ARCADE (BEEP!) RUNS THE BOARD (BWOOP!)

yestercades003An artist’s rendering of the ’boutique’ video game arcade planned for 80 Broad Street. Below right, owner Ken Kalada shares a laugh with zoning board member Tom Williams after the board’s unanimous approval. (Click to enlarge)

ken-kaladaAs a Pac-Man-loving preteen in Lincroft, Ken Kalada used to weep, he said, because his father wouldn’t allow him to visit a video game arcade in Eatontown because it was too seedy.

By the time he was 12, though, Kalada was collecting video games and pinball machines of his own, acquiring them via Usenet groups before eBay was a gleam in anyone’s eye. He was also spending time soaking up the atmosphere at a a retro pool hall that opened in the Galleria at Red Bank in the ’90s.

Neither experience, he said, wrecked his morals. In fact, people of his cohort – he’s 29 – and up to their late 40s are deeply nostalgic for the Mario Brothers and other electronic games of their youth, he said.

To answer that need, Kalada intends to transform a 2,800-square-foot former clothing store on Broad Street in Red Bank into a “boutique” video game lounge, one that’s open as late as 2 a.m. to satisfy the joystick cravings of eternal adolescence.

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RESIDENTS READY TO FIRE BACK AT AVAYA

four-ponds1Four Ponds architect Ned Gaunt gave the first look at color drawings of the proposed homes at the former Avaya property in Lincroft. Below, an opponent of the plan in a t-shirt worn by many in the audience. (Photos by Stacie Fanellii. Click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

four-ponds-opponentAs a development company’s team of professionals continued to lobby for approval by Middletown’s planning board of a major residential community in Lincroft, opponents of the plan anxiously waited their turn Wednesday night.

That time is still weeks away, as testimony on the proposed redevelopment of the former Avaya property continued with more traffic study findings and the introduction of the 342-unit housing plan’s schematics that were met with familiar boos in a crowded meeting room.

Waiting patiently for their turn on the floor, three residents who’ve hired an attorney to counter the studies and findings by representatives of Four Ponds Associates sat listening to details of the unfolding plan to convert the 68-acre property from commercial to residential use.

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TREE ‘MURDER’ ALLEGED IN RUMSON

c-zipfCindy Zipf, right, shows residents photos of her neighbor’s property, which she says was clear-cut of its trees. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

The quest by a Rumson couple to prove that local officials negligently allowed the “murder” of numerous trees on a residential building lot drew a packed house of lawyers, experts and crestfallen neighbors to Monday night’s planning board meeting.

With their appeal of tree-removal permit granted by Frederick André, the borough’s tree conservation officer, Clean Ocean Action founder and executive director Cindy Zipf and her husband, Rick Jones say they hope to win an acknowledgment that mistakes were made and stricter enforcement of a tree-protection ordinance.

A lawyer by their side, Zipf and Jones paged through a sheaf of documents showing, they argue, that the property next door to their home at 37 Navesink Avenue was the site of a “murder of trees” that violated the ordinance.

The alleged slaughter could have been prevented had André, who is also the planning board’s secretary, properly done his job, they say.

“The tree conservation officer failed to implement basic procedures. The tree conservation officer allowed a clear-cut at 35 Navesink Avenue,” said Andrew Provence, a lawyer with Ansell, Grimm and Aaron. “What happened at 35 Navesink is plainly a clear-cut. To call it anything else is an insult to this borough, this board, my clients and the people of Rumson.”

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WAIT: THERE’S A PATIO IN THERE?

8-monmouth-subs-2An architect’s rendering of the facades of the sub shop and barbershop planned for 8 Monmouth. An “exterior dining patio” would be hidden behind the stairwell accessed by the double doors at left. (Click to enlarge)

Rcsm2_010508

The prospective tenant of a prominent Red Bank storefront wants to build a sub shop with an open-air patio for customers.

Hidden behind a stairwell. Accessible from the sub shop only. Just seven feet wide. Surrounded by walls three stories high.

