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RIVERCENTER BUDGET Q&A

Rivercenter_sign_2RiverCenter’s office is at 20 Broad Street.

Last week, Red Bank RiverCenter executive director Nancy Adams presented the business-promotion organization’s budget to the borough council. The spending plan, totalling $624,052, is 3.3 percent larger than the 2007 version.

(Alas, RiverCenter doesn’t present its budget with comparative figures from the prior year. So here’s the budget from 2007 Download RiverCenter2007budget.jpg, and here’s the 2008 spending plan Download RiverCenter2008budget.jpg.)

Via email, redbankgreen interviewed Adams about the budget last week. Here’s the exchange:

Your budget for administrative costs this year is up $23,810, or 11 percent, to $232,580. What’s driving that?

A change in staffing. Our Director of Operations has gone to part-time, with appropriate salary cut, and we hired a Program Manager to take over event planning and management, and work with me on marketing, a full time position. Thus the increase.

Does any of that reflect a bump in the executive director’s salary?
LOL, always looking for controversy… No, it does not.

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FOODIE FIXE: APRIL’S RESTAURANT DEALS

SognodoorAmong the 16 eateries participating in April’s ‘Dine Downtown’ promo is Sogno Ristorante on Broad Street.

By TOM CHESEK

Those who cherish a favorite Red Bank restaurant or two probably don’t know the half of it. A walk around the streetside smorgasbord of the business-district is a world-class international excursion in its own right, abuzz with culinary accents: French, German, Irish and Italian; Japanese, Mediterranean, Mexican and Thai.

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There are even tantalizing tastes of such exotic far-flung locales as Brooklyn and Philadelphia — along with a couple of cool fusions that we’ve yet to triangulate with our gastronomic GPS.

With the weather turning walkable once more, the folks at Red Bank RiverCenter are encouraging hibernators to abandon the burrow for the borough that’s long stood as Monmouth County’s premier dining destination. Dine Downtown, a promotion effort that’s as sure a harbinger of Spring as the first pitchers-and-catchers report, returns for a fourth fab year, and the enticement is on every Tuesday and Wednesday evening in April, with sixteen eateries offering a range of special prix fixe menus that include appetizer, entre?e and dessert for a lusciously low price (beverages, tax and gratuities are not included).

The promotion has been a successful one for the RiverCenter partnership, now under the direction of Nancy Adams. While the list of participants continues to spotlight both long-establish landmarks and buzzworthy newcomers — with vibes that span the comfy side of casual to the cutting edge of cosmopolitan — there’s been some fine-tuning done since the first Dine Downtown went down in March, 2005.

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UP TO THE ELBOWS IN JAZZ, BRUSH & MORE

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Another in redbankgreen‘s occasional series called “Done Good,” featuring upcoming volunteer and fundraising efforts. Scroll down for info on submitting notices.

TONIGHT: Jazz at the Red Bank Woman’s Club

Mike Barris, Jerry Topinka, Tom Bender and Jennifer Wright salute pre-war jazz greats as part of the Jersey Shore Jazz & Blues Foundation‘s “Reckless Steamy Nights” concert series at the Woman’s Club of Red Bank.

The program includes signature tunes of Django Reinhardt, Louis Armstrong, Bessie Smith and Bunny Berigan, as well as many others. If you couldn’t make it to the show in the last two years, here’s another opportunity to be part of an enthralling tribute to the stars of early jazz and blues.

Music goes from 8-11p. A donation of $10 is suggested in support of scholarship programs sponsored by the Woman’s Club of Red Bank and the Jersey Shore Jazz & Blues Foundation. Snacks will be provided.

TOMORROW: Fair Haven nature area clean-up

Work out the winter kinks in a community effort to maintain and enhance the micro-wilderness at Fair Haven Fields Nature Area. Work gloves and work shoes required; pruning shears come in handy. Work is not suitable for small children.

From 8:45 to 11a. Parking is along the United Methodist Church access road. Call Dick Fuller at 732.741.0874 for more details or info on weather cancellation.

