RED BANK WINS ‘GREAT’ DOWNTOWN VOTE

broad st rb 061512A view along Broad Street from 2012. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

HOT-TOPIC_03The votes are in, and Red Bank is the most popular downtown in central New Jersey, according to the state chapter of the American Planning Association.

In online voting, the borough outpolled Asbury Park by just 35 votes, out of nearly 6,900 cast, with Somerville close behind in the three-way contest.

The designation is another feather in the cap for the borough, which was named the third-best small town in America by Smithsonian Magazine in 2012. It’s also something Red Bank RiverCenter can leverage in its efforts to fill store vacancies and bring in shoppers, said executive director Jim Scavone.

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RED BANK: LUNCH BREAK GETS $1 MILLION

lunch break 092914The donation will ensure completion of a major expansion of the soup kitchen now underway, officials said. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

just_in1Red Bank’s Lunch Break soup kitchen has landed a $1 million donation from a philanthropist who asked not to be publicly identified, the organization announced Monday.

The donation, already in the bank, pushed Lunch Break to 80 percent of its $5 million capital campaign to pay for a sizable expansion of its facility on Drs. James Parker Boulevard.

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RED BANK: LOCALS LEND VOICES ON CLIMATE

092114 climate walk5092114 climate walk6Among those heading to New York  for the People’s Climate March was Emma Reardon, right, who gathered with several dozen others for the train ride from Red Bank Sunday morning. They became part of a crowd, estimated at 300,000 to 400,000, who joined to send a message to world leaders assembling at the United Nations this week for a summit on climate change.

“We are marching today because we want them to know that we are here and we want change,” said Reardon. (Photos by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

RED BANK: HOMEBUILDER’S NET DOUBLES

hov-hq-8-12-06Hovnanian Enterprise’s headquarters in Red Bank. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

Hovnanian Enterprises posted net earnings of $17.1 million in its third fiscal quarter, more than doubling the $8.5 million net in the comparable 2013 period, the Red Bank-based homebuilder reported Thursday.

Citing “the early stages of a recovery” for the housing industry, and “assuming no change in current market conditions,” the compaany expects to wrap up the year with a profit, president and CEO Ara Hovnanian said in a statement.

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RED BANK: IS THIS A ‘GREAT’ DOWNTOWN?

broad st rb 2 061512A view along Broad Street from 2012. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

HOT-TOPIC_03What’s your favorite New Jersey downtown?

The state chapter of the American Planning Association is asking the public for its input on the question, and Red Bank is among the candidates.

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RED BANK: HEARING OPENS ON MARKET PLAN

rb rayrap 082114 4Audience members reviewing the site plan for a market, condos and townhomes at Red Bank’s five corners, detailed below. (Photos by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

rb rayrap 082114 1 A proposed greenmarket and 20 homes on the edge of downtown Red Bank began what could be an extended series of hearings Thursday night.

The zoning board heard descriptive testimony for developer Ray Rapcavage’s project, dubbed ‘Renaissance Village,’ which calls for a two-story commercial building on Harding Road, 10 condos on Clay Street and 10 townhouses on Hudson Avenue.

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RED BANK: HEARING SET FOR MARKET & HOMES

Developer Ray Rapcavage’s plans call for a market, above, as well as condos and townhomes at Red Bank’s five corners, below. (Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

rb rapcavage 081614Almost a year after it was first reported by redbankgreen, an ambitious plan for a greenmarket and 20 homes on the edge of downtown Red Bank is about to get a public airing.

Developer Ray Rapcavage’s project, calling for a two-story market, 10 condos and 10 townhouses bounded by Harding Road, Hudson Avenue and Clay Street, is scheduled to go before the zoning board Thursday night.

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RED BANK: SIGN CRACKDOWN SPARKS IRE

RB signs 061214 1Neon signs in store windows at the City Centre strip mall on White Street. Cluck U Chicken, above left, got a warning, but Psychic Advisor Gina on Monmouth Street, below, did not, according to borough records. (Photos by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

rb neon 061714A recent crackdown on neon and other illuminated signs that lit up the business community with outrage prompted Red Bank officials to pull the plug on enforcement Wednesday night.

The blitz came to light at the bimonthly meeting of the mayor and council, when Councilman Mike DuPont said he had been besieged with complaints by merchants and restaurateurs over warning letters for signs some of them have had in their windows for decades.

“Many of the restaurants I visited complained bitterly,” said DuPont. “I heard all about it.”

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SEA BRIGHT: DIVE RESURFACES

christine diiorio 070114Christina Di Iorio outside her Ocean Avenue bar and restaurant, which reopens Wednesday afternoon. Below, her husband, Steven Graniero. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

steven graniero 070114To be honest, Christina Di Iorio says, she got to the point where she didn’t want to reopen Dive, the Sea Bright restaurant and bar that she and then-fiancé Steven Graniero saw nearly wiped out by Hurricane Sandy.

