FEBRUARY IS FORTUNE MONTH IN RED BANK

At their first working session on January 8, 2014, the members of the Red Bank Borough Council unanimously passed a resolution declaring February to be T. Thomas Fortune month in the borough.

The resolution was introduced by Cindy Burnham, who was recently elected to the council. February is nationally designated as Black History Month, and the resolution serves as a formal recognition to a great human rights activist.
Born into slavery, Fortune’s trailblazing rise as a firebrand journalist, publisher and writer rebuked the government’s failed attempt at Reconstruction, which led to the rise of Jim Crow and black code laws. Fortune has been credited with being the bridge to the modern day Civil Rights Movement. In 1880, he formed the Afro American League, which was a pre-curser to the NAACP.

From 1901 to 1911, Fortune resided at the home he called Maple Hill, at 94 West Bergen Avenue (now known as Drs. James Parker Boulevard).  While living there, he entertained such black leaders as Booker T. Washington. He also edited the works of Marcus Garvey while living there.

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JOURNO’S RED BANK HOME IN SPOTLIGHT

rb fortune house 3 061213T. Thomas Fortune, below, will get a month of honor in February. Meantime, efforts to save his home on Doctors Parker Boulevard continue. (Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

T. Thomas FortuneNo sharp elbows were thrown. The words ‘Maple Cove‘ weren’t even mentioned.

In her first working session as a member of Red Bank’s otherwise all-Democrat borough council Wednesday night, Republican Cindy Burnham‘s debut act was to introduce a resolution designating February as T. Thomas Fortune Month in the borough.

The anondyne measure won unanimous approval, and opened up a discussion of where things stand with the house that Fortune lived in a century ago.

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RED BANK: BURNHAM, NEW CFO TAKE OFFICE

burnham 2 010114Cindy Burnham recites the oath of office as Red Bank council member as her daughters Emily, Samantha and Kate look on. Below, Tommy Welsh was greeted by Councilman Mike DuPont after being sworn as fire chief for the second time. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

tommy welsh 010114Cindy Burnham officially ended the four-year lock by Democrat’s on the town’s governing body when she was sworn in as councilwoman Wednesday.

Burnham, 58, becomes the first non-Democrat to serve on the governing body since the departure of Grace Cangemi and interim Councilman Jim Giannell at the end of 2008.

The event attracted some GOP power hitters to borough, but the atmosphere at the borough government reorganization was collegial.

“My hope is that we can all work together to tackle the problems that are plaguing the people of Red Bank,” Burnham said in brief remarks after being sworn in by state Senator and former councilmember Jen Beck.

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RED BANK: RIVER USERS SAY KEEP COVE LISTED

rb hearing 1 123013Borough Administrator Stanley Sickels, in foreground, listens during the comment portion of the hearing. Below, Michael Humphries of Fair Haven called for an alternative to the borough’s proposed delisting. (Photos by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

rb hearing 2 123013Hoping to safeguard Red Bank’s only direct public access to the Navesink River, Maple Cove users and preservationists packed a meeting Monday night to combat a plan that would remove the site from the town’s inventory of preserved lands.

For more than three often-contentious hours, a standing-room audience challenged the borough rationale for the proposed delisting of two town-owned riverfront properties.

Their fear: that contrary to official assurances, the changes would clear the way for one or both sites to be sold for private development.

“The property is not being sold. It is not being turned into condos,” borough engineer Christine Ballard insisted at the outset.

Yet many of the commenters clearly weren’t buying that assertion.

“People feel it’s a first step to something nobody here wants,” Michael Humprhries, of Fair Haven, said of the proposed delisting. “There should be some way of satisfying the public that keeps that piece of property accessible.”

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RED BANK: BURNHAM STILL FIERCE ON COVE

rb parking 041713The parking lot at Maple Cove, as viewed from the library property on West Front Street. Below, Councilwoman-elect Cindy Burnham with borough Administrator Stanley Sickels at a recent fire department event. (Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

sickels burnham 120313Cindy Burnham may have broken the Democratic lock on Red Bank’s council, but she hasn’t abandoned the pet cause that got her there, or her style of defending it.