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TUX TIME: CLASSICISTS CONVERGE ON BASIE

Classicalfaces2Appearing on the Basie stage this weekend are (clockwise from top left): MCC conductor Mark Shapiro; sopranos Sungji Kim and Christine Reber; MSO assistant conductor Lucian Rinando; bass Nathan Baer; tenor Daniel Molkentin; clarinetist/conductor Roy Gussman; and violist Dorothy Sobieski.

By TOM CHESEK

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Time to shake those swallowtail tux jackets and evening gloves out of storage; unbag those stoles and tiaras and opera glasses — we’re kicking it classical this weekend.

All right, dress codes aren’t what they used to be, at the symphony hall as at any other place. But it shouldn’t mean that our own homegrown performing arts entities aren’t worth getting dressed up for. If anything, we here in Monmouth are guilty of having taken for granted the fact that our once-rural county boasts an exceptional chorale and a truly first-rate semi-professional orchestra — a couple of innovative, creative organizations, packed with passionate and talented people.

And both, by some way-cool karmic astrology, are storming the stage of Red Bank’s Count Basie Theatre this weekend.

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O’SCANLON: NO MORE CONTRACTS FOR POLS

Oscanlon_declan_2Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon.

Six months ago, Declan O’Scanlon was a contender for state Assembly fighting political accusations of cronyism for his work on the Fair Haven cell tower deal.

You might think that the last thing O’Scanlon would want to do now is to remind the public of the flap. But yesterday, as a rookie member of the Assembly, O’Scanlon introduced legislation that would ban people in his new shoes from getting the kind of work that led to all the static.

O’Scanlon’s bill, A2585, would prohibit state legislators or companies they own as little as one percent of from entering into contracts with local, county and state government entities in their districts.

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HELP, NURSE!

Img_4573The former home of the Visiting Nurse Association on Bodman Place falls to the wrecking claw this morning.

The longtime home of the Visiting Nurse Association of Central Jersey on Bodman Place is being torn down today.

The building hasn’t been used since the completion about two years ago of newer facilities fronting on Riverside Avenue, VNA officials tell redbankgreen.

“It’s terrible to watch it come down, isn’t it?” says Ken Hallett, the VNA’s facilities manager.

Hallett says the building was erected in or about 1908 by the J.E. Conover Co., which had a cloth waterproofing factory there.

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WHERE HAVE I SEEN THIS?

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Edition number 95 of “Where Have I Seen This?” was no challenge for at least the half-dozen readers who wrote in over the last week.

All correctly identified it as a sign outside Marion Security Agency on Bridge Avenue.

Marion, which was founded by Red Banker Marion Philips in 1982, does some detective work for its existing clients, but its main line of business is in providing security guards.

It has a strong presence at adult communities scattered across New Jersey and elsewhere, says Phillips’ son, Bob, of Little Silver. who helps run the 300-employee business. Marion’s the CEO, and Bob is the president.

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CURLEY WINS COUNTY GOP NOD

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Red Bank Councilman John Curley has captured the second and final spot on the Monmouth County Republican ticket in this year’s freeholder election, GOP committeeman Art Gallagher reports on his More Monmouth Musings blog.

Curley topped Holmdel Mayor Serena DiMaso, 168 votes to 103, in voting at last night’s county GOP convention in Middletown, Gallagher says.

So it’ll be Curley and incumbent Lillian Burry v. Democrats Amy Mallet of Fair Haven and Glenn Mason of Hazlet as the Republicans seek to hold onto their 3-2 majority in Freehold.

Now, what about the impact on Red Bank?

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SPOTLIGHT ON SHADE TREES

MapleA private contractor took down rotting swamp maples on Maple Avenue earlier this month. The Shade Tree Commission hopes to replace the trees this year.

These are lean budgetary times, but the rejuvenated Red Bank Shade Tree Committee is pushing hard for money and attention these days.

The goal on the funding side, committee members say, is to maintain momentum, especially from last year, when some 200 new trees were planted along borough streets.

