SICK OF WINTER? TAKE A PHIL PILL

pux_2010Punxsutawney Phil’s yearly debut, as reimagined at a spot along the Middletown side of the Navesink River at McClee’s Creek.

It’s a pretty good bet that Punxsutawney Phil won’t see his shadow Wednesday morning.

According to Groundhog Day lore, the failure of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania’s most famous resident to see his own shadow on February 2 presages an early spring.

A shadow-spotting seemed unlikely as of 5a. It was rainy and misty out there in west central Pee Ay, with an outlook for rain, snow showers and freezing rain, according to the National Weather Service.

An early spring would certainly be welcome in the snow-and-ice-bound Red Bank region, where today’s forecast is also dim and damp, if not as cold.

Temperatures are expected to rise above freezing by 9a, but as we write this, streets and sidewalks are crusted with a dangerous layer of ice, and a freezing rain advisory is in place until at least 8a.

Here’s the forecast for our area:

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RED BANK MAN COPS TO TWO BANK JOBS

call-in-the-authoritiesA Red Bank man admitted in federal court in Trenton Monday that he robbed a Fair Haven bank last August and another one a week later in Cranford.

Wilfred A. Dunn Jr., no address given, faces up to 20 years for each robbery, according to documents filed in connection with the plea.

According to an FBI agent’s statement in court records, Dunn entered a TD Bank branch on River Road in Fair Haven last August 20 and passed a teller a note that said, “I have a loaded gun in my bag. Just give me the money and nobody gets hurt. 20s, 50s and 100s.”

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IDINA MENZEL, MARVIN HAMLISCH AT BASIE

idinamenzelSuperstar stage and screen diva Idina Menzel returns to Red Bank Thursday with no less than Marvin Hamlisch at the podium as guest conductor of the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra.

By TOM CHESEK

Most actors, singers or combinations thereof would be very thankful to have latched on to even one genuinely fan-supercharged, multi-generational, cross-cultural pop phenomenon in their professional lifetimes. Idina Menzel has been a big part of three such phenoms — and the general consensus is that she’s only just begun.

When the recently minted stage superstar, who painted herself a minty green for her Tony-winning turn as Elphaba in Wicked, returns to the boards of the Count Basie Theatre Thursday night, she’ll be bringing it big-time for local Rentheads (she originated the role of Maureen in the modern musical smash), Gleeks (she’s co-starred in the recurring role of Shelby Corcoran on the hitmaking Fox TV series), and whatever it is that fans of Wicked call themselves these days (Elphicionados?).

The native Long Islander and hardworking mom (she and co-RENTer husband Taye Diggs have an infant son) will also be bringing along an extra special treat — Marvin Hamlisch, the EGOT winner (Emmy-Grammy-Oscar-Tony, that is; not to mention two Golden Globes and one Pulitzer Prize) who’s scored about as many golden trophies as he has movies, TV specials and Broadway musicals. The maestro will be wielding the baton as guest conductor of the mighty New Jersey Symphony Orchestra for an 8p set of songs written or otherwise “owned” by the star singer, from stage/screen signatures to material from her 2008 CD I Stand.

The celebs desk at redbankgreen talked to Menzel on the eve of her east coast jaunt. A half-dozen or so Q’s and A’s follow.

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ANOTHER STORM DAMPENS BUSINESS

broadFew pedestrians were out on Broad Street in downtown Red Bank late Wednesday morning. (Click to enlarge)

Not to belabor the obvious, but the snowy winter of 2010-’11 is putting a tight squeeze on Red Bank stores and restaurants, owners say.

“It’s killing us,” says Gary Sable, of That Hot Dog Place on Monmouth Street. Motioning to the municipal parking lot on White Street, he says” “Look, it’s empty.”

Empty of everything but white stuff, that is. And the outlook is for more than previously expected.

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TRIPLE DIP FOR THE EPIPHANY

orthodox-2orthodox-3Congregants of St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church held their annual celebration of the Epiphany Wednesday, when three of them jumped into the Navesink River at Oyster Point. The event was moved from its customary site at Maple Cove because of an excess of goose droppings, a church official said. (Click to enlarge)

REPORT: BECK TO WED RESTAURATEUR

beck1Twelfth-district state Senator Jen Beck is getting remarried, according to a report by the Auditor in Sunday’s Star-Ledger.

