Oceanport: full size college on 12 acres wrong for here

By Neil Schulman

Oceanport — The Planning Board, the emergency services, and the governing body all say that plans to turn 12 acres on Fort Monmouth into a college campus, complete with hundreds of dorm rooms, a five-story parking garage, and an 80-foot-high building, are a bad idea.

FMERA, the Fort Monmouth Economic Revitalization Authority, has introduced an amendment to its master plan which would allow these changes to the area around Squier Hall. It was sent to Oceanport and other municipalities to review last month – and got a chilly reception here.

Officials at the Feb. 7 Oceanport Borough Council meeting outlined the objections the borough had to many of these proposals, saying they do not fit in with what they had been expecting from the originally described proposal, or with what the borough’s zoning regulations would allow.

Officials said the had been anticipating a college satellite with the former Squier Hall becoming classrooms, and a parking lot. But the ammendment would allow for four five-story buildings – a 95,000 square foot residence center, a lab, a parking garage and an athletic center, as well as an 80’ tall performing arts center.

Councilman Robert Proto said that the Oceanport Planning Board had “nine pages worth of comments and concerns,” and will not just be passing them on to FMERA.

“[It will] be taking the unusual step of memorializing these concerns in a resolution,” Proto said.

While he did not read all their objections, he did give several highlights:

The area is zoned for single family homes no more than 35 feet high and two stories; some of the proposed buildings are five stories and up to 80 feet high.

The Floor Area Ratio (FAR), the amount of space usable for business, is 0.3 in the borough; the FAR here is more than triple that at 1.0. “There is no other known zone of the borough of Oceanport that allows for such excessive FAR,” Proto said.

Despite the parking garage, the board is also worried that since no analysis has been done, they aren’t sure if the parking is sufficient, especially with a dormitory that can handle 500 people. They also were worried about the possible traffic impact.

It’s not just the board who came to this conclusion. Borough Planner Beth McManus reviewed the plan and also had pages of concerns – including worries about the environmental impact of developing near Parker Creek, and that this would diminish the open space in FMERA’s original plan.

“This is entirely inconsistent with the borough master plan,” Proto said.

Councilman Steven Solan said emergency services have many of the same concerns, and more.

Police want to know planned security arrangements, especially if people are slated to live on campus. If there’s a campus police force, they also want to know what sort of radio communications they’d use, and if those were compatible with the Monmouth County dispatch service Oceanport uses.

The borough’s first aid squad believes that they could get 150 more calls a year from this area, and wants details on what medical services the campus would offer. Is there a nurse’s office or medical facility, and would the college have its own ambulance to transport people to the hospital.

And the fire department says that the auditorium at 80 feet would be too high for them to deal with, since they lack ladders that are long enough.

And OEM said being close to a creek means they need an evacuation plan.

“A category 2 storm would actually overwhelm the entire property,” Solan said.

Councilman Joe Irace accused FMERA of doing a bait and switch.

“The original plan was one academic building… and a parking lot,” he said. “You put in dorms, you put in five-story parking lots… that’s Monmouth University condensed into a 12-acre property.”

He said that the next amendment which FMERA intends to introduce, while he couldn’t yet give public details, “is as bad if not worse” for the borough.

Mayor Jay Coffey said that he was working to get something more palatable to the borough. He has some hope – and also strong doubts – about FMERA.

“Since I’ve been mayor, for three years, FMERA, when push came to shove hasn’t done anything we didn’t want to,” Coffey said.

He noted that the first part of the proposal – converting Squier Hall into an academic building – has everyone’s approval, especially because the plan would give the borough tax payments, which usually don’t come from college campuses. “This is a unicorn as far as we’re concerned.”

He said he’s reached out to the president of the university, and believes there is room for changing the plan to something Oceanport can agree on.

But he also knows that the borough can sometimes have little say with FMERA. Oceanport only has one of the 9 seats, and five of members are appointments made by the New Jersey Economic Development Authority, not locals, and may not vote for local interests.

While Coffey was talking about his thoughts on FMERA, council members interjected, and the tone of the discussion changed to arguments over how the borough is being run. See related story on front page of The LINK News


St. Jerome School marks 100 days of the school year

Saint Jerome School in West Long Branch has been having a banner year, being awarded the Blue Ribbon of Excellence and holding many activities. To celebrate the 100th day of this school year, students dressed up how they might look when they’re 100, wore special novelty glasses, and did many other things to celebrate.

Local filmmakers in GSFF

Two local filmmakers have been selected to have their works shown at the Garden State Film Festival.