In the municipal budget proposed by Red Bank officials earlier this month, the committee was one of only three borough operations said to have sought a funding increase, with a request for a 37-percent jump from current-year levels. (The others were Parks & Rec, seeking an additional 15.9 percent, and the volunteer fire department, 14.3 percent.)

In absolute terms, last year’s tree funding was about $30,500; this year, the committee has requested $41,900, says vice chariman Boris Kofman.

The tree committee says the increase is vital in light of lost state funding from the current year.

Viewed against overall spending, of course, the tree committee’s 2007-’08 allotment is relatively miniscule — less than four-tenths of one percent of the budget. A homeowner whose property was assessed last year at the average value of $406,000 paid $1,561 in local purposes taxes; the shade-tree portion of that was just $6.25.

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CURLEY LEARNS COUNTY FATE TODAY

Curley_chairOne way or another, John Curley’s campaign shoes will get a workout this year.

Today’s the day Red Bank Councilman John Curley finds out if he’ll be running on the GOP ticket for Monmouth County Freeholder.

The Republicans will hold their convention at the Middletown Veterans of Foreign Wars post, where they’ll choose either Curley or Holmdel Mayor Serena DiMaso as the running mate for the incumbent Lillian G. Burry.

The two-person slate will oppose Democrats Glenn Mason and Fair Haven resident Amy Mallet in November.

Unlike some of his past battles with borough Democrats he once counted himself among, Curley’s monthlong campaign against DiMaso has been friction-free as they each seek the county GOP nod.

At a meeting with the party’s committee in Howell, “John told them that this was the first time he didn’t feel like punching his opponent in the face,” DiMaso told the Asbury Park Press last week.

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RED BANK MAN INDICTED IN ICED TEA SCAM

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A man said by authorities to be a Red Bank resident was indicted today for swindling $161,000 from an investor in an iced tea company that turned out to be bogus, according to an announcement by the New Jersey Attorney General, Anne Milgram.

Indicted by a Mercer County Grand Jury was 56-year-old Steven Conni, no street address given. He was changed with second-degree theft by deception. If convicted, he faces up to 10 years in state prison and a criminal fine of $150,000.

From a press release issued by Milgram’s office:

The indictment alleges that between November 2003 and December 2004, Conni solicited
investments totaling about $161,000 from a New Jersey resident by promising him ownership
shares in a company called Long Island Iced Tea Inc. and distribution rights for its iced tea
beverage for the entire state of New Jersey.

Conni allegedly told the investor that as a “master
distributor,” he would receive promotional materials, sales support, a 10 percent cut of revenue
from distributors signed up in each county in New Jersey, and $1 on every case of product sold
by those distributors. The victim never received any of the promised benefits. He has demanded
a refund, but has not received any payments from Conni.

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LOST IN THE MAIL: POSTAL WORKER SPOTS

Img_4449Looking north on Hudson Avenue this morning at 7:55a.

After a brief war of the curb, Hudson Avenue homeowners and tenants last night became the latest on the East Side to win resident permits to park their cars.

The victory came at the expense of the 138 employees of the Red Bank Post Office on Broad Street, some of whom say the expansion of permits-only parking will only make it harder for them to find spots for their vehicles while they work.

The two sides butted bumpers at the bimonthly meeting of the Red Bank Borough Council over an ordinance that would replace the two-hour parking on Hudson between Harding Road and East Bergen Place with a residents-only restriction.

When residents complained that their driveways were frequently blocked, or that they couldn’t park in front of their homes even late at night, groans and objections could be heard from a cluster of Postal Service employees who had turned out to oppose the plan.

“Nobody blocks driveways,” said a postal worker who commutes from Aberdeen. “We’re very aware that people live there.” Another called the complaint “offensive,” and asked for a check of police records to establish whether it was true.

But council members, led by Mayor Pasquale Menna, appeared dug in, blaming the post office for insufficient efforts to find parking alternatives. The post office reserves its own lot for its 53-truck fleet, and has an agreement with the nearby Verizon building to allow about a dozen employees to park there.

“I think the post office and the U.S. government, frankly, have to bear responsibility to find parking for their employees,” said Councilman Mike DuPont. “The residents are entitled to their street.”

