Getting Monmouth County Vaccinated

By Thomas A. Arnone, Commissioner Director, and Susan M. Kiley, Commissioner Deputy Director

As you surely know, COVID-19 vaccines are being distributed throughout the United States and right here in Monmouth County. That’s good news. However, over the past few months, we’ve experienced significant challenges with both supply and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines.

Additionally, the state-mandated process for getting a vaccine here in New Jersey has been anything but straightforward, creating frustration and confusion for many of our residents.

Despite these problems, more and more people are getting vaccinated. According to the CDC’s data on Monmouth County, as of April 19, about 28 percent of our total County population has been fully vaccinated; 35 percent of the 18+ population has been full vaccinated; and about 60 percent of the 65+ population has been fully vaccinated. On one hand, that’s very encouraging news. On the other hand, it’s clear there’s still a long way to go.

Here are a few important points about the vaccination process:

·         Eligibility: As of April 19, all individuals aged 16 and older who live, work or study in New Jersey are eligible for COVID-19 vaccines, as determined by the state (not the counties). For more information, please see www.covid19.nj.gov.  While we’re grateful to see more people become eligible for the vaccine, there’s still not enough supply flowing into Monmouth County.

 

·         Locations: There are multiple, independent providers – like pharmacies, hospitals and community health centers – offering COVID-19 vaccines right here in Monmouth County. The complete list of independent providers, with their locations and contact information, is available on our website at www.visitmonmouth.com. Monmouth County operates just two of these vaccination sites – one at Brookdale Community College in Lincroft, and one at the County Agricultural Building in Freehold. Both are free of charge to those who qualify.

·         Scheduling: If you want to get a COVID-19 vaccine at ANY location in our area, you must schedule an appointment to do so. To sign up for the vaccination sites operated by Monmouth County, visit our website. To register with independent providers, contact them directly, either online or by phone.

While we wait for the supply of vaccines to increase, it’s important to remember that the pandemic is not over. Everyone has a role to play. That means: Get tested for COVID, especially if you have symptoms. Monmouth County offers free COVID testing for all citizens. If you don’t have symptoms, then please wear a mask, keep a safe distance when in public, avoid crowds and wash your hands frequently.

Here in Monmouth County, we’re doing our part to help you, your families, our businesses and our communities get through these challenging times.

  • The County continues to offer free COVID-19 testing for its citizens.
  • The County has its own vaccination sites up and running, also free of charge.
  • We’ve provided more than $48 million in emergency funding to help small businesses get through this tough time.
  • And we’re providing a wide variety of services through our Monmouth County ACTS program to help people navigate problems with unemployment, childcare and more. Please visit www.monmouthacts.org for more information.

It’s very important that we look out for one another, and especially for our senior citizens, during these times. Please consider lending a hand to seniors who may need help getting vaccinated.

We understand how frustrating the vaccination process has been for so many of you. Many vaccination sites are hard to contact and many have long waiting lists. Even though we don’t have control over the supply of vaccines, the County is focused on things we CAN control, like pushing the state to increase our supply of vaccines and helping YOU understand what you need to know about getting vaccinated.

Rest assured, Monmouth County, we will get through this pandemic together. Brighter days are ahead.

Domenick A. Gagliano, Monmouth Beach passes

Domenick A. Gagliano, 95, of Monmouth Beach, passed away on Friday, April 16, 2021. He was born in Bagheria, Sicily, Italy. He came to this country living in Newark for most of his life before moving to Monmouth Beach.

He worked for General Motors in Englewood for 37 years before retiring in 1973.
He served in the US Army during World War II and received the Purple Heart for injuries sustained in battle. He was a member of the Disabled American Vets, the Monmouth Beach Veterans Association and a communicant of Holy Trinity Church of Christ the King Parish, Long Branch.

He was predeceased by his wife, Michelina “Mickie” Sorrentino Gagliano on April 29, 2020; his parents, Vincenzo and Maria Gagliano; sister, Frances Campione and brother, Jack and wife Gemma Gagliano; brother-in-law, Armando Campione

Surviving is his sister, Theresa Campione; 3 nephews, Gino and Lisa Gagliano, Vincent and Maryann Gagliano and Gerard and Iria Gagliano; 3 nieces, Maria Gagliano, Stephanie Campione and Marina and Louis Guerriero; great-nieces and great-nephews, Nicole and John Silva, Jaclyn and Manny Rodriguez, Gina and Joel DiCosta, Gerard and Gia Gagliano, Marci and Vincent Cimino; Vincent and Sofia Silva, Alana and Luciana Rodriguez, Joseph and Johanna DiCosta and Blake and Alexa Guerriero.

