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hot-topic rightBy DUSTIN RACIOPPI

With a voter-rejected schools budget now landing in the lap of the Middletown Township Committee for recommended cuts, Mayor Gerard Scharfenberger is calling for township teachers to accept a one-year pay freeze, a move he estimates will save the district $3 million.

“That’s pretty significant,” he said. “That would go a long way with saving jobs, with very little effort.”

Scharfenberger, echoing Governor Chris Christie, put out the request on Friday, just days after the school board’s $140.3 million budget was handily defeated and three board incumbents were voted out. Scharfenberger said that was the voters showing support for such action.

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atriumA proposed addition to the Atrium, at left, would be built between the existing structure and the neighboring Riverview Towers, right. The parking lot in the foreground, bound by Riverside Avenue and West Front Street, is slated for upgrades by the Atrium’s owner. (Click to enlarge)

The owner of a luxury senior citizens’ high-rise in Red Bank has curtailed its plans to nearly double the size of the facility with a proposed 12-story addition on Riverside Avenue, redbankgreen has learned.

Instead, Springpoint Senior Living — formerly PHS Senior Living, and before that, Presbyterian Homes — will revert to an older, approved plan for just six stories, says Springpoint chief operating officer Chuck Mooney.

The move was driven largely by economics, Mooney said. But it was also taken to head off a battle with residents of the neighboring Riverview Towers high-rise, he acknowledged.

“We are concerned about having a protracted series of hearings” at the zoning board, Mooney said.

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menna-052609-2The path to a second term appears unobstructed for Red Bank Mayor Pasquale Menna.


Mayors Pasquale Menna and Mike Halfacre, of Red Bank and Fair Haven, respectively, don’t appear to have any competition in their re-election bids this year.

Both men filed petition paperwork on Monday, the state deadline, to run for re-election. No one else filed for their seats.

But they could face competition if independents write-in for the June 8 primary and November 2 general election ballots.

Menna told redbankgreen that the absence of an opponent “doesn’t mean anything. ” He said he’s only concerned with his role the next four years as the borough’s top executive.

“I can only keep on doing what I’ve been doing and do it the best I can,” he said.

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scharfenbergerMiddletown Mayor Gerard Scharfenberger talks to several dozen residents  who turned out Thursday night for the year’s first public informational meeting. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi)


The state aid numbers are in to Middletown, and Mayor Gerard Scharfenberger likely couldn’t put it more blunt.

“It is ug-ly,” he said.

Schargenberger was speaking to about two dozen residents, who may have showed up to the Middletown Arts Center with other topics in mind, for the first of three neighborhood meetings scheduled for the year.

But the budget seemed to dominate.

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election-2009-localOn his second try, former Red Bank councilman John Curley won a seat on the Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders, tipping the board back to Republican control.

His win was part of a GOP wave that included a win for gubernatorial aspirant Chris Christie and and  for incumbent 12th-District Assembly members Declan O’Scanlon of Little Silver and Caroline Casagrande of Colts Neck.

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doris-crissonAtrium resident Doris Crisson, 88, speaks in favor of the valet-parking plan at last night’s hearing. (Click to enlarge)

For the second time in four years, one of Red Bank’s more prominent blights — a triangular, asphalted lot at the fork of West Front Street and Riverside Avenue — has won a makeover.

The first, in 2005, called for an office building to be erected on the site. That never happened. Last night, the borough zoning board greenlighted a new plan to turn the one-acre property into a spruced-up valet-only parking lot to service the Atrium at Navesink Harbor , a luxury senior-citizens’ high-rise and an addition on the opposite side of Riverside Avenue.

The unanimous approval, after a three-hour hearing, was granted over the objections of Sean Byrnes, an attorney for the condo association at the neighboring Riverside Towers high rise. He argued that the Atrium’s owner, PHS Senior Living of Princeton, had underestimated the demand for parking from the site, which he said would add to rush-hour traffic that already rates a failing grade.

“It sounds like a great place to live, but I think they’re bringing their cars,” Byrnes said of the residents. “That lot is going to be a busy place.”

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atrium-lot-render2A representative of the Atrium at Navesink holds an artist’s depiction of the proposed lot while residents listen to testimony at last night’s zoning board hearing. (Click to enlarge)

Questions about traffic and pedestrian safety slowed plans for a 98-car valet parking lot to serve the Atrium at Navesink Harbor senior citizen high-rise last night.

Complicating the work of the Red Bank zoning board was its own determination to weigh the plan as though a second, pending proposal — for the addition of six stories to an already approved six-floor annex to the Atrium — did not exist. That plan is expected to land before the board as early as next month.

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28-leroyNew owner Charlie McCague says he spent $50,000 to restore the slate-and-copper roof of the structure and will preserve the clapboard exterior and interior layout.

After a vote that sharply divided the borough planning board, one of Red Bank’s most distinctive old mansions is going commercial.

The century-old Victorian at 28 LeRoy Place is to become an accountant’s office after a vote on the conversion split the board 5-4 Monday night.

Those in favor cited the fact that the structure is in a professional office zone and argued it would serve as a buffer between nearby homes and the “abomination” of the former Sun Bank at the corner of LeRoy and Broad Street.

Those opposed said they were concerned about “creeping commercialism” and a “domino effect” leading to other homes on Leroy being turned into offices on the strength of an approval.

“No,” said Councilwoman Sharon Lee, when called on to vote. “It constitutes an assault on our historic homes.”

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A proposal to convert the Colony House apartments on Bodman Place into upmarket condos was shot down by the Red Bank zoning board last night, today’s Asbury Park Press reports.

From the Press:

It may have been a lack of 42 parking spaces that killed the proposal.

Plans called for a total of 88 spaces , 68 of them on the Colony House site on Riverside Avenue and another 20 spaces in a lot to be created off site.

That issue was raised by residents of the nearby Mara Vista Condo Association, represented by attorney Sean Byrnes.

“We will have a situation like New York City where people will drive around looking for parking, double park and look out their windows for a space to open up,” Byrnes said. “Sixty-eight spots (on the site) worked in 1958, it doesn’t in 2008.”

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After five years and a massive infusion of capital, the Community YMCA has put the Children’s Cultural Center at 51 Monmouth Street up for sale, redbankgreen has learned.

Asking price: $2.55 million. That’s $145,000 less than the non-profit sank into renovations after acquiring the former Red Bank Borough Hall and police station for $1 in 2002.


The move appears to signal a surrender in the Y’s efforts to establish a thriving, education-oriented arts and entertainment hub for kids in the heart of the downtown.

“We’re not even close to covering costs on that building,” said Sean Byrnes, former Y chairman and current board member. “It’s not panning out as we thought it would.”

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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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