Plan for synagogue and up to seven stores approved

By Neil Schulman
Long Branch — The Planning Board has unanimously approved plans for a synagogue and 12,000 square feet of retail on the block in West End where the old movie theater is.

Rabbi Laibel Schapiro and attorney Steven Tripp describe their plans for the block of Ocean Avenue where the former movie theater currently sits.

The theater and several other buildings along Ocean Avenue, between Brighton Ave. and West End Court, will be torn down to make way for a three story structure, the Menachem Learning Institute. The current parking lot behind it, in bad condition, will be repaved and expanded to 94 spaces. Chabad of the Shore, who will run the synagogue, says the lot will usually be open to the public.

At the Oct. 5 Long Branch Planning Board meeting, Rabbi Laibel Schapiro, Director of Chabad of the Shore, said the 16,000 square-foot second floor would be used as a synagogue, meeting hall, and for other synagogue uses and functions. A smaller third floor will hold classrooms.

In addition to services, Chabad intends to offer a preschool for 20-30 children. Schapiro said they have no plans to expand that to later grades.

Last year, as part of the West End District Overlay passed by the city, it became legal to build houses of worship in West End, on the second floor of a structure, if most of the first floor was dedicated to commercial use.

The building, described as neo-classical, will have a stone facade, with significant glazing. The side closest to West End Court, the synagogue entrance, will have a dome.

While the front floor will have a small synagogue for weekday services, 12,000 square feet of it will be for retail. Architect Steven Carlidge said that up to seven retail establishments could be open, each having its own entrance along Ocean Avenue and in the rear. If someone expresses interest in more floor space, there might be fewer establishments.

The synagogue’s entrance will be separate from the retail ones.

The side facing West End Park will have wall panels that open up, allowing interaction. For example, a restaurant might use it to offer outdoor dining. However, the building does not encroach on the park, just abut it.

“We are on our property,” said Carlidge. “We are not taking any of the park.”

In addition, there will be some drainage improvements made to improve runoff. There are currently no improvements.

They will also replace the sidewalks on West End Court, which are bad condition.

Chabad asked for a few variances. They want more signs than permitted under zoning ordinances, because each retail space will likely want its own signs. In addition, they asked for some setback variances for the parking lot. Currently, there are no setbacks, meaning parking is on the edge of the property. The city ordinances require 10 feet, but some of their plans call for cars as close as two to three feet.

They also asked to be allowed to make the lanes to be 24 feet wide instead of the required 25. They said simulations show this is still wide enough for a garbage truck or fire truck to get through, and that the setbacks for parking they propose are an improvement over what exists.

Only one person from the public asked any questions. Dr. James Proodian, owner of Natural Health Care next door, who was concerned about parking.

“I have to make arrangements for parking for up to 20,000 patients a year,” he said. Many relied on the lot on Chabad’s property.

Developers said they are not going to be marking any of the spots are for a specific use, such as reserved for one of the stores. If the synagogue requires many of the spaces due to a special occasion such as a major holiday, they would put out special signs, but in general the lot will be completely open to the public.

The developers also said they had kept Proodian’s property in mind with parking, making sure that there was space around his building the area where his property abuts theirs.

Proodian said that had been his only concern about the project.

“I think the structure is a wonderful idea,” he said.

The Planning Board did suggest putting up signs prohibiting beach parking and overnight parking.

While the proposal was met with heavy resistance when Long Branch introduced the district overlay, no one spoke in opposition to it at the Board meeting.

Board Chair Ed Thomas, when voting yes, said that Chabad had worked closely with the city, and he was very happy with the results, including all the retail it will bring to the area, as well as the appearance.

“The materials you’re using are something I’ve never seen in this city,” he said.

“I think it’s absolutely going to be stunning,” said Board member Esther Cohen.


Road opening has potential; but deer on fort a big issue

By Neil Schulman
Oceanport — The road through Fort Monmouth connecting Oceanport Avenue to Route 35 may soon open again. While that is probably good for traffic and development, officials worry about the effect on deer — and none of the solutions to that are particularly attractive.

Deer graze contentedly on what used to be a football field at Fort Monmouth. As new roads open, people are worried about cars hitting the animals, and the damage that can result to both people and deer.