Relatives and friends are invited to visit from 9-10 am Wednesday at the Fiore Funeral Home, 882 Broadway, West Long Branch, followed by a Funeral Mass at 10:30 pm at Holy Trinity Church in Long Branch. Entombment will be at Woodbine Cemetery in Oceanport. For condolences, please visit www.fiorefuneralhomes.com.

To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Domenick A. Gagliano, please visit our Heartfelt Sympathies Store.

Pedestrian Bridge proposed at Long Branch Railroad Station with an Intermodal Transit Facility

Mayor John Pallone today announced plans to create a new intermodal transportation center at the Long Branch railroad station. The intermodal concept will bring buses, trolleys, and other forms of transportation into the station parking lot, with an indoor waiting room so that railroad passengers can link to them more effectively.  They would also build a bridge over the railroad platform to the west in order to tie in the two sections of the transit village that are now separated by the tracks.

“I want to thank DOT Commissioner Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti for the renovations that were completed last year to the Long Branch railroad station, including repainting the buildings and platform, resurfacing the parking lot, and new lighting in the tunnel from the parking lot to the platform,” Pallone said.

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The DOT Commissioner also provided us with state grants that are making it possible for Long Branch to renovate the street, sidewalks, light poles, and landscaping in front of the railroad station and the length of the business and hospital district on Third Avenue. That work began in March, and will continue to completion this year,” the mayor continued.

“Now, we hope to make the Long Branch station more than a railroad depot and anchor its role as a center of the transit village concept in the city”.

Mayor Pallone explained that Long Branch is the location where the North Jersey Coast Line switches from electric to diesel. When the railroad was electrified from New York to Long Branch many years ago, the passenger platform was built across Morris Avenue, cutting the business district in two and preventing access from the west. The area around the railroad station was subsequently designated a transit village by the state, and has seen growth in new restaurants and residences in recent years.

“The plan is to build a pedestrian bridge over the tracks to the west side. This will allow free flow of residents and customers for businesses on both sides once again,” Pallone said. “At the same time, we’ll bring the buses that stop on Third Avenue into the train station parking lot and build an overhead and indoor waiting room for passengers during inclement weather. The parking lot has been underutilized and has room for the new structures,” the Mayor concluded.

Council President Mario Vieira

“The transit village should be able to rely on as many mass transit options as possible. The railroad depot will become intermodal, because it can accommodate buses, trolley, taxis, and Ubers more effectively. We also hope to encourage the newer electric vehicles with state of the art charging stations,” Council President Mario Vieira said.

Long Branch’s proposal has the support of the state DOT Commissioner, who believes that federal funding should be available for its completion.

“The state wants to encourage the Long Branch transit village as much as possible, with innovative intermodal transportation at the Long Branch railroad station. The upgrades in the area that have already occurred and these new proposals will move us forward. There should be funding available as part of the expanded infrastructure initiatives in Washington D.C.,” said Commissioner Gutierrez-Scaccetti.

Celebrating Earth Day

By Vin Gopal, Eric Houghtaling and Joann Downey

As we celebrate Earth Day we are happy to report that several of our environmental initiatives are moving forward in the state Assembly and Senate.

 

The Senate unanimously passed our bill on March 25 to require State agencies to include consideration of items powered by fuel cells in their requests for proposals for purchasing items that require a power source. Fuel cells efficiently and cleanly produce electricity. Increasing the use of fuel cells within State government agencies will set an example for private companies as we work to meet New Jersey’s ambitious goal of securing 50 percent of its electricity supply from renewable energy by 2030.

On the same day, the Assembly passed our legislation to establish a $20 million Renewable and Efficient Energy Financing (REEF) Program to provide loans and other financial assistance to state and local government entities and school districts to finance cost-effective energy efficiency improvements in buildings they own. In addition to helping the environment through energy efficiently, REEF financing would help reduce the energy costs ultimately paid by taxpayers.

We also have been working to protect shore birds and fish by introducing legislation to prohibit intentionally releasing balloons or other floating devices outdoors. When Clean Ocean Action conducted its 2019 “Beach Sweep” plastic and foam plastic items accounted for 83.2 percent of the items recovered, including 3,858 balloons. That’s not counting lakes, rivers and streams. Balloons find their way into the food chain of birds and fish and kill them. Our bill would help reduce this area of the waste stream.

We also are trying to protect farmland and home gardens from the latest invasive invader of the Garden State, the spotted lanternfly. First seen here in 2018, spotted lanternflies have been reported in eight counties. They excrete honeydew, a sugary substance that encourages the growth of black mold that kills vegetation. This destructive pest is a particular concern for the agricultural industry, but it also can devastate your trees and home garden.

The Assembly Agriculture Committee, which Eric chairs, passed our legislation to create an Invasive Species Task Force to find the most efficient means of controlling the spotted lanternfly and other invasive insects and animals. The task force would bring together the expertise and resources of the heads of the Departments of Environmental Protection, Agriculture, Health and Forestry, as well as the NJ Agricultural Experiment Station at Rutgers. The legislation charges the task force with developing uniform policies and a coordinated response to the threat posed by invasive species as well as a plan to prevent new invasive species from entering the state and limit the spread of the ones already here.

