BIZ WATCH: WHO’S COMING, WHO’S GOING

dscf3010The lauded Broad Street Filling Station ran out of gas in Red Bank. And it wasn’t alone. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Rcsm2_010508The continuing trend in downtown Red Bank: good news mixed with not-so.

First with the bad: A few more businesses have been picked off by the slumping economy since redbankgreen last took the temperature of downtown businesses.

The good: Potential tenants are looking to snag some of those vacant spaces, we’re told, and a couple of businesses are either opening up or expanding in the borough.

At the north end of Red Bank’s main vein, Broad Street, the Firehouse Specialty Shop is having a what-do-we-do-next moment. Firehouse, customers know, has occupied the back end of 24 Broad for years while the niche boutique The Bee’s Knees filled out the front floor and dressed up the windows with lots of Jersey Shore apparel and women and children’s clothes.

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POLICE LOG: MAN REPORTS ATTACK & ROBBERY

call-in-the-authoritiesThe crime reports appearing here were provided by the Red Bank Police Department for the week of June 4 to June 11, 2010. This information appears here unedited.

Shoplifting occurring on 6-4-10 at Broad St. Victim reported that unknown female shoplifted a bottle of Grey Goose vodka and fled store without paying for same. Ptl. Ashon Lovick.

Shoplifting incident occurred on 6-4-10 at East Newman Springs Rd. Two unknown black females entered the store and took a bottle of Vodka and fled the store without paying for same. Ptl. Robert Campanella.

Criminal Mischief occurring between 6-6-10 and 6-7-10 at West Westside Ave. Victim reported that unknown person(s) threw a brick through the back window of parked vehicle smashing same. Ptl. Michael Campnella.

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NO INJURIES AS SUV OVERTURNS IN ACCIDENT

accident-061210A Ford Expedition lies on its side on River Street, at the corner of Leighton Avenue, following the crash. Below, passenger Maddy Pulignano and her grandmother, Marge Murray. (Click to enlarge)

maddy-061210

A 10-year-old girl, already in a leg cast from an injury this week, and her grandmother were safely extricated from an SUV following a Red Bank accident that left the vehicle lying on its side Saturday afternoon.

Maddy Pulignano of Middletown and her grandmother, Marge Murray, of Highlands were unhurt in the accident, in which their SUV was struck by a pickup truck at the intersection of Leighton Avenue and River Street around 3:30p.

Maddy, it turns out, was already in a cast with a broken leg, having been run over, she said with a laugh, by a classmate driving a go-kart on a class trip this week.

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MOTHER & SON BUSTED IN DRUG RAID

just_in1A 52-year-old woman and her 19-year-old son were among four people arrested on drug charges as part of a predawn raid by Red Bank police earlier today.

The bust, at 196 Leighton Avenue, also led to charges against the son arising from a May 2 attack on West Sunset Avenue in which the victim was seriously injured, says police Captain Darren McConnell.

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HYPERLOCAL HOOPS

rick-brandtRick Brandt, of Little Silver, started a two-day basketball clinic featuring local talent. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Rick Brandt and his younger brother, Rob, don’t have dreams of making millions on the basketball court. They don’t think they’ll even play another serious game of basketball in their lives.

They’re simple guys who grew up in Little Silver with a somewhat simple — and unlikely — goal.

“If we can be David Prowns when we get older, that’s what we want,” Rick Brandt, 21, said.

For those of you scratching your heads, one must know David Prown to understand why the Brandt brothers see him, not LeBron James or Mark Sanchez (Rick is a huge Jets fan), as their role model.

Prown, of Red Bank, is immersed in local youth and sports, taking hours out of every day to organize athletic events and cultural outings for kids. The Brandts want to be immersed, too.

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HALFACRE REGRETS EARLY EXIT FROM 12TH

halfacre-for-congressWatching a poorly funded Tea Party-approved candidate throw a scare into an opponent this week, Fair Haven Mayor Mike Halfacre kinda wishes he’d stayed in the GOP primary race in the Congressional 12th District, he tells PolitickerNJ.

Halfacre shut down his effort to unseat incumbent Democrat Rush Holt in late March, after he failed to gain endorsements from GOP leaders in Monmouth and Middlesex counties.

