COUNCIL STILL DUG IN AGAINST GARDEN SPOT

cg-sickelsCommunity garden proponents talk to borough Administrator Stanley Sickels about their proposal after Wednesday night’s council meeting. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

The borough council Wednesday night unanimously adopted a resolution supporting a community garden in Red Bank.

Great, some said.

But when it came down to where the council might allow that garden to sprout, the council maintained a hard position that while it supports a community garden, it doesn’t support one where a group at least 40 strong want it: at a piece of borough property next to the library.

The clash between impassioned members of a community garden group and the council continued Wednesday night, without agreement, and none in sight, on its location.

It was more like a talking-to than a talking-with, as the council offered little feedback to a long line of speakers serving up suggestions, implicating political motives and asking questions that they feel still haven’t been answered.

Riverside Avenue’s Ernest Anemone  told the council, which looked out to a SRO crowd in the chambers, that it was making a “huge mistake” by not backing the plan to start the garden on West Front Street.

Anemone, who’s started an online petition pushing for the site — with 584 signatures  at 10 p.m. Wednesday, but only about 30 of them from Red Bank residents — told council members to look him in the eyes to understand how serious he is about the project, and asked the council to explain why the proposed location is off limits to the council.

“I haven’t heard one reason that’s justifiable,” he said, getting an applause then pointing to the crowd. “This is Red Bank. These are your constituents. For you to ignore us, that’s unacceptable.”

Councilwoman Kathy Horgan said aside from the council’s position of not wanting to give up one of the last available public pieces of riverside land, the library board has concerns about parking and emphasized that the library is not against the garden, but in the same breath said it does not endorse it.

As a counterpoint, resident and environmentalist Kathleen Gasienica said, “but if we don’t have support, what’s the opposite of that?”

The council has asked the group to pick different locations for the garden, and although propoents have submitted a list of about 20 potential sites, they haven’t budged on where they’d like the first one. And the council hasn’t budged on its position that it won’t allow that to be the start-up site.

A woman from Middletown, Linda Muhlhausen, said that as an outsider she couldn’t tell fo sure, “but you’re making it seem like there’s a hidden agenda on the council’s part.”

John de la Parra, of Riverside Avenue, asked the council what the group can do to convince members to allow the site at the library, to which Councilwoman Sharon Lee responded that the council gives the group its support on a garden, just not there.

The proposed library site is two lots away from Maple Cove, the dedicated nature area fought for by Cindy Burnham, who didn’t speak Wednesday night. But de la Parra told the council he hoped it didn’t think the groundswell of support was drummed up by Burnham, although she is a big proponent of the project.

“I know the elephant in the room is Cindy Burnham, but I am not Cindy Burnham, Ernest (Anemone) is not Cindy Burnham, all of these people here are not Cindy Burnham except Cindy Burnham,” de la Parra said. “These are people who listen to common sense.”

The council, despite the room packed with garden supporters and hearing a handful of speakers, appeared unswayed.