At the Oct. 6 Borough Council workshop, Mayor Jay Coffey reported he and other Oceanport officials had recently met with Monmouth County to discuss the reopening of Route 537.

The path through Fort Monmouth has been closed to the public for years; shortly after Sept. 11, 2001, the fort closed the road due to security concerns, and it remained closed to the public when the Army base was closed a decade later.

Coffey said that Oceanport had concerns with managing traffic on the road. The police department is concerned about the extra patrol required, but “our concerns were assuaged,” Coffey said. The county plans to have cameras along the road, making monitoring it easy.

The mayor believes that when people can drive through the fort once again, it will spur development and rebuilding, as people see the potential for the land, and how easy it will be to access the properties.

Deer problem

However, Fort Monmouth has a large deer population — and it’s growing rapidly. The mayor said that the herd has the potential to double in population every two and a half years. Since the Army began moving out, they’ve been growing undisturbed.

While the road will have snow fencing on its borders, deer can easily jump that barrier. And when cars meet a deer at 30 mph, the results aren’t pretty – for either side.
Coffey said that originally the plans called for the federal government to conduct a “culling” but “that became not the case.”

“It will devolve to us and the state,” he said.

Oceanport and Eatontown, where the deer dwell, both have rules prohibiting the discharge of firearms. But in many cases when towns want to control the deer population, they hold a lottery for bow and arrow hunters.

Councilman John Patti sounded shocked by this idea. “They’re not serious about this?” he asked. “I’m really opposed of anyone going on and slaughtering these deer just because of a roadway.”

But Coffey said that there would be “carnage” with a large number of deer trying to cross a busy road. The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection has guidelines to bring down deer population.

Hunting is one. Others, such as fertility control, would take years to implement, and people will be coming into contact with the herd in time.

If the deer are hunted, they could at least be used as venison; the herd is apparently healthy, since they stay on fort property and don’t interact with other deer who could introduce disease to the group.

“If a car hits a deer, that could cause a serious accident,” said Councilwoman Patty Cooper. She said she loved deer and didn’t like the idea of the hunt, but saw it might be needed.

“It’s not an out and out slaughter,” Coffey said. “The state’s trying to come up with a way to design the least violent way.”

“No one going to be happy about this, there’s no doubt about it,” he said. “It’s a no win situation for everybody.”

Plaque honors Sharmaine Patterson and Julia Wheeler

By Patty Booth O’Neill
Long Branch — It was a bright day for Long Branch Saturday morning as citizens gathered for a dedication of a plaque erected in honor of Long Branch activists Sharmaine Patterson and Julia Wheeler, at the site of the  Seaview Ave. Bridge.

Making introductions was Avery Grant, Executive Director of the Coalition, who organized the push to get the plaque made. “This is just a symbol of what those two ladies did,” he said. “It just goes to show you what ordinary citizens can do to help their fellow citizens.” Alongside him was Joe Turpin, who was also a big part of the Coalition and getting things done.

Mayor Adam Schneider along with members of the City Counsel, and Bill Dangler, President of the NAACP and member of Long Branch Board of Ed were present at the unveiling.

It was a long time coming for Patterson and Wheeler, since 2002 if you want to get down to it, when The Concerned Citizens Coalition of Long Branch was formed after over 30-40 people in housing, churches, and community facilities surrounding the area started to become ill. That was just the beginning and many more would follow.

Wheeler and Patterson were co-chairmen of the volunteer organization that brought attention to the old gas plant, and the pollution it had left, to a national level.

The area adjacent to the bridge was the site of the old gas plant, which stopped operations in the 1960s, but left behind extremely contaminated land. New Jersey Natural Gas Company bought the site, and eventually cleaned it up, but the river and surrounding land were still contaminated and making people sick.

“The NJNGC did not have anything to do with this contamination. They are the most community minded group,” Grant said.

The Concerned Citizens Coalition brought these problems to the public eye, and when the late Vivian Martin heard about the contamination she took a poll on how many people were getting ill — and came up with almost 300.

The publicity allowed The Concerned Citizens Coalition to participate in decision making for the clean up of the overall areas.

Through many meetings and with help from then-Governor Jim McGreevy, cleanup was extended to off-site properties and damages to natural resources and the creek were restored.
People who had become ill filed a law suit and as a result 292 people received checks ranging from $20,000 up to $200,000.

