PRESS: GOOCH PALS EYE FERRY PURCHASE

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Wall Street billionaire and Two River Times columnist Mickey Gooch and other investors are reluctantly moving toward a purchase of the SeaStreak ferry line that runs from northern Monmouth County to Manhattan, today’s Asbury Park Press reports.

Reluctantly, that is, because Gooch, of Rumson, and his prospective partners are only stepping in to save the service. SeaStreak’s parent company, Sea Containers Inc., has been in bankruptcy for over a year, and the Caribbean nation of Trinidad and Tobago is said to have offered $30 million for the line’s four catamarans.

From the article:

“Myself and other investors are not really, frankly, interested in being ferry operators,” Gooch said. “We’re just interested in seeing a quality ferry service continue.”

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MERCHANTS MIFFED BY STREETWORK DELAYS

First came the battle over bricks versus concrete sidewalks. Then there was the paving job that had to be redone because the street was almost as high as the tops of the curbs.

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Now, storekeepers along River Road in Fair Haven are furious that materials used in the downtown streetscape makeover project are hogging primo parking spots at what should be the busiest time of year, today’s Asbury Park Press reports.

They took their complaints to the Borough Council last night. From the story:

“There is no parking. December is when we make our money,” said Vicki Heard, owner of Flair Cleaners on River Road. “It’s gone on all summer and all fall. Our businesses have been disrupted beyond belief.”

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COP PLEADS GUILTY TO ASSAULT, LOSES JOB

A Red Bank patrolman will lose his job but won’t face jail time after pleading guilty to assault and falsifying police records, the Asbury Park Press is reporting.

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Officer Steven Adams, 28, was indicted in October by a Monmouth County Grand Jury on aggravated assault and other alleged crimes arising from the arrest of a Middletown man following the borough’s 2006 Kaboom Fireworks show.

The five-year veteran pleaded guilty yesterday to two disorderly persons charges before Superior Court Judge Ira Kreitzman, who is scheduled to sentence Adams on Feb. 8, the Press reports.

From the article:

The Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office told the court it will not seek jail time for Adams. Prosecutor Luis A. Valentin said the court had already ordered Adams to forfeit his job and that he “is forever disqualified from holding any future public office in the State of New Jersey.”

Disorderly persons offenses are punishable by a maximum of six months in jail and a fine, offcials said.

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BOWLING ON THE EAST SIDE, SORT OF

Jim_willisJim Willis in East Side Park.

Jim Willis rolled into town three months ago eager to do some community building.

It’s what he does. A self-employed 36-year-old techie, Willis spends his workdays knocking down perceived barriers between people and information. His weapon of choice is software, which he uses to open issues up for discussion and to bring people together.

It’s what he did in his job as director of eGovernment services in the Rhode Island secretary of state’s office, where he went on a four-year tear putting previously hard-to-access information at the public’s fingertips via the web.

Now, working as a consultant to nonprofits, Willis focuses on helping activists capitalize on the universe of data that’s available to them online.

But that’s his professional side. On the personal side, Willis is equally passionate about what he calls “social capital” and what most of us think of as family relationships and friendships. (Yes, Willis acknowledges, he tends to get a little caught up in the jargon of social science.)

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PUBLISHER DECEIVED, CON GUSTO

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For the eight years he’s been publishing the Asbury Park-based triCity News, Dan Jacobson has been angling for a dinner invite from Red Bank Mayor Pasquale Menna.

As readers of redbankgreen know, Menna is a foodie who has his own chef’s smock with his first name emblazoned in red over the breast.

Jacobson has been aware of Menna’s cooking jones longer than we have, and has gotten miles of copy out of it, too.

In print, Jacobson rarely mentions Menna without including an open, rather shameless plea for an invitation to one of Menna’s dinner parties. In particular, he pines a forkful of Menna’s broccoli orecchiette.

It’s embarassing, really, an exercise in groveling that never ends.

So given his infatuation with Menna’s vaunted culinary skills (which we at redbankgreen can attest to, as can a bunch of kids at the Red Bank Primary School), it’s easy to see how Jacobson allowed himself to be deceived, as he apparently was this week, into thinking that he was making progress with his campaign.