Their insurance company hadn’t lived up to its obligations, she said. A vendor was suing them, and they weren’t able to get any traction with the government or private lenders to restart the Ocean Avenue business. And then there’s the hard reality of two bodies of water – the Atlantic Ocean and the Shrewsbury River – just yards away, all too ready to combine forces to once again smash the town as they did on October 29, 2012.

And yet there Di Iorio was on Tuesday, putting the final touches on a completely revamped Dive for a low-key opening at 4 p.m. Wednesday.

“I agree with you: I think we’re nuts,” she told redbankgreen. “But our clients, our families, our fan base – they all embraced us. I’m doing it for them.”

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RED BANK: HOMEBUILDER POSTS LOSS

hov-hq-8-12-06Hovnanian Enterprise’s headquarters in Red Bank. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

Hovnanian Enterprises delivered fewer homes and a net loss in its latest fiscal quarter, the Red Bank-based homebuilder reported Wednesday.

The second quarter saw a net loss of $7.9 million in the three months ended April 30, compared with net income of $1.3 million in the prior-year second quarter, which included $2.6 million of federal and state tax benefits.

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RED BANK: FIREHOUSE SOLD, USE UNKNOWN

morgans 042914With his brother, Michael, looking on, John Morgan gives borough Administrator Stanley Sickels a deposit for the firehouse purchase. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

liberty hose 070612Red Bank’s former Liberty Hose Company firehouse may soon have the second owner in its 103-year history.

Brothers Michael and John Morgan, owners of several prominent downtown properties, acquired the two-story, red brick structure at an auction that drew no other bidders or onlookers other than redbankgreen Tuesday morning.

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RED BANK: BUDGET IN SPOTLIGHT

By JOHN T. WARD

Red Bankers with an interest in how much their local government costs them can find out where the money goes at a presentation Thursday night.

That’s when borough hall department heads explain their 2014 funding requests to the public at an annual event inaugurated by Councilman Mike DuPont in 2007.

On the table is the 2014 proposed $21 million spending plan, which town officials said is $218,000 smaller than 2013’s. About $12.6 million of that is to be covered by the local property tax.

Still unknown, however, is what property owners will pay, though preliminary estimates show the owner of a home assessed at the town average – currently estimated at $387,440 – paying $64.77 more this year.

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COMMUNITY YARD SALES RETURN

rbtys 050512 1Shots from the 2012 editions of the townwide yard sales in Red Bank, above, and Fair Haven, below. (Click to enlarge)

fhtys 050512 2Like blooming flowers and trees, the next two weekends promise riches for sellers and buyers alike in three communities on the greater Red Bank Green.

First up, this Saturday: the Lincroft Village Green Association holds its 10th annual Lincroft Community Yard Sale at homes throughout that corner of Middletown from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

A week later comes both the seventh annual Red Bank Townwide Yard Sale, a a fundraiser for the public library, and the Fair Haven Townwide Yard Sale.

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RED BANK: PLANNERS SPAR OVER FACADES

joe romanowski 111513 2A plan by Joe Romanowski to remove the vestibule of his new Goldtinker store on Broad Street won approval. So did Tommy’s Coal-Fired Pizza’s request to permanently enclose seasonal seating area at the Galleria, below. (Photos by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

tommy's 042114The  Red Bank planning board approved a restaurant expansion, a downtown facade change and the renovation of what Mayor Pasquale Menna called a “cancerous eyesore” Monday night.

Along the way were some unusual flashes of passion among board members.

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LITTLE SILVER: SHELL TAKES EX-EXXON SPOT

ls shell 041314The former Exxon station at Branch Avenue and Willow Drive in Little Silver, vacant for several years, is about to reopen as a Shell station. Owner Rafi Awan could not be reached for comment, but a borough employee said the station had applied for a certificate of occupancy and appeared ready to open.

The intersection once boasted four filling stations. Only a Citgo station remains. (Click to enlarge)

RED BANK: WALGREENS RETHINKS STORE PLAN

rassas 032214The former home of Rassas Buick, at Broad Street and Rumson Place. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

HOT-TOPIC_01Just six weeks after a series of contentious hearings won Walgreens an OK to build a store in Red Bank, the pharmacy chain is “reviewing [its] options” on the plan, redbankgreen has learned.

So says Aaron Rassas, the retired car dealer who owns the one-acre Broad Street site where Walgreens planned to build a 10,120 square foot drug-and-grocery emporium.

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RED BANK: TRUSTEES PAN BOROUGH BUDGET

barbara withers 032714Barbara Withers, a resident of the Atrium at Navesink senior complex, implores the board to preserve a book-delivery service for its residents. Below, board president John Grandits, left, with Mayor Pasquale Menna outside the library meeting room. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

grandits menna 032714A plan by the Menna administration to rewrite the proposed Red Bank Public Library budget and undo the recent layoff of half its staff got a cold reception from the library trustees Thursday night.