The Monster Within, directed by high school student Clayton Reynolds of Eatontown, and Right Time, Right Place: The Jim Hickey Story, produced and directed by Long Branch resident, Susan Pellegrini, will screen at 2019 Garden State Film Festival located in Asbury Park.

The Monster Within, created by Hannah Schwartzberg (at age 13, now 15) is a film/anamatic portraying how anxiety and depression can feel on a day to day basis. All images were hand drawn by Hannah for her to animate.

“We are extremely proud to present The Monster Within as a part of our 17th Annual Film Festival in Asbury Park, and to showcase the exceptional talent from our state as well as serve as a launching pad for the next generation of film maker,” says Lauren Concar Sheehy, the festival’s Executive Director.

The film will screen on March 30 at Jersey Shore Arts Center.

Right Place, Right Time is a life legacy film of Jim Hickey; documenting his family life, career, and retirement.

The film will screen on March 31, noon at Berkeley Hotel, Kingsley Ballroom.

The Garden State Film Festival which runs from March 27-March 31. Individual screening tickets are $15 in advance and $17 at the door. Weekend passes are $50 in advance and $55 at the door. Day Passes are also available – the Saturday Day Pass is $30 and Sunday Day Pass is $25.

Tickets are available at www.gsff.org/tickets/ and at festival box offices at each venue. For more information about this film and other programs, visit the GSFF website at www.gsff.org.



Chief Jason Roebuck’s statement on the Patrick Joyce incident

Following is a statement from Long Branch Police Chief Jason Roebuck on the arrest and charges filed against Long Branch Police Officer Patrick Joyce.

As with any investigation, especially one involving a law enforcement officer, I cannot legally release certain information to the press, no matter how much I may want to, until that investigation has been completed. This was the situation with the incident involving Officer Patrick Joyce, Jr.

Now that the investigation is complete, and charges filed, I can issue the following statement, with much outrage and embarrassment. Officer Patrick Joyce Jr was charged with Criminal Sexual Contact (4th degree) and Harassment (Disorderly Persons offense) by the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office on Friday, February 8th, 2019. While the matter was under investigation, he was immediately suspended without pay, which was supported by the command staff of the department and the City’s leadership. He is now facing termination of his employment.

While it is true that his actions that led to these charges were conducted when he was “off duty”, it matters little to us. He has defied the public trust and harmed the reputation of our department. Police Officers are supposed to protect the public, not prey upon them. Many will point to his past transgressions, as alluded to in several news articles. This is one of the many reasons such prompt and decisive action was taken immediately following this incident. There is a process to be followed in all discipline cases, as there is now.

I apologize to the residents of the City of Long Branch that the Long Branch Police Department serves faithfully every day and hope you will not judge us on the actions of one officer. There are 90 plus other officers here that put their lives on the line for the City of Long Branch, as one did just days ago, saving the life of a woman being violently assaulted. These officers serve with pride and distinction, and deserve your support, now more than ever. I sincerely hope this explanation clearly expresses our commitment to excellence and professionalism.

Thank you.
Chief Jason Roebuck

LBPD Officer Patrick Joyce charged with criminal sexual contact

FREEHOLD – A Long Branch police officer is facing charges of Criminal Sexual Contact and Harassment stemming from an incident at a police promotions party at a city bar, announced Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher J. Gramiccioni.

Long Branch Police Officer Patrick D. Joyce, Jr., 35, of West Long Branch and a 12-year veteran of the Long Branch Police Department, is charged with fourth-degree Criminal Sexual Contact and Harassment, a petty disorderly persons offense.

The charges stem from an incident at Jack’s Goal Line Stand, a city bar where a private party was hosted following the promotion of four city police officers, on Friday, Feb. 1, 2019. It is alleged that at the private party Joyce inappropriately touched a 21-year-old woman, who is a family member of a retired Long Branch police officer, without her consent for his own sexual arousal or gratification.

As a result of these charges, Joyce has been suspended by the Long Branch Police Department.

Joyce is scheduled to make his first appearance in Monmouth County Superior Court on March 15, 2019.

If convicted of Criminal Sexual Contact, Joyce faces up to 18 months in state prison.

If convicted of Harassment, Joyce faces up to 30 days in the county jail.

The case is assigned to Monmouth County Assistant Prosecutor Melanie Falco, Director of the Office’s Professional Responsibilities and Bias Crime Unit.

Joyce is represented by Robert Norton, Esq., of Westfield.

Despite these charges, every defendant is presumed innocent, unless and until found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, following a trial at which the defendant has all of the trial rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and State law.

The Link News learned that one day after the incident became public, Joyce was driven to the airport and is current in Florida in a rehabilitation program. Joyce also leads Monmouth County in use of force complaints and is number four in the state overall.

