BURGLARY SUSPECT NO KID AFTER ALL

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A homeless juvenile arrested in late October for burglarizing several address on East Bergen Place turns out not to be a minor after all, Red Bank Police say they have learned.

Ismael Rojas-Vela turns out to be 19 years old, according to a birth certificate obtained by investigators from Mexican authorities. He had told cops who arrested him that he was 16.

But the suspect is still believed to be homeless.

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COPPOLA FILM TO DEBUT HERE TONIGHT

CoppolaFrancis Ford Coppola directing ‘Youth Without Youth,’ which premieres at the Clearview Thursday night in a benefit for the Monmouth County Arts Alliance.

By TOM CHESEK

WINE! It’s managed to play a part in the late careers of many a moviemaker — notably, Orson Welles as he shilled for Paul Masson in the days when he could barely get arrested for impersonating Falstaff.

But only Francis Ford Coppola has made the noble-rot nectar the fuel for what’s shaping up to be not simply a satisfying comeback, but a comeuppance for a Hollywood establishment that may have prematurely put the patriarch out to pasture.

Neither a gout-ridden Godfather in his garden nor a crazed Kurtz hunkered down in his compound, Coppola the larger-than-life artist is back from a self-imposed, decade-long exile. Flush with wealth from his acclaimed California vineyards and restaurants, he’s busily promoting his all-new, self-financed feature “Youth Without Youth” A favorite on the festival circuit, the Sony Pictures Classics release takes its red-carpet bow in Manhattan on
Friday night, but not before marking its world premiere screening at Red Bank’s own Clearview Cinemas on White Street tonight.

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RED BANK SCHOOLS GET 18 PERCENT MORE

Data released by the state Department of Education indicates that Red Bank schools would see an 18-percent jump in state aid under the widely anticipated new funding formula unveiled today by Gov. Jon Corzine.

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That translates into $369,000 more than in the current year, comparable to the state-leading 18.6 percent injection of cash the district received from the state earlier this year. That increase, in February, reflected Red Bank’s rapid growth in non-English-speaking students.

We’ve got a call in to Superintendent Laura Morana seeking her comment on the latest figures, and will post her response here once we hear from her.

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RBR SUPER: NEW FUNDING HELPS, BUT…

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Red Bank Regional High School will get a $30,000 bump in state aid under the new funding formula announced by Gov. Jon Corzine today.

At about two percent, the increase is the minimum amount that the Corzine administration is doling out to each of the state’s 618 districts under the proposal, the Star-Leder reports.

“It’s a step in the right direction,” said Superintendent Ed Westervelt. But it still leaves schools far too reliant on local property taxes, and shortchanges districts such as RBR on special education funding, he said.

“I’m concerned that it ties special ed funding to the wealth of the community” rather than designating a fixed amount of money per special ed student throughout the state, Westervelt said.

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GETTING GIFTS OUT TO ‘LITTLE SOLDIERS’

Today’s Star-Ledger has a look at the volunteer work of Red Bank’s Ronnie Micciulla, who heads up a program that aims to get Christmas gifts to the children of U.S. military personnel serving overseas, but mostly in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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The program is called Project Little Soldier, and its under the aegis of American Recreational Military Services, which Micciulla started in her kitchen four years ago to help military personnel and their families.

The Ledger reports that word of the Christmas-gift project has spread to soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen stationed around the world.

“It’s been … overwhelming,” Micciulla, the executive director, said yesterday, pausing to find the right word. “Troops and their families from all over found out about us, put in a request for a toy. And right now, we don’t have enough for everyone.”

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HER DEATH GRIP ON THE MUG GAVE IT AWAY

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There’s a bit more detail about the allegedly drunk substitute teacher from Middletown this morning.

From an Associated Press story in today’s Star-Ledger:

School officials said fourth-grade students at Pine Brook Elementary School [in Manalapan] knew something was wrong when their substitute fell out of her chair, had trouble getting up and held her coffee mug tightly.