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MEET THE NEW SUPER: KATHI CRONIN

CroninKathi Cronin, Fair Haven schools superintendent and Mets fan.

By LINDA G. RASTELLI

Kathi Cronin, a Middletown native and Mater Dei grad, has two passions: public education and the New York Mets. “Hope springs eternal,” she says, referring to the latter, though the idea would seem to apply to both.

An English teacher at Rumson’s Forrestdale School for eight years, Cronin later spent four years each as a Rumson curriculum supervisor, Deane Porter School principal and Forrestdale principal. “I’m on the four-year-plan,” she says.

Cronin took the reins as superintendent for the Fair Haven school district in January. She spoke with redbankgreen recently about why classroom teaching is better now than it ever was, why she won’t be cooking breakfast for teachers, and the secret process of declaring a snow day.

You’re the superintendent in a district with just two schools: the Viola L. Sickles School (pre-K-3) and the Knollwood School (4-8). What are the challenges of this job so far?

One thing I really like about being a superintendent instead of a principal is that you can network. You get to go to meetings and be out with other superintendents. Being a principal is really a lonely job.

There’s always the budgetary challenge of trying to meet the needs of every child. Another challenge is we do have really bright children, and it’s important that we meet their needs.

Enrollment’s up to 1,008 students. Bigger families seem to be moving in. It’s very important to keep our class sizes low. We average about 22 in a class, and once you get beyond 24 or 25, it does become difficult. It’s not like in the ’70s, where the teacher stood up in front of the room and did a lecture and dictated some notes. Teaching is so different now. The teacher acts as facilitator very often. We do a lot of differentiation: In a class of six students I recently observed, the teacher actually had three different homework assignments based on the students’ needs. That’s the challenge — doing that within the budget.

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BLACK COMEDY, AND OTHER BASIE SELLOUTS

Lewisblack1Hold onto your lederhosen, Little Kraut: Lewis Black darkens the stage for two nights this week in the latest of a string of sold-out shows at the Count Basie Theatre.

By TOM CHESEK

You would think this was a sweet point in time to be Lewis Black.

The gravel-voiced gadfly — already a household name thanks to his “Back in Black” vignettes on The Daily Show — has much to hype this season. His new weekly TV show Lewis Black’s Root of All Evil just made its debut on Comedy Central. A forthcoming book, Me of Little Faith, is poised to blow the lid off this organized-religion thing. And he continues to sell out venues across the USA with his own Black-label blend of vein-popping vitriol.

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So why, then, is Lewis Black not smiling? Why does “the most indignant, exasperated man in America” continue to rant, rave and rail against the many real and/or imagined indignities, hypocrisies and stupidities of modern American life?

Because we wouldn’t have it any other way — and when the Yale-educated social activist slash leather-jacketed curmudgeon takes to the soapbox with his high-decibel, slightly Tourettes-inflected stand-up act, there’s no finer music.

Having consistently filled the house in recent years, Black and his longtime opening act John Bowman return to the boards of the Count Basie Theatre for not just one but two sold-out shows, tomorrow and Wednesday night. If past Basie gigs are any indicator, Black will tweak topics both global (wars on terror, prez-candidates in peril and public figures in spectacular freefall) and strictly local (both comics have been known to have some fun with the name of Red Bank’s landmark restaurant The Little Kraut) — with a salvo of bunker-busting F-bombs and all the surgical delicacy of a pair of explosive-charge bolt cutters.

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OVERSEAS SALES DRIVE TIFFANY GAINS

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Much as it was for other retailers, the late-2007 holiday shopping season was tough one for Tiffany & Co., which opened a store in Red Bank just as the season was kicking off.

But even as its fourth-quarter profit shrank, the New York-based jewelry and tchotchke merchant’s performance exceeded the expectations of market analysts, the Associated Press reports today.

Tiffany disclosed that its November-through-January sales rose 10 percent, thanks to a 21-percent increase overseas. Domestic sales rose 4 percent, the company reported.

