RED BANK: COUNCIL DROPS REVERSE APPEALS

red bank nj oceanfirst hqThe OceanFirst Bank headquarters was the subject of a reverse appeal case settled Wednesday. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)

By JOHN T. WARD

hot topic red bank njBombarded by criticism from the business community, the Red Bank council on Wednesday dropped a plan to pursue a new round of  “reverse appeals” against commercial properties it believed to be undertaxed.

But first, the council approved the settlement of an older reverse appeal that will boost the taxable value of a downtown building by 69 percent over three years. And battles over cases filed in 2018 continue.

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RED BANK: ‘REVERSE’ TAX APPEALS ON AGENDA

8 east front st. red bank njA law firm hired by the borough says 8 East Front Street, which sold last year for $5.68 million, is improperly assessed at just under $3 million. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)

By JOHN T. WARD

red bank taxesA year after authorizing a law firm to go after owners of properties believed to be undertaxed, the Red Bank council is expected to renew its “aggressive” approach this week.
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FAIR HAVEN: HOUSING PLAN DRAWS FIRE

fair haven nj fair share housing overlay A new overlay zone centered on the western business district would encourage development of low- and moderate-income housing, officials said. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)

By JOHN T. WARD

hot topic red bank njFair Haven residents packed a hearing on zoning changes written to show “the right gestures” toward providing 370 new homes for low- and moderate-income earners Tuesday night.

But the planning board board’s determination to immediately vote on a complex proposal it had just unveiled irked many who sat through the three-hour session as much as the substance of the changes.

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SHREWSBURY: PANTER CLAIMS WIN v. O’REILLY

By JOHN T. WARD

shrewsbury, nj, mike panter, michael panterA Shrewsbury man claimed victory Tuesday in a yearlong legal standoff with former Fox News star Bill O’Reilly.

Former New Jersey Assemblyman Mike Panter, right, said O’Reilly dropped a $5 million defamation suit he’d filed over a Facebook post in which Panter recounted an ex-girlfriend’s allegations of sexual harassment by the combative TV host.

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RED BANK: COURT NIXES TAX ACTION

The borough’s attempt to revoke Riverview’s tax exemption for two years amounted to a “fishing expedition” in search of justification, the court ruled.  (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)

By JOHN T. WARD

Red Bank can’t retroactively revoke the tax-exemption for Riverview Medical Center, New Jersey’s tax court ruled last week.

In attempting to do so, the borough was improperly hoping that a “fishing expedition” in the form of legal action would turn up evidence that the hospital, owned by Hackensack Meridian Health, was being used as a for-profit facility, the court ruled. Read More »

RED BANK: COUNCIL OKS ‘REVERSE’ APPEALS

Mayor Pasquale Menna shows off the 1925 and 1926 tax bills for a Red Bank property during Wednesday’s council meeting. How much were they? Read on. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)

By JOHN T. WARD

The borough of Red Bank, hammered in recent years by tax appeals, is going “aggressive” at the urging of Mayor Pasquale Menna.

At its semimonthly meeting Wednesday night, the council approved hiring a law firm to sue commercial property owners whose assessments appear to be low relative to the real estate market.

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RED BANK: EX-REC HEAD ALLEGES RACISM

memone-kidsMemone Crystian with Red Bank Little Leaguers in 2010. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi. Click to enlarge.)

By JOHN T. WARD

A former director of Red Bank’s parks and rec department is suing the borough and former officials, alleging she was forced out of the job by racism and gender discrimination.

Memone Crystian quit the position in May, 2015, “after years of being subjected to a hostile work environment” that included discrimination by then-borough Administrator Stanley Sickels and then-councilman Art Murphy, the suit alleges.

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SHREWSBURY: BILL O’REILLY SUES PANTER

Bill O’Reilly has filed a lawsuit against former New Jersey Assembly member Michael Panter, who claimed in a Facebook post earlier this week that the former Fox New star sexually harassed Panter’s ex-girlfriend, according to Bloomberg News.

Panter, of Shrewsbury, told redbankgreen by email early Saturday that he had not read the Bloomberg report, and referred to a statement posted Friday on his Facebook page, in which he said he was “speaking the truth,” and expects his account to be “fully corroborated.”