Grant gave credit to Congressman Frank Pallone was also instrumental in getting the federal and state agencies involved.

“Today we are putting up a plaque at the intersection of politics and family,” Mayor Adam Schneider began as he addressed the crowd. He spoke about how he met Julia 35 years ago, and how he got to know her family. “I never knew Sharmaine, but after she passed I realized I knew some of her family members.”

His political comment was “Vote! It’s part of what we are talking about today. You exercise your power. Vote… Because those two women fought for that right and encouraged everybody here in this community to exercise that right, so please do so.”

He also the told family members he was glad to be a part of the dedication of the plaque.

“We look forward to working with the members of the community in the spirit of Julia and Sharmaine,” Schneider said.

Sharmaine’s friend, Pastor Caroline Bennett spoke about her and how she had a sense of humor in everything she did.

Other pastors, Rev. Richard Worsley and Rev. Joseph Calhoun, also spoke about the women, their hard work and dedication.

Towards the end of the event Grant had the crowd clap for the two women who could not be present. “Let’s give them a hand,” he urged. “They allow people like us to be in on the decision making.”

Avery then reminisced about old times. “It used to be we only had to make one call and we’d have  200 to 300 people out here to solve our problems,” Grant told the crowd. “We have to go back to that day. But I do have to say this is just a great day in Long Branch.”

Long Branch fishing tournament

Salt Water Fishing Tournament Oct. 21- -22

MCSPCA seizes 12 dogs, two horses living in shed

Eatontown — Late Wednesday, September 28, the Monmouth County SPCA Law Enforcement Division seized 12 dogs and 2 horses from a residence on Fort Plains Road in Howell.
The Monmouth County SPCA Humane Police were alerted to the situation by Animal Control Officers who were investigating a horse running loose in the area. The Animal Control Officers from the Associated Humane Society, who are contracted by Howell Twp. for animal control services, recovered the horse and determined it had escaped from the residence.

When the officers returned the stray horse, they discovered that the horse, along with another horse and 12 dogs living in the rear of the property were all living in what the MCSPCA describes as deplorable conditions.

When MCSPCA Officers arrived on scene and investigated the situation, they discovered that the dogs were in very poor condition suffering from severe matting, overgrown nails, skin and ear infections, visible tumors and covered in fleas.

With the assistance of the Howell Twp. Police Department and the Howell Twp. Code Enforcement Officers, MCSPCA Officers seized the two horses and 12 dogs.

The horses were transported to a local farm to be held pending further developments.

The 12 dogs were taken to the Monmouth County SPCA in Eatontown.

The owner of the animals, who resides at 834 Fort Plains Road, has agreed to surrender the dogs to the MCSPCA and will subsequently be charged with several counts of animal cruelty.

The medical staff at the MCSPCA has begun to vaccinate, deworm, apply flea/tick preventative and microchip the dogs in preparation for further medical and behavioral assessment. In the meantime, the Monmouth County SPCA is in need of monetary donations to provide medical treatment, food, supplies and care to the dogs while they await placement.

All donations can be made online via, through the mail via MCSPCA, Howell Case, 260 Wall Street, Eatontown NJ 07724, or over the phone by calling 732-440-1556.

Free event to help those with psoriatic arthritis

Long Branch — The National Psoriasis Foundation will host a free educational event designed to help those living with psoriatic arthritis, and those at risk for the disease on Saturday, Oct. 22, 9:30 a.m.-2:00 p.m.  at Ocean Place Resort & Spa, Ocean Blvd.
The event will highlight treatment options to manage pain and fatigue, joint -strengthening exercises, and nutrition tips from experts in the field of dermatology, rheumatology, physical therapy and nutrition.

Up to 30 percent of people with psoriasis develop psoriatic arthritis, an inflammatory form of arthritis. Early diagnosis and treatment is critical to prevent long-term joint damage.

Event speakers include: Dermatologist — Jerry Bagel, M.D., M.S., Psoriasis Treatment Center of Central NJ & Windsor Dermatology; Rheumatologist — Michael Froncek, M.D., M.S., F.A.C.P., F.A.C.R., Rheumatology Center of Princeton; Nirali Shah, P.T., D.P.T., C.K.T.P. Physical

Therapist and Personal Consultant; Sue Patla, M.S., R.D.N., C.S.S.D. Dietitian, DaVita Healthcare Partners, Inc.Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics of New Jersey

Register at www.bejointsmart.­org/longbranch.

