RED BANK: LIBRARY DIRECTOR CHECKS OUT

Red Bank library staff and patrons held a sendoff party last week for the retirement of director Elizabeth McDermott, seen above speaking with public utilities director Cliff Keen.

Monmouth County Freeholder John  Curley, a former Red Bank councilman, presented McDermott with a county proclamation recognizing her for, among other accomplishments, leading the library through the most turbulent period in its 81-year history.

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RED BANK: LIVING SHORELINE HITS HARD STOP

WhatsGoingOnHererbpl bulkhead 061016 2The new Navesink River bulkhead at the Red Bank Public Library, as seen from the natural shoreline at Maple Cove. Below, a June, 1906 Red Bank Register article reported on Sigmund Eisner’s plans for the property, including the installation of a bulkhead. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD
eisner bulkhead June 6, 1906

This month 110 years ago, the Navesink River site that would later become the home of the Red Bank Public Library was about to get its first bulkhead.

Over the ensuing century, such hard-stop bulkheads came to be regarded as a flawed means of protecting shorelines: less effective at blunting storm ravages than natural shores, and unfriendly to marine life. So when it authorized a controversial new bulkhead two years ago, the borough council relented to public pressure and asked that the replacement incorporate whatever elements possible to make it more like a so-called living shoreline.

In the end, however, the new bulkhead, completed this month. is pretty much the same as the old one.

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RED BANK: COUNTY LIBRARY COSTS WEIGHED

rbpl-garden-siteTrustees of the library say local taxpayers would still have to foot the cost of the borough facility on West Front Street, above, with access to fewer resources from Monmouth County. (Photo above by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

HOT-TOPIC_03The question pops up periodically, and did so several times last year in a user survey: would Red Bankers be better off if their library was part of the Monmouth County library system?

According to the Red Bank Public Library’s trustees, the answer is “no,” and it’s not a close call.

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RED BANK: DUXIANA DEPARTS; SUSHI COMING

37 broad 011416The Duxiana store has vacated the building dubbed the Temple of Fashion, built in 1894. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

retail churn smallIn this edition of redbankgreen‘s Retail Churn: a flurry of activity to report from Broad Street in Red Bank, including:

• a new vacancy in a historic building in the center of the downtown

• the recent opening of Red Bank Family Pharmacy

• plans for a new sushi restaurant

Plus, there’s interesting news about a new restaurant coming to the Grove in Shrewsbury.

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RED BANK: LIBRARY ADDS MORE HOURS

rb library 1 040913HOT-TOPIC_03Continuing its recovery from a period of shrinkage, the Red Bank Public Library will add seven hours to its weekly operations starting July 6. The West Front Street facility will open at 10 a.m. Mondays, three hours earlier than at present, and close at 9 p.m. on Wednesday, four hours later than the present close.

The change was enabled by the resolution of budget issues and the recent hire of several part-time workers, said library Director Elizabeth McDermott. The institution will be open 38 hours per week, still well short of the 54 hours of operation five years ago, she said. Saturday operations, which had been curtailed, were partially restored last October. (Photos by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

RED BANK: LIBRARY AVERTS PREDICTED CRISIS

rbpl 1 102113Dire forecasts made by library board members who resigned a year ago have not panned out, officials say. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

[Article updated with post-publication comment below]

By JOHN T. WARD

HOT-TOPIC_03Nearly one year after a mass resignation by trusteees over budget issues that they said imperiled its future, the Red Bank Public Library hasn’t collapsed into the river it overlooks.

Nor has it been swamped by red ink. In fact, the institution is doing quite well, says its new director, Elizabeth McDermott, who recently accepted the job on a permanent basis – after first rejecting it – largely because of the turnaround she helped guide.

“The building didn’t fall down,” McDermott told redbankgreen earlier this month, following a meeting at which the board approved a new $1 million budget. “In fact, we’re growing.”