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OFFICIALS TOUT BAMM HOLLOW OPEN SPACE

bamm-hollow-gspA view of Bamm Hollow from the Garden State Parkway. Middetown officials say the view won’t change. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

If and when developers ever get to work on building 190 homes on the sprawling property of Bamm Hollow Country Club, its impact on the Lincroft area of Middletown, would be minimal, says township Attorney Brian Nelson.

Traffic would increase from present levels, and the local school system would take on new students. But when driving by the property, it’d be hard to notice any major impact, Nelson said.

That would not be the case had the township pursued, and lost, a two-year-old lawsuit opposing plans for up to 1,200 units on the site, Nelson maintains. Instead, the municipality reached a deal with the property owners.

“You can drive down West Front Street, and you won’t even know this development is there,” Nelson said in an interview shortly after the township committee announced an end to the lawsuit. “You won’t even see it from the Parkway. It’ll look the same as it is now.”

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COUNCIL: RED CARPET TO REPLACE RED TAPE

sogo-sushi-072011New procedures are expected to expedite openings and expansions by restaurants, like Sogu Sushi on Monmouth Street, and other types of business. (Click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Welcome to Red Bank, business owners. Please take note of the red carpet in front of you.

That’s the message borough officials are delivering, fresh off the arrival of a bulleted report on cutting down administrative hindrances and other processes that drive prospective restaurateurs, shopkeepers and others to the ledge.

Ordered in response to the clamor of businesses and developers who’ve long blasted the borough for being difficult, and at times, torturous, to deal with, the months-long investigation by an ad-hoc ‘red-tape review committee‘ included multiple discussions with borough officials, business owners and the downtown promotion agency RiverCenter.

“The bottom line is the welcome mat is out, the screen door is open,” said Councilman Mike DuPont, who led the review. “You can have a cup of coffee with the mayor and everybody who’s here.”

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LOFTS PLAN RETURNS, TRIMMED A SMIDGEN

antiquesThe proposed West Side Lofts development, at the corner of West Front Street and Bridge Avenue, is again moving forward. Below, architectural drawings. (Photos by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

west-side-lofts-sketchDevelopers are blowing the dust off an ambitious plan that would bring retail, residential units and a popular brewery to the Red Bank’s antiques district.

Known as West Side Lofts, the multi-use project has been downsized a bit and resubmitted to the borough’s planning and zoning office for approval.

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BIKERS GET SAFETY MARKERS IN RED BANK

chestnut-sharrow-071211Borough workers painted the first of a series of “sharrows” on the new pavement on Chestnut Street Tuesday morning. (Photo by Stacie Fanelli. Click to enlarge)

A push to make Red Bank’s streets safer for bicyclists and pedestrians moved from the conceptual to the actual as workers installed markings on Chestnut Street Tuesday morning.

Eight so-called “sharrows,” depicting a bicycle beneath two directional arrows, were painted onto the freshly paved street, where eight street signs were also to be installed.

The dual-approach signage “just reminds motorists that they’re sharing the road with bikes,” said Jenny Rossano, of Safe Routes Red Bank, an advocacy group that lobbied for the markings. “It’s not a separate bike lane.” Read More »

OH DEER, THEY’RE EVERYWHERE…

dsc_4059A deer crosses a street in Shrewsbury at dusk last year. Fair Haven officials say they’re watching Shrewsbury’s effort to curtail its deer population. (Photo by Peter Lindner. Click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Last year they were eating tree seedlings out of Stephen Knowlton’s yard on Church Street in Fair Haven. This year he’s having a hard time keeping a patch of lilies.

Elizabeth Lilleston, Fair Haven’s code enforcement officer and a resident of Woodland Drive, says she sees them daily roaming the street.

And Mayor Mike Halfacre, who also lives on Church, snapped a picture on his cell phone last week of one chomping on his neighbor’s grass.

If Fair Haven’s deer population isn’t controlled, Knowlton warned, “they’re going to be sleeping on our front lawns.”

