Bonney_92407There’s lots of empty space as Michael Bonney transitions his Monmouth Street shop from a newsstand to a convenience store.


When Michael Bonney bought Red Bank News in May, it seemed the decades-old monument to print journalism, deemed “a Red Bank treasure” by one regular, would continue much the same as before.

Patrons could still lose themselves browsing the racks of newspapers and magazines that took up most of the shop’s floor space.

But today, what was once a crowded warren of newsprint and glossies is open space that mainly draws the eye to the checkered black and white floor (soon to be replaced by hardwood or linoleum, Bonney said).

The magazine racks are gone, as Bonney has drastically pruned his 500-title magazine inventory, which he’s planning to replace with more household items, including dairy products and toiletries.

“It’ll be more like Prown’s,” he explained, referring to the much lamented Broad Street five-and-dime that closed in 2003 and for many residents remains the symbol of a slower, more stable, less gentrified downtown.

Now it seems that the Red Bank News known to generations of customers is also about to begin slowly fading into the collective memory, as newspaper and magazine sales become more of a sideline to its business than its mainstay.

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Starting next month, Diney’s Place/The Children’s Cultural Center won’t be just for kids anymore.

Turns out that investing a ton of money to transform the former Red Bank municipal building and police station into a learning center full of digital technology for kids 11 and under hasn’t paid off as well as the folks at the Community YMCA expected.

Even with art and dance classes for Red Bank Catholic students, the grand old red-brick building with the awesome arched portico is “pretty quiet” most of the day, someone who works there tells redbankgreen.

And after school â?? well, ditto. With Mom and Dad both at work, who’s going to transport little Johnny or Jasmine to the downtown center in the middle of the afternoon and then pick him or her up a couple of hours later?

“For working families, it’s just tough to get them here,” says Gary Laermer, president and chief executive of the Y, parent of the cultural center.

One result? “Participation hasn’t been as good as we would have liked,” says Sean Byrnes, a member of the Y’s board of directors and its former chairman.

Another? Well, even though the nonprofit Y got the Monmouth Street building from the borough for just $1 in 2002, it’s got a $1 million mortgage on it, according to Monmouth County records. That’s got be met.

So it’s time for Plan B, which calls for bringing in some culture-hungry geezers, relatively speaking.

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Tinton Falls Council President Mike Skudera says he’s starting to get some momentum behind his effort to nudge, push or drag municipal governments into the Internet age.

redbankgreen readers may recall our April feature story on a groundbreaking study Skudera did earlier this year (prior to his selection as head of council) that found most New Jersey towns and cities were miles away from utilizing the web to its capacity as a source of commonly sought public information.

At the time, Skudera drew up a model ordinance he hopes municipalities will adopt. He also started beating the bushes in search of legislative muscle to force balky towns to act.

Earlier today, Skudera took his message to the Statehouse.

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If these jiggly bottles look familiar, it may be that you saw them when redbankgreen debuted, one year ago today. Or perhaps you came across them while dumpster-diving our archive sometime afterward. (Hey, it’s perfectly sanitary, and a diverting way to spend a couple of hours, we’re told. Grab a cup of coffee and plunge in, if you haven’t tried it.)

The bottles illustrated our stated goal of shaking things up a bit by giving people who live in, work in and visit our corner of the Jersey Shore a different take on what matters, news and feature-wise.

The idea was more focus on people in our town and area, combined with insightful reporting, conversational writing and luscious visuals in a publication that doesn’t view the Internet as an afterthought, but as the medium that matters most for what we’re doing. Which is why, for example, there are so many links in our stories — so you always have the option to go one level deeper into a topic.

It’s also why the bottles jiggle: because they can.

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Joe Cullity doesn’t like to make a big deal out of his hip injury, and speaks reluctantly about the day he got it — September 11, 2001.

“I was lucky I was late for work,” he says. “I lost a lot of my friends that day.”

A software designer for the New York Mercantile Exchange, Cullity was inside Tower One, waiting at the elevator bank to go up to Cantor Fitzgerald, the bond trading firm, when the first plane hit the building.

