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TRFF LIVES FOR A NIGHT IN RED BANK

TrffTwo River Film Festival founder and CEO Rosellen Otrakji with Mike Buess, center, and VJ Carbone of The Bodega Shoppe at Thursday night’s reception for the TRFF. (Photo courtesy of Diana Moore)

Film buffs who mark their calendars each November for the annual appearance of the Two River Film Festival in Red Bank got a sneak peek at the excitement on Thursday night.

The TRFF and its co-sponsors Monmouth University and the Two River Times presented a special preview of the Focus Features release “Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day,” unspooling at Clearview Cinemas on White Street.

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IN THE WORKS: ART FOR HEARTS, AND MORE

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Today, redbankgreen introduces ‘DONE GOOD,’ an occasional feature spotlighting individuals and organizations making a positive impact on their communities through volunteer efforts.

For info on submitting items for consideration, see below.

TONIGHT: RBR Hosts art auction

The third annual charity art auction entitled “Art for Heart Sake” will take place at Red Bank Regional High School from 6:30 to 8:30p. Proceeds will benefit the Amanda’s Easel Art Therapy Program, which aids children dealing with abuse and bereavement.

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DOWNTOWN 2.0: CASUALLY TUNEFUL

Img_3658After a total gut job, the Downtown plans to re-open in March as a double-wide.

By TOM CHESEK

“We’re taking a gamble, there’s no doubt about it,” says Downtown co-owner Danny Lynch, as he shows off the impressive results of a massive 18-month renovation.

The favorite Red Bank watering hole’s anticipated return in the coming weeks will happen not a moment too soon for patrons who were lost without it — and who are depending on the completely made-over Downtown to blast away some of the dead-bank doldrums that have crept into town of late.

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But for Lynch and his business partner Matt Wagman — the team behind the nearby Red Restaurant and Lounge — the bar and eatery represents a major investment in structural upgrades, improved facilities and people-pleasing features.

The two-level club and restaurant at 3 West Front Street is now fully twice its former size, having expanded into a neighboring building that had been vacant for as long as anyone could recall (a sign announcing the imminent arrival of a tile store sat in its window for years). And it drops onto the scene just as suddenly MIA businesses, hassles over code violations and bogus “closed for renovations” signs are proliferating in the vicinity of Front and Broad streets.

“It’s a tough market in Red Bank right now,” says Lynch while leading redbankgreen on a sneak-peek preview of what’s now a 9,800-square-foot, brick-and-wood comfort zone. “It’s really diverse in that you have your high-end places and lower-end mom and pop shops, but there’s no middle class.”

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EX-COP GETS 11 YEARS FOR DWI FATALITY

Middletown resident Kevin Freibott, a former township police officer, was sentenced to 11 years in state prison yesterday for a car crash that killed a two-year-old boy and left his mother comatose and severely brain-injured, today’s Star-Ledger reports.

The accident occurred 13 months ago on the Pulaski Skyway in Jersey City, where Freibott was then employed as a cop, after a five-and-a-half-hour drinking marathon. His blood-alcohol level was .242 percent, more than three times the legal limit, the Ledger reports.

An FBI agent who saw Freibott’s Jeep Cherokee shortly before the crash told authorities that it “blew by him like he was standing still,” Hudson County Assistant Prosecutor Peter Stoma told Superior Court Judge Peter J. Vazquez.

At the sentencing, the boy’s father said his family had come on vacation from their home in Honduras to visit him while he was receiving job training. He showed pictures of his beaming son and disabled wife, and spoke of the crash’s effects on his 14-year-old daughter.

From the story:

“Mr. Freibott, you don’t have any idea what you have already done to me and my family, a good family,” said the father, Carlos Zelaya. “We will never be the same again, ever!”

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COURT TIME: BOROUGH PLANS LAWSUIT

Img_3474Oh, brother: this one’s headed to Freehold.

The Red Bank council has authorized Borough Attorney Tom Hall to file a suit against the Community YMCA over that organization’s plan to sell the Children’s Cultural Center, redbankgreen has learned.