At several borough council meetings since winning election in November, Councilwoman-elect Burnham has stood at the commenters’ microphone and sparred with nearly all of her future colleagues on the governing body over the fate and history of Maple Cove, the town’s sole public Navesink River access. Burham is widely credited with having saved the site, at the north end of Maple Avenue, from possible development.

As she has for years, Burnham insists that the incumbents secretly want to sell the property to Hovnanian Enterprises, which owns abutting real estate. The latest evidence of the council’s intent, Burnham says, is the administration’s scheduling of a public forum on Monday, December 30, over whether to remove the site and another one at the public library from the town’s Recreation and Open Space Inventory, or ROSI.

One by one, as they have in the past, the Democrats insisted they do not, and – despite her repeated claims to the contrary – never have had plans to sell the site.

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RED BANK: LEE BOWS OUT

sharon lee 121813Sharon Lee at her final council meeting Wednesday night, above, and below with her son, Devon Ramsay, on election night. (Photos by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

sharon lee 110513Sharon Lee was three years old when her family moved from its longtime home in Red Bank to Germany. Six years later, when the family was abuzz with talk about “going home,” she was confused, she said. She couldn’t remember any other home.

“I finally understood when I got here,” the borough native said Wednesday night, in her final session as a borough council member.

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RED BANK CANDIDATE: CINDY BURNHAM

Election_2013_QA

CBURNHAMOne of four Q&As with the candidates for two, three-year terms on the Red Bank Borough Council in next weeks election. Kathy Horgan and Sharon Lee, both Democrats, are the incumbents; Cindy Burnham and Sean Di Somma, Republicans, are the challengers. Their answers to redbankgreen‘s questions are unedited.

Name: Cynthia (cindy) Burnham, age 58, grew up in Colts Neck

Age/DOB:

Where did you grow up?

How long have you been a resident of Red Bank?

I lived in RB from 1979 to 1993.  In 1993, I moved to Harrison Ave, which is half RB & half Fair Haven. While I resided in Fair Haven,  I continued to own investment property in RB and persisted in my civic involvement in RB.  Last year, I moved into my investment property that I have owned for 27yrs on Wallace St. and next month will be moving my daughters in who are now in college.

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RED BANK CANDIDATE: SEAN DI SOMMA

Election_2013_QA

SDSOMMAOne of four Q&As with the candidates for two, three-year terms on the Red Bank Borough Council in next week’s election. Kathy Horgan and Sharon Lee, both Democrats, are the incumbents; Cindy Burnham and Sean Di Somma, Republicans, are the challengers. Their answers to redbankgreen‘s questions are unedited; the links below were provided by Di Somma.

Name: Sean Patrick Di Somma

Age/DOB: 3/3/1982

Where did you grow up? Bergen County, NJ

How long have you been a resident of Red Bank?

Roughly a year and a half. When I moved here, I was appalled at the misinformation and ineptitude of the council. I began speaking out and was recruited to run for this office when there was vacancy.

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RED BANK CANDIDATE: KATHY HORGAN

Election_2013_QA

KHORGANOne of four Q&As with the candidates for two, three-year terms on the Red Bank Borough Council in next weeks election. Kathy Horgan and Sharon Lee, both Democrats, are the incumbents; Cindy Burnham and Sean Di Somma, Republicans, are the challengers. Their answers to redbankgreen‘s questions are unedited.

Name: Kathleen Horgan

Age: 68

Where did you grow up: Oyster Bay, Long Island, New York

How long have you been a resident of Red Bank: 14  years

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RED BANK CANDIDATE: SHARON LEE

Election_2013_QA

SLEEOne of four Q&As with the candidates for two, three-year terms on the Red Bank Borough Council in next week’s election. Kathy Horgan and Sharon Lee, both Democrats, are the incumbents; Cindy Burnham and Sean Di Somma, Republicans, are the challengers. Their answers to redbankgreen‘s questions are unedited.