“I walked to the back and saw all this debris coming down and flames and people running like hell,” he recalls. “Then I went to the front. Everybody was looking up at the building. I was standing under the door. After a few seconds I ran like a bastard across the street. At that time we thought it was an accident, an idiot controller. We had no idea.”

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Those two new electric cars we told you about last week, the ones Red Bank planned to buy to replace the three-wheeled Cushmans used by parking enforcement?

It turns out they can’t meet the state requirement that they be able to go at least 20 miles per hour.

The cars, which are essentially golf carts, do more like 17, though they can be tweaked to go just above 19 mph, says Borough Administrator Stanley Sickels.

Last night, at Sickels’ urging, the borough council rescinded the resolution authorizing the purchase from golf-cart seller Vic Gerard Golf Cars of two vehicles for $13,750 each.

The request for bids will be tightened up and reopened, borough officials said.

“We’d be breaking the state law by driving them around on borough streets,” said borough attorney Tom Hall.

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Say goodbye to those Cushmans.

Last month, the Red Bank Borough Council authorized the purchase of two Club Car Carryall 2 electric vehicles from golf-cart seller Vic Gerard Golf Cars. They’ll replace a pair of gas-powered Cushman three-wheelers used by Parking Utility enforcers. Price: $13,750 each.

The purchase is part of an effort by elected officials — including last year’s mayoralty rivals Pasquale Menna (who won) and John Curley (who didn’t, but remains on the council) — to begin paring the borough fleet of gas guzzlers and replacing them with energy-efficient vehicles.

While small-scale, it’s a move that reflects what appears to be a big change in the public’s thinking about the environment. In fact, we may be living in history’s ‘greenest’ moment since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution.

So here’s a question or two inspired in part by the borough’s purchase: would electric cars make sense on the consumer side as well? Is it too soon to dream of the day that our compact, 1.8-square-mile burg might buzz with quiet, compact, no-emissions cars that their owners plug in at night to recharge?

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Prompted by the shootings last month at Virginia Tech that left 33 people dead, Red Bank Regional High School has become the second school district in New Jersey to implement an email and text message alert system, today’s Asbury Park Press reports.

The system will employ cellphone text messaging and email to alert parents and students about developments as innocuous as weather-related closings and as serious as security-related lockdowns.

From the story:

Superintendent Edward Westervelt said letters will be sent to parents later this week about the instant notification system and how to sign up. The school security and safety committee took steps to implement the system after the Virginia Tech shootings, he said.

“It came out of that terrible incident at Virginia Tech. We think it will be very helpful,” Westervelt said. “You never know when an emergency or some safety issue will come up when students are on their way to school or on a field trip.”

The text message system also is a way to get information to students in the midst of a lockdown, which they have practiced during the year, he said.

“We’ve practiced them where students are brought into a classroom and the doors are locked and the windows covered, everyone wants to know what’s going on,” Westervelt said. “We could communicate with students . . . without using the school PA, which we might not want to do with an intruder in the building.”

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Want to read the minutes of a recent Red Bank Council meeting online?

You’ll have to wait. The latest one posted on the borough’s website is from February 12, even though the council has had four meetings since then.

There are even more cobwebs on the Tinton Falls site. That borough hasn’t posted updated council minutes since October.

But those two sites are far from the creakiest out there; in fact, they’re actually quite advanced in some respects. Many municipalities the length of New Jersey post little or no information about the workings of local government. Dog-license applications via the web? Sounds like sci-fi. Budgets online? Forget it.

More than a decade after the the first web browser transformed the Internet into a tool anyone could use, local governments have yet to utilize the web as the virtual clerk’s counter that it could be, says Michael Skudera. So he wants to show them how, and give them a shove if they balk.

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A provision that required seekers of online information about Middletown government to identify themselves has been removed from the township’s newly refurbished website, the Asbury Park Press reports today.


Likewise, a similar feature included in Fair Haven’s website also appears to have been taken down.

The Press reports that access to Middletown Township Committee agendas, minutes and ordinances was opened up Monday after complaints that a registration provision constituted an invasion of privacy. Before the change, users were required to provide a name, email address and telephone number.