At issue, says Hall, are the terms under which the borough deeded the 116-year-old red brick marvel to Kids Bridge, a Children’s Cultural Center predecessor charity, for $1 in April, 2000.

The complaint, which Hall said he expects to file in state Superior Court in Freehold by early next week, will not immediately involve separate allegations by the Y that the borough owes it some $500,000 over renovation costs to the Monmouth Street structure. But Hall said he expects the Y to countersue over that issue.

“What they do about the construction costs is up to them,” he said.

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EMBLEMATIC OF HER DEEP ROOTS

Img_3671Centennial logo design winner Alexis Holiday is a fourth-generation Red Banker.

The winner of a contest for a logo to commemorate Red Bank’s first hundred years is a 14-year-old Charter School student who only recently began dabbling in Adobe Photoshop, the computer application in which she created her design.

Her entry was the unanimous choice of a panel of judges from among 30 or so designs by professional and amateur illustrators, “from very tender-aged people to those who are not-so-tender-aged,” Mayor Pasquale Menna said in a ceremony at Borough Hall last night.

But Alexis Holiday’s logo seems all the more fitting given how closely her own heritage is tied to that of her hometown.

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WATER BILLS, ALREADY HIGH, GOING UP

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When the economy is, um, flush, and the infrastructure doesn’t break down, Red Bank’s water utility sometimes generates a surplus that gets poured into the general fund.

That happened last year, when $300,000 was moved, offsetting the need for that much in property tax collections. And the Borough Council hopes to wring another $200,000 out of the utility in the coming tax year.

But the economy has slowed, and with it, construction, which means reduced growth in connection and use fees for water and sewer services. And the turndown comes at a time that principal payments on $6.38 million worth of long-term debt for a string of emergency repairs kicks in, adding a whopping $337,000 in charges over the current year.

Bottom line: a loss in 2007 of $183,259 that has to be made up, and a forecast of $607,000 in higher costs in the coming year.

The only solution, officials say, is to jack up the rates.

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WHERE HAVE I SEEN THIS?

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Devoted fans of Patricia Mink’s Savoury Fare at 3 West River Road in Rumson have had their taste buds on hold in recent days, waiting for the take-out cuisine business to reopen after a vacation.

And here goes redbankgreen, tempting them for the past week with an image of a neon sign from the popular food emporium.

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A FORTUNE IN BLACK HISTORY, RIGHT HERE

Img_3694Four-year old Maya Williams, center, examines a display at the one-night Black History Month exhibit last night. Maya was joined by her sister Kayla, 10, at left and Amani Cureton, also 10.

About 150 people gathered Wednesday evening at the River Street Commons for a Black History Month event with unmistakable local ties.

Framed by depictions of African-American life in the mass media, the event focused on the life and work of T. (Timothy) Thomas Fortune, a pioneering African-American journalist who was born a a slave and lived on what is now Drs. James Parker Boulevard. Preservationists are hoping to save the house.

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BY THE WAY, WHICH ONE IS ‘PINK?’

Pigs_on_the_wing__500x5002Light on his hooves: Pink Floyd’s pig, or a reasonable facsimile thereof, floats into the Count Basie Theatre on Saturday.

By TOM CHESEK

Roosevelt Stadium, June 1973. A capacity crowd in this Jersey City deco landmark is getting its first real look at a “new” band that’s somehow navigated below U.S. radar for some six years and eight LPs.

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As a full moon rises in a smoggy pink sky and a specially trucked-in quadrophonic sound system beats out the tattoo of a familiar heartbeat, Pink Floyd lapses into a full-length, lip-to-label, LIVE recreation of its instant-classic new album THE DARK SIDE OF THE MOON, while flaming model planes spark and sizzle overhead and thousands of Boone’s Farm-stoked brains scream “This… is… our… WOODSTOCK!”

