UTILITY WANTS MORE TO GIVE USERS GAS

New Jersey Natural Gas is asking state utilities regulators to approve a 7.5-percent increase in distribution charges, which would boost the average customer’s monthly bill by $11.35 a month, the Asbury Park Press is reporting.

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It’s the first time the Wall Township-based company has asked for an increase in delivery fees in 14 years, the paper’s David Willis reports.

From the story:

The rate proposal, filed today with the state Board of Public Utilities, could take as long as a year to wind through the regulatory process, so any increase would not affect this winter’s heating season.

Now, the good news: In a separate filing, the utility notified regulators that it would
dole out a one-time refund next month, which for a typical residential customer will amount to about $70, because it spent less on natural gas costs.

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SEA BRIGHT TO STATE: SLOW IT DOWN

Img_8427Borough residents want the speed limit north of the downtown lowered to 35 mph. Here, at the south end, it’s 30 mph as you head north into the business district.

By LINDA G. RASTELLI

Sea Bright residents want to take back their streets from speeders, bike racers and parking-space-hogging tourists.

Last night, the borough council advanced a plan to convince the state Department of Transportation to reduce the speed limit on a stretch of Ocean Avenue, a state road, from 40 to 35 mile per hour. And additional laws to regulate parking and bicycle races are being drafted.

“Raising the speed limit will only add a minute to your driving time,” said Councilwoman Dina Long, who chairs the police committee. And residents are clamoring for it, she said — though some of them rather crudely.

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BEDBUGS INVADE SENIOR LIVING COMPLEX

The Wesleyan Arms senior citizens housing complex on Wall Street is battling an infestation of bedbugs that took hold in late October, this week’s issue of the Bayshore Independent reports.

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A resident of the six-story, 60-unit building told the newspaper that an exterminator sprayed the place and gave a presentation on the quarter-inch insects, which hide in mattresses and bed linens and feed on sleeping humans at night.

From the story:

“We’re assisting residents as needed both during and after this extermination process,” said Cynthia Jacques, vice president of Housing for United Methodist Homes (UMH), in a statement released Nov. 15. “We continue to provide whatever is necessary to eradicate this problem and to assure that our residents, employees and guests have a secure environment in which to live, work and enjoy.”

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TGI DON’T WORK FOR THE STATE!

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Bucking Gov. Jon Corzine, Monmouth County is giving its 3,500 employees a day off Friday, the Asbury Park Press reports.

Corzine, of course, has moved to end a decades-log tradition of giving state workers a paid day off on the Friday following Thanksgiving. New Jersey will be one of only 18 state governments open for business that day.

In Monmouth County, as at the state level, the day off is not included among the 13 days off per year guaranteed by collective bargaining agreements. But the Monmouth employees are being “granted” the day off anyway, county spokesman William K. Heine told the Press.

Heine said the county typically followed the state’s lead in setting holidays, but “there has been no change yet on the day after Thanksgiving.”

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RUMSON NOW OWNS GUNNING ISLAND

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Government officials and conservationists are expected to gather at Surfside Marina in Sea Bright later this morning for a press conference to announce that Rumson has purchased the 20 acres of Gunning Island that it didn’t already own, for $2.05 million.

The entirety of the 32-acre island in the Shrewsbury River will now be off-limits to development, officials say, and its role as a wildlife habitat and stopover for migratory birds will be preserved.

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LIBRARY CLOSES IN ON REOPENING. REALLY.

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The books are out of storage, free of dust and are being returned to their shelves.

Now, all that remains is a short punchlist of renovation items, plus the logistics of getting the phones re-installed and the return of books from the temporary lending library set up a couple of doors away.

By this time next month, barring unforeseen catastrophe (and there have been one or two), the long-awaited reopening of the Red Bank Public Library will have happened, director Debbie Griffin-Sadel tells redbankgreen.

Though she remains reluctant to give a specific date for the reopening, she says it will likely be sometime between Dec. 1 and 15. It all depends on when the place is ready, she says.

“The last thing I want is to say to someone, ‘You want what book? I have no idea where that is,'” she says.

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LOOSE CHANGE: LINCROFT FIRM MOVES $30M

A Lincroft rare-coin dealer has brokered the sale of a collection of prototype coins, some hundreds of years old, for $30 million, the Associated Press reported over the weekend.

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Inclued in the private transaction were about 1,000 coins made between 1792 and 1942 that the U.S. Mint rejected for mass-production and circulation, the wire service reported.

From the story:

“This collection is an incredible collection. … These were some of the first coins ever, ever struck by the United States government,” said Laura Sperber, a partner in Legend Numismatics of Lincroft, N.J., which brokered the deal.

The seller wanted to remain anonymous, and the buyer, concerned about security, agreed to be identified only as “Mr. Simpson, a Western states collector,” Sperber said.

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MERCHANTS: TIFFANY WILL HELP, NOT HURT

Img_8228A customer tries on a bracelet at an opening-night reception at Tiffany & Co.’s Broad Street store earlier this month.