We also have introduced legislation to provide sales and use tax exemptions for retail sales of certain plant species and seeds that are native to New Jersey or attract pollinators that are essential to crops and home gardens alike. Encouraging consumers to use native plants and attract pollinators also is one of the best ways to combat invasive species.

There are many things we can do as individuals to help preserve the planet we share. When each of us does our part, it adds up and we improve everyone’s quality of life and protect the environment for future generations to enjoy.

Happy Earth Day.

Stay safe.

Pallone to Announce Legislation to Force Corporate Polluters to Clean up Superfund Sites

On Tuesday, April 20 at 11:30 AM, Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. (NJ-06) will host a virtual press conference to announce the introduction of a bill that will force corporate polluters to clean up Superfund sites. Superfund sites are areas contaminated with toxic substances that can make their way into the air, drinking water wells, creeks and rivers, backyards, playgrounds and streets. Roughly 50 percent of New Jersey’s population lives within three miles of Superfund sites.

WHO: Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. (NJ-06)

 

WHAT: Virtual press conference to announce legislation to clean up Superfund sites

 

WHEN: Tuesday, April 20 at 11:30 AM

 

Notes: Members of the press should RSVP to Mary.Werden@mail.house.gov for the Zoom link.

 

 

LB art teacher Ms. Sherrill celebrates 100th birthday

By Neil Schulman
Long Branch — Mayor John Pallone has known “Ms.” (Sue) Sherrill for a long time. “Ms. Sherrilll was my first grade elementary school art teacher, and I understand she was (Councilwoman Rose) Widdis’ too,” Pallone said at the April 14 City Council meeting.

Ms Cheryl at a Long Branch Library event when she was a mere 98 years old. If you went to the Long Branch School system back in the day, you had her for art as she traveled to all schools in the district.

Their former teacher had celebrated her 100th birthday the day before, and Pallone recognized her importance to the people of Long Branch with an official proclamation. The meeting was held remotely due to the coronavirus restrictions, but she attended via Zoom.

She was much more than just a school teacher, Pallone noted.

Born in Philadelphia in 1921, Ms. Sherrill served in World War II in the Woman’s Army Corps, as an x-ray technician. Her artistic abilities were recognized by the Army, and she helped to illustrate a text book on x-ray operations while enlisted.

After the war, with the help of the GI bill, she got a bachelor’s degree and would go on to earn a master’s at Rutgers.

She began teaching in West Long Branch, but was recruited to the city in 1959.

“She was approached personally by the Long Branch superintendent of schools,” Pallone said.

Though she retired in 1968, she remains active in the arts community. Pallone noted that he’s seen her and her artwork. “Up until a few years ago, maybe you still do, I would see you at the art shows.” She’s also involved in many community organizations.

Widdis said she also remembers Ms. Sherrill well. “We wish her well, and many, many more years.”

The former teacher said she had a long history with the area. “I’ve lived in Long Branch for almost 70 years and it’s a wonderful city to live in,” she said. Her son, Steve, was one year ahead in school of Mayor Pallone’s brother, Congressman Frank Pallone.

“I think that you and council are doing an amazing job,” she said.

Zoning changes made, new city buildings sought for transit village

By Neil Schulman – The city is changing the zoning around the Transit Village District to reduce the number of housing units allowed in the more residential areas. Residents say that parking spaces have been a big concern, and some wonder if this will do enough to change it.At the April 14 City Council meeting, officials passed the ordinance making the changes.

City Attorney Louis Rainone said that the purpose of the change was to preserve the residential nature of part of the district. The district, several square blocks around the train station, had been divided into several different subsections.

This building next to Ronald McDonald House on Bath Ave. is slated to become the next home to the health department, police department, municipal court and a health monitoring department and telecommunications training center.

The new ordinance consolidates some of these sections, and limits high density development to the area around Third Avenue, Westwood Avenue and West Avenue.

“This ordinance was a reaction to the council’s belief the density should be reduced so you maintain the residential nature of the neighborhood, Rainone said. Much to the transit village district sections “really have a residential character that should not be reduced.”

In the high density area, dwellings are now going to be capped at 40 units per acre, down from 50 in the original plans. Garden apartments are no longer allowed there either.

In the more residential areas, townhouses are capped at 12 units per acre, and single family homes at 10 per acre, each on a lot of at least 40,000 square feet.

The ordinance does not affect already approved projects, including a set of about 50 apartment buildings to be built on the corner of Bath and Westwood Avenue. That project was approved by the Planning Board before.

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Several residents spoke at the meeting to say they were worried about the parking situation and what more development in the area might mean.