Other Floydian milestones would ensue, from treks into the city to catch “Laser Floyd” at the planetarium, to nights spent trying to sync up DARK SIDE with “The Wizard of Oz.” There were WISH YOU WERE HERE and ANIMALS; THE WALL and all of its horse-flogging spinoffs. There was the 180-gram virgin vinyl DARK SIDE reissue and the 5.1 channel DSD Surround Sound 30th Anniversary Super Audio CD. And, eventually, there were the afternoons spent minivanning the kids to their Paul Green School of Rock all-Floyd rehearsals.

With the definitive four-piece Floyd lineup of Roger Waters, Dave Gilmour, Nick Mason and Richard Wright having long since splintered into little more than competing oldies acts, however, what’s been missing from your life has been that definitive recapture of what you felt that night in the toxic Turnpike haze. You need the Pink Floyd experience, or at very least a reasonable simulacrum.

Enter, as if on cue, The Pink Floyd Experience, “a celebration of the music, the themes, and the theatrical experience of a truly innovative band” that makes an encore appearance at the Count Basie Theatre on Saturday, March 1.

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SEA BRIGHT CONSIDERS MAKEOVER OPTIONS

Img_3566Borough facilities could be in for a wholesale upgrade, with this beachfront parking lot playing a starring role.

By LINDA G. RASTELLI

Sea Bright’s public buildings don’t exactly show the tiny seaside borough in the best light.

Scattered along a quarter-mile stretch of Ocean Avenue, they constitute a ragtag bunch, from the cramped, stuccoed Municipal Building — complete with a wheeled trailer that serves as the borough court office — to a beach management and ticket office at the the north end that’s not even worth renovating, officials say.

Millions of dollars need to be spent to upgrade or replace aging infrastructure; that is unanimously accepted by members of the borough council. “We all agree on what we need,” says Susana Markson, the newest council member. The question is how best to do it.

Well, they’re working on an answer, and last week, the governing body unveiled rough, preliminary plans for a new borough hall, police station, skate park, seasonal pool club, public works building and boardwalk, most of it concentrated on a 15-acre parcel that serves as the town’s gateway to the Atlantic Ocean.

A cost estimate, however, is still months away, Mayor Maria Fernandes said earlier this week.

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ONE-CENT RISE IN SCHOOL TAX PROPOSED

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Red Bank voters will be asked to approve a local schools budget that increases the tax rate by a penny per $100 of property value, today’s Asbury Park Press reports.

The owner of a home assessed at the borough-average $404,627 would pay an additional $40 annually under the proposed budget. The increase was the same for the current school year.

According to the Press, the $15.82 million spending plan would be funded by $11.6 million in taxes, up $255,548, or 2.25 percent.

State aid to the district is expected to rise to 20 percent of the budget, from the current 17 percent, the Press’s Larry Higgs reports.

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SUSPECT ARRESTED IN ARMED ROBBERY

A 19-year-old Red Bank man is being held on $345,000 bail in connection with what police say was an armed burglary of an acquaintance’s apartment on Harding Road early Tuesday morning.

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Prince Johnson was arrested at his West Westside Avenue home without incident yesterday by Lt. Michael Clay and Investigator Juan Sardo, according to a press release from the department..

Police say Johnson and other unnamed individuals had been visiting the victim early Tuesday when Johnson left and then contacted one of the remaining visitors to meet him downtown. After the visitors left, the victim told police, he discovered that a large amount of cash was missing from his bedroom.

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RED BANK SCHOOLS GOT RECALLED BEEF

The Red Bank school district was among 170 statewide that received beef products involved in the nation’s largest-ever meat recall, today’s Star-Ledger reports.

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There’s no word yet from the district about when the beef arrived here. Officials said the meat in question was distributed up to two years ago and most of it is believed to have been consumed. Health officials say they have no reports of illness connected to the questionable meat.

The Sledger reports that districts that received the “hamburger patties, barbecue nuggets, taco meat and other lunch items traced back to the nation’s largest meat recall must inform state officials by today whether they still retain” any of it.

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‘OMG — IM BNG PLLED OVR!’

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Let it go, people.

Your cellphone that is, while driving.

Until now, the state of New Jersey’s law against holding your cellphone to your ear while operating a motor vehicle has been easy to flout. Police, if they were to cite you for it, first had to find another reason to pull you over, such as a busted tail light.