From the AP:

The jewelry retailer said Monday it earned $118.3 million, or 89 cents per share, down from $140.5 million, or $1.02 per share last year. Excluding one-time charges, profit was $1.27 per share, above the $1.21 analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial expected.

One-time items include a charge of 22 cents per share for loans to Tahera Diamond Corp., which sought protection from creditors in January.

Tiffany’s revenue rose 10 percent to $1.05 billion from $958.9 million last year, matching analysts’ predictions.

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RED BANK CRIME REPORTS AND ARRESTS

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The following are entries in the Red Bank police logs from March 14 through March 20. The information is supplied by the police department and is both unverified and unedited.

Theft occurring on East Newman Springs Rd. on 3-14-08. Victim reported that while in a parking lot she left her wallet in shopping cart, left the area and upon returning the wallet had been stolen. Contained in wallet were cash and credit cards. Ptl. James DePonte.

Theft occurring at Spring St. residence between 3-13-08 and 3-14-08. Victim reported that unknown person(s) stole two solar light posts off of front porch. Det. Robert Clayton.

Criminal Mischief occurring on 3-15-08 at Spring St. parking lot. Victim reported that unknown subject(s) flattened all four tires on parked vehicle and also keyed vehicle around the entire perimeter of vehicle. Ptl. David Smith.

Theft occurring at Spring St. on 3-15-08. Victim reported that unknown subject(s) entered parked vehicle and stole a Dell Laptop computer and two Apple I-Pods. Ptl. David Smith.

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BRUCETIX: THE BASIE RESPONDS

Bruce_springsteenHimself.

In response to questions posted by a redbankrgreen reader earlier this week, management at Count Basie Theatre Foundation, which is organizing Bruce Springsteen’s solo acoustic show May 7, sent us the following this morning.

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About 1,000 seats are being auctioned off by the Red Bank venue at a minimum $1,000 each. The process started last night and continues until noon, April 2.

What seat locations are being set aside for Count Basie sponsors?
Tickets for sponsors are located in the center orchestra through row R and in the first rows of the loge.

What prices are Count Basie sponsors paying for tickets?
The prices for the sponsorship tickets range from $5,000 to $15,000 per seat.

What seat locations are being set aside for Count Basie staffers?
There are no seats set aside for Count Basie Theatre staff.

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RECHNITZ ON MEMORY AND ‘MENAGERIE’

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By TOM CHESEK

“I first saw this play when I was 16 years old. It’s what ruined my life!”

The speaker? Robert Rechnitz, retired educator, author and founder of Red Bank’s Two River Theater Company. The show in question? The Glass Menagerie, the classic “memory play” by Tennessee Williams that’s undergoing a major revival at the company’s eponymous playhouse on Bridge Avenue beginning next week.

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Memory, of course, can be a tricky thing, but for the 77-year-old Rechnitz, the vivid recollection of that 1946 touring production one-nighter in Denver was a “eureka” moment that’s stayed with him through his life.

It’s what set the young son of Pueblo, Colorado on a course toward a career in the theater — not as a matinee idol, but as a teacher, a writer, a director and, ultimately, a man who was able to stand before an opening night audience in 2005 and welcome them to an all new, custom-built performing arts auditorium named for his wife Joan and himself.

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UPTEMPO DOWNTOWN

Img_4338Img_4344Img_4332Img_4308The joint was jumping before sunset last night as the Downtown (née the Downtown Café) reopened following major renovations to the Red Bank nightspot. Click pix to enlarge.

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OWNER TAKING CHUBBY’S TO THE BANK

Img_4366Michael Gilson Jr., 7, gets a kiss from his father after the Chubby’s owner won zoning board approval to erect a new restaurant on the West Front Street site.

A plan to replace the seen-better-days Chubby’s Waterside Café on West Front Street with a combo restaurant and sports bar topped by two luxury apartments won unanimous approval from the Red Bank zoning board last night.

The thumbs-up came after Chubby’s owner Michael Gilson ponied up a parking plan under which his customers will be allowed use the Riverview Medical Center garage on East Front Street, which turns out to have up to 300 empty spaces most afternoons, nights and weekends.

