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RED BANK: POOL CASE ENDS IN A RIPPLE

grandville-pool-082720-500x375-5275391The Grandville Towers pool remained closed throughout the summer. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)

By JOHN T. WARD

After months of hearings, Red Bank’s rent leveling board ruled Thursday night that four tenants at Grandville Towers were entitled to money for being deprived access to the swimming pool this summer.

The judgment? A one-time rent credit of $33, plus $3.96 for missed use of the gym at the 91-unit highrise.

The case began with formal complaints in late June by 10 tenants paying between $1,138 and $1,733 per month rent at the 10-story building on Morford Place. Six tenants later dropped out of the case.

In response to the complaints, the volunteer rent board held a court-like trial via Zoom, at which tenants testified they’d been deprived of a service whose cost was built into their monthly rent.

An executive for building owner PRC Group, of West Long Branch, testified about the company’s difficulty in hiring “ambassadors” to temperature-check pool users and clean bathrooms during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In addition, a PRC-hired real estate consultant, Hugh Magee, of Rumson, testified that there’s no pool “value” reflected in the rent. No other apartment complex in Red Bank offers a pool, and yet all charge higher rents than Grandville Towers, he said.

The board disagreed, and in September found tenants experienced “reduced service” when the swimming pool didn’t open this summer. At Thursday’s session, it had to determine what dollar value, if any, to put on the loss.

Guided by board Attorney Gene Anthony, board members took into account the timing of Governor Phil Murphy’s pandemic-related shutdown and reopening executive orders for pools and gyms; PRC’s cost of maintaining the pool; the price of private gym memberships and other factors.

The $37 award reflected six days of gym inaccessibility, at 66 cents per day, under a motion made by board member Scott Heck.

“After all that…” one board member began to comment after the unanimous vote.

“Sometimes the process is as important as the result,” said Anthony.

None of the four tenants who’d filed complaints commented at the conclusion of the session.

PRC attorney Chris Healy told redbankgreen afterward that the board “was thoughtful, deliberate and came to the right decision.”

Some Grandville trivia: the building opened in early 1975, billed as “Red Bank’s first condominium.” An October, 1974 Red Bank Register article announcing the availability of units touted, among other amenities, an “Olympic size pool, putting area for golfers, saunas, and an enclosed sun deck on the roof.”

But just 18 months later, economic conditions had forced a conversion of the building to rental units, and the developer was seeking 30 years of tax relief in the face of possible foreclosure, its lawyer told the borough council in May, 1976. The council denied the request.

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