Asbury Council: Demand renegotiation of iStar infrastructure giveaway

Asbury Council: Demand renegotiation of iStar infrastructure giveaway

The following column by triCityNews Publisher Dan Jacobson appeared in the Feb. 6 issue of the paper. We rarely publish the paper’s content on line. We’re not fools. That’s how a newspaper destroys itself. But we will make an occasional exception here on our Asbury Overheard blog when an important public interest is at stake . [Our asburyparksun.com site remains committed to objective, unbiased journalism.] Here’s Jacobson’s triCity column on what he calls the “infrastructure giveaway” to waterfront redeveloper iStar Financial: 

This is why we started the triCity-affilliated asburyparksun.com website almost two years ago.

It’s to objectively and fairly report the news of Asbury and surrounding areas so all of us — this publisher included — can know what the hell is going on. And make our own decisions about it.

After all, no one else is going to do that. Certainly not the Asbury Park Press.

And last week the Sun’s Jill Bartlett reported a doozy — downtown developer Carter Sackman was never billed for his in-lieu tax payments for the past five years on either his Steinbachs building or his newer 550 Building across the street.

That’s an estimated $700,000 that was never collected for the city. Doesn’t sound like Sackman’s fault either. He deposited the monies into an escrow account with a bank. All the city had to do was send the bills as the payments came due, and the money would be withdrawn. Sackman said he was unaware of any of this until new Councilman John Moor started asking questions about it. Sackman says he wants the payments made. Obviously, he needs a bill!

What an embarrassment. Yet another reason to have a complete lack of confidence in what went on under the last city council, which left office last year.

Which brings us to the big enchilada that now must be questioned — the rushed agreement that pays for the infrastructure for waterfront redeveloper iStar to build more condos on the waterfront. Since that agreement was inked last year, iStar now wants to bring in national homebuilder K. Hovnanian to build “luxury townhouses” on a relatively small lot for that company in the waterfront zone.

It’s time for Councilman Moor and the other two new council members — Amy Quinn and Myra Campbell — to demand that this infrastructure agreement be renegotiated. For it literally cuts the city schools out of new tax revenues from iStar’s future development on the waterfront…for 30 years! That’s what’s being used to pay for the infrastructure that they need for their condos. [I'm not even going to get into how the city's taxpayers were shortchanged in the deal.]

Yup, the last city council screwed our city’s schools and kids, so iStar can now move forward to bring in the Hovnanians of the world — a completely inappropriate fit for Asbury Park.

This is where I puke.

This Publisher and a ton of other people in the city — most likely a majority as shown by the last election results — question the competency of the last council. And with good reason. The failure to bill the largest downtown developer $700,000 for his in-lieu tax payments for five years only reinforces that conviction.

There’s a simple reason that you can’t trust that waterfront infrastructure agreement — it was rushed through before a new council took office. And anytime something is rushed like that, it can’t be trusted.

In fact, the last city council put on hold a massive project to update the whole waterfront redevelopment plan to conform with present-day realities — all so this infrastructure agreement could be pushed through. Shouldn’t the waterfront plan have been updated first? Of course not. Then iStar would have to face a Council that wasn’t comprised of dumb sheep, and they likely wouldn’t have gotten this infrastructure deal. The waterfront plan has still not been updated.

I’m not saying that last council were stupid people outside of their work as elected official. But in their elected capacity they were dumb as stones — and, even worse, they did not know how to look to anyone else to get advice or information. It was absurd.

And they bound the city for 30 years to a massive agreement to pay for iStar’s infrastructure — all on the backs of our city’s kids. In addition, the city’s taxpayers themselves should have gotten much more than was negotiated. I don’t see where iStar had to pay a penny for this.

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Former Jersey City adminstrator expected to be named Asbury Park City Manager

Former Jersey City adminstrator expected to be named Asbury Park City Manager

Word on the  street is that the next Asbury Park City Manager will be Jack Kelly, who held the Business Adminstrator’s post in Jersey City from 2010 to July of last year.

Asbury Overheard is overhearing it all over the place.