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RED BANK: LIBRARY ADDS SATURDAY HOURS

rbpl stairs 051514The stairs to the library’s children’s room, where Saturday programming returns on October 18 with a Halloween Craft Party. (Photos by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

HOT-TOPIC_03As expected, the trustees of the Red Bank Public Library voted to resume part-day Saturday operations Thursday night.

The West Front Street facility will be open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and “all services, from borrowing books and movies to using the public computers and Wi-Fi, reading newspapers and magazines, and attending special events and programs, will be available to children and adults,” according to a press release issued Friday.

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RED BANK: LIBRARY MAY RESTORE SATURDAYS

rb library 092214The resumption of Saturday service is expected to occur as early as this weekend, officials said. (Photos by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

HOT-TOPIC_03Moving to reverse one of the more controversial actions of its predecessors, members of the recently reconstituted board of the Red Bank Public Library are expected to clear the way for a resumption of Saturday operations this week.

A special meeting of the board has been scheduled for Thursday evening, solely for the purpose of voting on the proposal. That would allow the facility to be open as soon as this Saturday, acting director Elizabeth McDermott tells redbankgreen.

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RED BANK: COUNCIL OKS HYBRID BULKHEAD

elijah nishiura 072314Red Bank Regional sophomore Elijah Nishiura, center, chats with Environmental Commission chairwoman Laura Bagwell, left, and Carl Alderson, a marine resources specialist at NOAA, after the council voted to restore the rotting library bulkhead, below.  (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

rb lib bulkhead 2 071013A hotly opposed proposal to rebuild the bulkhead at the Red Bank Public Library won approval from the borough council Wednesday night, though the new structure may now incorporate elements of a so-called living shoreline favored by environmentalists.

Then again, the matter could be headed to court if the hybrid approach fails appease the library’s next-door neighbors, whose lawyer continued to imply that he’d sue if anything less than an abrupt wall along the library’s Navesink River frontage is constructed.

“The merits of the living shoreline are neither here nor there,” Michael Vitiello, the attorney for the Corinthian Cove condos, told the council before it voted on the issue. “My clients feel that if you remove the bulkhead… we are no longer going to have lateral support for our earth.”

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RED BANK: BULKHEAD REBUILD ON AGENDA

rb lib bulkhead 4 071013Borough residents are on the hook for replacing the library bulkhead, at right, where environmentalists argue a natural shoreline should be restored.  (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

Its scientists and policy experts may be thought leaders on issues of global warming and ways to head it off. But on the matter of the Navesink River bulkhead at the Red Bank Public Library, Harvard University can’t be bothered to speak, it appears.

Harvard’s continued silence almost a year after Mayor Pasquale Menna reached out to the university for help on a legal issue is about to cost Red Bank taxpayers and, environmentalists contend, result in a wrongheaded fix along the shoreline.

A controversial plan to rebuild the crumbling bulkhead, rather than allow for the restoration of a natural shoreline, is expected to move ahead Wednesday night.

It’s time for “finality” on the issue, which involves insurance and liability issues as well as environmental ones, Menna told redbankgreen Monday.

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RED BANK: LIBRARY TO ADD HOURS

rbpl 1 032714The library’s trustees, below, agreed to add seven hours to the weekly schedule. (Photos by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

rbpl 051514When will the Red Bank Public Library restore Saturday service? That’s the question acting library director Elizabeth McDermott says patrons ask most these days.

Answer: by the end of 2014. With luck.

In the meantime, the library’s newly reconstituted board of trustees board, at a meeting Thursday night, added seven hours to a weekly operating schedule that had been pared to 20 in recent months.

“It’s a start,” said board member Stephen Hecht.

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RED BANK: NEW TRUSTEES GET THEIR FEET WET

rbpl trustees 050114 Mayor Pasquale Menna, right, swears in new library board members in the Eisner Room. Sara Hansen, center below, with Elizabeth McDermott and Steve Hecht, was chosen board president. (Photos by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

sara hansen 050114Members of the Red Bank Public Library’s newly reconstituted board of trustees board got a real-life introduction to the challenges they’ll face Wednesday night.

