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PUTTING THE SHAKE BACK INTO A CREAKY HIP

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We’ve said it before: the ‘Hip City/Hippest Town in New Jersey’ designation for Red Bank has got to go. It’s so rusty it creaks. Even the folks at Red Bank RiverCenter steer clear of it in marketing the town, they tell us.

Ah, but hips, well… they can stay. After all, they’ve only just arrived, in a sense, and they’re doing their, um, parts to help give the town some renewed sizzle as a destination for fashion-conscious women.

How recently? redbankgreen readers may recall that it was just over a year ago that Red Bank had its first-ever lingerie fashion show, or the first one in recent memory, at least. Sponsored by lingerie retailer Sweetest Sin Boutique and held at the now-shuttered Ashes Cigar Club, the packed-house event brought a flash of sexy to a downtown that’s better known for family-themed doings.

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LITTLE SILVER RENDERED IN LITTLE BRICKS

ls-legoAbout a dozen families help recreate the Little Silver streetscape with Legos Saturday. (Photo courtesy of Jennifer Pardee; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Finding the windows, red brick and green grass was no problem for Ryan McVeety as he tried to replicate the Markham Place School. It was sifting through a tub filled with thousands of miniature plastic pieces trying to find a cupola that posed the biggest challenge for the 15-year-old.

But he improvised, and within a couple hours, the school was planted and Ryan and his family had made their contribution to the rebuilding of Little Silver, Lego-style.

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IDINA MENZEL, MARVIN HAMLISCH AT BASIE

idinamenzelSuperstar stage and screen diva Idina Menzel returns to Red Bank Thursday with no less than Marvin Hamlisch at the podium as guest conductor of the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra.

By TOM CHESEK

Most actors, singers or combinations thereof would be very thankful to have latched on to even one genuinely fan-supercharged, multi-generational, cross-cultural pop phenomenon in their professional lifetimes. Idina Menzel has been a big part of three such phenoms — and the general consensus is that she’s only just begun.

When the recently minted stage superstar, who painted herself a minty green for her Tony-winning turn as Elphaba in Wicked, returns to the boards of the Count Basie Theatre Thursday night, she’ll be bringing it big-time for local Rentheads (she originated the role of Maureen in the modern musical smash), Gleeks (she’s co-starred in the recurring role of Shelby Corcoran on the hitmaking Fox TV series), and whatever it is that fans of Wicked call themselves these days (Elphicionados?).

The native Long Islander and hardworking mom (she and co-RENTer husband Taye Diggs have an infant son) will also be bringing along an extra special treat — Marvin Hamlisch, the EGOT winner (Emmy-Grammy-Oscar-Tony, that is; not to mention two Golden Globes and one Pulitzer Prize) who’s scored about as many golden trophies as he has movies, TV specials and Broadway musicals. The maestro will be wielding the baton as guest conductor of the mighty New Jersey Symphony Orchestra for an 8p set of songs written or otherwise “owned” by the star singer, from stage/screen signatures to material from her 2008 CD I Stand.

The celebs desk at redbankgreen talked to Menzel on the eve of her east coast jaunt. A half-dozen or so Q’s and A’s follow.

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GRIN AND BEAR IT: SLICK ROADS EXPECTED

black-snowmanA group of Rumson teens decided we’ve seen enough white lately, and built a snowman on River Road, using spray paint to add detail. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi. Click to enlarge)

We’re in for an ugly couple of days, according to the weatherbot at the National Weather Service.

A region extending from the northern New Jersey coast down to Maryland is the subject of a winter storm watch effective Monday evening into Wednesday morning.

The storm is expected to drop up to two inches of snow by Tuesday morning. But its main feature will be the variety of nastiness falling from the sky.

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FAIR HAVEN TO NAME NEW ADMINISTRATOR

m-howell1Fair Haven Administrator Mary Howell’s last day is expected to be Tuesday. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

It took a little longer than expected, but Fair Haven is ready to appoint borough administrator Mary Howell‘s successor.

The council will hold a special meeting Monday night to vote on a contract for Howell’s replacement, whom Mayor Mike Halfacre would not yet identify.

“We haven’t voted on it yet and the contract terms are not quite finalized yet,” he said, “but we’re very excited to have the search done.”