Golf Outing Raises Record Amount for Scholarships

Photos by Brookdale Community College

A record number of golfers and community sponsors came together in support of local students at the Brookdale Community College Foundation’s 37th annual Education Open, held Sept. 15 at Eagle Oaks Golf and Country Club in Farmingdale.

The tournament raised $68,407 for Brookdale scholarships and student services, the largest amount ever collected since the tournament was established in 1979.

“We could not be more grateful to the nearly 200 community members, local businesses and volunteers who helped make this our most successful Education Open in history,” said Timothy Zeiss, executive director of the Brookdale Foundation and Alumni Affairs. “Their generosity will provide scholarships to hundreds of deserving local students who are attempting to build a better life for themselves and their families.”

More than 125 golfers participated in the tournament, which featured a full day on Eagle Oaks’ championship golf course and a star-studded awards dinner with appearances by famed former New York Jets defensive lineman Joe Klecko, former New York Giants punter Jeff Feagles, former New Jersey Devil Grant Marshall, former New York Rangers fan favorite Nick Fotiu and current New York Yankees and Giants chaplain George McGovern.

The athletes were on hand to support their colleague and 2016 Education Open guest of honor Peter Grandich, who was recognized for his support of area athletes, business owners and nonprofit organizations, including the Foodbank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties and the Ashley Lauren Foundation.

Grandich, of Freehold, is president and CEO of Peter Grandich & Company and author of the autobiography “Confessions of a Wall Street Whiz Kid.”

Golfers also received cash prizes, awards and gift certificates for a variety of tournament contests, including “closest to the pin,” “blind skins” and lowest team scores. The awards dinner featured a wide range of silent auctions for unique items and experiences, including autographed jerseys, helmets and hockey sticks, designer fashion accessories and gourmet wine packages.

All proceeds benefit the Brookdale Foundation’s “Building Minds, Building Futures” scholarship fund, which has provided more than $4.4 million in college scholarships to nearly 7,000 local students over the past 16 years.

The tournament was co-chaired by Domenick Servodio of TD Bank and Tina Munson of Lomurro, Munson, Comer, Brown & Schottland in Freehold. A team of current Brookdale students, each of whom have received a Foundation scholarship toward their education, volunteered to help run the tournament as well.

“The funds raised at this tournament will help provide more than $425,000 in scholarships this year to Brookdale students of all abilities, backgrounds and ages,” said Munson, during the awards dinner.

“These students are from local, middle-class families who don’t receive financial aid and grants, and who are determined to succeed and achieve their dream of earning a college degree. We really, really thank you for your support, and I know the students thank you tremendously as well.”

Monmouth Beach Cultural Center fire

By Teja Anderson

It truly can be said, that in life, everything is timing. Our triumphs, our failures, even our fates can often come down to being at the right, or the wrong place at the right or the wrong time. Never has it been as clear to me as in these past few days. Sometimes it’s seconds, sometimes minutes, sometimes hours – or sometimes a day that would have made a world of difference in how things turned out.
When I woke up Monday to heavy rain, all I could think of was “Why wasn’t it raining like this yesterday?” If it had been, our beloved Cultural Center, the former Coast Guard station would most likely not have caught fire and been badly damaged, ruining psyches, paintings, photos, artifacts and the entrance foyer and front porch.
The pre-dawn fire, which is still under investigation, was most probably started by a tossed, lit object (cigarette, match, candle, firework, candelabra) where it smoldered in the dry mulch for a while before the wind picked up and blew it into the bushes in front of the building. Again, these are not facts, but my own educated guesses and those of first responders I spoke with at the scene, where it was easily apparent that the fire had started on the outside of the structure.
As we had been without rain for weeks, the bushes were also dry and most likely burned easily, and with the wind blowing just the right way, or in this case wrong way, probably catching the outside of the building on fire as well.
The good news is that someone saw it as they drove by on Ocean Ave and called it in and the response from our own MB Fire Company, who were the first on the scene and many others was immediate. They were able to contain the fire to the one room and limit the amount of smoke and water damage to a minimum in the rest of the over 100 year-old building!
By the time I got there, at 6:35 a.m., the fire was out and there were an impressive number of firefighters, police and first aid on scene. I also saw units from Sea Bright, Long Branch, West Long Branch, Little Silver, Oceanport, Asbury Park, Neptune and Rumson. Highlands and Deal that covered us in town.
It was heartbreaking to see the damage though, like a gaping, blackened wound on the face of the white front, and I would have burst into tears if Charlie Scott hadn’t come up just then and distracted me with his camera, offering me the card from it which contained digital photos of the actual fire.

