SAFETY PUSH MAKES IT TO MASTER PLAN

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

bicyclist1Red Bank’s team of two-wheeled street safety activists earned a small victory Monday night in their effort to make borough paths safer and more accessible to bicyclists and pedestrians.

As anticipated, the borough planning board voted to incorporate a lengthy bike and pedestrian safety report and recommendations into Red Bank’s Master Plan, the principle guiding document for development in town.

With the addition of the “Red Bank Bicycle/Pedestrian Planning Project” report, the group’s vision of shared streets and consideration of walkers and non-vehicular riders in future planning is coming into focus.

“We’re hoping (Red Bank) is safer and more community friendly,” said Jenny Rossano, one of the founders of Safe Routes Red Bank, whose members pulled in a non-cash grant to prepare the 106-page report. “We’re hoping people will walk and bike more, and that makes a community better.”

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BIKE AND PED SAFETY PLAN ROLLS ON

willis-rossanoJenny Rossano reviews the soon-to-be-adopted bike and pedestrian plan in Red Bank, while Jim Willis, in the background, views it on an iPad. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

When a group of residents banded together almost two years ago to make Red Bank’s streets safer for pedestrians and bicyclists, there were never any notions it’d be a fast-moving process. Compiling data, analyzing studies and working with local and state government simply don’t lend themselves to timeliness.

But in the long-distance course to effect change, a grassroots group made a leap forward Monday night when it all but secured adoption from the borough planning board of a 100-plus page report on bike and walker safety, including a multitude of recommendations on how to improve the way of life of those on two legs and two wheels.

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RUBBER STAMP NO.1: BON JOVIAL MEALS

A promo video for Soul Kitchen.

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Plans by Jon Bon Jovi’s Soul Foundation to open a freestanding pay-what-you can community restaurant in Red Bank sailed to approval Monday night, when the borough’s planning board all but rolled out the red carpet for the high-profile rocker’s team of engineers, attorneys and architects.

The OK clears the way for the non-profit Soul Kitchen, the community-minded project led by the pop star’s wife, Dorothea, to break ground on renovations to the three-bay former repair shop near the western end of Monmouth Street.

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RUBBER STAMP NO. 2: BASIE AL FRESCO

basie-plansCount Basie Theatre’s Executive Director Numa Saisselin at Monday night’s planning board meeting. Below, a rendering of the patio addition. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

basie-patioThe Count Basie Theatre‘s latest installment in a multi-year, multi-million dollar enhancement got the green light from Red Bank’s planning board Monday night.

Pending the acquisition of two lots previously on loan from theater pals Friends of The Basie, the landmark venue will pour concrete on a vacant swath of dirt and gravel to create an open-air mingling area for shows, plus parking spots for tour buses, freeing up coveted street space for guests.

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RUBBER STAMP NO. 3: SUSHI SPREAD

irving-chenBy DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Fans of Red Bank’s only spot for brown rice sushi are about to get some elbow room.

Sogo Sushi, a takeout restaurant with just two tiny tables in its Monmouth Street space, is planning to bust through an interior wall to make room for seating and an expansion to the menu.

On Monday night, owner Irving Chen (right) won borough planning board approval for the plan.

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BON JOVI FINDS NEW KITCHEN SPACE IN RB

soul-kitchenPlans for Jon Bon Jovi’s Soul Kitchen will keep the bay doors for now. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Bon Jovi’s Soul Kitchen has found itself a new home in Red Bank. It just needs a thumbs-up from the borough to fire up the grill.

The mega-star and super-philanthropic Middletown resident’s non-profit, the JBJ Soul Foundation, has filed plans with the borough’s planning and zoning office to move into a former auto repair shop on Monmouth Street, just west of the train tracks.

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RBC RAISES KICK-IN ON BASIE FIELDS UPKEEP

count-basie-fieldsRed Bank Catholic will pay more for its use of Count Basie Fields to help defray the cost of the turf upgrades. (Click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Red Bank Catholic‘s rent is going up.

The borough council Wednesday night voted to amend the parochial school’s annual lease of Count Basie Fields in order to help cover the $878,000 cost of a recent artificial turf job. Most of the cost — $537,500 — was covered by two grants, said borough Administrator Stanley Sickels said.

RBC will now pay $80,000 a year for use of the fields for the next 15 years, up from $55,000. It will also contribute $50,000 a year over the next three years into the field’s capital improvement fund, Sickels said.

Here’s the resolution on the agreement: 10-255draftresolution

Here’s a rundown of other happenings from Wednesday night’s council meeting:
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BLUE WATER SWIMS TO BROAD STREET OK

9-broadBlue Water Seafood won approval from the planning board to move into Red Bank Monday night. (Click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Jimmy Vastardis says he’s always wanted to own a business in Red Bank, and, in fact, made an attempt in 2008 to move into the space once home to Ashes Cigar Club.

Looks like he’s finally coming to town.

Vastardis, of Holmdel, breezed through a hearing before the planning board for a list of variances Monday night, clearing the way for him to open Blue Water Seafood restaurant in the heart of downtown.

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BOARD KICKS SANDWICH SIGNS TO THE CURB

sandwich-board3Sandwich board signs have made recent appearances on Red Bank’s streets despite being prohibited under current borough law. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

If Red Bank businesses are allowed to put sandwich board signs on their sidewalks this year, it won’t happen with the support of the borough’s planning board.

Rejecting, by a 4-1 vote, a recent proposal by the council to revive an old ordinance that permitted the signs outside stores and restaurants boroughwide, board members said the move is in conflict with the objectives of the town’s master plan and would impede pedestrian traffic and accessibility.

“I don’t think it really conforms to our master plan, and I think it would be more of a public hazard than public good,” acting chairman Guy Maratta said.

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ITALIAN EATERY TO SET UP AT GATEWAY SITE

myitalian032410A take-out and sit down restaurant called My Italian Kitchen will set up shop in the former Key Motors garage at Broad Street and Maple Avenue.

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Looks like a new restaurant is coming to Red Bank. And, no, it’s not a pizza place.

Still, by this time next year, foodies should be able to add My Italian Kitchen to the list of Italian joints saturating Red Bank.

To members of the planning board, which gladly approved the restaurant’s application Monday night, the transformation of one of the most prominent pieces of real estate in town — at its southern gateway, at the corner of Broad Street and Maple Avenue — is a positive move.

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