SEA BRIGHT: LOCALS SAY KEEP APARTMENTS

The Anchorage Apartments on the Shrewsbury River remain vacant eight months after Hurricane Sandy.  (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By WIL FULTON

Sea Bright officials last week shot down a proposal to level a hurricane-ravaged apartment complex for a park after borough residents objected.

At issue was a resolution that that would give the state Department of Environmental Protection the borough’s support in its proposal to acquire the property at 960 Ocean Avenue – the Anchorage Apartment building – under the Green Acres program for an area of “high-public use” –  most likely, a park.

But despite the promise of greener pastures replacing an uninhabitable structure, residents turned out at last Tuesday night’s council meeting to blast the idea.

“Our town isn’t really a resort town,” said Dave De Sio, of 822 Ocean Avenue. “I think we’re more of a residential town. maybe we should pay a little more attention to the effects these things have on our residents, rather than the benefits for outsiders and out of towners.”

De Sio said he has seen many “unsupervised” activities in the Anchorage beach parking lot, located across the street from the apartments, including visitors “blasting radios” and leaving trash on the free, unguarded beach –  problems he said would only grow with a public park in the vicinity.

“The claim that bringing these outsiders into town [helps the economy] is ridiculous, because they don’t spend a penny in this town,” he said. “They use our free beach and get out of here.

“I don’t see any reason for our town to give up a ratable when our town is surviving on subsidies from the state,” De Sio said. “Who’s going to pay all the bills in this town?”

Michael Chimento, of 934 Ocean Avenue – two doors down from the Anchorage apartments – also spoke against the enabling the property to become a park.

“Our property values have already been mangled by the storm, and I feel like introducing land that will be heavily used by the public there could be detrimental,” he said. “I just feel it’s important to take into account the residents there. I’ve watched the cars go in, and I’ve watched them go out. They don’t stick around.”

Referring to the possibility of the vacant complex being rehabilitated, Chimento added that he “rather see people there who can contribute year-round, not just people coming in to use a free section of town. We’re just eliminating 24 people who could be part of the Sea Bright community.”

Susie Markson, however, spoke in favor of the conversion, claiming a park could be a positive for the town.

“It seems like having a nice, green park next to your house could up the property value of your house,” she said. In addition, “having this beautiful green space where there can be fishermen and families and picnic tables – that element that you are so scared of probably wouldn’t still be there.”

“And as far as clean-up and those issues go, why have parks anywhere? Why have Marine Park? Why have Victory Park? You are going to run into those problems everywhere. Having a nice beautiful green park on the river seems like it would be awesome. It seems like a great thing to do,” she added.

Several other residents raised concerns about increased traffic concerns as well as public safety, with one resident commenting on the already present dangers of people pulling out of the Anchorage lot too quickly and having their cars go up on the sidewalk, putting residents and beachgoers at risk.

Mayor Dina Long said that having the property acquired under the DEP’s Green Acres program would require the lot to be turned into some type of open space designed for heavy use by the public, which could also mean another parking lot instead of a park, likely based on the council’s recommendation.

Councilman Marc Leckstein moved the resolution to approve the resolution, but was on the losing side of a 3-to-2 vote with Councilman Brian Kelly. Council members Jack Keeler, James LoBiondo and Read Murphy voted against. Councilwoman Peggy Bills was absent.

Murphy suggested the council revisit the discussion during the governing body’s next workshop meeting, scheduled for Thursday at 7:30pm.