He has a past history of issues going all the way back to his time as a recruit in the police academy. Most recently he was one of the officers accused of sleeping and tampering with the GPS unit in a marked police car. Several years ago he was involved in a fight while off duty at a bar and fractured an individual’s jaw. As a result of that fight he was suspended for a year. He was also stabbed last year while off duty, saying someone jumped him.

However, he was also decorated with several department awards for outstanding work and stopping a stabbing.

Brick man arrested for stabbing a woman in Long Branch

FREEHOLD – A man has been arrested in connection with a stabbing Tuesday morning in Long Branch, announced Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher J. Gramiccioni.

Michael Smith, 43, of Brick, is charged with first degree Attempted Murder, two counts of second degree Unlawful Possession of a Weapon, and two counts of second degree Possession of a Weapon for an Unlawful Purpose, in connection with the stabbing of a 34-year old Brick Township woman.

A joint investigation by the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office and the Long Branch Police Department revealed that on February 5, 2019, at approximately 9:39 a.m., Long Branch Police Officer Robert Korn responded to a stabbing incident. When Officer Korn arrived, he observed the suspect, Michael Smith, swinging and grabbing at the victim, who was lying on the ground. Korn was able to pull Smith off of the victim and place him under arrest. Smith was armed with two knives during the assault and had stabbed the victim multiple times in the chest and head. The victim was taken to the hospital where she is listed in stable condition.

If convicted of Attempted Murder, Smith faces 20 years in a New Jersey state prison without parole. Both the Murder and Attempted Murder charges are subject to the provisions of the “No Early Release Act” (NERA) requiring him to serve 85 percent of the sentence imposed before becoming eligible for release on parole. He would also be under parole supervision for five years following his release from state prison.

If convicted of the second degree weapons offenses, Smith faces a sentence up to ten years in prison on each charge.

Smith is scheduled to have his First Appearance on February 11, 2019 in Superior Court with a Detention Hearing to immediately follow.

The case is assigned to Monmouth County Assistant Prosecutor Stephanie Dugan.

Despite these charges, every defendant is presumed innocent, unless and until found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, following a trial at which the defendant has all of the trial rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and State law.

Long Branch police officer suspended during investigation

Long Branch – Mayor John Pallone and Jason Roebuck, Chief of Police, have confirmed that a city police officer has been suspended without pay while an investigation is conducted into an alleged sexual assault.

According to sources the incident occurred on Friday night following a department promotional ceremony. Many of those officers who were promoted along with family, friends, co-workers went to Jack’s Goal Line Stand on Brighton Ave.

The officer, who has not been named officially, is alleged to have grabbed/groped a female patron. Pallone added that the investigation is being conducted by the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office. No official statement has been released from Prosecutor Christopher J. Gramiccioni.

As more information becomes available we will update the story.

Eatontown resident charged with sexual assault

HARRISBURG — Attorney General Josh Shapiro today announced felony charges against a New Jersey Sheriff’s deputy for allegedly having unlawful sexual contact with a 17-year-old girl in the Lehigh Valley, posting a video of the incident online, and then seeking additional sexual contact from an undercover law enforcement agent who was posing as a 14-year-old girl.

Joseph Padilla, 33, Eatontown, charged with sexual assault

Joshua Padilla, 33, of the unit block of Berkeley Place, Eatontown, NJ, was arrested Friday by detectives with the Monmouth County, NJ Prosecutor’s Office, assisted by agents with the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office and the Pennsylvania State Police.

Padilla is charged with unlawful contact with a minor, obscene materials and other sexual performances, sexual abuse of children – manufacturing, disseminating and possessing child pornography, and related charges. These charges are first-, second- and third-degree felonies.

“Our agents work tirelessly to investigate child sexual predators and get them off the streets of Pennsylvania,” Attorney General Shapiro said today. “We have zero tolerance in my office for child predators – wherever we find them. It is particularly upsetting and egregious when the accused predator is a member of law enforcement, sworn to protect citizens and uphold the law.”

Padilla is employed as a Sheriff’s Deputy in Middlesex County, New Jersey.

Attorney General Shapiro urged anyone with additional information for law enforcement about this case or about Padilla to contact his Child Predator Section hotline at 1-800-385-1044.

Last month, agents with the Attorney General’s Child Predator Section received a tip from the Pennsylvania State Police that an adult man – later identified as Padilla – had unlawful sexual contact with a 17-year-old girl in Northampton County, sometime in April or May, 2018. The victim was first contacted over the Internet by Padilla on a website called adultfriendfinder.com.