But after seeing David Corsi of Oceanport garner 46 percent of the primary vote Tuesday on just $5,000 raised — versus venture capitalist Scott Sipprelle‘s $640,000 warchest — Halfacre rues not staying in the contest, writes Politicker’s Max Pizarro:

Asked if he regreted not running to the finish, particulalry after seeing Corsi’s victory by 768 votes in the Monmouth County portion of the district, Halfacre said, “Absolutely. I made a mistake. No one could have predicted this election result. If we had any idea the line would have been as weak as it was, we would have stayed in.”

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M’TOWN SALUTES A FINE COLLEAGUE & FRIEND

shadow2Middletown police Lieutenant Steve Dollinger remembers the details well:

Red Bank cops needed help investigating a case in which a man was believed to be shipping marijuana hidden in stereo speakers. So they called in Dollinger and Shadow, his canine partner, to execute a search warrant at the massive United Parcel Service facility in Tinton Falls, through which the dope was believed to flow. It wasn’t long before the golden retriever’s wet, black nose led him to a particular box.

“They opened it up, and inside were three five-pound bundles of marijuana, each wrapped with a layer of dryer sheets, shrink-wrap, dryer sheets, shrink-wrap, and a third layer of dryer sheets and shrink-wrap,” Dollinger said. “The speakers were also filled with foam insulation.”

Using the evidence, police did a controlled buy-and-bust, and “they locked up the guy,” Dollinger said.

It was one of thousands such searches and educational demonstrations that Shadow performed in a career that ended earlier this afternoon, when a heavyhearted Dollinger took the ailing 15-year-old dog he calls “my best friend” to be put down because of health issues.

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BUILDER COMPLETES HISTORICAL CONVERSION

leroy-houseA nine-month renovation project on LeRoy Place has just wrapped up. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Charlie McCague wasn’t looking for a fight or a hassle from anybody. Even standing well over six-feet tall, he comes across as a benevolent guy, his soft Irish brogue offsetting his intimidating stature.

But a hassle of sorts what he got after he bought a long-vacant Victorian at 28 LeRoy Place in Red Bank last year and presented plans to convert it into office space, McCague admits, hesitantly.  Some neighbors griped about the idea, and the planning board, which had to approved the change in use, wasn’t uniformly in favor of it, either.

The argument was that the home should stay strictly residential and maintain its historical qualities. A conversion, opponents said, would promote “creeping commercialism” into the area, which is partially  zoned for residential and professional office use. Councilwoman Sharon Lee called it “an assault on our historic homes.”

Still, McCague narrowly won approval to make the conversion, and now that work has just wrapped up, the only sign of creeping commercialism appears to be in the back, where a handicapped parking sign is staked in the ground.

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LITTLE CLAIMS WIN; GOOCH WANTS RECOUNT

hot-topic rightNewspaper publisher Diane Gooch is asking for a recount after an apparent loss in the Republican primary for the 6th district to Highlands Mayor Anna Little. according to various reports.

Little, with Tea Party backing an only a fraction of millionaire Gooch’s campaign treasury declared victory Wednesday after a vote tally from Tuesday’s balloting showed her leading Gooch by 105 votes, the Asbury Park Press reported.

Later in the day, the Star-Ledger said 79 votes separated the two candidates, and that Gooch would seek a recount.

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YMCA SUES BOROUGH OVER PLAN DENIAL

ymca1The Community YMCA says the zoning board rejection was capricious. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

As expected, the Community YMCA has filed a lawsuit against Red Bank’s zoning board for its decision to not allow the Y to nearly double the size of its Maple Avenue facility, putting the nonprofit at odds with the town on two legal fronts.

The suit, filed on May 18 in state Superior Court in Freehold, says that the board’s resolution denying the Y’s expansion plan “lacks a factual basis for its negative findings and provides nothing more that conclusions unsupported by fact or applicable land use law, ” and therefore makes the board’s decision unreasonable.

The Y is seeking to reverse the zoning board’s decision and win approval of the variance applications and site plan. It is also asking for compensation for the cost of the suit and whatever other relief the court deems just.