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RUMSON: POLICE FACE ‘WHISTLEBLOWER’ SUIT


rumson-pd
Sergeant Peter Koenig’s lawsuit alleges he blew a whistle on department wrongdoing, but doesn’t disclose the wrongdoing itself. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

HOT-TOPIC_03A Rumon police officer has sued the department and the borough, claiming he faced retaliation for blowing the whistle on undisclosed wrongdoing, according to a report by the Two River Times.

In a lawsuit filed in Superior Court in Freehold in June, Sergeant Peter Koenig alleged he faced a “a hostile work environment” after “calling attention to what he said was improper behavior from his fellow officers,” the TRT reported Thursday, citing court documents.

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LITTLE SILVER: HARASSMENT SUIT COST $290K

carolyn kossack 090612Superintendent Carolyn Kossack, seen here in 2012.  (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

HOT-TOPIC_03lawsuit that accused Little Silver’s school superintendent of same-sex sexual harassment was settled for $290,000, a website focused on government settlements reported Monday.

The case, which also alleged wrongful termination, was resolved last November, but its monetary details were not previously disclosed.

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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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LITTLE SILVER: HARRASSMENT SUIT SETTLED

carolyn kossack 090612Superintendent Carolyn Kossack, seen here in 2012.  (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

HOT-TOPIC_03The Little Silver Board of Education has approved a proposed settlement of a lawsuit against Superintendent Carolyn Kossack alleging same-sex sexual harassment and wrongful termination.

The case involved allegations by JoAnn Riley, of Edison, who claimed she was just four months into her job as a $105,000-a-year special services supervisor when she was abruptly fired.

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RUMSON: FIRED COP SUES TO GET JOB BACK

rb crash 092114Damien Brennan’s vehicle after the September 21, 2014 crash in Red Bank. (Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

HOT-TOPIC_02A former Rumson cop who crashed his personal vehicle into the back of a Red Bank store while enroute to his moonlight gig guarding Bruce Springsteen’s mansion has sued for reinstatement, according to a lawsuit.

Sergeant Damien Brennan, 38, of Howell, was axed from his borough job last month, even though a DWI charge against him had been dropped, according to the suit, first reported by More Monmouth Musings.

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7-ELEVEN SETTLEMENT GETS QUICK CHECKOUT

A lawyer for the planned 7-Eleven said signage lighting would be turned off, and other lighting would be reduced to the minimum needed for security, during the hours when the store is closed. (Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

Ending months of wrangling and litigation in just 35 minutes, Red Bank’s planning board approved the conversion of the Welsh Farms convenience store on East Front Street to a 7-Eleven Monday night.

Not your typical 7-Eleven, though. While the parent corporation usually insists its franchisees keep their stores open 24 hours a day, it’s making an exception in this case, agreeing to limit the shop’s hours of operation to 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. That’s unusual, said lawyer Philip San Filippo, representing Welsh Farms owner Dina Enterprises.

“In my experience, 7-Eleven will not agree to anything less than 24 hours,” but was allowing it at this location out of a desire to be “a good neighbor” and comply with local laws, he told redbankgreen after the hearing.

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AS EXPECTED, WELSH FARMS HEADS TO COURT

The owner of the store had sought a variance for an expansion and signage, but was derailed by a last-minute change in the noise ordinance.  (Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

The Red Bank planning board’s rejection of a proposal to turn a Welsh Farms convenience store into a 24-hour 7-Eleven has triggered a lawsuit.

Dina Enterprises, owner of the East Front Street store, filed suit in state Superior Court in Freehold August 8, claiming the board kowtowed to public opposition and exercised “palpable abuse of its discretionary authority” in rejecting an expansion variance in May.

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HOTEL LAWSUIT III: THIS TIME, IT’S PERSONAL

Lawyer Ron Gasiorowski clashing with Councilman Mike DuPont last week, above, and relaxing at Zebu Forno on Monday. (Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

As an attorney, Ron Gasiorowski is used to verbal conflict. It’s inherent in the adversarial work of representing a client’s interests against someone who’s doing the same.

But as he prepares to file his third lawsuit against Red Bank over a proposed Hampton Inn, Gasiorowski is stewing over the reception he got when he appeared before the borough council last Wednesday.

Not the way he was treated by borough Attorney Dan O’Hern, who challenged him on procedural points at nearly every turn, but did so respectfully, Gasiorowski told redbankgreen last week. And likewise not by Mayor Pasquale Menna, who despite his resistance to Gasiorowski’s point of view, “is always a gentleman,” he said.

No, Gasiorowski said, he was put out by the the third lawyer up on the dais: Councilman Mike DuPont.