The Asbury Park Press today pops in on store owners in downtown Red Bank to gauge their feelings about the recent arrival of Tiffany & Co., and finds the welcome mat is out.

In fact, writes business reporter David Willis, “other businesses in town have showered the store with flowers and gifts.”

“They have been dropping in to see the store,” said store manager Vicky Shortland. “Just very welcoming.”

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SQUASH: THE NEW COLLEGE-ENTRY SPORT

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What’s the difference between racquetball and squash? For starters, says Francis Odeh, “Racquetball chases you all over the place, but in squash, you chase the ball.”

In racquetball, the ball is bouncier and moves faster, and you can play the ball anywhere, all over four walls and the ceiling. In squash, purportedly named for the softness of the ball, there are more boundaries — the ball has to strike the wall at a certain height— so it’s more strategic. Because of its emphasis on ball placement and the “whole-arm swing,” playing squash will make you a better tennis player, says Odeh, who says that Roger Federer, the world’s top-ranked tennis player, also plays squash.

We chatted with Nigerian-American Odeh, coach at the Valkyrie Squash Club in Sea Bright, about why squash is getting hotter, who plays it, and what the 43 American universities that give squash scholarships have to do with it.

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IN TOWN | IN NOVEMBER: WEEK THREE

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Ted Jeremenko is a visual artist whose work exudes a meticulous craftsmanship.

Ditto for Nick Berger.

Both ponder people-free American landscapes that evoke a sense of something lost, or quickly vanishing, to the great detriment of our culture. Both are infatuated with color.

Yet their paintings could hardly be less alike. Berger’s are breathtakingly naturalistic, with an affinity for the fading light of day. Jeremenko’s are idealized renderings of perfectly geometrical houses and lighthouses in proximity to, but never really overlooking, large bodies of water.

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COMMAND PERFORMANCE IN THE TRAILER

Img_8334Resident Sean Murphy, at left, makes a point at last night’s Parks & Rec Committee meeting.

Chastened last month by elected officials for faulty communication about the state of the borough’s playgrounds, Red Bank’s Parks & Rec Committee assembled last night with an eye toward getting new equipment for two parks and bringing in some fresh blood.

“We’re here because the mayor asked us to put together a meeting,” Parks & Rec Director Bob Evans told the gathering at the outset.

Squeezed in around the table in the department’s trailer office on Chestnut Street were a dozen members and non-members of the advisory group, including the council’s two Republicans, John Curley and Grace Cangemi, and departing Councilman RJ Bifani, who did not seek re-election this year.

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WHERE HAVE I SEEN THIS?

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The first correct answer to last week’s ‘Where’ came to us via triple play.

Josh Schmidt identified it to Bob Colmorgen, who — stop us if you’ve read this one before — dispatched his brother, Carl, to verify it.

Yep, the ticket booth at Count Basie Field.

Peter DeFazio and George Lynch also knew it.

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RBR SHOWS ‘NO TOLERANCE’ FOR GANGS

Sureno_13_graffitiGraffiti that Red Bank police say refers to the Sureno 13 gang is visible in several locations, including this railroad gate on Drs. James Parker Boulevard.

By TIM HATHAWAY

Is gang activity a problem in the Red Bank area?

“Right now, people don’t want to believe it’s happening here,” says Peter Gibson, a Little Silver policeman who’s on part-time assignment as the school resource officer at Red Bank Regional High School. But it is, he says, at least in its early forms. Gang graffiti can be seen on certain streets. Kids will wear red or blue, traditional colors for the Bloods, Crips and other gangs.

“Then you have the number 13 jerseys,” Gibson said. The number refers to Surenos 13, or Sur 13, one of the more active gangs in the area, he said.

“Fortunately no major incidents have occurred in our school,” Gibson said. But he and assistant principal Risa Clay think that being proactive is the best way to prevent gang presence from escalating.

They teamed up last month to create a gang task force at RBR to combat the threat of gangs on the streets, in schools and at home. They invited key members of the community to the first meeting on Oct. 29 to discuss education, prevention and intervention. About 22 people participated from schools, police departments, churches and social services organizations in the area. Regular meetings are planned for the future.

At RBR, “We have a ‘no tolerance’ policy,” said Clay. “It includes dress and behavior and all expressions of (gang) affiliation.”

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MENNA BREAKS TIE ON WATER PLANT LID

A 3-3 council split over the $47,000 cost of water utility equipment led Red Bank Mayor Pasquale Menna to cast a rare tiebreaker vote last night.

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With that, the council approved a change order that will allow for the installation of a 39-foot diameter cover for an open-air, pre-treatment water clarifier at the Chestnut Street well.

Departing Councilman RJ Bifani, who did not seek re-election last week, chided the three opponents, including fellow Democrat Michael DuPont, for their positions. “You’re all wrong” on the issue, he said.

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ROUTE 35 BOLLARDS NOT A PERMANENT FIX

Img_8281State transportation officials last week installed lane bollards to deter northbound motorists from turning into the southbound lanes of Route 35 (Maple Avenue) at Broad Street.

State transportation engineers have come up with a temporary fix for that dangerous new roadway alignment that redbankgreen reported Oct. 12.