That changes on Saturday, March 1, when text-messaging or using a cellphone without a hands-free device while driving becomes a “primary” offense. Meaning you can be pulled over and cited for that alone.

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CANDIDATES DECLARE FOR SCHOOL BOARDS

Today’s Asbury Park Press provides a district-by-district rundown of candidacies for school boards in Monmouth County. The elections are scheduled for April 15.

Declarations by candidates were due yesterday at 4p. Here’s what the Press reported regarding filers in our area:

RED BANK: Three incumbents are running unopposed for three three-year seats.

Seeking re-election are Rosemary Kopka of 30 Highland Ave.; Peter L. Noble, of 85R Harrison Ave.; and Janet H. Jones of 42 Newman Springs Road.

RED BANK REGIONAL HIGH SCHOOL: Three candidates have filed to run for three three-year terms, and one candidate is seeking a two-year unexpired term on the regional Board of Education.

Seeking the three-year seats are incumbents John Garofalo, 139 Wallace St., Red Bank, and Frank A. Neary, 33 Birch Drive, Shrewsbury, and Lisa Gilmour, 45 Lippincott Road, Little Silver.

Seeking the unexpired term is incumbent Michael Megill, 2 Lippincott Road, Little Silver.

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IT’S ON TO CONVENTION FOR CURLEY

A virtual tie at Saturday’s screening committee session for potential Monmouth County Freeholder candidates means that Red Bank Councilman John Curley and Holmdel Mayor Serena DiMaso will have another month to court favor with county Republicans.

Party chairman Adam Puharic last night said that rather than make the selection himself, he will put the choice between DiMaso and Curley in the hands of GOP delegates at their convention one month from today in Middletown, today’s Asbury Park Press reports.

The party is looking for a running mate for inumbent Freeholder Director Lillian Burry as it seks to retain its 3-2 majority on the board. GOP Freeholder William Barham of Monmouth Beach isn’t running for re-election.

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FAIR HAVEN WOMAN INDICTED FOR RX SCAM

A Monmouth County grand jury has indicted a 52-year-old Fair Haven woman in connection with what authorities say were her efforts to fraudulently obtain prescription painkillers.

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Janice Rogers (no street address given) was charged iwith two counts of third-degree attempting to obtain controlled dangerous substances by fraud, two counts of fourth-degree falsifying records and one count of fourth-degree forgery. The indictment was returned on Feb. 4 and announced by New Jersey Attorney General Anne Milgram today.

The indictment alleges that on Aug. 1, 2006, and April 6, 2007, Rogers attempted to obtain OxyContin and Percocet from the CVS Pharmacy in Little Silver by submitting a forged statement of physician services and/or an altered prescription to CVS Pharmacy in Little Silver.

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REEL GEMS: FREE FLICKS AT THE BASIE…

CasablancaIlsa crashes Sam’s pity party at the Café Américain in ‘Casablanca.’

By TOM CHESEK

We’ll always have Red Bank.

Beginning tomorrow (Tuesday) at 5:00p, the Count Basie Theatre kicks off a series of free classic film screenings with Bogart, Bergman and a bevy of indelibly entrenched screen characters in that Academy Award-winning movie quote machine known as Casablanca.

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It’s the first of nine offerings presented under the title “Take 9 at the Basie: 9 Decades of Film Classics,” and it’s a program designed to salute the historic 1926 venue by featuring one film from each of the nine decades in which the Monmouth Street auditorium has operated.

Or, well, sort of: actually, there are two films from the 1970s and none from the 1920s.

In any event, the series offers an increasingly rare opportunity to catch such films as the often revived (The Wizard of Oz, Singin’ in the Rain) to the seldom screened (Unforgiven, Woodstock) on what remains the biggest movie screen in Monmouth County.

Plus, it’s a comfortable alternative to the gnats and gnoise of those summertime movies-in-the-park deals that usually seem such a good idea until you spread out the towel.