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RUMSON GETS ITS FIREPOWER BACK

Rumson_fireworks3The Rumson fireworks, as seen from Victory Park in 2007. (Click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

For the first time in its short life, Rumson’s annual fireworks display came close a to not happening along the affluent  banks of the Navesink River next month.

Donations for the Independence Day show, which are synced with Red Bank’s ginormous Kaboom! display, were about $30,000 short of the approximate $100,000 mark needed to cover the cost late last month.

That’s something that the borough, which boasts residents who call $1 million spare change, simply had no problem with in the last three years in putting on the pyro show, Mayor John Ekdahl said. But this year, the shortfall appeared to spell doom for the event, held near the Oceanic Bridge.

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NO TAKERS FOR TAINTED PROPERTIES

ls-texaco-060710The former Hunter’s Texaco station and the onetime home of the Wicker Rose, in background, failed to attract any bids at a bankruptcy auction Tuesday. (Click to enlarge)

Three Little Silver properties put up for auction as part of the wind-down of the massive Solomon Dwek bank fraud case failed to attract a single bid Tuesday.

The adjoining properties — a former Texaco station, the former home of the Wicker Rose furniture store and a small house, all at the juncture of Willow Drive and Sycamore Avenue — have significant underground contamination issues resulting from fuel leakage from the filling station and other sources.

The absence of bids was “not exactly what we were looking for,” said Ray Smith, of Stafford Smith Realty, which managed the auction on behalf of a court-appointed bankruptcy trustee. “But in light of the environmental conditions there, it’s not a big surprise.”

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SIPPRELLE WINS; LITTLE LEADS GOOCH

hot-topic rightIt’s not quite tea time in the two congressional districts covering the Red Bank area.

In the 12th district, Tea Party-endorsed Dave Corsi failed in his bid against Princeton millionaire Scott Sipprelle for the Republican nod to take on incumbent  Rush Holt.

Corsi, of Oceanport, won his home county of Monmouth by a vote of 3,345 to 2,577, but came ups short elsewhere and fell by a vote of 8,930 to 7,575, according to the Star-Ledger.

Meanwhile, the outcome of the battle between Rumson newspaper publisher Diane Gooch and Highlands Mayor Anna Little for the GOP nod to challenge incumbent Frank Pallone in the 6th district was unclear early this morning.

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SCHARFENBERGER HOLDS OFF CHALLENGER

tony-avalloneTony Avallone, last-place finisher in the the Middletown GOP race, says he’ll be back.

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

The attempt by a Republican upstart to wrest a seat from a Middletown incumbent in November failed in Tuesday’s primary.

Middletown Mayor Gerard Scharfenberger defended his seat on the township committee with 1,914 votes over newcomer Tony Avallone, who came away with 1,211 votes. Scharfenberger’s Republican running mate, Kevin Settembrino, garnered the most votes, with 2,023.

That leaves a November race in which Settembrino and Scharfenberger will vie for two open seats on the committee — one being Scharfenberger’s, and the other held by the committee’s only Democrat, Sean Byrnes, who is seeking re-election. Also in the race is Democrat Mary Mahoney.

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PEDESTRIAN STRUCK ON BROAD STREET

just_in1A Highlands woman was hit by a car as she crossed Broad Street in Red Bank this afternoon, police said.

The 66-year-old woman, who police did not identify pending notification of her family, was taken to Riverview Medical Center with a leg injury, said police Captain Darren McConnell, who heads the department’s traffic and safety unit. Her injuries are not life-threatening, he said.

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LITTLE PROJECT, BIG IMPACT, BUILDER SAYS

roger-mumfordRoger Mumford has plans that he says will transform part of the West Side. (Click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

On the corner of Bridge Avenue and Cedar Street sits a tan-colored, nondescript building that, if not for a couple of cars parked in the lot, could easily be mistaken for another one of Red Bank’s vacant spaces.

With just a couple of windows and minimal signage, 247 Bridge doesn’t at all look like the nerve center of an operation that might spark a transformation of the rundown area that adjoins it.