Students alerted the principal, who sent Mary Kaminski to the hospital Wednesday.

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DEFINITELY NOT FUNNY. BUT STILL…

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Sometimes, there’s nothing we can add to a story, partly because we’re speechless.

This is from the Asbury Park Press this afternoon:

FREEHOLD — A Middletown woman working as a substitute teacher in a Manalapan elementary school was arested Wednesday after she was found intoxicated in a fourth grade classroom.

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TASK FORCE TO INK YOUTH CENTER PLAN

Img_8386The former Count Basie Learning Center, a site that proponents favor as the future home of a community center.

Outrage over social conditions that some citizens linked to last month’s double shootings at the Montgomery Terrace public-housing project pushed the idea of a community center back to a front burner last night.

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Mayor Pasquale Menna announced that he’d name a task force by the end of the year to shape a recommendation about where to locate a center, who would run it, and how it would be financed. He said he anticipates the committee would have seven members and complete its work in 30 to 60 days, handing the idea over to the council for action.

The suddenly revived community center idea, which Councilman John Curley last week said was in limbo since a high-profile presentation before the council two months ago, stood out among a list of measures Menna said had been or would soon be adopted to quell worries about crime throughout the town, but particularly on the West Side.

“I think there is some urgency to the idea of having some sort of center where family values can be channeled,” Menna told a nearly-full room of onlookers in the council chambers. “I think the time has come to earnestly look at what is lacking in, I guess, the reasoning process of many of our young people.”

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SUPER EXPECTS BOOST UNDER NEW PLAN

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By TIM HATHAWAY

The extra $368,000 in state funding that Red Bank schools received last year may have been a windfall, but schools Superintendent Laura Morana says there should be even more in the kitty this year.

According to Morana, the state will put more funding towards full-time preschool for three to four-years-olds, at-risk youth and limited English proficiency (LEP) students under the widely anticipated new school funding formula. The Corzine administration is expected to announce the specifics of the plan as early as next week.

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CORZINE PRESCHOOL PLAN JOLTS SUPERS

Gov. Jon Corzine wants to dramatically expand preschool programs statewide, today’s Star-Ledger reports.

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The plan, the Ledger says, includes a proposal to require — and ultimately pay for — full-day preschool for 3- and 4-year-olds in at least 100 low- and middle-income districts not currently providing it. The idea is expected to be unveiled in detail next week, when Corzine also spells out his new state funding plan for schools.

But even as school administrators embrace the idea of getting kids into schools as early as age 3, some say they can’t handle what Corzine’s proposing.

“We see the difference, a significant difference,” said Red Bank Superintendent Laura Morana, who currently runs a full-day program for 4-year-olds. “But my first reaction is, ‘Oh my gosh, full-day for 3-year-olds, too?’ … I don’t have the space for half-day, let alone full-day.”

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SURVIVOR ROUSES R-FH ‘CANCERCRUSHER’

Amanda_mckean2Amanda McKean outside Zebu Forno in Red Bank.

Amanda McKean spent two years as a toddler fighting leukemia. Thirteen years later, she’s a high school junior organizing an event at Rumson-Fair Haven Regional to for pediatric cancer awareness.

Tomorrow night, local restaurateur Tim McLoone, whose 10-year-old son is battling cancer, will perform with his band, Holiday Express, and singer-songwriter Laura Higgins, at McKean’s event, called “cancercrushernight.”

Goodies such as concert tickets and restaurant and spa certificates will be auctioned, with the money going to Monmouth Medical Center’s Valerie Center and “I’m Too Young For This!” (aka i[2]y), an advocacy group founded by Brooklynite Matthew Zachary.

The perennially-optimistic McKean chatted with redbankgreen about her cancer, her ambitions, the meaning of her life, and what it’s like being a “poster child for pediatric cancer.”

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AUTUMN 2007, WEST FRONT STREET

Img_9671A pack of unidentified runners thunders down blustery West Front Street late Monday afternoon.