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…AND A SERIES WE’D REALLY LIKE TO SEE

Lassie_come_homeHEY! That’s our DOG! Roddy McDowall with the original Red Bank-bred ‘Lassie’ in 1943’s ‘Lassie Come Home.’

By TOM CHESEK

While redbankgreen applauds the slate of picture shows on display in the Count Basie Theatre’s “Take 9 at the Basie: 9 Decades of Film Classics” series, we couldn’t help but have some fun with our very own list of nine alternate choices — all of them drawn from the 80-year history of the place variously known as the Carlton, the Monmouth Arts Center and the Basie.

Each, as you’ll see, has its own special connection to Red Bank.

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RIVERCENTER EXEC TO MEET WEST SIDERS

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The special assessments are being collected — and have been since last September.

Now,
Red Bank RiverCenter is moving to solicit input from business owners in the West Side expansion zone about how those funds might best be spent to boost the district.

RiverCenter, the overseer of both the original downtown special improvement district and now its western portion, has invited merchants, restaurateurs and property owners covered by the expansion to a pair of brainstorming sessions to be held this week at Racioppi’s restaurant on Oakland Street, next to the train station.

“We’re trying to do an outreach,” says RiverCenter executive director Nancy Adams. “I just want to hear from them what the issues are on the West Side.”

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ANOTHER DONOVAN’S DEAL FALLS APART

Donovans_1007_2Might there be another summer of cocktails on the beach after all?

By LINDA G. RASTELLI

For the second time in six months, the owners of Donovan’s Reef are back to square one in their effort to sell the beachfront bar, redbankgreen has learned.

A proposed $5 million sale to Stone Enterprises of Toms River announced in Octoer is off the table, and the owners are looking for another buyer, says Bob Phillips of Avon, one of three partners in the oceanfront nightclub.

Stone, a condominium builder, backed out of the deal, Phillips said, though he declined to discuss specifics.

“Life goes on,” Phillips said.

Last year, the Borough of Sea Bright considered, and then rejected, the idea of buying the club, located next to its borough hall. Councilman Tom Scriven said last week that the cost of the property was too high to be practical.

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CURLEY STILL IN CONTENTION FOR GOP NOD

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The screening committee of the Monmouth County Republicans failed Saturday to select a slate to run for two county freeholder seats open in November, according to the Asbury Park Press.

Red Bank Borough Councilman John Curley’s still in the running to stand for election with incumbent Freeholder Director Lillian G. Burry after the elimination of two other contenders. Also still standing are Holmdel Mayor Serena DiMaso and Freehold Township Zoning Board member Steven Walsh.

Curley, DiMaso and Walsh were tied for a spot on the GOP ticket, party Chairman Adam Puharic told the Press.

Puharic said that, according to the organization’s bylaws, as chairman, he is responsible for narrowing that list of three to two names before the county convention on March 26. He said he has yet to make a decision and that he will announce his choice publicly at 6 p.m. Monday at the party’s Lincoln Day dinner at Southgate Manor in Freehold.

“This is an interesting result and we want everyone to stay tuned,” Puharic said.

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CURLEY: READY FOR HIS CLOSEUP

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Will John Curley’s firebrand personality fly with Monmouth County Republican powerbrokers?

The Red Bank councilman will find out tomorrow when he goes before the party’s screening committee in a bid to be one of two nominees to run for county freeholder n November.

Five others are also scheduled to participate in the beauty pageant at party HQ in Freehold, the Asbury Park Press reports.

Curley’s an acknowledged ideological lane-changer who’s bounced back and forth between the two major parties several times since young adulthood in Shrewsbury. He was elected to the Red Bank council as a Democrat in 2003 before splitting, quite publicly and often, with his former patron, then-Mayor Ed McKenna.

And even as a registered Republican, he has acknowledged he wears the label as something of a badge of political necessity.

As a result, Curley says he has only passing acquaintance with GOP county chairman Adam Puharic and many of the 20 to 25 screening committee members he’ll be making a three-minute presentation to before the session is opened up for questions.

Still, “I’m actually pretty relaxed,” he told redbankgreen today. “You know, I have a great deal of confidence in myself.”

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