But Roger Mumford, a 54-year-old home builder who commands the happenings inside the office, has big plans for the stretch of Bridge from Cedar to Drs. James Parker Boulevard. The Little Silver resident has approvals to knock down four existing homes, plus a corner bodega, and rebuild the site from the ground up with a new bodega and five luxury homes.

You read that right. Luxury homes.

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AMID BUDGET CONCERNS, AX FALLS IN M’TOWN

mtown-workshopMayor Gerard Scharfenberger listens to administrator Anthony Mercantante at Monday night’s workshop meeting. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

The budget ax has made its first swing through Middletown, claiming 16 employees last week as township officials continue to struggle with a plunge in revenues and a continual rise in expenses.

Layoff notices were sent out to 38 township employees earlier this year, Mayor Gerard Scharfenberger said, as a result of a cut in state aid and purse-punishing weather that put the town nearly $1 million over budget, among other things.

Many of those employees either quit, retired, or were reassigned after receiving the notices. Sixteen people, however, involuntarily ended their employment with Middletown on Friday.

The layoffs are the first round this year, Scharfenberger said, though he doesn’t anticipate more.

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POLICE BLOTTER

policewindowThe crime reports appearing here were provided by the Red Bank Police Department for the week of May 28 to June 4, 2010. This information appears here unedited.

Criminal Mischief occurring on 5-29-10 at Allen Place. Victim reported that unknown person(s) keyed both sides of parked vehicle, leaving long scratches. Ptl. David Smith.

Criminal Mischief occurring on Windward Way between 5-29-10 and 5-20-10. Reports of 4 mailboxes and posts being removed from ground along with two stop signs and two street signs being torn down by the front entrance to complex. Ptl. David Hicks.

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NOT QUITE BAREFOOT IN THE PARK

dancers1-0607101Dancers from the Kathryn Barnett School of Dance in Red Bank traded their Uggs and flipflops for Capezios as they gathered for a group photo at nearby Riverside Gardens Park yesterday.

dancers2-060710The dancers, aged 8 to 18 and members of the school’s ‘Traveling Troupe,’ won a dance competition last month and donated their $1,625 in prize money to pop music act Holiday Express, which gives charity concerts throughout New Jersey between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. (Click to enlarge)

SILVER LINING AT LITTLE SILVER CORNER?

wicker-rose-texaco-lsBoth the former Wicker Rose building,  foreground, and the abandoned Texaco station in the background have “substantial” environmental issues. (Click to enlarge)

Three adjoining Little Silver properties with the taint of fraud and pollution go on the auction block tomorrow.

The whiff of financial chicanery comes from their connection to Solomon Dwek, the Ocean Township real estate investor-turned-federal-informant, who acquired them as part of a massive $400 million real estate roll-up scheme studded with allegations of bank fraud. That was before Dwek agreed to wear a wire and bribe elected officials snared in a statewide public-corruption sweep last year.

The underground pollution is literally traceable to one of the three properties, a former Texaco filling station, as well as from other sources, says real estate marketer Ray Smith, whose firm will conduct the auction.

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JAZZ & BLUES CROWD MISSES MARINE PARK

jazz-and-bluesFestivalgoers enjoyed dancing in the parking lot, but many missed the banks of Marine Park as the home for the Jazz & Blues Festival. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

For the first time in years, Red Bank’s Marine Park saw no hordes of music lovers — or rain — on the first weekend in June.

That’s because what was once known as the Red Bank Jazz & Blues Festival instead set up camp Saturday and Sunday in the parking lot of Monmouth Park in Oceanport, this time under the broader label of the Jersey Shore Jazz & Blues Festival.

It isn’t often that redbankgreen ventures beyond the confines of this virtual town square, but considering a landmark event was all but forced to pack up and move to a different venue, a trek to Oceanport to check in with folks to find out what they thought of the 2010 edition of the festival was in order.

The reviews weren’t exactly glowing.

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RED BANK COPS TO TARGET CELL SCOFFLAWS

hot-topic rightRed Bank police will be going after violators of a “largely disregarded” state law that bans driver use of cellphones without hands-free devices, according to a department announcement issued Monday morning.

The announcement says the crackdown will last a week and will entail  road stops and checkpoints.

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