The anonymous columnist reports that he or she “noticed colleagues admiring the diamond sparkler on [Beck’s] left hand after the State of the State address Tuesday.”

Beck told the Sledger that her fiancé, restaurateur Dan Shields, proposed in October, and that the couple have kept their engagement “low-key.”

A 44-year-old Republican, Beck lives in Red Bank with her dog, Scout, according to her online bio. She served two terms on the borough council before winning a seat in the state Assembly in 2005. Two years later, she won the 12th-district spot in the state Senate.

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WHAT TO DO IN WINTER? ROW, OF COURSE

nirSalvador Tecalero, in the foreground, is one of more than 60 members of Navesink Indoor Rowing. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

John Crilly made a bold move four years ago. He had a vision, one that was put into focus by his rowing students at Navesink River Rowing, a goal Crilly felt he needed to realize.

“They came up to me and said, ‘Mr. Crilly, what are we going to do in the wintertime, because we want to be competitive in the spring?'” he said.

That’s where the bold move came in. Crilly owned an ergonomic rowing machine, but having students take turns on it wasn’t going to work.

“I went to my wife and asked her if it’d be OK if we could tap into the home equity to buy five more,” he said.

In the first year of Navesink Indoor Rowing, Crilly worked with a dozen students using the six machines. Today, the club has some two dozen machines utilized by more than 60 members from all over Monmouth and Ocean counties — most of them high school kids, but with a strong adult contingent mixed in. Crilly says it’s the only indoor rowing club in the area he’s aware of.

And he’s still got a home.

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RED BANK’S LATEST RUSH: CUPCAKES

sugarush guys 2011Jesse Bello-Paseka, left, and Chris Paseka opened the doors to Sugarush just after Christmas on East Front Street. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

rcsm2_010508For years, it was a joke among friends that Jesse Bello-Paseka and his partner, Chris Paseka, should take their hobby out of their Manhattan kitchen and to the public.

The couple, who, until recently did marketing and design work on Broadway, were known for their planning, decorating and baking prowess for private events and parties. But they grew tired of the daily grind in the city, and decided to make a change in lifestyle shortly after they were married this summer.

“A few years ago, we joked that we’d quit our lives, quit the rat race and go to a small town and live our lives kind of stress-free,” Paseka said. “After the wedding, we were like, why don’t we entertain it?”

It’s not quite the stress-free life they imagined — not yet, at least — but the pair is perfectly happy with their reincarnation as a baking and business duo and owners of Sugarush, a new specialty cupcake shop and bakery in Red Bank.

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DOIN’ GOOD, IN DOLDRUM DAYS

beatlemania1Alan LeBouef (at right, as Paul) leads the Stars of BEATLEMANIA in a fab fundraiser for the Red Bank Rotary Club, at Two River Theater.

Done2In case you haven’t noticed, it’s the January Doldrums for sure. And with most of us variously tapped out, snowed in or plowed under, the conventional wisdom holds that you  simply don’t schedule much of anything in the way of fundraiser events here in the season of slush.

That said, a handful of brave businesspeople and nonprofits are apparently ignoring the memo, offering a variety of constructive reasons to venture gingerly down the sidewalk and out of the house — and maybe just maybe do a little bit of the Done Good deed in the process.

A roundup of suggested January jaunts follows forthwith.

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ROUTINE END TO THE YEAR IN CRIME

rbpd6 doorThe crime reports below were provided by the Red Bank Police Department for the period of December 17 to December 31, 2010. The information appears here unedited.

Theft occurring on 12-17-10 at Drummond Ave. Victim reported that unknown person(s) removed cash from console of parked vehicle. Ptl. Gary Watson.

Shoplifting occurring on 12-22-10 at East Newman Springs Rd. Owner reported that unknown male subject shoplifted a bottle of liquor and left without paying for same. Ptl. Nicholas Maletto.

Theft occurring on Maple Ave. on 12-23-10. Victim reported that unknown person(s) removed his cell phone from locker. Sgt. Robert Gannon.

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ROOM FOR ‘NATIVITY,’ AT THE COUNT’S CRIB

lorrainedarrellLorraine Stone is in the cast, and Darrell Lawrence Willis Sr. directs, as BLACK NATIVITY comes to the Count Basie stage for the first time on December 30.