Today’s weather forecast: partly sunny, with a high near 39. Breezy, with a west wind between 20 and 26 mph, with gusts as high as 43 mph.

Click to enlarge image.

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A DELIGHTING MOMENT FOR LITTLE ONES

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Several dozen families turned out for a sunset holiday tree lighting at the pocket park at the corner of Shrewsbury Avenue and Drs. James Parker Boulevard on Saturday.

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JOVIALITY ALERT: BON JOVI TO PLAY BASIE

The Star-Ledger reports that moptopped singer and would-be beverage industry litigant Bon Jovi will headline a Dec. 21 concert at the Count Basie Theatre that for the last two years has seen Bruce Springsteen play.

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Though he’s not mentioned on the Basie website item about the show, the Ledger reports that Jovi

will lead an all-star lineup that night, at “The Hope Concert III.” Tickets will be $100-$500, with proceeds benefiting the Valerie Fund Center at Children’s Hospital at Monmouth Medical Center in Long Branch.

Others on the bill include Southside Johnny, Gary U.S. Bonds, Bobby Bandiera, the Jersey Shore Rock-N-Soul Revue, Mark Pender and Richie “La Bamba” Rosenberg and Tim McLoone & the Shirleys.

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SETTING THE TOWN A-TWINKLE

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Friday night’s Holiday Express concert and tree-lighting event on Broad and Monmouth streets featured bagpipers, hot chocolate and a wandering Mrs. Claus amid the throngs of people bundled up against temperatures in the mid-30s.

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DROPPING IN ON AURORA GONZALEZ

Auroragonzalez2111Aurora Gonzalez

By TIM HATHAWAY

As a young girl in Monterey, Mexico, Aurora Gonzalez used to give all the money she had to the poor on the streets, even though she came from a family that was also needy. “My mother used to scold me for not putting the family first,” she says.

Today, Gonzalez is the sole representative of the Hispanic Affairs and Resource Center of Red Bank, a nonprofit which bills itself as Monmouth County’s premiere service organization for Latinos.

Her days are spent helping people not unlike those she saw on the street in her youth. But instead of coins, what she offers is crucial help in navigating the baffling bureaucracies of government and the healthcare industry.

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THE BIG GAME

Img_8989Members of the Harford, Bender, Mortimer and O’Connor families gathered at the Red Bank Middle School yesterday for their annual touch football game, which only on occasion looks more like a tackle game.

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TREE & CONCERT KICK IT INTO GEAR

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“It,” of course, is the holiday season, which starts hereabouts on Friday evening, not long after the leftovers from Thanksgiving have begun to chill in the fridge.

This is one of Red Bank’s big events, drawing thousands of townspeople and visitors to the central business district for an event that RiverCenter secretary Michael Warmington describes as “absolutely magical:” the simultaneous lighting of all the holiday lights downtown as well as those on the big Christmas tree, followed by an open-air concert by Holiday Express.

As it was last year, the tree is in the Monmouth Street courtyard of the Dublin House, just around the corner from the site of the concert stage on Broad Street.

The weather forecast for Friday night is for clear and cold, with temps in the upper 20s. Prrfect!

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BEDBUGS INVADE SENIOR LIVING COMPLEX

The Wesleyan Arms senior citizens housing complex on Wall Street is battling an infestation of bedbugs that took hold in late October, this week’s issue of the Bayshore Independent reports.

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A resident of the six-story, 60-unit building told the newspaper that an exterminator sprayed the place and gave a presentation on the quarter-inch insects, which hide in mattresses and bed linens and feed on sleeping humans at night.

From the story:

“We’re assisting residents as needed both during and after this extermination process,” said Cynthia Jacques, vice president of Housing for United Methodist Homes (UMH), in a statement released Nov. 15. “We continue to provide whatever is necessary to eradicate this problem and to assure that our residents, employees and guests have a secure environment in which to live, work and enjoy.”

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SQUASH: THE NEW COLLEGE-ENTRY SPORT

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What’s the difference between racquetball and squash? For starters, says Francis Odeh, “Racquetball chases you all over the place, but in squash, you chase the ball.”