But they’re still looking for a permanent fix, Red Bank Police Lt. Darren McConnell tells us.

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CRASH CAUSED SHORT POWER OUTAGE

An accident involving a drunk driver resulted in a brief power outage to homes in the area of East Front Street and Spring Street early Sunday morning, Red Bank police reported today.

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According to Lt. Darren McConnell, a pickup truck heading westbound on River Road/East Front Street failed to negotiate the curve just past Hubbard Park at 3:02a. The truck left the roadway and hit a guardrail and a utility pole, he said.

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ALL FOAM: COUNCIL TO UNDO KEG LAW

A beer-keg registration ordinance adopted by Red Bank in May is on tap for revocation tonight, following a little-publicized rejection of the law by the state Alcoholic Beverage Control.

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The borough’s ordinance was similar to ones passed in Belmar, Freehold, Matawan and elsewhere in the state. It required liquor stores to permanently tag beer kegs and to keep information about customers who lease them. The aim was to reduce the incidence of underage drinking parties.

The ABC, however, saw the town-by-town approach as too piecemeal and unworkable.

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HAPPINESS IS A WARM DORMER

Img_8310A squirrel and a Santa snowman take in the sun from a Madison Avenue house Sunday. Today’s weather forecast is for mostly cloudy skies, a chance of rain, and temperatures peaking at about 53 degrees.

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11.11.07

Img_8257The Red Bank Veterans’ Monument at Monmouth Street and Drummond Place, shortly after a Veterans’ Day wreath-laying ceremony yesterday. The holiday is celebrated today; post offices are closed, so there will be no regular mail delivery. State and local government offices and courts are closed.

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IN SEA BRIGHT, IT’S FERNANDES BY 3 VOTES

A count of provisional ballots in the Sea Bright election has given the mayoralty to Democratic Council President Maria Fernandes by a mere three votes, redbankgreen has learned.

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The final tally was 274 votes for Fernandes to 271 for one-term Republican Mayor Jo-Ann Kalaka-Adams.

It was a horserace even after the polls had closed. Out of nine provisional ballots that remained as of Thursday, Kalaka-Adams took four, Fernandes took two, and three were disallowed.

We’ve been unable to reach Kalaka-Adams to find out if she’s planning to ask for a recount.

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GARMANY’S GAMBIT PAYS OFF IN DIAMONDS

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If any one person outside of Tiffany & Co. is responsible for the jeweler’s decision to open a gleaming outpost in downtown Red Bank today, it’s Larry Garmany, who has a habit of making high-risk business moves that tend to baffle even his closest advisers.

Back in 1989, for example, after 15 years on Manhattan’s Upper Side, he decided to open a store in Red Bank. He bought 17 Broad Street, the former Clayton and Magee Colorest store, and then drove down with his architect and accountant to show them the new home for his own high-end men’s clothing shop.

“We get out of the car, and my architect looks left, and he looks right,” Garmany recalled last week. “And he says, ‘Larry, this is ghost town. What the hell have you done here?’ Only he didn’t use the word ‘hell.'”

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FROM THE DWEKAGE: 7 BROAD SOLD

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A Broad Street building with one of downtown Red Bank’s most distinctive facades has been sold and is about to undergo a makeover, redbankgreen has learned.

The property, at number 7 Broad, near the intersection with Front Street, sold last month for $2.2 million to a Westport, Conn. partnership of David Ross and Richard Becker.

“We intend to fix up the building,” Ross tells redbankgreen. “It needs some aesthetic improvements and construction improvements.”

Marked for removal are the steel-frame archway and exterior stairwell that dominate an open-air recess, Ross says.

The sale is yet another sign of outsider money jostling for stakes in the volatile downtown market, which is about to hit a new level with this week’s opening of the Tiffany & Co. store on middle Broad. In September, 26 Broad, which is home to Murphy Style Grill, changed hands, with a Woodbridge outfit paying $3 million. And the owners of the former Prown’s Hardware space at 32-34 Broad, now home to a Chase bank branch, last month turned down an offer of $10.5 million — almost six times the sum they paid for the building in 2003 — and took it off the market, according to principal Mike Rovere. are said to have tried and failed to unload the property for $10 million.

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INSIDERS TO BUY RESTORATION HARDWARE

Restoration Hardware Inc., owner of Red Bank’s most prominent national-chain store, is being taken private by company executives in a deal valued at $267 million, according to the news agency Reuters and other reports.

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The buyout group, which includes private equity firm Catterton Partners, is offering shareholders $6.70 per share, a 150-percent premium over yesterday’s closing price. According to Reuters, that incentive is “much larger than the 20 percent to 25 percent premium typical of takeovers.”

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TIFFANY SET TO TWINKLE ON BROAD STREET

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Love it or loathe it, Tiffany & Co. arrives in Red Bank tomorrow with the opening of a 6,000-square-foot emporium of luxury that caps the downtown’s 17-year sprint from economic backwater to one of the most admired in all of New Jersey.

Select guests will be treated to tours of the new store today. The big brushed-metal doors open to the public tomorrow.

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