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FOR HISTORY BUFFS, A FANTASTIC SIGN

oakleyFantastic Signs owner John Oakley with his daughter, Charlotte, and some of his sign collection. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

It’s a weekday afternoon, and John Oakley is casually sipping a glass of water watching his two children, Charlotte and Luke, bouncing on an area carpet in his Shrewsbury Avenue showroom. There’s a jump-rope contest coming up, and the kids need practice.

On the wall behind them, there’s a large, white Dorn’s Photography sign. To the right, a red neon “DINER” sign, taken from the old Rex Diner, casts a forceful electric light over the room.

This is the Oakley family’s home away from home, a workshop where Oakley and his wife, Erin, design and fabricate signs; where his kids hang out and play with the family dog, Frank; and where the couple’s collection of roadside Americana dominates the building.

But Oakley’s business, Fantastic Signs, is as much a museum as it is a workspace and den, with fragments of local history that might otherwise be lost to the scrap heap tacked to just about every bit of wall space available.

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BUSY SPRING AHEAD FOR FAIR HAVEN

mccarter-parkMcCarter Park is among a number of properties in line for upgrades in Fair Haven. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

When, or if, we ever thaw out from this relentless winter, Fair Haven’s got a lot of work to do. And almost all of it is free of charge to the borough.

Mayor Mike Halfacre told redbankgreen there’s a slew of projects on the horizon that will boost the quality of life in town, from field renovations to street upgrades.

“There’s a lot of stuff coming up, but not a lot of stuff happening” right now, he said.

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MORE SNOW = MORE SNOW PIX

redbankgreen did a tour through Rumson, Fair Haven, Little Silver and Sea Bright Thursday morning to get photos of all the whiteness dumped by the latest winter snowstorm . (Photos by Dustin Racioppi) To enlarge the photo display, start it, then click the embiggen symbol in the lower right corner. To get back to redbankgreen, hit your escape key.

NATURE LAYS DOWN ANOTHER WHITE BLANKET

Red Bank before and just after dawn Thursday, beneath a sliver of moon and about ten inches of prettifying snow. To enlarge the photo display, start it, then click the embiggen symbol in the lower right corner. To get back to redbankgreen, hit your escape key.

RED BANK: ‘ALL ROADS ARE OPEN’

branchSnow lies atop wires and tree limbs above Branch Avenue early Wednesday morning. Below, a borough plow working Shrewsbury Avenue. (Click to enlarge)

shrewsburyAll of Red Bank’s streets had been plowed by early Thursday morning following a snowstorm that dumped another ten or so inches on the region, according to public utilities director Gary Watson.

“Our streets are in googd shape,” Watson tells redbankgreen. “All roads are open. It was a busy night but a safe night.”

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CHRISTIE: “THE PARTY’S OVER”

chris-christie2Governor Chris Christie was unapologetic for his approach to running the state during a town hall in Middletown Wednesday. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Chris Christie is sorry.

If you don’t like him, don’t like his actions, don’t think he’s being fair, then you can get rid of him in three years, he said. He’s fine with that.

But, as he pointed out to a large crowd in Middletown Wednesday, “I got sent here to fix some awful, ugly problems.”

So when a police officer griped about having to contribute more from his paycheck into his benefits and asked Christie how he was supposed to afford to live, he answered in typical, blunt Chris Christie fashion.

“You won’t afford it. You’re going to have to make choices like everyone else makes choices,” he said. “Here’s the difference: you’re getting a paycheck.”

The ever-traveling governor held back nothing in his town hall meeting in Middletown Wednesday as he pushed his agenda and outlined a better future for New Jersey, which he said will become a model for other states.

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ANOTHER STORM DAMPENS BUSINESS

broadFew pedestrians were out on Broad Street in downtown Red Bank late Wednesday morning. (Click to enlarge)

Not to belabor the obvious, but the snowy winter of 2010-’11 is putting a tight squeeze on Red Bank stores and restaurants, owners say.

“It’s killing us,” says Gary Sable, of That Hot Dog Place on Monmouth Street. Motioning to the municipal parking lot on White Street, he says” “Look, it’s empty.”

Empty of everything but white stuff, that is. And the outlook is for more than previously expected.

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RUMSON: NO DAWGS ALLOWED ON THE LAWN

dawgs

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

You can show school spirit all you want in Rumson. Just keep it off the lawn.

