaser, a council watchdog who contends the borough has been on a 15-year spending binge, asked the governing body, “As we go forward, can we cut up our credit cards and pay-as-we-go?”

Her question came as the council was preparing earlier this week to unanimously adopt an ordinance to bond $2 million less than originally planned for.

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INFORMATION BLACKOUT ON SHOOTING

Unless there’s an arrest of the gunman, authorities don’t plan to release any new information soon about the Monday night shooting at Montgomery Terrace, including the names and conditions of the two victims, redbankgreen has learned.

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The victims, whose names, ages and hometowns have not been disclosed, were reported late yesterday to be in stable but critical condition at an unnamed hospital. The Asbury Park Press reported that they are brothers; we got a confirmation of that from a reliable source late this afternoon.

Meanwhile, there’s also been no news about the hunt for the suspected shooter, Anthony Sims, 19, of Red Bank and Eatontown.

Officials at the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s office say they’re keeping a lid on the identities and whereabouts of the victims to protect them. Sims is said to be armed and dangerous.

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SEA BRIGHT STORMWATER PLAN OK’D

By LINDA G. RASTELLI

The tiny, water-bound borough of Sea Bright has a spanking new Stormwater Management Plan, one more likely to mitigate flood damage than to prevent flooding, says Council President and presumptive mayor-elect Maria Fernandes.

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The plan’s real aim is to help clean up the environment and ensure better water quality — plus, it meets a state mandate. The plan has been by approved by Monmouth County Planning Board after being initially rejected.

Drafted by borough engineer David Hoder of Maser Consulting, the plan’s stated goals — to be achieved through ordinances — are to reduce flooding damage, minimize stormwater runoff, reduce soil erosion and cut water pollution.

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SHOOTINGS NOT GANG- OR DRUG-RELATED

Today’s Star-Ledger says the shootings of two men at Montgomery Terrace Monday night does not appear to have been gang- or drug related, attributing that info to Monmouth County Prosecutor Luis Valentin.

An assistant prosecutor whom redbankgreen spoke to last night had declined all comment on the possible nature and circumstances of the crime. Valentin also declined to discuss a possible motive with the Ledger.

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TWO CRITICAL AFTER WEST SIDE SHOOTING; SUSPECT IS ‘ARMED AND DANGEROUS’

Img_9294Montgomery Terrace on Tilton Avenue, scene of Monday night’s shooting.

Two men are in critical but stable condition at an unidentified hospital this evening after being shot outside the Montgomery Terrace apartments late last night, according to the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s office.

Authorities are seeking 19-year-old Anthony Sims, who gives addresses in both Red Bank and Eatontown, as the suspect in the shootings. He has been charged in absentia with three counts of attempted murder and related weapons charges.

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“Sims remains at large and is considered armed and dangerous,” Monmouth County Prosecutor Luis A. Valentin said in a press release issued late this afternoon. “Anyone with information regarding Sims’ whereabouts is urged to contact police immediately so that he can be swiftly and safely taken into custody.”

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A third intended victim was shot at but not struck, the prosecutor’s office reported.

Authorities are withholding the names of the victims and the name of the hospital they’re in to ensure their safety, we’re told. “With an armed shooter at large, this is an unusual situation,” a member of the prosecutor’s staff told us this evening.

The Asbury Park Press is reporting that the two gunshot victims are “reportedly brothers.” Assistant Prosecutor Peter Warshaw said he would not comment on the report or immediately disclose where the victims were from.

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MONTGOMERY TERRACE SCENE OF SHOOTING

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Red Bank Police confirm that there was a shooting late last night at Montgomery Terrace, a borough-owned, subsidized housing complex on Tilton Avenue.

But the only information we’ve been able to learn is that the victim, whose name and gender we don’t know, was left with life-threatening injuries and was still alive early this afternoon.

A nearby resident tells us his wife heard three shots at around 11:30p, but we’ve been unable to get a confirmation on that.

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VERIZON TAX PACT TABLED, FOR NOW

Img_0200File photo of the Verizon building at 183 Broad Street.

A measure that would have settled a tax appeal by Verizon Inc. on its Broad Street switching station was tabled by the borough council last night after a debate that saw some unusual political splits.

The matter appeared to put the Democratic majority in an uneasy alliance with Republican John Curley and at odds with the attorneys they’d appointed.

At issue was a resolution to approve a negotiated settlement of a tax appeal by Verizon on its four-story building at 183 Broad Street. The deal would reduce the assessment on the property from $3.25 million to $2.8 million.

Annual taxes on the property would drop from about $122,00 a year to about $107,000. Of the difference, about $4,000 goes into Red Bank’s coffers.

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SEA BRIGHT INCUMBENT GETS RECOUNT

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Sea Bright Mayor Jo-Ann Kalaka Adams will get a recount of the ballots in the election that appeared to have resulted in her being ousted by just three votes, today’s Asbury Park Press reports.

The news surprised presumptive mayor-elect Maria Fernandes, in part because her Republican opponent hasn’t been heard from publicly since the Nov. 6 election. Kalaka-Adams hadn’t said or signaled that she might challenge the result. She also didn’t appear at last week’s borough council meeting, the first since the balloting, and news reports indicate she wasn’t returning reporters’ phone calls.

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The mayor couldn’t be reached for comment on today’s report, the Press says.

Fernandes, the council’s president and a Democrat, appeared to have made Kalaka-Adams a one-term mayor after a count of absentee and provisional votes on Nov. 9. (The Press gives the vote count as 272 to 269 in Fernandes’ favor, while the Monmouth County elections website gives the tally as 274 to 271.)