From the Press:

Township Clerk Heidi Abs said the registration requirement was changed because of an upcoming shared service agreement between the township and Monmouth County for a records management system. That service will not make users register to view meeting agendas and minutes, she said.

The Web site has been a work in progress, shaped by input from users, Abs said.

“I think we were always moving in that direction” to change registration requirements for a portion of the site, she said.

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Gov. Jon Corzine yesterday told a gathering a Brookdale Community College that he supported a plan to transform Fort Monmouth into a private-sector technology center after the military communications facility is shut down in 2011, the Asbury Park Press reports today.

“Fort Monmouth is going to be the epicenter of where we put our efforts to make sure we have sustainable growth,” Corzine told a crowd of 500, the Press reports.

From the story:

Corzine said he was “personally interested” in the Tech Preserve plan, which calls for creating a partnership among a private company or companies, the state and the Army. It aims to absorb at least some of the fort’s 5,000 civilian employees while the post’s mission is transferred to Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland by 2011.

Tech Preserve was developed by the Patriots Alliance — a group of defense contractors who also spearheaded the ultimately failed effort to keep Fort Monmouth off the 2005 closure lists during the most recent Base Realignment and Closure round.

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Assemblyman Mike Panter thinks local government isn’t as responsive as it should be. So he’s holding a public forum for area residents to tee up the topic.

Want more details? Well, you won’t find them on Panter’s blog, which hasn’t been updated in two months.

We saw a notice of the meeting posted this afternoon on the Asbury Park Press website, which says it will be held at 7p at the Little Silver firehouse at 408 Prospect Avenue.

The Press doesn’t give a date, though, which is why we turned to Pantner’s blog and found only virtual cobwebs.

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Red Bank Borough’s somewhat underutilized official website (we’re being diplomatic here) is about to make the great leap into the 21st century.

The Asbury Park Press reports that the site will go live with new features tomorrow.

Among the first items available, the story says, will be the draft budget unveiled Tuesday night and now being whipped into shape for formal introduction Monday night.

That means, we hope, that this is the last day on which we won’t be able to find the meetings of the council itself on the borough’s web calendar.

Also ready for its close-up, reports the Press’ Larry Higgs: the Board of Education website. It, too, will be ready tomorrow.

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A partial reopening of the Red Bank Public Library — initially planned for December and then postponed until this month — probably won’t happen at all, library officials say now.

The upshot: library users will have to wait until May or June, when the entire renovation project is completed, to access the facility, said library director Debbie Griffin-Sadel.

The latest holdup: making up for weeks of work lost to the February cold snap, which brought the installation of a new sprinkler system to a halt. For the duration of the delay, a trench exposing a water line between the building and the supply line under West Front Street lay open, as contractors waited for a break in the Arctic freeze to fix a leak.

The trench was has now been refilled, and work has been resumed. But the partial re-opening? “Doesn’t look like it’s going to happen,” said Griffin-Sadel, who called the delays “extremely frustrating.

“We’re hoping not to become the Eastern Branch,” she said, referring to the Monmouth County Library branch in Shrewsbury that has been under reconstruction for almost four years.

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New Jersey’s citizens have the right to videotape public meetings, the state Supreme Court has ruled in a unanimous opinion written by Rumson resident and Chief Justice James Zazzali.

The Star-Ledger has news of the ruling, which came this morning in the case of a South Jersey man twice arrested for videotaping council meetings in his hometown of Pine Hill.

From the story:

The state Supreme Court today ruled that New Jerseyans have a common-law right to videotape public meetings, although governmental agencies can impose “reasonable guidelines” to make sure the recording does not disrupt their official business.

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The $10.1 million renovation of the Eastern Branch of the Monmouth County Library is now expected to be completed in June, four years after work began and two years later than originally expected, according to a story in today’s Asbury Park Press.


The article reports on the reopening if the of the Route 35 facility two days ago, following a monthlong shutdown:

The closing was initially supposed to last two weeks, but delays occurred with Internet and telephone rewiring work and other tasks related to inspections, Eastern Branch Chief Librarian Janet Kranis said.