By TOM CHESEK

If you’ve been in (or anywhere near) the Count Basie Theatre recently, you probably noticed that the venerable venue is a house of traditions throughout the holiday season — a host harbor for Christmas concerts, New Year’s blasts, allstar benefits, Nutcrackers and Scrooges — all of them staples of local life.

Beginning Thursday, December 30, the Count’s crib opens its curtain for the first time on a homegrown edition of a stage tradition that’s become the centerpiece of community Christmas celebrations, from Boston to Seattle and lots of big-league towns between.

First produced on Broadway in 1961, Black Nativity combines the Gospel of St. Luke with the poetry of the late Langston Hughes and a set of folk spirituals and hymns for a theatrical experience that’s often custom-tailored to every town it appears in. It’s the kind of presentation in which the stage swells with local children; in which hometown preachers play a big part and the Three Wise Men are often cast from the ranks of neighborhood civic and business leaders.

For several seasons, the play staked a Shore area home at Manasquan’s Algonquin Arts Theatre, in a production by producer-director Darrell Lawrence Willis Sr. and his Dunbar Repertory Company. A Brookdale Community College faculty member and a participant on the Basie’s board, Willis has kept busy in recent years with such projects as the annual Juneteenth Urban Arts Festival in Long Branch and winter’s upcoming staging of A Raisin in the Sun at BCC.

The redbankgreen Drama Desk caught up with the director as he found “room at the inn” for a re-established Yuletide tradition, here in Red Bank.

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A WONDROUS ‘WEB’ DESIGNER AT WORK

charlottesRumson’s Matt Hughes, left, appears with Maureen Torsney-Weir, Rachel Brudner and (as Wilbur the Pig) Garrett Neergaard, in Two River Theater Company’s staging of CHARLOTTE’S WEB. (Photos by T. Charles Erickson)

By TOM CHESEK

If you see just one spider-themed stage production this season, let it be Charlotte’s Web.

Actually, that’s not fair to everyone’s favorite wallopin’ websnapper, Spider-man, who’s facing more than his usual share of adversity as he struggles to get his $60 million-plus  Broadway baby swinging. But if you’re on the lookout for something to take the kids to here in December — something a little different from the usual figgy pudding — there’s a fine family outing ready to serve, and it’s as close as your friendly neighborhood professional theater.

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M’TOWN ESTATE PLAN IRKS NEIGHBORS

hillendale-farm-2Arthur and Leslie Parent’s plan to subdivide a portion of the former Hillandale Farm has some neighbors alarmed. Below, a detail of the proposed plan. (Click to enlarge)

hillendale-farm-11

On the agenda for tonight’s zoning board meeting in Middletown: a plan to subdivide a 5.1-acre property in the upscale Chapel Hill area that has neighbors concerned about a change in character to the the cloistered area of large estates.

The applicants are Arthur and Leslie Parent, who bought the 5.1-acre property and its 12,000-square-foot house for $1.3 million last December, just days before they sold their Red Bank residence to cable funnyman Jon Stewart for $3 million, according to Monmouth County tax records.

The Parents want to cut the parcel into two unequal-sized lots, and have no immediate plans to build on the proposed new lot, according to documents on file.

But that hasn’t stilled concern among neighbors, who complain a township OK would leave an enormous house on one lot, set a precedent for the construction of another, and result in the loss of buffering trees between giant estates.

“It really would be a very significant change of character for the area,,” says John Moody, whose Independence Road property abuts the Parent’s.

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FIRE DAMAGES LITTLE SILVER HOME

alden-fire-1With two firefighters manning Shrewsbury’s aerial ladder, a fireman knocks down the last of the flames under the eaves of a Little Silver home Friday night. (Click to enlarge)

Fire caused extensive damage to a Little Silver residence Friday night.

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SINATRA AND BASIE, TOGETHER IN RED BANK

aldenmoochsmith

John Alden of Middletown (left) and Cara Smith of Rumson (right) pay tribute to the Chairman, as Red Bank’s Joe Muccioli (center) and the Jazz Arts Project present the fourth annual Sinatra Birthday Bash this Friday night.

By TOM CHESEK

It happens every December over at the Count Basie Theatre — and, in a surprise twist, it has nothing whatsoever to do with red-cheeked nutcrackers, reformed misers and various rockings around the Christmas tree.