Like towns across New Jersey, the borough is now facing a tricky problem: an apparent rise in deer wandering into the residential areas of town, and few options to thin the herds.

“I don’t know what we can do short of a hunt,” Halfacre said.

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FAIR HAVEN TREE LAW PUT IN THE SHADE

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

bob-marcheseIn Fair Haven’s great tree debate, the borough council has gone back and forth for months, trying to find middle ground on revisions that would satisfy advocates of both property rights and environmental concerns.

Now, the shade tree commission has weighed with a set of proposed revisions to the ordinance. The planning board has chimed in, too, recommending the  law be uprooted altogether and re-seeded with a fresh perspective.

Where does a governing body go from here? Back to the negotiating table, apparently.

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NO DECISION ON MEXICAN MARKET PLAN

juan-torresJuan Torres, owner of Juanito’s restaurant, testifies about his proposal for a large grocery on Red Bank’s West Side Thursday night. (Click to enlarge)

A plan for a supersized bodega on Shrewsbury Avenue didn’t make it to the checkout register Thursday night.

A hearing by Red Bank’s zoning board ended with more testimony, and objections, expected when the matter resumes on August 4.

Juan Torres, who owns Juanito’s restaurant, Juanito’s Bakery and El Guero grocery – all on the borough’s West Side – is seeking board approval for what would be the borough’s largest ethnic food store.

But first he’s got to clear hurdles related to the store’s size, parking issues and pedestrian safety, as well as the resistance of at least one other bodega owner.

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WEINBERG DRUMS FOR NEW SUBDIVISION

weinberg-drivewayThe entrance to E Street Band drummer Max Weinberg’s estate on McClees Road in Middletown. Below, Weinberg at this week’s planning board hearing. (Photos by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

max-weinberg2Eight years after getting his knuckles rapped by Middletown’s foremost land conservationist over a plan to subdivide his estate, drummer Max Weinberg was back before township officials this week, asking for an OK to further slice up land that they once said should never be split again.

The timekeeper for Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band and former Conan O’Brien sidekick is hoping to subdivide the 16.2-acre parcel on which his home sits so he can sell nearly half for development.

So Weinberg returned to the planning board Wednesday for a bit of déjà vu, asking the board to lift a deed restriction placed on his McClees Road property in 2003, when he and his wife, Becky, subdivided their 37-acre property into four lots.

“Times change. Economics change. Conan’s come and gone,” said his attorney, Michael Steib. “One of the decisions is to market this property. And they’ve learned a 16.2-acre parcel of property is hard to market.”

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STUDY: AVAYA TRAFFIC WON’T BE THAT BAD

avaya-t-shirtFour Ponds development opponents were well-represented at Wednesday’s planning board meeting. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Even in a worst-case scenario, traffic in and out of the proposed Four Ponds development in Lincroft won’t have as big an impact on the area as neighbors fear, according to a traffic study presented to the Middletown Planning Board Wednesday night.

The 342-unit development, if approved, would be better— traffic-wise — for the town than a return to professional use of the 68-acre property on Middletown-Lincroft Road, said traffic consultant John Rea, of McDonough & Rea Associates in Manasquan. The site is the former home of business technology giant Avaya, where a vacant 352,000-square-foot building once housed a bustling tech industry until it was closed a few years ago.

“It has been used in the past, and it has generated higher traffic volumes than what is proposed today,” he said.

Members of the board, though, pushed back against a number of statistics Rea offered, saying traffic in that section of town can slow to a crawl and prompts travelers to seek shortcuts.

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ROUND TWO FOR FORTUNE HOUSE

fortune-house1A ‘for sale’ was planted out front of the T. Thomas Fortune House on Drs. James Parker Boulevard last week. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Four years after a historic Red Bank house was spared a possible meeting with the steel maw of a bulldozer, the T. Thomas Fortune house is back on the market at a sharply reduced price.

Though the house and acre of land it sits on have been available to buyers on and off for years, vandalism prompted the owners to plant a ‘for sale’ sign on the lawn last week, reigniting worries of preservationists. They fear the the three-story, Second Empire-style home to post-Civil War black newspaperman and activist T. Thomas Fortune might be razed.