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BACKWARD GLANCES LOOKS SOUTHWARD

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By TOM CHESEK

New York has its late and lamented CBGB; Memphis its Sun Studio; Detroit its original Hitsville USA; and Asbury Park a converted disco by name of the Stone Pony.

In New Orleans, it’s the legendary J&M Music Store and its adjacent recording studio that inspires the same kind of reverent chills as those pop-cultural outposts. Until it was done in nearly forty years ago by its inability to fulfill unexpected nationwide demand for Aaron Neville‘s single “Tell It Like It Is,” Cosimo Matassa’s record shop was the scene of some of the most instantly familiar pop, rock and R&B waxings in history — including one many musicologists jaw up as the first-ever rock and roll disc, Fats Domino’s 1949 “The Fat Man.”

Little Richard, Ray Charles, Jerry Lee Lewis, Professor Longhair and Lloyd “Stagger Lee” Price also managed to cut some scintillating sides there. And yet, even though Matassa’s still alive and operating a family deli in a higher-ground neighborhood of the post-Katrina Big Easy, mementos of his landmark old business have been all but nonexistent, until now.

What’s this got to do with Red Bank? Not much, except that, with the world’s first-ever line of J&M logowear now available for sale in her store, a veteran Broad Street merchant has almost singlehandedly salvaged the legend of the J&M Music Store.

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PIONEERING GALLERY OWNER MOVES ON

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By TOM CHESEK

On a Siberian day in early December, Art Forms Gallery owner Charlotte Scherer excuses herself from the conversation to stop in at a neighboring storefront. Things inside her Monmouth Street gallery have tended toward the frigid side this afternoon, so it’s become a priority to find out when a delivery of heating oil might be arranged.

Of course, this and other such real-world retailers’ woes — snow-covered sidewalks, curbside construction, plumbing problems — will soon be a thing of the past for the veteran dealer and collector of contemporary American art. After nearly 40 years in the vanguard of Monmouth County’s gallery scene — 24 of them here in Red Bank— Scherer is preparing to move her business once more, not just across the street this time (her first borough space was located on the lower level of
the old Red Bank Mini Mall), but to the virtual-world address of www.artformsgalleries.com.

This isn’t the “lights out” scenario it’s been reported as elsewhere, but a transition. As Scherer tells it, it’s a natural evolution for the gallery that arguably did more than any other to transform Red Bank into a regional hub for fine art and smart design.

In fact, it’s not at all out-there to suggest that, with its strong representation of pottery, glassware, jewelry and other three-dimensional media, Art Forms has had a tremendous influence upon the conceptually cutting-edge home shops and boutiques that dot the borough’s 21st century streetscape.

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IT’S GETTIN UGLY

BetteBette Memmote, a resident of River Street Commons, tackles the slush on her car as she prepares for an outing to the Red Bank Public Library this afternoon.

For the benefit of those who work in windowless places or are too busy to look outside, it’s raw out there.

Cold. Wet. Cold enough to make the wet sleety and slushy. The kind of precipitation that’s just dying to get past your collar. And it looks like it’s going to say that way through the night.

Best thing to do: stay inside with a nice, hot mugful.

Here’s the National Weather Service forecast for our area:

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MORE BUZZ OVER SEA BRIGHT ORDINANCE

The municipal judge in Sea Bright who invalidated he borough’s noise ordinance on a legal technicality has now reinstated it, the Asbury Park Press reports.

The latest twist hinges on a some hairsplitting: whether the borough should have sought state Department of Environmental Protection approval for its noise ordinance, because the ordinance is stricter than state law.

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First, in mid October, Municipal Judge Thomas Foley tossed out the borough ordinance, and with it four noise violation complaints against the Mad Hatter Pub & Pizzeria and owner Scott Kelly. Now, the Press reports that Foley reversed himself on Nov. 29, agreeing with the municipality that it didn’t need state approval.

Whatever the legal mumbo-jumbo, the put-back has brought a sense of relief to members of the Borough Council who worried that earlier convictions of bar owners might be overturned and restrictions on liquor licenses might be lifted, the Press’ Nina Rizzo reports.