It’s the Sinatra Birthday Bash, the fourth annual edition of which goes up on Friday night in Red Bank. Produced by the borough-based Jazz Arts Project, the concert offers a chance to hear a variety of voices pay tribute to the iconic Chairman of the Board, who would have marked his 95th lap around the sun this Sunday. They’ll be saluting Ol’ Blue Eyes in song with the accompaniment of the 18 piece Red Bank Jazz Orchestra — and they’ll be doing it on the stage of the venerable venue named for one of Sinatra’s favorite frequent collaborators, William “Count” Basie.

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SEA BRIGHT POWER MAY BE OUT FOR DAYS

Red Bank resident Robert Bruce shot this video of a power line arcing over a parking lot at the Red Bank Train Station early Wednesday afternoon.

Wednesday’s wind-driven storm left downtown Sea Bright closed to traffic and without electricity, police Chief John Sorrentino tells redbankgreen.

Residents of the west end of New Street were displaced from their homes when a trio of utility poles came down in the storm, and a woman estimated to be in her early 20s went to a nearby hospital with non-life-threatening injuries after suffering an electrical shock, Sorrentino said.

Power may not be restored until Friday, he said.

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PARKER BOULEVARD DETOUR ENDS

drs-parker-112110A portion of the heavily-traveled Drs. James Parker Boulevard in Red Bank that was shut down for 10 days has reopened after a rebuilding of the New Jersey Transit grade crossing. (Click to enlarge)

JON STEWART GOES FOR TWO ON NAVESINK

stewart_1024Jon Stewart’s riverfront houses on Alston Court, left, and Fisher Place, right, represent a combined $7 million investment in Red Bank, not counting major renovations now underway on one house. (Click to enlarge)

jon-stewart-coverJon Stewart has doubled down on Red Bank.

The host of Comedy Central’s ‘The Daily Show,” who quietly paid $3.8 million for a riverfront home on Alston Court late last year, has supplemented that buy with the equally hush-hush purchase of the adjoining property one lot to the west, on Fisher Place, redbankgreen has learned.

Property records show Stewart, through an entity called Red Bank River Trust, paid $3.2 million in June for the second property, the former home of Kerri and Pat McGeehan. P.J. Rotchford, manager of the Gloria Nilson Realtors office in Rumson, which was involved in the transaction, confirmed that the trust is Stewart’s.

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POLICE PAY IN SLEDGER SPOTLIGHT

hot-topic rightSunday’s Star-Ledger had an eye-opening article on police salaries in New Jersey.

Analyzing 2009 pay data from police departments throughout the state, the Sledger concluded that

the average municipal cop in New Jersey is paid 80 percent more than the average resident, and three of 10 made at least $100,000 last year. In addition, police tend to be paid the best in small towns with little crime.

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YARD SALE RETURNS FOR THIRD YEAR

yard_logo_stacked_rgb

Registration is now open for the third annual Red Bank Townwide Yard Sale, scheduled for Saturday, September 25.

Event co-sponsor redbankgreen has created a new yard sale website to serve as the clearinghouse for information about the event, which last year drew thousands of visitors to more than 125 homes across town.

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COPS: CRIME SPREE INCLUDED BUTCHER SHOP

hot-topic rightThe expanding set of charges against accused burglar Carl VonPier of Fair Haven has grown yet again, this time to include a Red Bank business among his alleged victims.

The 19-year-old Fair Haven man has now been charged by Red Bank police with burglarizing Citarella’s Market on Prospect Avenue last month.

VonPier was arrested in Colts Neck on July 27 after police apprehended him during an alleged break-in attempt at the Colts Neck Shopping Center.

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PEDESTRIAN UPGRADES DUE ON FRONT STREET

monmouth-bumpout-072610Traffic-calming bumpouts on Monmouth Street. Similar configurations may be in store for Front Street. (Click to enlarge)

A stretch of Front Street in Red Bank is slated for design changes aimed at improving pedestrian and biker safety, according to a planning group that doles out federal funds for transportation projects.

The North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority says it plans to spend about $500,000 to make the “Front Street/River Road corridor” safer through the installation of new sidewalk and crosswalk configurations and other devices.

An announcement by the NJTPA, which serves as a metropolitan planning authority for 13 New Jersey counties, including Monmouth County, does not specify where along the corridor the improvements will take place, or when. A call to an agency spokesman was not immediately returned Tuesday morning.

But Monmouth County Freeholder John D’Amico is quoted in the announcement as calling out the stretch in the area of Riverview Medical Center.

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