A request that had sailed through in Fair Haven didn’t make the cut in Rumson Tuesday night, when the borough council rejected a request from a couple of moms to sell lawn signs to raise money for the Rumson-Fair Haven boys lacrosse program.

The reasons, council members said: one, it’s against local ordinance, and two, if they lifted the ban, it could set a precedent for cluttered frontyards throughout town. And that, you know, is not how Rumson rolls.

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RED BANK TELLS BUILDER: KNOCK ‘EM DOWN

bank-stRed Bank officials slapped developers of the River’s Edge project on Bank Street with an unsafe structure violation, which is being appealed. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

When the developers of a waterside condominium project received approvals from the Red Bank zoning board back in August, the plan was to get started on construction within six to twelve months, they sai.

Now bumping up against the six-month mark, there’s been little action at the western end of Bank Street. And that’s going to have to change, says the borough.

Code enforcement has issued unsafe structure violations for the three vacant homes on the property, pushing the developers to make some sort of progress at the site.

“They’ve become a blight on the neighborhood,” said Administrator Stanley Sickels, who doubles as the borough’s construction official. “It’s time to take [them] down.”

The developer of River’s Edge has appealed the violations. The developer’s attorney, Kevin Coakley, told redbankgreen the move was to wait out any potential litigation against the developer.

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DOWNTOWN BUSINESS OWNERS ASK FOR HELP

lyristisRed Bank business owner George Lyristis led a plea to the borough council to make changes that would be positive for the downtown Monday night. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

It’s going to take a team effort for downtown business owners to make it out of this murky economy alive, says George Lyristis, co-owner of The Bistro at Red Bank.

Time to get the other players involved, then.

Lyristis, along with a handful of other merchants, urged the borough council on Monday night to work with them in getting Red Bank back on track as a buzzing, competitive force in the region. The group wrote a letter to the council outlining what it hopes the governing body can do to get that done.

Keeping the downtown a little cleaner, scaling back parking enforcement and adding signs to direct motorists to parking lots will do, Lyristis said.

“We all have to chip in at this point,” said Lyristis, the de facto voice for business owners at Monday’s meeting.

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TRTC SENDS IN ‘CLOWNS’ FOR FEBRUARY

mattgumley1Broadway veteran Matthew Gumley, 14, co-stars as Nick in the Two River Theater Company production of A THOUSAND CLOWNS.

By TOM CHESEK

It’s got a happy-go-lucky, nonconformist uncle. A whip-smart, precociously talented tween nephew. Put them together in a big-city bachelor pad, throw in a boss named Chuckles and a budding romance with an attractive social worker, and you’ve got — well, if Hollywood got hold of it now, you’d have a recipe for disaster. Either that, or a beloved Charlie Sheen sitcom.

When cartoonist turned playwright Herb Gardner penned A Thousand Clowns in the early 1960s, he approached his first theatrical piece with a seriousness that was light years beyond the TV gag-writing of its willfully unemployed hero. With the late Jason Robards as leading man and champion, the play managed to nail that moment just before The Sixties really happened, when the Great Society came knocking at the door and a free spirit like Uncle Murray had to choose exactly which side of the Generation Gap he intended to be on.

Beginning in previews next week and continuing through February 20, the 1962 Broadway hit comes to Red Bank as the latest mainstage production from Two River Theater Company. The redbankgreen Drama Desk spoke to the show’s director (as well as two of the accomplished pros in the cast), in the countdown days before the February 5 opening.

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FIREWORKS: FEES IN, FINES UP

fight2-070310Several fights broke out among teenagers gathered at Broad and West Front streets at the 2010 fireworks. (Click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

A waterfront view of this year’s Kaboom fireworks is going to cost you. So will acting out of line.

Following the recommendations of the provisional Kaboom! Task Force, the borough council intends to charge for seating at borough-owned waterfront property — the library, Riverside Gardens Park and Marine Park.

The fee, which hasn’t been established, would help the fireworks committee raise money for the $250,000 display and cover the borough’s expenses for police enforcement and cleanup efforts, Administrator Stanley Sickels said.

In an effort to curtail the number of alcohol-related incidents and “shenanigans,” Red Bank will also bring in more cops and increase fines for offenses including disorderly conduct, urinating in public and having an open container of alcohol, said Councilman Michael DuPont.