On a tour of the library during a downpour one day before they were  sworn into their posts, trustees witnessed rainwater coming through the ceiling and flooding the basement.

“I wanted board members to see the building,” acting library director Elizabeth McDermott told redbankgreen. What they saw was the hasty deployment of trash cans to catch water dripping from above and “a couple of inches” of water inundating the basement of the former Eisner mansion portion of the srtucture, thanks to faulty drainage from an exterior stairwell.

“It was up to here” in the stairwell, said new trustee Beth Hanratty, indicating a point just below her knee.

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RED BANK: NEW LIBRARY TRUSTEES NAMED

rbpl 1 032714Beth Hanratty, below, was named chairperson of the reconstituted board. (Photos by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

[Correction: Mayor Menna tells redbankgreen that while Beth Hanratty was appointed to fill the unexpired term of board President John Grandits, she was not appointed board president, as reported below. The newly constituted board is expected to elect new officers at its May 1 meeting. redbankgreen regrets the error.]

By JOHN T. WARD

beth hanratty 040714How’s this for a job offer? The work is unpaid. It requires running an institution that at the moment has just lost its director, faces a purported-though-disputed funding shortfall and has possibly too many full-time employees – including two whose jobs recently became a political hot potato.

Oh, and most of the people who last held the position submitted a joint “take-this-job-and-shove-it” resignation letter just last Saturday.

But just four days after that mass exodus by members of the Red Bank Public Library Board of Trustees, Mayor Pasquale Menna appointed four replacements to the board Wednesday evening. Read More »

RED BANK: LIBRARY TRUSTEES QUIT EN MASSE

rbpl trustees 3 032714 Of the six board members seen in this photo from a March 27 trustees meeting, only April Klimley, in red at left, remains on the board. Two others who also resigned are not shown. Below, the sign outside the library welcomed back two employees whose rehirings prompted the resignations. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

rbpl 041314Overridden last week by the borough council over a controversial budget, six of the eight members of the Red Bank Public Library board of trustees resigned in protest Saturday.

Angered over what they said were factual misrepresentations and position reversals by the Menna Administration that undid a year of “difficult” financial planning, the trustees said in a letter that it “has become apparent that we cannot operate as an effective and independent board as stipulated by the NJ State Library statutes.”

The mass exodus, coupled with the planned departure of library Director Virginia Papandrea later this month and another trustee’s resignation last Thursday, raises questions about short-term leadership at the 76-year-old institution. Moreover, departing board members said the library continues to face a fiscal crisis, contrary to administration claims.

“The numbers still don’t add up,” said trustees President John Grandits. “I don’t see how you’re going to be open in November or December. I don’t get it.”

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RED BANK: COUNCIL REHIRES LIBRARY PAIR

rb council 2 040914Librarians Sira Williams, left, and Elizabeth McDermott embrace after being reinstated to their jobs Wednesday night. Below, trustees Denelle Johnson, left, and Brigid McCarthy with Administrator Stanley Sickels after the meeting. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

rb council 1 040914Pulling rank on its own appointees Wednesday night, the Menna Administration rehired two of the three full-timers laid off from the public library amid warnings of a financial crisis last month.

During a tense council meeting at which officials characterized the library’s trustees as “intransigent” and “hostile” to administration guidance, borough Administrator Stanley Sickels also presented the outlines of a library budget that he said would yield surpluses this year and next, and enable the facility to restore some hours of operation, which were cut last month.

That’s in sharp contrast to the spending plan crafted by the eight-member library board, which anticipated a shortfall of $131,000 this year and dire consequences next year if the full-time staffing was not reduced.

Two clearly frosted trustees continued to insist that the administration was fixing purported errors that did not exist in the board’s budget and had failed to communicate with the board in recent weeks.