“He should have never knocked it out to start with,” Councilwoman and Mayor-elect Maria Fernandes said. “We have to protect our residents and our businesses by this nuisance ordinance.”

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BURGLARY SUSPECT NO KID AFTER ALL

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A homeless juvenile arrested in late October for burglarizing several address on East Bergen Place turns out not to be a minor after all, Red Bank Police say they have learned.

Ismael Rojas-Vela turns out to be 19 years old, according to a birth certificate obtained by investigators from Mexican authorities. He had told cops who arrested him that he was 16.

But the suspect is still believed to be homeless.

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COPPOLA FILM TO DEBUT HERE TONIGHT

CoppolaFrancis Ford Coppola directing ‘Youth Without Youth,’ which premieres at the Clearview Thursday night in a benefit for the Monmouth County Arts Alliance.

By TOM CHESEK

WINE! It’s managed to play a part in the late careers of many a moviemaker — notably, Orson Welles as he shilled for Paul Masson in the days when he could barely get arrested for impersonating Falstaff.

But only Francis Ford Coppola has made the noble-rot nectar the fuel for what’s shaping up to be not simply a satisfying comeback, but a comeuppance for a Hollywood establishment that may have prematurely put the patriarch out to pasture.

Neither a gout-ridden Godfather in his garden nor a crazed Kurtz hunkered down in his compound, Coppola the larger-than-life artist is back from a self-imposed, decade-long exile. Flush with wealth from his acclaimed California vineyards and restaurants, he’s busily promoting his all-new, self-financed feature “Youth Without Youth” A favorite on the festival circuit, the Sony Pictures Classics release takes its red-carpet bow in Manhattan on
Friday night, but not before marking its world premiere screening at Red Bank’s own Clearview Cinemas on White Street tonight.

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HORSE RACE: IN JERSEY, IT’S HILLARIANI

Sen. Hillary Clinton has widened her lead in New Jersey over Sen. Barrack Obama, and Rudy Giuliani — though he’s slipped a bit — still leads Sen. John McCain by a wide margin, according to a newly released Quinnipiac University poll.

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The poll also found Rudy and Hillary tied in a head-to-head presidential showdown: Clinton gets 45 percent to Giuliani’s 44 percent, unchanged from a 44 – 44 percent tie October 17, the poll found.

“New Jersey voters know the girl and boy next door, Sen. Hillary Clinton and Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, and apparently are sticking with them,” Clay F. Richards, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, said in a press release. “There’s no Oprah bump in Sen. Barack Obama’s numbers, and the Huckabee factor is minor in the Republican race, where Sen. John McCain is the second place contender.”

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EX-COP PLEADS GUILTY IN DWI DEATH

A former Middletown cop with a long rap sheet involving booze and driving faces up to 10 years in prison after pleading guilty yesterday to DWI charges in connection with a 2-year-old boy’s death in Hudson County earlier this year, Jersey Journal reports.

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The plea bargain requires Kevin Freibott, a Middletown resident, to serve at least six years, the Journal says.

In a Jan. 23 accident on the Pulaski Skyway, Freibott, who was off-duty from his job as as a Jersey City policeman, crashed his Jeep Cherokee into a car in which a mother and child were passengers. The boy, Carlos Zelaya, died of his injuries days later; his mother, Ruth Zelaya, has been in an unresponsive coma ever since.

Freibott pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide, assault by auto and driving while intoxicated. The plea agreement stipulates that he’ll face no additional charges if Ruth Zelaya dies, the Journal reports.

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RESIDENTS RILED OVER CRIME

By LINDA G. RASTELLI

A recent string of burglaries and shootings in Red Bank evoked mixed reactions at a West Side Community Group neighborhood watch meeting last night, with some residents praising police efforts and others saying they feel unsafe.

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“I was born and raised here. I never felt vulnerable before,” said Connie Festa Aparicio, owner of Salon 340 on Shrewsbury Avenue, who said her Catherine Street home was burglarized this week. “I don’t know how to protect my home and business.”