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ART SHOW DISPLAYS FOR THE SNOW DAYS

zebu-artGroveland-based artist Ryan Southerland at Zebu Forno’s first art show Saturday. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

The iceberg-sized snowmounds are still here. The temps are near arctic. It’s the winter blahs, perhaps the slowest time of year for action, especially in the arts world. And in the Red Bank sector, not much is doing now.

Or at all, really, in the way of grassroots endeavors to showcase local talent, says Mellisa Pickering, one of the town’s more recognizable faces — and voices, with her Irish brogue — on the coffee scene.

Take those elements and it’s precisely the right time to get something going, said Pickering, who has a graphic design background and a passion for art.

“Red Bank is so quiet right now. I’m sick of waiting for something to happen,” she said. “So we decided to make something happen ourselves.”

The result is a winterlong, and perhaps yearlong, biweekly arts show at Broad Street’s Zebu Forno, where Pickering works. The show kicked off Saturday and continued Sunday.

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GUNPOINT ROBBERY ON RIVER ROAD

rbpd4 windowThe crime reports below were provided by the Red Bank Police Department for the period of January 14 to January 21, 2011. The information appears here unedited.

Armed Robbery occurring on 1-11-11 in the area of River Road. Victim reported that while walking he was approached from behind by accused that pointed a gun at him and demanded money. The victim turned over cash and the perpetrator fled. Ptl. Matthew Ehrenreich.

Criminal Mischief occurring on Broad St. on 1-17-11. Victim reported that unknown person(s) spray painted graffiti onto building and a golf cart. Ptl. Dawn Shields.

Criminal Mischief occurring on 1-18-11 at Leighton Ave. vacant residence. Report of unknown subject(s) breaking window, cracking door jam and gaining entry. The first floor of the residence was flooded with water. Ptl. Paul Perez.

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RED BANK DENTIST GETS TOOTH PULLED AGAIN

toothThe hanging tooth sign outside Harry Mahoney’s dental office on River Road was stolen again this week. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Somebody’s done it again.

Just four months after replacing his dental office’s landmark tooth sign after its theft, Harry Mahoney came into work Wednesday to find somebody had once again extracted the molar from his River Road lawn.

“It’s getting ridiculous,” said Mahoney, who’s had to replace the sign a handful of times over the years, most recently in September. “This was the shortest amount of time ever.”

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COURTYARDS PLAN GETS CLOSER ONCE-OVER

courtyards-2James Hulsizer with a depiction of the planned Courtyards at Monmouth. Below, an architect’s rendering from last summer. (Click to enlarge)

courtyards-at-monmouthRed Bank zoners held the first of what is expected to be a series of hearings on the details of a proposed 57-unit housing development on a neglected stretch of Monmouth Street Thursday night.

GS Realty, the unit of Amboy Bank that owns the site, is seeking a long list of variances, from building heights and setbacks from the street, in order to clear the way for the so-called Courtyards at Monmouth project.

Last July, byt a 5-2 vote, the zoning board granted a use variance for what members called “a very dense project” in a new train station zone formed to attract high-density housing and retailing, though the plan calls for no stores. At the time, those in favor cited a desire to jump-start construction on the 1.24-acre property, which is also bounded by West and Oakland streets.

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MURDER TRY AT SCHOOL GETS MAN 15 YEARS

hot-topic rightA Red Bank man whose homicidal knife attack at the borough primary school two years ago left his ex-girlfriend seriously injured has been sentenced to 15 years in state prison, the Monmouth County Prosecutor announced Thursday.

Twenty-four-year-old Jorge Vargas-Mancilla’s sentencing came three months after he pleaded to attempted murder in state Superior Court in Freehold.

A concurrent four-year sentence was imposed by Judge Richard English for Vargas-Mancilla’s admission that he attacked the school’s principal, Rich Cohen, and guidance counselor Karl Parker in when they attempted to intervene on behalf of Vargas-Mancilla’s 21-year-old ex-girlfriend, the mother of his five-year-old child, a student at the school.

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GONE JUST IN TIME FOR THE NEXT LOAD?

boro-hall-sidewalkThe sidewalk in front of Rumson’s borough hall remained buried early Thursday, more than three weeks after the December 26 blizzard that socked the region. The walk will be shoveled today, public works director Mark Wellner tells redbankgreen. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

More snow is coming, according to the National Weather Service.

The Red Bank area could get 1 to 3 inches Thursday night, according to the agency forecast.

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