RED BANK: ROBOCALLER DIALS UP TENSION

By JOHN T. WARD

A Red Bank man who tried to rally last-minute opposition to a bond vote engaged elected officials in a tense exchange over taxes and debt Wednesday night, but got no vocal backing from the audience.

Sean Di Somma, 31, of Morford Place, had robocalled an unspecified number of residents just hours before the bimonthly borough council meeting with a pre-recorded message warning that the governing body was about to “ram through” a $500,000 bond ordinance “to continue their own reckless and out-of-control spending.”

Di Somma did not speak during the public comment session prior to the vote on the bond, which won unanimous approval. Afterward, though, he engaged in an increasingly sharp exchange with Councilman Mike DuPont, each interrupting and telling the other to “hold on.”

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RED BANK: THE DOG NIGHTS OF SUMMER?

Dogs at last month’s Red Bank Street Fair. Mayor Pasquale Menna says he’s working on a recurring dog-friendly event for this summer.  (Click to enlarge)

By WIL FULTON

Red Bank’s elected officials had canines on the brain Wednesday night, as dog-related issues came up several times during the course of the bimonthly council meeting.

Mayor Pasquale Menna said that he and Councilwoman Sharon Lee had recently attended a meeting at Red Bank Veterinary Hospital to plan an event he referred to as the “Dog Days of Summer in Red Bank,” a creative endeavor looking to pair downtown nightlife and dog-friendly activities.

“I consider it a very cool, progressive idea, based somewhat off the European model of including pets in life,” Menna said.

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MORE TEETH SOUGHT IN CRUELTY LAWS

By WIL FULTON

Animal cruelty stands as one of the sad realities of life. Every day, our televisions, news sites, and social media feeds carry images and stories of animal neglect, abuse and abandonment. Last week, redbankgreen reported on puppies suspected of having been dumped in Shrewsbury, no owner in sight.

Red Bank’s mayor and council think offenders of cruelty prevention laws need to hear a stronger message of condemnation. Last week, they endorsed a resolution that asks state legislators to rachet up the penalties for those convicted of animal cruelty.

“Unfortunately we live in a society that is showing a great deal of insensitivity for those who don’t have a voice for themselves,” said Mayor Pasquale Menna. “We have regulations and laws in place, but I think that, frankly, the time has come for our legislators in Trenton to look at those bills that deal with cases and incidents of animal cruelty, and ask that they be upgraded.”

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RED BANK MAY MANDATE GAS-PUMP BACKUPS

By JOE FISHER

With long lines of motorists and generator owners searching for gasoline in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy still a fresh memory, Red Bank officials are taking steps to require filling stations in the borough be equipped with a backup energy source for the next big blackout.

At Wednesday’s borough council meeting, Mayor Pat Menna recommended amending  licensing requirements to mandate that stations have a backup power source by January 1, 2016.

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MENNA DROPS SUPPORT FOR MENU CALORIES

Less than two days after endorsing a nascent plan to require Red Bank restaurants to list calorie totals for menu items, Mayor Pasquale Menna has withdrawn his support.

In a press release issued late Friday afternoon, Menna cited resistance by restaurateurs as the reason he no longer favors the idea.

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RED BANK COPS HALT GAS VALVE WORK

An NJNG crew packs it in after being ordered by police to stop work on a nearly completed gas regulator valve replacement on Monmouth Street Friday morning. (Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

The dispute over natural gas valves in downtown Red Bank grew more heated Friday morning, as Mayor Pasquale Menna directed the police chief to pull cops off traffic duty at New Jersey Natural Gas worksites and to order the construction halted.

Menna and downtown business interests, already blowing a gasket over what they have termed the company’s “medieval,” “spiteful” and “arrogant” displays of power, said NJNG has visibly ramped up its efforts to move gas valves from sub-sidewalk pits to above-ground spots adjacent to storefronts. And it is doing so without obtaining necessary construction permits, they said.