Name: Sharon Lee

Age/DOB: 58

Where did you grow up? Germany, Red Bank

How long have you been a resident of Red Bank?

Life long! With brief absences, being a military dependent (army), college and a beach hideaway 58 years. Red bank has been my address.

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RED BANK: COUNCIL CONTENDERS FACE OFF

council candidates 2 101713Cindy Burnham, left, addresses the audience as Sean Di Somma, Kathy Horgan and Sharon Lee listen at the Westside Community Group’s annual candidate’s forum Thursday night. (Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

Election_2013_wDebatesThe question of whether to keep or sell Red Bank’s municipal water utility was among a handful of issues that split the four candidates for borough council at a debate Thursday night.

Republican newcomer Sean Di Somma said he’d sell it, one of several moves he’d make to “bring the council into the 21st century” and end the “fuzzy math” surrounding local taxes.

Incumbent Democrats Sharon Lee and Kathy Horgan contended the water system wouldn’t find a buyer willing to take on the debt and expense of upgrading a system, parts of which are 100 years old, and that Red Bank was better off keeping it anyway.

Cindy Burnham, the environmental activist who shares the GOP ticket with Di Somma, suggested that “the water utility could be a moneymaker’ for the town, but what really hits homeowners in the wallet is the sewer portion of their bills.

Differences over that issue, taxes and the fate or a piece of borough-owned waterfront property dominated the 17th annual candidates forum organized by the Westside Community Group at River Street Commons Thursday night.

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RED BANK: COURT GETS ITS GAME BACK

Missing for years, the backboards and hoops at Montgomery Terrace have returned. (Photos by Sarah Klepner. Click to enlarge)

By SARAH KLEPNER

Basketball hoops said to have been removed after a double shooting in 2007 are back at Red Bank’s Montgomery Terrace apartment complex on the West Side.

The return of the rims was praised by residents, who said the court will give idle youngsters an outlet. Last week, some kids talked about what the change means to them.

“I’m happy they’re back so kids can play here instead of in the parking lot, where people’s cars are,” a boy named Jayron told redbankgreen.

“And it’s good we have a place where we can chill, and hang out, and not argue,” added a girl, Nydasia.

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RED BANK: DI SOMMA TO FILL OUT GOP BALLOT

By JOHN T. WARD

The man behind an eleventh-hour robocalling campaign about a Red Bank bond issue last week is running for borough council, he tells redbankgreen.

Sean Di Somma, right, said local Republican officials plan to file paperwork with the Monmouth County Clerk Thursday making his candidacy official.

The move would again give the GOP two candidates as it tries to break the Democrats’ lock on the governing body, following the sudden departure from the race last month by Republican Suzanne Viscomi.

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GARDENERS ADVISED TO MAKE NICE

Concerns expressed by the proposed garden site’s neighbors must be addressed before any planting can occur, town officials said. (Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

Red Bank officials told proponents of a community garden Wednesday that they need to satisfy the concerns of two adjoining neighbors before they can get an all-clear to farm a borough-owned lot on Marion Street.

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RED BANK GARDEN PLAN NEEDS WATERING

A narrow borough-owned lot with a disused pumping station on it needs water access before it can be transformed into a community garden, town officials say. (Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

The battle over a proposed Red Bank community garden abated Wednesday night when its main proponent appeared to accept to an offer of a vacant East Side lot as its location.

Now, it’s just a matter of finding water.

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ON THE AGENDA: PITCHFORKS, TURF & MORE

Proponents of a Red Bank community garden try for another bite of the apple with their request to farm a portion of the public library property, above. (Click to enlarge)

The agenda for the bimonthly meeting of Red Bank’s council Wednesday night is a busy one.

On the docket:

• Red Bank RiverCenter comes in for approval of its annual budget. No details have yet been provided. Last year’s spending plan, like the two that preceded it, totaled $512,000. The business promotion agency, which manages the borough’s state-chartered Special Improvement District, is funded by a surtax on commercial properties within a defined zone and gets no money from borough coffers.