He also secured parking permits for his employees, and promised to run a shuttle for customers.

The approval, though, came with a hefty price tag: $120,000 that Gilson will have to contribute to the borough parking fund, as per a parking deficiency ordinance.

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FOREVER SAY DYE

Img_3465Rob Dye outside Red, with the Downtown visible over his left shoulder.

By TOM CHESEK
If you’ve spent any time at all navigating the brackish channels of the Jersey Shore bar scene, chances are excellent that you’ve encountered Rob Dye in one of his several musical incarnations.

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It could have been a balmy Friday evening at a place like Off the Hook in Highlands, where the twosome of Dye and Melissa Chill laid down a languid soundtrack to your Island Chicken.

Or perhaps it was a breeze-kissed Saturday in the shade of Asbury Park’s Convention Hall, where Dye and his R&B combo The Extras rocked the thatches off the tiki bar with a little Motown mayhem.

Maybe, just maybe, you stopped for a pushcart hot dog in downtown Asbury and were lured inside The Saint by the wafting sounds of the Rob Dye Band, there to showcase a set of original songs.

If the Atlantic Highlands-based songwriter and guitarist had to be pegged to any particular time and place, however, it would have to be his near-legendary Sunday night residency at the former Downtown Café (now, simply the Downtown) on West Front Street. There, he emceed a series of impromptu “open jam” affairs in which anyone from accomplished veterans to amateur vagabonds could take the stage with Dye and an ever-morphing roster of side players.

In the process, they’d rip through an iPod’s worth of song possibilities and, more often than not, strike a happy medium between the fabled Upstage club and that well-lubricated office party you attended a couple of years back.

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WHERE HAVE I SEEN THIS?

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Last week’s ‘Where’ generated an interesting variety of responses from a surprisingly small geographic area, perhaps owing to the number of Victorian homes in central Red Bank.

One reader thought the photo showed a detail of “Mrs. Pearl Dwek’s house” on Leroy Place, an allusion to it’s place in the short-lived real estate empire of Solomon Dwek.

Another ‘Where’ regular, showing a commendable familiarity with the redbankgreen archive, thought it might be from what we used to call the house of ladders on Broad Street.

Other entries cited the “Riverwalk” building, home to a law firm and some other offices on Maple Avenue; the former house on Broad Street (opposite the ladder house, by coincidence) that’s now home to the law firm McKenna, Dupont, Higgins & Stone; and the Woman’s Club of Red Bank, opposite the post office on Broad.

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FERNANDES TEES UP FUNDING FORMULA

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“Regionalization does not work for small communities. Period.”

That’s how an op-ed piece by Sea Bright Mayor Maria Fernandes, writing in today’s Asbury Park Press, begins.

Her target: state-mandated formulas for apportioning costs among towns joined in regional school districts. And the immediate cause of her outrage is the latest calculation from the Shore Regional High School district, which bills Sea Bright $81,000 per high school student, even though the overall average cost of educating a student at the school is just hair over $18,000, she writes.

At 27 students, that’ll cost tiny Sea Bright close to $2.2 million this year.

From the article:

Any level-headed individual would say that is crazy, and everyone in Sea Bright agrees.

Shore Regional is doing nothing wrong. This amount is based on a complicated formula that takes into consideration the number of students in the grammar school, as well as Shore Regional, and the equalized value of the municipality, among other factors. This formula was enacted by the Legislature and was supposed to guarantee every child a “thorough and efficient” education.

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BOOZE BASH NETS 24 IN SEA BRIGHT

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Five adults and 19 juveniles were taken into custody on alcohol charges during a party in a Sea Bright apartment last Friday night, the Asbury Park Press reports.

From the story:

Around 10 p.m. Friday, Patrolman Charles Murphy and Detective John Arias went to an Ocean Avenue apartment because of a reported disturbance there.

When police arrived, they saw young people who appeared to be trying to hide beer cans, said Police Chief William S. Moore.

Police charged Daniel Cleary, 21, of Eatontown and Kevin O’Shaughnessy, 18, of Sea Bright with providing alcohol to persons under the legal age.

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