RED BANK: DEBATE OVER ‘McKENNA WAY’
Ex-mayor Ed McKenna with former councilman Tom Hintelmann at Democratic headquarters on election night last November. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)
By JOHN T. WARD
An ordinance that would name a downtown alleyway for former Red Bank mayor Ed McKenna drew both criticism and support at Wednesday night’s council meeting.
A view from the east end of the alley toward Boat Club Court. Southbank is to be built on the vacant lot at right. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)
Allison Gregory, who is running for council as a Republican for the second consecutive year, cited McKenna’s record of run-ins with the law over his driving as a disqualifying reason to name “a drivable street” for him.
Reading from a redbankgreen article posted last week, Gregory cited an incident in which McKenna was convicted of driving on the Garden State Parkway while intoxicated; an accident involving a pedestrian; and a fender-bender at on the Parkway that raised questions about whether he had improperly left the scene before police arrived.
“I would hope that if you’re naming a street, a drivable street, after someone, I would hope that you may consider former Councilman Michael Arnone, current Mayor Pat Menna, a veteran — Veterans Way,” Gregory said, with her two young daughters standing beside her. [Arnone also served as mayor.]
McKenna, she said, “hasn’t really given the best… I wouldn’t want to follow in those footsteps. Driving down a street with that name doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.”
But William Poku, of Bank Street, said “everyone makes mistakes,” adding that McKenna “has really done a lot on behalf of this town.
“He does deserve it,” he said.
McKenna, who served as mayor from 1991 through 2006, is credited by many Red Bankers for steering the borough out of a deep and worsening period of downtown vacancies. He was not present at the meeting.
As previously reported by redbankgreen, the nameless alley, off Boat Club Court, runs between a row of stores fronting on West Front Street and a vacant lot that’s slated to become home to Southbank, a 10-unit luxury condo project by developer Denholtz Properties.
In response to resident Alberto LaRotonda’s objection to naming the street for a living person, Councilman Ed Zipprich noted that the West Front Street bridge between Red Bank and Middletown is named for a living person: former Republican state Senator Joe Kyrillos.
Zipprich is chairman of the local Democratic organization, in which McKenna is viewed as an elder lion.
Former council member Cindy Burnham said naming a street for McKenna was “despicable.” She cited his role in transferring the former borough hall at 51 Monmouth Street to a charitable organization whose board he headed, which she maintains was improper.
“You sued us over that,” Mayor Pasquale Menna said in response. “You lost that suit. And it cost us $35,000 in legal fees.”
Though Gregory repeatedly referred to the alleyway as a “drivable street,” it’s unlikely to see much traffic. A dead-end only about 200 feet in length, it services the back end of several stores on West Front Street, and will be almost entirely occupied by a no-parking fire lane, with a handful of public parking spaces on Denholtz property.
A public hearing and adoption vote is slated for September 11.