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MEXICAN MARKET PLANNED ON SHREWSBURY

197-shrewsbury-ave

Juan Torres is looking to move his Juanito’s brand to Shrewsbury Avenue, formerly the home of Red Bank Furniture Emporium. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI rcsm2_010508

There’s an appetizing item on the Red Bank Zoning Board‘s plate tomorrow night: Mexican.

The mini-empire of authentically Mexican eateries and retail food outlets, Juanito’s, is looking to spread into a space at a recently shuttered Shrewsbury Avenue furniture store.

Juan Torres, who owns Juanito’s Restaurant, Juanito’s Grocery and El Guero Grocery, is seeking the board’s approval for a short list of variances to open up Juanito’s Market at 197 Shrewsbury Avenue.

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FAIR HAVEN TO RETAIN ZONING BOARD

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

b-lucarelliFair Haven’s zoning board will stay intact, despite a councilman’s call to disband the body last month.

Following lengthy discussions with council, planning and zoning board members, the council decided Monday to maintain the current zoning board, which it acknowledged has a “public relations/perception” problem.

Instead, the bodies will work together to better informing the public of the board’s role, responsibilities and basic processes for those appearing before it, said Councilman Ben Lucarelli, above, who last month asked that it be dissolved because of “unacceptable” behavior he witnessed at a meeting.

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CLINIC STRIKES FEAR IN NEIGHBORHOOD

methadone-crowdA crowd packed Middletown’s meeting room Monday night rallying against a recently opened medical center that dispenses methadone. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

The tiny community near Apple Farm Road, off Route 35, was a place where kids could roam free, homeowners could decide not to lock their front doors without worry and every face you saw was somebody you knew.

That was until Middletown Medical opened up and changed everything, neighbors say.

Because at the only entrance and exit to that community sits the medical center, which is not the place to go for a check-up or to look into a nagging cough. Middletown Medical is a methadone clinic, dispensing the synthetic pill just a stone’s throw from a bundle of homes and school bus stops. Methadone, in addition to treating chronic pain, is a popular and controversial drug used to treat opiate addicts to help wean them off drugs like heroin and morphine.

And nobody’s happy about the new dispensary opening its doors — to the town’s surprise — so close to the residential neighborhood. Neighbors share fears that the business will open up the neighborhood to a seedy cohort prone to stealing, robbing or getting a fix or drug money by any means necessary. One woman who said she goes walking through the neighborhood each morning fears she could be mugged, thrown in a ditch and left unnoticed for hours.

Within the law, though, there nothing anybody can do about the clinic, town officials maintain.

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HISTORIC MIDDLETOWN HOUSE UP FOR SALE

nathaniel-smith-houseBuilt in Massachusetts in the early 1700s and relocated to Middletown in 1962, the former Nathaniel Smith House features exposed-rafter ceilings, as in the library, below. (Click to enlarge)

library

It took historic preservationist Mary Lou Strong more than a week to get back to redbankgreen after we called recently to inquire about her Middletown home going on the market.

She apologized for the delay, and said she simply wanted to be sure she could talk about it without crying.

It’s not just that the house – located on a tongue-tip of land bound by Navesink River Road and the anchorage to the Oceanic Bridge – is where Strong and her husband, George, raised three kids. Or that it’s filled with cherished antiques collected over a lifetime.

It’s that the house, built in Massachusetts before the United States was born, is itself the manifestation of the couple’s shared values when it comes to keeping history alive. And who knows if the next owner will want to bulldoze it into oblivion?

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RUMSONITES BARK AT TREE TAKEDOWN

doug-spencerShade Tree Commission Chairman Doug Spencer shows residents a piece of a tree Tuesday. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Fair Haven officials aren’t quite out of the woods yet when it comes to adapting to changes to the borough’s tree preservation ordinance. And now, they have a little company.

On Tuesday night, Rumson’s council suddenly found itself in the middle of a thorny debate over the efficacy of its tree preservation law after a Navesink Avenue property’s tree population was decimated last week, residents said.