“I don’t understand the adversarial position,” library trustee Brigid McCarthy told the council during a public comment session after the vote. “This problem is much bigger than two jobs. Rehiring these two people will only kick the can down the road.”

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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: 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 LEGENDS, PAST & PRESENT

eileen moon 021814Eileen Moon at the Red Bank Public Library, built in the former home of ‘legendary’ industrialist Sigmund Eisner. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

Legendary LocalsIn Eileen Moon’s eyes, “personality drives progress.” And as the author of “Legendary Locals of Red Bank,” a newly published book of historical and contemporary profiles, Moon encountered personality galore.

People like Sigmund Eisner, for example, an immigrant who, starting with a single sewing machine, not only built the nation’s largest uniform factory, but helped his employees buy homes, cementing a sense of community.

“It takes a strong personality, and a vision, and a risk-taker sometimes, to change what is into some new evolution of that,” says Moon.

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RED BANK: LIBRARY LAUNCHES FUND DRIVE

grandits primavera 111213audrey oldoerp 111213 3Dozens of supporters of the Red Bank Public Library – including children’s authors John Grandits and Elise Primavera, above turned out Tuesday night for a wine-and-cheeser to launch the Foundation for the Red Bank Public Library, an initiative to secure big-dollar support for the facility, which was once the home of uniform manufacturer Sigmund Eisner.

“The Eisners must have entertained a lot here,” said library board member Audrey Oldoerp, at right, “because this place was made for partying.” (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

RED BANK: BOTTLING THE MAGIC OF HISTORY

A poster from Glenn Vogel’s collection of Red Bank memorabilia on display at the borough library. Below, Vogel inspects a bottle brought to the library  by Ron Costa, who found it in the Navesink River.  (Photos by Sarah Klepner. Click to enlarge)

By SARAH KLEPNER

One man’s obsession is Red Bank’s history – and it’s on display at the Eisner Memorial Library through the end of the year.

Glenn Vogel discovered that history is literally underfoot in 1980 when a fellow road builder at the Fort Monmouth section of Naval Station Earle suggested they check out the woods on a lunch break.

“He was getting stuff out of the ground, and he handed me a Red Bank bottle,” said Vogel, who was living in the borough at the time. “That intrigued me very much.”

It was the beginning of Vogel’s odyssey.

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RED BANK: LIVING SHORELINE WINS REPRIEVE

The crumbling library bulkhead, above right, abuts that of the Corinthian Cove condos, at left. Below, resident Tom Labetti of Elm Place makes a point during the public hearing. (Photos by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By SARAH KLEPNER

The tide turned abruptly on the Red Bank Eisner Memorial Library bulkhead issue Wednesday.

A $600,000 bond ordinance to pay for a new bulkhead at the site, and one at another Navesink River property, was tabled at the eleventh hour, after having appeared headed to certain approval.

The tabling followed defections by two councilmembers, Kathy Horgan and Ed Zipprich, who said they would side with environmentalists and residents who called for a “living,” or structure-free, shoreline.

“I think we need to explore the issue more,” Horgan said. “During the superstorm, any living shoreline had very little damage and self-repaired itself very quickly.” She also noted that  the Stevens Institute of Technology and the American Littoral Society had previously offered to create the natural shoreline, at no cost to the borough.

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BIG WEEKEND FOR FIRE BUFFS


Liberty Hose Company’s first motorized fire truck debuted in the 1910s. (Click to enlarge) 

By STACIE FANELLI

When the Navesink Hook & Ladder Company Number 1 formed in 1872, fire hydrants were a distant dream. Red Bankers were at the mercy of a “bucket brigade,” an alternating chain of residents who would pass buckets of water hand-to-hand from the nearest water source to the burning building.

Marking 140 years since those days, the Red Bank Public Library will pay tribute to the Red Bank Volunteer Fire Department’s storied history Saturday by opening its memorabilia and photo exhibit to the public.

And on Sunday, the department will host its annual fire safety expo Sunday in the White Street parking lot

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