The victim was underage during the sexual encounter, and Padilla was aware of her age. Padilla recorded the encounter with his cell phone, and uploaded the video depicting sex acts onto the same website, where it was viewed and shared by other users of the site.

In the course of their investigation, agents with the Attorney General’s Child Predator Section had contact with the defendant last month, via social media and text messaging. An undercover agent told Padilla that he was communicating with a 14-year-old child. The defendant said he wanted to meet with the purported child, used sexually explicit language, sent the agent two pictures of his genitals, and asked for photos of the purported 14-year-old girl.

Padilla’s text messages indicated he would perform sex acts on her, and he asked for more photos of his purported 14-year-old victim while she was in school.

Padilla is currently in police custody in New Jersey, awaiting extradition to Northampton County, Pennsylvania – where the charges were filed on Friday.

“I want to thank the Prosecutor’s Office in Monmouth County, New Jersey for their assistance with this case, along with the Pennsylvania State Police,” Attorney General Shapiro said. “Law enforcement collaboration makes our communities safer.”

“Our office assists and cooperates with other law enforcement agencies, whether they are inside this State or anywhere within the Country. It is the result of these strong partnerships that Joshua Padilla is being returned to Pennsylvania to face prosecution for his crimes,” said Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher J. Gramiccioni.

Probation Officer from Wall facing sexual assault charges


FREEHOLD – A New Jersey State Probation Officer was arrested Monday and charged with the sexual assault of a woman he supervised on probation, announced Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher J. Gramiccioni.

Henry C. Cirignano, 48, of Adams Street in Wall Township, is charged with 2 counts of second degree Sexual Assault; one count involves the coercion of his victim and the other count involves his supervisory capacity over his victim as her probation officer.

If convicted of Sexual Assault, Cirignano faces up to 10 years in a New Jersey state prison on each count, subject to the provisions of the “No Early Release Act” (NERA) requiring him to serve 85 percent of the sentence imposed before becoming eligible for release on parole. He would also be subject to the provisions of “Megan’s Law” and Parole Supervision for Life requiring a minimum of 15 years of parole supervision following his release from prison.

The investigation by the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office culminated with Cirignano’s arrest on Monday. He is currently being held in the Monmouth County Correctional Institution in Freehold Township. He is scheduled for a detention hearing on Friday, Feb. 8, 2019.

Anyone with additional information about this crime is urged to contact Detective Michael Acquaviva at 1-800-533-7443. Anyone who feels the need to remain anonymous but has information about a crime can contact Monmouth County Crime Stoppers confidential telephone tip-line by calling 1-800-671-4400; can text “MONMOUTH” plus their tip to 274637; or, they can email a tip via the website at www.monmouthcountycrimestoppers.com. Monmouth County Crime Stoppers will pay up to $5,000 for information leading to the arrest of criminals and fugitives.

The case is assigned to Monmouth County Assistant Prosecutor Thomas Fichter.

Despite these charges, every defendant is presumed innocent, unless and until found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, following a trial at which the defendant has all of the trial rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and State law.

Tonya Rivera is named to Eatontown Council

By Coleen Burnett

Eatontown — At their January 23 meeting, the Eatontown Borough Council welcomed a brand new member to their chambers — along with just a tiny bit of controversy.

Eatontown Councilwoman Tonya Rivera was sworn in to office at the Jan. 23 Borough Council meeting.

The controversy did not come with the swearing in of Democrat Tonya Rivera to fill out the unexpired term of Bridget Harris, who resigned her position on council last December 31. The dispute was about the council being more transparent in their selection process.

A resident got up during the public portion of the session (and after Rivera was sworn in to her new post) to complain that there was very little public discussion about the process that ended up putting Rivera up on the dais as a councilperson in the first place.

“I was here last meeting and had a little talk {with you} about transparency.… How did we go from last meeting until now?” he asked the group.

“As far as I know, you never went into executive session,” he said. “We don’t know what the names of the {three} people were. We don’t know what their qualifications were {or the} criteria for the qualification process. We got none of that”.

Councilwoman Lisa Story responded. “No interview was required at all. It was more a courtesy to council,” she said.

When there is a vacancy on council, the party who controlled the seat submits three names as potential replacements, and council selects someone to fill the until the election in November.

In addition to Rivera, James David and Amber Gesselin were also named by the local Democrats as potential replacements. (The Link learned the names in mid-January by calling the borough offices.)

For the past 17 years, Rivera has worked in the education field. She has a Bachelor’s degree in English Literature from Rutgers University, a Master’s from Teacher’s College, Columbia University, and holds high school supervisor and principal certificates. For the past eight years she has worked as a high school English supervisor.