In racquetball, the ball is bouncier and moves faster, and you can play the ball anywhere, all over four walls and the ceiling. In squash, purportedly named for the softness of the ball, there are more boundaries — the ball has to strike the wall at a certain height— so it’s more strategic. Because of its emphasis on ball placement and the “whole-arm swing,” playing squash will make you a better tennis player, says Odeh, who says that Roger Federer, the world’s top-ranked tennis player, also plays squash.

We chatted with Nigerian-American Odeh, coach at the Valkyrie Squash Club in Sea Bright, about why squash is getting hotter, who plays it, and what the 43 American universities that give squash scholarships have to do with it.

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COMMAND PERFORMANCE IN THE TRAILER

Img_8334Resident Sean Murphy, at left, makes a point at last night’s Parks & Rec Committee meeting.

Chastened last month by elected officials for faulty communication about the state of the borough’s playgrounds, Red Bank’s Parks & Rec Committee assembled last night with an eye toward getting new equipment for two parks and bringing in some fresh blood.

“We’re here because the mayor asked us to put together a meeting,” Parks & Rec Director Bob Evans told the gathering at the outset.

Squeezed in around the table in the department’s trailer office on Chestnut Street were a dozen members and non-members of the advisory group, including the council’s two Republicans, John Curley and Grace Cangemi, and departing Councilman RJ Bifani, who did not seek re-election this year.

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RBR SHOWS ‘NO TOLERANCE’ FOR GANGS

Sureno_13_graffitiGraffiti that Red Bank police say refers to the Sureno 13 gang is visible in several locations, including this railroad gate on Drs. James Parker Boulevard.

By TIM HATHAWAY

Is gang activity a problem in the Red Bank area?

“Right now, people don’t want to believe it’s happening here,” says Peter Gibson, a Little Silver policeman who’s on part-time assignment as the school resource officer at Red Bank Regional High School. But it is, he says, at least in its early forms. Gang graffiti can be seen on certain streets. Kids will wear red or blue, traditional colors for the Bloods, Crips and other gangs.

“Then you have the number 13 jerseys,” Gibson said. The number refers to Surenos 13, or Sur 13, one of the more active gangs in the area, he said.

“Fortunately no major incidents have occurred in our school,” Gibson said. But he and assistant principal Risa Clay think that being proactive is the best way to prevent gang presence from escalating.

They teamed up last month to create a gang task force at RBR to combat the threat of gangs on the streets, in schools and at home. They invited key members of the community to the first meeting on Oct. 29 to discuss education, prevention and intervention. About 22 people participated from schools, police departments, churches and social services organizations in the area. Regular meetings are planned for the future.

At RBR, “We have a ‘no tolerance’ policy,” said Clay. “It includes dress and behavior and all expressions of (gang) affiliation.”

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MENNA GIVES HOV EXEC ‘KABOOM’ HOTSEAT

Mayor Pasquale Menna has picked an executive at Red Bank-based Hovnanian Enterprises to chair the annual KaBoom Fireworks on the Navesink committee.

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His pick: Peter Reinhart, a borough resident who’s senior vice president and general counsel at the publicly traded homebuilding company.

The company’s year-old headquarters is located at the river end of Maple Avenue, a primo fireworks-watching location. The grass amphitheater next to the building is the site of a big-ticket “Light Up the Night” catered party.

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HOMELESS TEEN CHARGED IN BURGLARIES

A 16-year-old homeless male has been charged in connection with burglaries at an East Bergen Place business and an adjacent house, Red Bank Police say.

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The suspect, whose identity was not disclosed, was arrested yesterday after a short chase.

The case began earlier in the day with the report of a break-in through a basement window of the business, according to Capt. Steve McCarthy.

During the investigation, police noticed that a basement window of the house next door was also broken. The house had been the scene of an Oct. 22 arrest of a 16-year-old male, who was charged with criminal trespass.

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