As I headed back to my car, clutching the precious photo card, I saw Betty Heath standing alone in the parking lot, her face mirrored my own, and the tears finally came.

We walked over to the south side of the building where the fire fighters had gently placed some important items: the duck decoy case, the Galilee Fish Company box and several old framed photos which documented our town’s wonderful history. Everything was covered in soot, and there was a lot of broken glass from the heat, but there was hope at least that much could be cleaned and saved.

The MBCC is not just important because of its history; it has served as the heart of our community since Super Storm Sandy, even though its location is at the north end of town.

While FEMA and insurance monies and red tape have held up the rebuild of Borough Hall for almost four years now, the Center, which was also badly damaged by the storm, was cleaned out, repaired and refurbished in record time due strictly to the efforts of volunteers in the community who gave of their time, services, money and materials, allowing them to be back in business just months following the storm.

They were able to host all the town’s community groups, organizations and committees for their meetings and programs, as well as serve as a venue for artists to display and sell their creations and for people to hold parties, reunions and get-togthers.
In fact, the latest concert in the 2016 RL Keller Music Series was hosted there the night before with Joey Berndt (yes, that is pronounced “burnt,” which is a weird coincidence) and his band.

Some at the scene the next morning were quick to speculate that someone at that concert could have been smoking in the front of the building and tossed their cigarette down in the mulch. However, if in fact it was a cigarette that started the fire, it could also have come from a fisherman, surfer, dog walker or beachcomber leaving the beach in the early morning, or it could also have been tossed from a car window from some careless person.

Just last month I chased a local woman to her house on Tocci Ave. and reprimanded her for throwing her lit cigarette out the window of her car as she came over the Patten Ave. Bridge right in front of me! Luckily that day the ground was wet.
If only it had rained a day earlier here.

An example of fate and timing by less than an hour also happened this weekend, this time with a positive outcome. The pipe-bomb-style device that was detonated in a garbage can in Seaside, at what would have been the start of the route of a Marine Corps charity race at 9:35 a.m., luckily injured no one because problems with the 5K races registration had delayed the 9:30 a.m. start time.

Another stroke of lucky timing, this time down to minutes was for my daughter Olivia, a sophomore at the New School in Manhattan on Saturday evening. After picking up her dinner at Wholefoods on 24th Street and 7th Ave around 8:20 p.m., she walked right past the dumpster on 23rd and 7th that a bomb exploded in minutes later, injuring 29 people (thankfully not seriously) just as she returned to her dorm room three blocks away.

But when it comes down to seconds that determine fate, heavy on my mind as we mark the one-year anniversary, is Stacey Gregerson Weather’s untimely death on October 3. Just a year ago, Stacey, who grew up in Monmouth Beach, was traveling on Route 34 in Colts Neck when the top of a tree fell on her rental car, killing her instantly.  A few seconds either way and this beautiful, vibrant, gifted and caring mother, wife, daughter and friend would still be with us.

So, the next time you forget your keys and have to backtrack, or the person in the grocery line ahead of you is taking forever…take a deep breath and acknowledge that even just a few seconds wasted or gained in your life each day might change the outcome. And to all you smokers out there, and in full disclosure, I admit years ago I was one of you, please, please, please discard your butts responsibly.

A message from Keller

This was posted by Richard “Dickie” Keller Monday along with his photos:

“As you have probably heard, there was a fire at the MB Cultural Center early this morning. Our office and History Room received extensive damage and we will be temporarily closed until we have an opportunity to make the necessary repairs. On behalf of the Board of Trustees I would like to thank our Fire Company for their quick and effective response, not only preventing a greater scale of damage, but also taking care to protect many of our historical artifacts and photos.