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CHRISTMAS HOLIDAY TREE ON WRY

Img_9226Quick! Somebdoy alert Fox News!

So he’s got an upside-down Christmas tree in the window of his store. Don’t read anything into it, says Michael Bonney of Red Bank News.

“It’s upside-down because it’s upside down,” Bonney told a puzzled customer of his newsstand this morning. “What else would you expect in this place?”

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JOVIALITY ALERT: BON JOVI TO PLAY BASIE

The Star-Ledger reports that moptopped singer and would-be beverage industry litigant Bon Jovi will headline a Dec. 21 concert at the Count Basie Theatre that for the last two years has seen Bruce Springsteen play.

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Though he’s not mentioned on the Basie website item about the show, the Ledger reports that Jovi

will lead an all-star lineup that night, at “The Hope Concert III.” Tickets will be $100-$500, with proceeds benefiting the Valerie Fund Center at Children’s Hospital at Monmouth Medical Center in Long Branch.

Others on the bill include Southside Johnny, Gary U.S. Bonds, Bobby Bandiera, the Jersey Shore Rock-N-Soul Revue, Mark Pender and Richie “La Bamba” Rosenberg and Tim McLoone & the Shirleys.

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SETTING THE TOWN A-TWINKLE

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Friday night’s Holiday Express concert and tree-lighting event on Broad and Monmouth streets featured bagpipers, hot chocolate and a wandering Mrs. Claus amid the throngs of people bundled up against temperatures in the mid-30s.

Click to enlarge individual shots.

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DROPPING IN ON AURORA GONZALEZ

Auroragonzalez2111Aurora Gonzalez

By TIM HATHAWAY

As a young girl in Monterey, Mexico, Aurora Gonzalez used to give all the money she had to the poor on the streets, even though she came from a family that was also needy. “My mother used to scold me for not putting the family first,” she says.

Today, Gonzalez is the sole representative of the Hispanic Affairs and Resource Center of Red Bank, a nonprofit which bills itself as Monmouth County’s premiere service organization for Latinos.

Her days are spent helping people not unlike those she saw on the street in her youth. But instead of coins, what she offers is crucial help in navigating the baffling bureaucracies of government and the healthcare industry.

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MANNEQUINS INVADE! AND THEY’RE ALIVE!

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Thirty-five stores downtown will feature live mannequins from 1 to 4p Sunday as part of an effort by Red Bank RiverCenter, the town’s retail promotion organization.

Might be fun to go from store to store and test just how well the models stay in their animatronic characters. See if you can crack them up! You know the kid in you wants to.

The mannequins are all models from Barbizon of Red Bank, whose owner, Mary DeMont, gave us a big assist with the photoshoot we did for this story. Kayla Lovgren of Brick is the model/mannequin, and the storefront is that of Bodega Shoppe, a gift shop on Mechanic Street. Kayla will probably be in the Rok + Lola window Sunday. A reindeer-straddling child is slotted for the Bodega storefront.

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THE BIG GAME

Img_8989Members of the Harford, Bender, Mortimer and O’Connor families gathered at the Red Bank Middle School yesterday for their annual touch football game, which only on occasion looks more like a tackle game.

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TREE & CONCERT KICK IT INTO GEAR

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“It,” of course, is the holiday season, which starts hereabouts on Friday evening, not long after the leftovers from Thanksgiving have begun to chill in the fridge.

This is one of Red Bank’s big events, drawing thousands of townspeople and visitors to the central business district for an event that RiverCenter secretary Michael Warmington describes as “absolutely magical:” the simultaneous lighting of all the holiday lights downtown as well as those on the big Christmas tree, followed by an open-air concert by Holiday Express.

As it was last year, the tree is in the Monmouth Street courtyard of the Dublin House, just around the corner from the site of the concert stage on Broad Street.

The weather forecast for Friday night is for clear and cold, with temps in the upper 20s. Prrfect!

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BLOOM’S VIEW, AND AN ISLAND, PRESERVED

Img_8414Henry Bloom, with Gunning Island in the background.

Rumson resident Henry H. Bloom bought a big chunk of Gunning Island in 1988, mainly because he was afraid that somebody would put houses on it and wreck his idyllic view of the Shrewsbury River.

The transaction was an unusual one. Bloom had convinced the seller — newspaper publisher Dick Scudder, whose family had owned their portion of the island for 62 years — to donate the property to Scudder’s alma mater, Princeton University. Princeton, in turn, simultaneously sold the property to Bloom and his partners, Carl Gross and Anthony Calderone.

It was a winning deal all around: Scudder got the satisfaction of philanthropy, Princeton got a pile of cash, and Bloom’s view was safeguarded.

“I thought it would be fun to own it,” he told redbankgreen yesterday. “And I wanted to preserve it.”

But Bloom admits he was also tempted by visions of a windfall. There were taxes to be paid on his 20-acre piece of the 32-acre island. Plus, it had been used as a dumping place for dredge spoils. When the muck dried and winds whipped the dust east toward condos in Sea Bright, his phone would ring with complaints.

So Bloom and his partners had some engineering work done, which showed they could put at least six homes on the island. (Readers with long memories may recall that Calderone was then CEO of homebuilder Calton Homes.) If his view was to be ruined, Bloom thought, at least he’d be the one determining what he’d be looking at from his big house near Oyster Bay.

That had environmentalists worried, even if only a single McMansion arose.

“One plantation or mansion, with boat access,” said Cindy Roberts of the Trust for Public Land, pondering what might have been. “When you think of the personalities here, the huge houses in Rumson…”

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