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Which is to say that the Red Bank borough’s official website is finally catching up to reality.

Eight weeks after he was sworn in, Pasquale Menna’s name is now listed on the site in the place where Ed McKenna’s name still stood as recently as Monday afternoon. Michael DuPont is listed as a councilman. And there’s a calendar for the year 2007.

OK, so the calendar doesn’t yet list council meetings scheduled for coming months. But borough officials, and particularly the Demoratic majority, say they’re working on putting more data on the site in an effort to meet a campaign promise for more “transparent” government.

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Look, you’ve been through this before. So you should know by now whether you’ve got the patience to set up the new computer, digital camera or i-Pod that you’ll be giving or receiving as a gift this month.

For those who don’t, or would simply prefer to sit back and enjoy themselves while someone who knows what he’s doing tackles the job of physical set-up and software installation, computer whiz Dylan Barlett is home for the holidays and ready to lend a hand for a modest fee.

“A gift should make you feel good, not be a source of frustration,” says Barlett, a 20-year-old Little Silver resident. “I want to leave everyone with a stable computer they can use and enjoy.”

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The accelerating shift of newspaper content from dead trees to the web will be topic A of a special program this Thursday evening (Nov. 30) at Brookdale Community College in Lincroft.


The event, titled “The Changing World of American Journalism,” will bring together an academic and four working journalists, each of whom will give a short presentation on newsgathering and publishing in the digital age. (See shameless plug, below.)

The event is free and open to the public. The audience will be encouraged to ask questions and raise concerns.

Particular emphasis, says event organizer Art Kamin, will be on what web-based journalism might mean to society, and yea, even democracy.

“Newspapers help make democracy work, but digital-age changes in newspapers are here and more are coming,” says Kamin. “This program will examine what the future may hold for journalism and how it will affect our lives—especially in New Jersey and in Monmouth County, where newspapers play a critical role serving as a government watchdog.”

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After a dry run in the June primaries, Monmouth County plans to use touch-screen electronic voting machines for the first time in a general election on Tuesday.


The change in technology means that returns will be made available via the Internet at the official Monmouth County website as they are gathered by election officials.

The county site will have a results page showing race results countywide and town-by-town as they come in following the close of polls at 8p. According to Monmouth County Clerk M. Claire French, the results will be updated every few minutes until all ballots are accounted for.

For voters eager to know race outcomes, that means no more waiting for the next day’s paper or other media to learn the election results. It’s democratization by Web at work.

“People will have access like never before for election results on election night,” says French.

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The Asbury Park Press has an article today on the Red Bank Borough Council’s formation this week of a committee on education and technology, and how Councilman John Curley’s vote on the matter may have backfired against him.


Curley’s was the lone ‘no’ on the vote to create the committee, the brainchild of Council President Pasquale Menna, Curley’s Democratic rival to succeed Ed McKenna as mayor. And Curley’s opposition apparently took McKenna by surprise.

“I was going to put him on [the committee], but he voted no,” McKenna told the Press’ Larry Higgs.

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Verizon Wireless put up a crane in the parking lot of Fair Haven’s Church of the Nativity this morning to give residents an idea of what a 133-foot-tall cellphone tower would look like if sited on the church property, as proposed. If built, the tower would actually be 75 feet east of the crane location, in a small copse of trees.

Whether the demo will break the stalemate over where to erect the borough’s first cellular tower remains to be seen.

John Hanson isn’t so sure. “One neighbor will say, ‘My reception is great,’ says Hanson, a carpenter who lives on Maple Avenue. “The other will say, ‘My kids are gonna get cancer; I have to move.’ “

The crane is scheduled to remain up until 4p.

Our four views show the crane from: 1. Ridge Road, looking east across the intersection at Hance; 2. the front of the church, looking east; 3. just north of the church on Hance Road and 4. Ridge Road.



Adding an odd twist to a long-running controversy, a 133-foot-tall crane is to be raised in the parking lot of the Church of the Nativity in Fair Haven tomorrow to give residents and passersby some idea of what a cellphone tower would look like if built there.

One thing it is sure to look like: a crane three times the height of the church’s 40-foot steeple.

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