Change to the ordinance and bolstered enforcement are likely, council members said.

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DIG IN & SAY ‘CHEESE’

atrium-shovel2-061411As PR agents all over northern Monmouth County know, redbankgreen avoids groundbreakings, ribbon cuttings, presentations of giant checks and other phoney-baloney ‘news’ events. But if more of them yielded delightfully silly images like this one, from Tuesday’s groundbreaking at the Atrium at Navesink Harbor in Red Bank, we might change our policy. Thanks to photographer Manny Carabel, who took the shot from his 10th-floor apartment next door at the Riverview Towers. (Click to enlarge)

OFFICIALS COUNTER MAPLE COVE CHATTER

sickles-m-coveStanley Sickels gave a brief history of the parking lot at Maple Cove Wednesday night in response to comments posted on redbankgreen. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

park_it_021Responding to “drama” in the redbankgreen comments section last week in which readers weighed in with speculation, history — or their version of it — and assorted posits about the repaving of the parking lot at Maple Cove, Red Bank officials took a break from Wednesday night’s regular order of business to clear the air. Fact check. Dispel the bloggy bosh.

To “try and shed some factual light,” said Mayor Pasquale Menna, “instead of just hypothetical speculation and gossip.”

Read on. Comment if you dare.

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COUNCIL STILL DUG IN AGAINST GARDEN SPOT

cg-sickelsCommunity garden proponents talk to borough Administrator Stanley Sickels about their proposal after Wednesday night’s council meeting. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

The borough council Wednesday night unanimously adopted a resolution supporting a community garden in Red Bank.

Great, some said.

But when it came down to where the council might allow that garden to sprout, the council maintained a hard position that while it supports a community garden, it doesn’t support one where a group at least 40 strong want it: at a piece of borough property next to the library.

The clash between impassioned members of a community garden group and the council continued Wednesday night, without agreement, and none in sight, on its location.

It was more like a talking-to than a talking-with, as the council offered little feedback to a long line of speakers serving up suggestions, implicating political motives and asking questions that they feel still haven’t been answered.

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BOATHOUSE STALLED BY HYDRANT ISSUE

foundationGeoff Johnson’s unfinished Boathouse at Red Bank, and a rendering of what it’s to look like, below. (Click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

boathouse-elev060711

While the Red Bank government is working to show that the town is “open for business,” a West Side property owner is among those who say the door still isn’t open wide enough.

“I would have to agree with everyone who’s ever said Red Bank is difficult to do business with,” said Geoff Johnson, who has approved plans to build a kayak and canoe rental and boat club on the banks of the Swimming River, at the north end of Shrewsbury Avenue.

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MORE RED INK FOR RED BANK HOMEBUILDER

Hov_hq_81206Hovnanian’s Red Bank HQ, as seen from the foot of Maple Avenue.

Hovnanian Enterprise reported a $72.7 million loss as revenue fell in latest fiscal quarter. The deficit was worse than Wall Street analysts had anticipated, according to a Bloomberg News report in the New York Times.

The Red Bank-headquartered national homebuilding company reported that revenue fell 20 percent, to $255.1 million, from $318.6 million a year earlier, in the quarter ended April 30. Net orders dropped 17 percent.

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ATRIUM ADDITION HITS GROUND RUNNING

atrium-lotA makeover of the vacant lot in the foreground is slated to begin shortly after the start of construction of six-story structure between the two Riverside Avenue high-rises in the distance. (Click to enlarge)

[See corrections at the bottom of this article]

Construction of an addition to the upscale Atrium at Navesink Harbor senior-citizens residence in Red Bank is expected to start next week with nearly all 60 units spoken for, according to officials at Springpoint Senior Living.

Long before the build-out is complete, however, an eyesore lot at the fork of West Front Street and Riverside Avenue will be transformed into a green-trimmed parking area for use by Atrium residents – and attended by valets, says company chief financial administrative officer Chuck Mooney.

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