“Will parking be factored in?” one asked. “There’s a huge problem already.”

Rainone and City Planner Nick Graziano said that this ordinance does not directly affect the parking regulations, but there are other rules for the area which require enough off-street parking to meet the state’s codes. Graziano said that, for example, a single family house must provide at least two parking spaces off the street.

 

Rainone said that they can’t change the existing parking situation, because the ordinance can’t require existing properties to add off-street parking. However, since the intention of the ordinance is to “dial back the development” in residential neighborhoods, it should have some effect.

“It reduces the density, therefore reducing the need for parking,” he noted.

Council also passed a resolution saying they were in favor of accepting a donation of buildings from Monmouth Medical Center to use to enhance or replace existing structures.

The resolution says RWJ Barnabas, which manages Monmouth Medical Center, has offered the donation of buildings and lands to Long Branch. The exact buildings and parts of the property have not been settled yet.

This building across from Fine Fare Supermarket at 279 Third Ave, was home to doctors' offices. They have a moved out and the building will now be part of the City’s Transit Village to be transformed into apartments.

The resolution says that Long Branch has a “growing need for more space” for its health department, police department and municipal court. They would also like to use the property for a health monitoring department and telecommunications training center. It also notes that this could “contribute to the revitalization of the City’s Transit Village area.”

The resolution also says that the Covid-19 emergencies have made federal funds to pursue turning the buildings into those uses.

That wasn’t the only action at the city council meeting that will change the way the city is developed. Council approved an ordinance to take possession of the Bucky James Community Center from the Long Branch Housing Authority. In exchange, they are giving the LBHA a parcel of 1.23 acres of land for affordable housing.

“This is a win-win for everybody in the city, really,” said Mayor John Pallone.

Because the Housing Authority is subject to regulations of the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), there are restrictions on what the Bucky James Community Center can be used for. When the city takes control of it, there will be a lot more flexibility, Pallone said. In addition, the land on the corner of Union and Liberty Street will can be used to develop more affordable housing, which is in great demand.

Olga Diaz of Long Branch pleads guilty to sexual assault of a toddler

Prepared statement from the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office
April 16, 2021

Freehold – A Long Branch woman pleaded guilty Friday to charges she planned and participated in the sexual assault of a toddler in 2017, announced Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher J. Gramiccioni.

Olga Diaz, 34, of Long Branch, pleaded guilty before Monmouth County Presiding Criminal Judge David F. Bauman to two counts of first degree aggravated sexual assault and one count of endangering the welfare of a child by causing or permitting a child to be portrayed in a sexually suggestive manner and filming it. Diaz entered her guilty plea Friday afternoon.

Olga Diaz, 34, of Long Branch pleaded guilty to aggravated sexual assault of a toddler

During her plea, Diaz admitted she and her co-defendant, Jaime Mauricio Leon, 34, of Bloomfield, planned the sexual attack on the child via text messages. She also admitted she took nude photographs of the child on June 15, 2017 and a separate video of herself sexually assaulting the child on June 16, 2017 and sent those materials to Leon. Leon later traveled to Long Branch where he and Diaz sexually assaulted the child together. They were observed through a window by a passerby who reported the assault to the police. The text messages, images and video the pair shared were recovered by police.

Under the terms of her plea agreement with this Office, on the charge of endangering the welfare of a child, Diaz faces 10 years in a New Jersey state prison, subject to an 85 percent period of parole ineligibility pursuant to the No Early Release Act. The plea agreement further recommends a consecutive 25 years New Jersey state prison with a mandatory 25-year period of parole ineligibility on the aggravated sexual assault charges pursuant to the Jessica Lunsford Act. Additionally, Diaz will be subject to the requirements of Megan’s Law registration and Parole Supervision for Life upon release from prison. Diaz now faces up to 35 years in a New Jersey state prison, with a period of 33½ years to be served without the possibility of parole when she returns for sentencing on July 23, 2021.

The guilty plea is the result of a joint investigation by the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office and the Long Branch Police Department that began on June 16, 2017, when a private citizen walked into the Long Branch Police Department to report he observed a man and a woman, through a window, committing sexual acts upon a child. The citizen provided evidence of Diaz and Leon committing various sexual acts upon the toddler while engaging in sexual acts with each other. The child appeared to be asleep, but the resulting investigation revealed that Diaz provided her with sleeping medication in order to facilitate the sexual assault. The child was known to Diaz.

Leon was previously sentenced on Aug. 2, 2019, by Judge Bauman to 25 years in state prison on charges of first degree aggravated sexual assault and second degree possession of child pornography.

The case was prosecuted by Monmouth County Assistant Prosecutors Tara Wilson and Julia Alonso.

Diaz is represented by Al Kapin, Esq., of West Orange.

Leon was represented by Michael Kuhns, Esq., of Lawrenceville.