“My block has turned into a tenement situation,” she said. “I was gone for two hours and I was hit. It took them 10 minutes. The neighbors called (police), but he jumped off the roof (before they got there). It’s scary.”

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RED BANK SCHOOLS GET 18 PERCENT MORE

Data released by the state Department of Education indicates that Red Bank schools would see an 18-percent jump in state aid under the widely anticipated new funding formula unveiled today by Gov. Jon Corzine.

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That translates into $369,000 more than in the current year, comparable to the state-leading 18.6 percent injection of cash the district received from the state earlier this year. That increase, in February, reflected Red Bank’s rapid growth in non-English-speaking students.

We’ve got a call in to Superintendent Laura Morana seeking her comment on the latest figures, and will post her response here once we hear from her.

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RBR SUPER: NEW FUNDING HELPS, BUT…

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Red Bank Regional High School will get a $30,000 bump in state aid under the new funding formula announced by Gov. Jon Corzine today.

At about two percent, the increase is the minimum amount that the Corzine administration is doling out to each of the state’s 618 districts under the proposal, the Star-Leder reports.

“It’s a step in the right direction,” said Superintendent Ed Westervelt. But it still leaves schools far too reliant on local property taxes, and shortchanges districts such as RBR on special education funding, he said.

“I’m concerned that it ties special ed funding to the wealth of the community” rather than designating a fixed amount of money per special ed student throughout the state, Westervelt said.

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POLICE SEARCH FOR WEST SIDE BURGLAR

Red Bank Police are looking for a burglar who may knock on his victims’ front doors to determine if anyone is home before entering their houses.

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The culprit may also be targeting the homes of Hispanic families, said Capt. Steve McCarthy, who notes that five such homes have been burglarized since mid-September.

The latest incident occurred around 2p Monday on Catherine Street, where a man described as a heavily-built black male in his mid-20s made off with jewelry after breaking in through a rear entrance.

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EXXON PLANS FLOATING GAS DOCK IN OCEAN

Carbon fuels giant Exxon Corp. is proposing the creation of a docking station for the transfer of liquefied natural gas 20 miles off the Monmouth County coast, according to various reports today.

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From today’s Star-Ledger:

The project, involving a floating natural gas terminal more than 1,100 feet long and 100 feet high, would be anchored to the ocean floor in about 150 feet of water. It would not be visible from shore and would be located away from shipping and fishing lanes as well as recreational areas, the giant energy company said.

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GETTING GIFTS OUT TO ‘LITTLE SOLDIERS’

Today’s Star-Ledger has a look at the volunteer work of Red Bank’s Ronnie Micciulla, who heads up a program that aims to get Christmas gifts to the children of U.S. military personnel serving overseas, but mostly in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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The program is called Project Little Soldier, and its under the aegis of American Recreational Military Services, which Micciulla started in her kitchen four years ago to help military personnel and their families.

The Ledger reports that word of the Christmas-gift project has spread to soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen stationed around the world.

“It’s been … overwhelming,” Micciulla, the executive director, said yesterday, pausing to find the right word. “Troops and their families from all over found out about us, put in a request for a toy. And right now, we don’t have enough for everyone.”

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POLICE: ROBBERS HAD TWO ACCOMPLICES

Two suspects in today’s stabbing and robbery of a Shrewsbury Avenue merchant, as well as two alleged accomplices, are in custody, and one of them used to work in the store, Red Bank police report.

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All four suspects are from the Bronx, and one of them is a 17-year-old juvenile, according to Capt. Steve McCarthy.

The victim is expected to be released this evening from Riverview Medical Center, where he was treated today for stab wounds to one arm and a superficial knife wound to his abdomen, McCarthy said.

McCarthy said Lt. Joshua Berbick was in his car when a description of the suspects was broadcast. He headed over to the train station, just a block from the crime scene, and saw two men matching that description getting into cab along with two other males. Berbick stopped the cab and arrested the four without incident.

The proceeds of the robbery and a knife were recovered, said McCarthy.

The arrests occurred “within minutes” of the descriptions being relayed, said McCarthy, who called the action “just good police work.”

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