“In 40 years of practicing law, that was the most unprofessional and rudest I’ve ever been treated,” said Gasiorowski, a 71-year-old former Marine captain.

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LAWYERS SQUARE OFF OVER 24/7 7-ELEVEN

The Welsh Farms store on East Front Street, site of a planned 7-Eleven, would be banned from opening all night under a law passed Wednesday night. (Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

In a contentious exchange that appeared to foreshadow a lawsuit to come, a lawyer for a Red Bank convenience store challenged the rationale for a new local law that banned all-night businesses Wednesday night.

Squaring off against three lawyers sitting on the council dais, store attorney Philip San Filippo said a revision to a noise ordinance passed by the governing body just moments later was overly broad in scope and designed solely to torpedo his client’s plans, now pending at the borough planning board, to convert the store to a 24-hour 7-Eleven.

The law, cast as an amendment to a noise ordinance, was “absolutely” designed with his client’s plans in mind, San Filippo told reporters afterward.

“It absolutely was not,” insisted Councilman Mike DuPont, even as he touted the hastily enacted law as a “creative” response to a problem.

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QUESTIONS RAISED ABOUT HOTEL LAWSUIT

hampton-inn-siteA borough resident has filed suit to stop a six-story, 72-room hotel from being built on Route 35 at the Cooper Bridge. (Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

Is someone lurking in the shadows of the legal challenge to the proposed Red Bank Hampton Inn?

Marty McGann, the lawyer for the hotel’s developer, Rbank Capital LLC, effectively raised the question Monday night, when he asked whether borough resident Stephen Mitchell, who has filed a state Superior Court lawsuit to derail planning board hearings on the proposal, had ties to another hotel or the lodging industry.

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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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RIVERVIEW GETS PASS ON KIDNEY-STONE SUIT

hot-topic left smallNew Jersey’s state appeals court has upheld the dismissal of a lawsuit brought by a back-injury patient who claimed doctors at Riverview Medical Center failed to inform him of x-rays showing he also had a large kidney stone.

In its decision of last Thursday, the Appellate Division ruled that a Superior Court judge was correct to dismiss a medical negligence claim by John Cifaretto, who underwent a series of treatments for the stone and claimed he suffered permanent kidney damage.

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GADFLIES CHALLENGE YMCA SETTLEMENT

bill-meyerThe Red Bank council took heat over the deal from lawyer Bill Meyer. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Red Bank’s litigation with the Community YMCA is near an end, but Mayor Pasquale thinks borough officials may not be finished making trips to Superior Court in Freehold.

After a three-hour meeting that included nearly two hours of grilling by local watchdogs, the council passed a resolution approving a settlement that allows the nonprofit to sell the former borough police state at 51 Monmouth Street to its neighbor, St. James RC Church/Red Bank Catholic High School. The settlement puts to rest the second of two suits that had pitted the Y against the borough.

But comments from the public suggest Red Bank may be in for more legal work.

“I think there’s going to be a challenge to our action,” Menna told redbankgreen afterward.

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LAWSUIT TO COST BOROUGH $125,000

51-monmouthThe former police station, with the Relief Engine Company firehouse attached at right, is on both state and national registers of historic places. (Click to enlarge)

Public comment on a proposed settlement of a long-simmering dispute over the former Red Bank police station was temporarily halted Wednesday night after a resident questioned whether the issue had been properly advertised.

But not before borough officials outlined the terms of the deal with the Community YMCA that will cost borough taxpayers $125,000 over five years — and not before residents began castigating it as a no-win deal for the town.

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YMCA GETS OK FOR SHRUNKEN PLAN

harrisonCongregation Beth Shalom, led by Rabbi Dovid Harrison, won concessions from the Community YMCA. An architectural plan, below, shows the south face of the proposed remodeling (top) and east facade along Maple Avenue. (Click to enlarge.)

elevationsAfter months of contentious hearings that prompted a lawsuit against the Borough of Red Bank, the Community YMCA finally won approval to increase the size of its 40-year-old Maple Avenue health facility.

After a four-and-a-half hour hearing that was light on objections from the public, all seven members of the zoning board voted to approve the plan, which would increase the size of the facility by 56 percent, to 86,000 square feet.

It would also, for the first time, allow traffic to exit the facility directly onto busy Maple Avenue, which doubles as state Highway 35.

But not on the Sabbath.

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