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BURNHAM TO FIGHT MUNI-COURT RULING

By JOHN T. WARD

cindy-burnhamWaterfront activist Cindy Burnham says she plans to appeal a municipal court ruling that she disturbed the peace earlier this year in an incident at the Maple Cove boat launch in Red Bank, which she is widely credited with having saved from development.

After a 90-minute trial last Thursday, Judge William Himelman found Burnham not guilty of criminal mischief, but guilty of disturbing the peace. He fined her $358 plus court costs.

On June 15, borough workers called police to Maple Cove, at the Navesink end of Maple Avenue, claiming that Burham had torn up netting laid down by the town to protect newly seeded grass.

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JUDGE TOSSES LAWSUIT OVER 51 MONMOUTH

51-monmouthAt issue was a settlement of an earlier lawsuit over the former borough hall and police station, now home to the Children’s Cultural Center. (Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

hot-topic rightA state court judge has dismissed a lawsuit by two non-resident property owners who claimed that Red Bank illegally settled an earlier suit with the Community YMCA over the onetime borough hall at 51 Monmouth Street.

Superior Court Judge Patricia DelBueno Cleary granted a summary judging dismissing all claims by Cindy Burnham and attorney Bill Meyer at a hearing in Freehold late Thursday morning, Mayor Pasquale Menna tells redbankgreen.

“In essence we won,” Menna said. “It’s unfortunate the borough had to expend money to defend itself.”

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BURNHAM TICKETED FOR COVE TEAR-OUT

burnham-2008Cindy Burnham at Maple Cove in 2008. (Click to enlarge)

Controversial Maple Cove activist Cindy Burnham is headed to Red Bank municipal court after being issued a summons for allegedly destroying town property at the kayak and canoe launch for which she led a preservation effort.

According to police Captain Darren McConnell, Burnham was issued a summons Tuesday after borough public works employees and contractors with the paving company installing a new parking lot at Maple Cove reported that netting laid down to protect new-growth grass seeding was torn up Monday.

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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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MULCH ADO ABOUT MAPLE COVE, AGAIN

11A request for mulch at Maple Cove digressed into a clash between Cindy Burnham and council members Tuesday. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

When Cindy Burnham and other volunteers, part of the ad hoc Friends of Maple Cove group, ended a yearlong spat with the Borough of Red Bank and secured a deal to designate a one-acre patch at the foot of the Navesink River on Maple Avenue as a natural area with waterfront access, the understanding was that Burnham and company would maintain the parcel.

So says the town council.

Burnham maintains a different recollection.

“The only reason the Friends of Maple Cove came out to do anything was because you guys wouldn’t,” Burnham told the council Tuesday, following a request that the borough donate a half-truckload of mulch to the site.

The request triggered a kerfuffle between Burnham and the governing body over who should take care of the property, a question that never was answered.

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SUIT CALLS 51 MONMOUTH DEAL ‘ILLEGAL’

51-monmouthTwo property owners want the former borough hall returned to Red Bank as a public asset. (Click to enlarge)

As anticipated by Mayor Pasquale Menna, a lawsuit has been filed challenging Red Bank’s settlement of litigation earlier this year over the former borough hall and police station at 51 Monmouth Street.

The suit, filed by Maple Cove activist Cindy Burnham of Fair Haven and lawyer Bill Meyer of Tinton Falls, claims that both the original sale of the building to a nonprofit children’s organization in 2000 and the settlement of litigation over that deal earlier this year were “illegal and improper.”

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COMMUNITY GARDEN GETS IFFY SEEDING

rbpl-maple-coveA community garden is proposed next to Maple Cove, but officials say they need to do their homework before giving it an OK. (Click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

With the long debate over the preservation of Maple Cove echoing in the room, the Red Bank council last night parried with activist Cindy Burnham Monday night over a proposed community garden at the riverside public library.

Once again, elected officials claimed to have been caught off-guard.

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