“They went above and beyond and it is greatly appreciated. I would also like to thank the volunteer work crew and Boro employees who came together in moment’s notice to get the building closed up, secured and safe. This is just another challenge we have to overcome, but we will do it and be back and running full steam as soon as possible. Thanks again for your support.”

Donations for the rebuild can be sent directly to the MB Cultural Center 128 Ocean Ave, MB, NJ 07750

Housing, retail for Casey Jones

Planning board hears proposal for Third Ave. site

By Neil Schulman
Long Branch — Two projects in the Transit Village zone have received informal reviews by the Long Branch Planning Board. One to build on the old Casey Jones property received praise, but a proposal to build 87 units of housing a few blocks away met with lukewarm reactions.
At its Tuesday meeting, the board also scheduled a special hearing to listen to the proposal to construct a synagogue in West End. That’s expected to prove controversial.

Casey Jones proposal

At the informal portion of the Board meeting, developers for the former Casey Jones property outlined their proposal for a mixed use, a multi-story structure with retail on the first floor and residential units above it.

The property, across from the train station on the corner of Morris Avenue, used to house the train-themed Casey Jones restaurant.

The developers envision a few thousand square feet of retail on the first floor, and 36 units of housing above it. The units would come with balconies, with most fo them facing the ocean, visible from the third floor.

Parking would be partially under the building.

This area is considered a Transit Village zone, with special zoning rules designed to enhance the fact it’s so close to the train station. Developers are encouraged to propose ways to enhance the area for the public, and the community room on the third floor may be opened to public organizations, not just residents.

Because of the size of the lot, a few variances would be required. It’s slightly undersized, and three of the sides have either streets or a right-of-way, cutting off the ability to expand it.

But Board members said they approved of the ideas, and the conceptual drawings they saw.

“It’s reminiscent of some of the places in Pier Village,” one member said.

Synagogue special hearing

A hearing on the Menachim Learning Institute, the proposed new synagogue in West End on Ocean Avenue, has been postponed to a special hearing on Wednesday, October 5.

The hearing was originally scheduled for Sept. 20, but there was an issue with the notifications that were sent out, requiring that it be rescheduled.

The proposal calls for a synagogue  the second story of and Ocean Avenue building, with commercial space on the first floor. It would be built where the old movie theater and adjacent buildings are.

Several years ago, Chabad of the Shore, the owners of the property, proposed building a synagogue there with a different layout. It was rejected by the city’s Zoning Board of Adjustment, because houses of worship were not legal uses in that area at the time.

One of the major reasons people objected was due to the fact that the parking lot behind the theater, which has become a default parking spot for many visiting West End where parking is scarce, would become part of the synagogue.

Since then, the city has created the West End District Overlay, which would permit a house of worship on the second floor, and implemented requirements about maintaining parking spaces.

However, many people still object to the proposed structure. They say Chabad had been holding services for years before ever seeking permission to build a synagogue, and still have concerns about the impact on parking.

Not happy with Willow Ave.

Developers of a lot on Morris and Willow Avenue say they’ve scaled back their initial proposal, and changed the aesthetics in an effort to make the city happier, but the board still sounds skeptical about the proposal.

The Diocese of Trenton wants to build on the former St. John the Baptist property. A couple of years ago, they received preliminary approval to build 104 units on a five story structure.

While that’s permitted under the Transit Village zone, city officials approached the developers and said that they had concerns with the project as being too dense for an area that was filled with single-family homes. They also had concerns about the proposed aesthetics.

On Tuesday, developers came back with an informal proposal that changed the look, and cut 17 units, bringing the number down to 87, and reducing the height to four stories.
They also changed the appearance of the buildings, which board members had said originally looked too “flat.”

But board members didn’t sound enthused by the new drawings, saying they still appeared flat and visually uninteresting. Developers said that may have been due to the colors used in the sketches, making parts appear to pop less than they did.

The real issue, said several members, including Chairman Edward Thomas, is that although the property is technically in a Transit Village zone, there’s a large wall blocking people from walking to the train station. Since nobody is going to be walking to the train as their main form of transportation, it defeats the purpose of the zoning.

Carl Turner, Assistant Planning Director for Long Branch, said that the design was a work in progress, and the developers had been coming to seek input before designing plans for final approval.