One or two of the suggested changes, such as leaving the soon-to-be-vacated job of the library director unfunded, appear to be “illegal,” trustee Brigid McCarthy told a packed meeting of library supporters.

Still, Mayor Pasquale Menna, displaying obvious frustration with what he called “drama” surrounding the borough’s recommendations, said the standoff can and will be quickly resolved, even if he has to take unilateral action.

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RED BANK: LIBRARY LAYOFFS MAY BE REVERSED

rbpl sale 2 020213The fate of jobs for three full-time librarians is still up in the air. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

HOT-TOPIC_03Red Bank officials said they are working toward a budget fix that might undo the layoff of half the staff at the borough library two weeks ago.

At Wednesday night’s borough council meeting, administrator Stanley Sickels said he and borough CFO Eugenia Poulos had developed an alternative to the library’s budget that might “maintain the full-time staff.”

Now, attention turns to the eight-member library board of trustees, which gathers Thursday night in what may be its best-attended meeting in history.

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RED BANK: FIREHOUSE AUCTION FIZZLES

rb liberty auction 032514No bidders emerged at Tuesday’s auction, conducted by attorney Sean Byrnes, left, and Administrator Stanley Sickels. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

HOT-TOPIC_01A discontinued Red Bank firehouse failed to spark interest at the minimum bid when it went on the block Tuesday morning.

The auction of the former home of the Liberty Hose Company, vacated late last year over needed upgrades that the borough says it cannot afford, was over in five minutes, as no voice bids or sealed bids were made.

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RED BANK: BOARD DEFENDS LIBRARY LAYOFFS

rbpl board 022714 1The library board of the trustees at a meeting in February. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

HOT-TOPIC_03Responding to “misinformation” and “half-truths… stretched beyond their limits” surrounding layoffs of half the staff at the Red Bank Public Library last week, the library’s board of trustees is pushing back.

In a question-and-answer document prepared by six of eight board members and obtained by redbankgreen, the trustees say that personnel costs accounted for 95 percent of the library budget before the layoffs, which affected six of the 11 staff members.

The layoffs were part of a library “reorganization” that “eliminates our deficit, allows us to right-size the Library for the budget, and sustains the Library for the future,” the trustees say in the Q&A. “The solution implemented [at a board meeting following the layoffs] on March 13 was just one step in a much larger process that began in 2013 when it became clear that even with stringent cuts in expenditures last year, the Library was living beyond its means.”

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RED BANK: KICKING TIRES AT THE FIREHOUSE

rb liberty 2 031314rb liberty 1 031314Red Bank Administrator Stanley Sickels, at right, leads prospective bidders on a tour of the former Liberty Hose firehouse on White Street in Red Bank Thursday afternoon in advance of an auction the property scheduled for scheduled for Tuesday, March 25, at 10:30 a.m. Minimum bid is $475,000; bidding requirements are here, and the building is being sold “as-in,” Sickels said. For 103 years, the building was home to the Liberty Hose Company, which now shares space with the first aid squad on Spring Street.  (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

RED BANK: LIBRARY LAYOFFS SPARK OUTRAGE

sira williams 031214Laid-off children’s librarian Sira Williams embraces colleague Jane Eigenrauch after Wednesday night’s council meeting. (Photos by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

HOT-TOPIC_02Hours after more than half the staff of the Red Bank Public Library was laid off, supporters packed a borough council meeting Wednesday night demanding a financial fix that would maintain the 77-year-old institution’s hours, programming and jobs.

Taking turns at a microphone to recall their own childhood days at the library or of watching their children learn to read there, a string of speakers pressed the council on how the library could find itself facing an estimated $131,000 operating deficit this year, and what the governing body planned to do about it.

“I can’t believe a town as wonderful as ours is facing this crisis,” said Sally Gordon or Windward Way, noting that Red Bank’s cultural assets led to its selection by Smithsonian Magazine as the third-best town in America in 2012. “I urge you, because you have the knowledge and the power, to figure out how we can get past this crisis.”

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RED BANK: LIBRARY PUTS STAFF ON NOTICE

rbpl board 022714 2A meeting of the Red Bank library board in the former living room of the Eisner family last month. (Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

rbpl 2 102113The Red Bank Public Library has put its entire staff on notice of possible layoffs in the face of a looming budget shortfall.

Library director Virginia Papandrea confirmed to redbankgreen Tuesday morning that all 10 staffers, including three part-timers, were advised by letter dated Friday that they could be laid off unless the facility can fill an operating budget shortfall estimated at $131,000.

The move comes as the library faces a whopping payout of more than $70,000 in unused sick time to a retiring employee and a drop in the sum that the borough is obligated under state statute to pay into the facility from property tax collections.

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