Based on that failure, Menna said he consulted with borough Attorney Dan O’Hern before asking police Chief Steve McCarthy to yank officers from site work and to have cops order the workers to pack it in.

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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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RENTERS MAY FACE FULL CPI INCREASES

By JOHN T. WARD

After three decades getting a discount, Red Bank tenants could have to pick up full cost-of-living increases starting later this year.

The borough council introduced an ordinance change Wednesday night that would allow landlords to increase rents by the full amount of the Consumer Price Index published by the federal Labor Department.

Since as far back as 1978 or even earlier, local increases have been capped at 60 percent of the CPI rise when a tenant pays for heat, and 80 percent when the landlord does.

The reason for the change, said Mayor Pasquale Menna, is that no one can remember the rationale for the discount, and no paper trail for it exists, leaving it open to a lawsuit.

“If it were challenged, we would not prevail,” said Menna, an attorney who made his political bones as a tenants’ advocate in the early 1980s. “It’s defective.”

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PITCHFORKS OUT OVER COMMUNITY GARDEN

With organizer Cindy Burnham holding up a photo, Annie Jones argues for allowing residents to garden a 900-square-foot strip of borough property at Maple Cove. (Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

Community garden proponents assailed the Red Bank council Wednesday night for what they termed its “because-I-said-so” opposition to the creation of a farm plot at a borough-owned Navesink River site.

Revisiting the council’s 2011 rejection of a proposal for a pilot garden behind the borough library parking lot on West Front Street, residents challenged elected officials to articulate their opposition to the plan, and left as frustrated as they were going in.

“What we have a hard time understanding is that we haven’t really heard a good reason why not,” Locust Avenue’s Kathleen Gasenica told the governing body.

“It’s very simple,” replied borough Administrator Stanley Sickels. “The council doesn’t share your vision for a garden there.”

“That doesn’t really answer the question,” Gasenica said.

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RUMSON ALSO LIKELY TO SCRUB FIREWORKS

Scenes from the 2011 Rumson fireworks show, which was synched up with the Red Bank display upriver. (Photos by Dustin Racioppi. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

As go Red Bank’s Independence Day fireworks, so go Rumson’s.

For five years, the two towns put on simultaneous, mirror-image fireworks displays just miles apart on the Navesink River.

But the decision announced Wednesday by the KaBoom Fireworks organizing committee to shelve the Red Bank show in all likelihood means there also will be no fireworks anchored around the Oceanic Bridge between Rumson and Middletown this year, Rumson Mayor John Ekdahl tells redbankgreen.

“We’re probably not going to be able to go ahead,” he said.

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RED BANK FIREWORKS CANCELLED; SECURITY COSTS, INADEQUATE PUBLIC FUNDING CITED

Scenes from the 2011 fireworks show, when police presence was ramped up following widespread brawling and drunkeness in 2010. (Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

Red Bank’s largest public event, the annual KaBoom Fireworks show, is off for 2012 and facing steep barriers to a return, organizers said Wednesday morning.

The nonprofit show’s executive committee, after several months of mulling, concluded about a week ago that the costs and challenges of staging the event, which draws an estimated 100,000 visitors to the borough each July 3, could not be met this year, chairman Tim Hogan told redbankgreen.

“It was a victim of its own success,” Hogan said, with increasingly bigger crowds  drawn to what was billed as the fourth-largest Independence Day fireworks celebration in America in terms of the number and size of shells lofted into the sky above the Navesink River.

“It was a big event,” he said. “It was a challenge to control the crowd and make sure we were providing security to the folks who came.”

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LOCAL POLS SPAR OVER CHRISTIE REMARK

Menna, below, calls Christie’s “going down” remark “classless.”

Was Governor Chris Christie making an allusion to oral sex when he sharply responded to protesters at a campaign rally for Mitt Romney in New Hampshire Monday? Or are his critics reading too much into his words?

On his Facebook page, Red Bank Mayor Pasquale Menna, a Democrat, calls Christie’s use of the term “going down” “crass and sexist.”

But at least two Republican friends of the mayor – Fair Haven Mayor Mike Halfacre and former Red Bank Councilwoman Grace Cangemi – take issue with that assessment in comments posted below Menna’s.

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MENNA: GROWING NONPROFITS HURT TOWN

Mayor Pasquale Menna says the loss of taxable property to nonprofits is an unfair burden on taxpayers in regional centers like Red Bank. (Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

It’s become a familiar refrain of Red Bank officials: the borough is choking on nonprofits that provide services to a wide swath of Monmouth County’s citizenry but return nothing to the town’s coffers.

For all the societal good they do, a sprawling medical center, various churches and other do-good institutions occupy land that might otherwise generate tax revenue – and they increase the load carried by borough taxpayers each time they expand, says Mayor Pasquale Menna.

“Our residents have to pay for the deficiency,” he said. “That societal good is borne by those who are the least able to pay for it.”

Menna says that this year, he’ll be dialing up efforts to address what he considers a fundamental unfairness. But having gotten nowhere with earlier efforts, he’s retooled, and is now pitching a provocative idea: Make nonprofits pay when they acquire property now on the tax rolls.

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MENNA DECLARES STATE OF EMERGENCY

just_in1Red Bank Mayor Pasquale Menna issued the following statement shortly after noon Friday:

A Declaration of Emergency is in place in Red Bank.  You will be receiving recorded telephone notifications on our reverse 911 system on your phone and email if you are signed up with our web notification alert.

Residents should prepare by stocking up on essentials at home and avoid any non essential or unnecessary travel.  Outside furniture should be secured.  All shrubbery and limbs left at curbside shall be removed from curbside and placed on private laws and property prior to 6 PM Friday.  Such items in a storm are carried in the storm water basins and clog the system that in turn makes flooding worse.

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SEAFOOD RESTAURANT EYES BROAD STREET

zaksonsBlue Water Seafood hopes to open in the space being vacated by Zakon’s Fine Furniture. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi. Click to enlarge)

just_in1Three days after the Red Bank borough council initiated plans to make it easier for parking-deficient businesses to open in town, an East Brunswick-based seafood restaurant has landed on the planning board agenda with a proposal to open on Broad Street.

Blue Water Seafood, which had previously hoped to take over the space occupied by Ashes Cigar Club before a deal fell apart earlier this year, is now hoping to open at 9 Broad, according to plans filed with the borough planning office.

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CANDIDATES’ FORUM RETURNS

election_2010_header4

Will this year’s sleepy election contest for Red Bank mayor and two council seats finally stir to life?

It will get its best chance Wednesday night, when the West Side Community Group holds its fourteenth annual candidates’ night at River Street Commons.

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SECOND BOARD REJECTS Y EXPANSION PLAN

menna-goldinMayor Pasquale Menna listens as Marvin Goldin of Temple Beth Shalom asks the planning board to reject the YMCA zoning request. (Click to enlarge)

Six weeks after a proposal to expand the Community YMCA facility came up one vote short at the Red Bank zoning board, an attempt to get the idea back on track ran into a brick wall at the planning board Monday night.

The outcome left Mayor Pasquale Menna isolated by two boards over which he has appointment control. Seven planning board members voted in favor of a resolution finding the Y plan not to be in conformance with the goals of the borough’s Master Plan. Menna alone voted ‘no’ on the measure.

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CORZINE TO RB DEMS: SORRY, NO SEATS LEFT

corzine-mennaRed Bank Mayor Pasquale Menna holds a chair for Gov. Jon Corzine prior to a radio interview at the KaBoom Fireworks on July 3. The Corzine campaign did not return the favor.

It’s official. The most reliable bloc of Democratic voters in Monmouth County has been shut out of their party’s biggest-ever event hereabouts: today’s scheduled appearance by resident Obama at the PNC Arts Center in Holmdel.

And the snub comes from the re-election campaign of Gov. Jon Corzine, who was feted and fawned over by the party faithful twice in recent weeks.

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