The City Council [above] is scheduled to meet Wednesday night. A discussion of hiring a new city manager is on both the open and closed session agendas. Good chance Kelly could be hired during that meeting.

Kelly lost his gig in Jersey City when a new Mayor was elected in the city’s May non-partisan election. That led to his resignation this past summer, as new Mayor Steve Fulop had his own ideas for the post. Kelly had been appointed by outgoing Mayor Jeremiah Healy.

Asbury also had a May election which resulted in a majority of new council members. That new majority chose not to reappoint Terry Reidy, who had served as city manager for a decade.

According to an article on nj.com, Kelly is a 33 year public employee who will be due a pension of about $94,000. He also worked as a part-time tax assessor for Caldwell and finance director for the City of Orange, while serving as Jersey City administrator, according to nj.com.

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Take three: ‘Bank on Mattison’ bar and restaurant to take Trinity and the Pope space

Take three: ‘Bank on Mattison’ bar and restaurant to take Trinity and the Pope space

Ok, it’s time for the third try at a restaurant and bar at the landmark building on Mattison Avenue that last housed Trinity and the Pope — and was once home to a daily newspaper in the late 1940s known as the Asbury Park Sun.

The brown paper is up over the windows. A “coming soon” sign advises the new place will be called “Bank on Mattison” bar and restaurant.

Before Trinity and the Pope, the building housed a bar called Mattison Park. In prior decades, the space was originally a bank, as well as a law office. It had been vacant for years before its rehabilitation, which included the installation of a kitchen and bar, when Mattison Park took its shot about seven years ago.

Asbury Overheard has seen lots of activity for several weeks in the building, with people working inside getting the place ready. No one there is commenting on the record, however.

bank on mattison SIGN resized for oveheardOh well. We’ll just go by what we’ve overheard.

Based on sources outside those involved in the building — like everyone in downtown Asbury who knows anything — the new  group renting the space include managers and staff who once worked at Old Man Rafferty’s in the old Steinbachs building.

Also overheard is that this group left on very good terms with Old Man Rafferty’s owner Mark Jakuboski. So no problems there.

We wish them luck. The original Asbury Park Sun lasted only about two years in that building. It was founded by theater mogul Walter Reade to compete with the Asbury Park Press, then located on the same block.

Our sister site, Asburyparksun.com — named after Walter Reade’s Sun newspaper that took its shot at the Press — seems to be doing a lot better than Reade’s media outlet. The Sun is kicking the Press’s ass, regularly beating it to stories and giving more in-depth coverage to the greater Asbury Park  area than its owners the Gannett Corporation would ever think of giving.

But we digress. No doubt Asburyparksun.com will have the full story when the new owners of “Bank on Mattison” decide to open their mouths and talk about their plans. Like when will they open exactly? What will they serve? What’s the theme? What’s their favorite color, etc.?

Our advice?

Don’t be so coy with the media. Your sign is up. Everyone knows you’re coming. So tell us what’s up.

Or the story will be told elsewhere for you by others — as lots can be overheard in Asbury Park, as we like to say.

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‘All avenues of due process should be exhausted’ — A-Team candidate responds to Jacobson column

‘All avenues of due process should be exhausted’ — A-Team candidate responds to Jacobson column

dan harris VERT CROPPEDOn this website last week, I published a triCityNews column I wrote about the procedural mistakes I claim were made by the A-Team candidates in the May Asbury Park city council election — specifically about the use of vote by mail ballots.

A-Team candidate Dan Harris [right] sent a response. Harris is the plaintiff in a lawsuit seeking to open 327 disqualified ballots.

Here’s Dan’s response:

Your follow up on the election court challenge has been both in-depth and helpful.

You have managed to express how you felt about both sides of this controversy. You wrote about the judge’s decision and the A-Team’s approach to the election. Very seldom are both sides of the discussion expressed by one reporter. You are to be commended for showing responsible journalism.

But understand that all avenues of due process should be exhausted. This is not just for the candidates but for those voters whose votes were not counted. Somewhere in those ballots there are votes that should be counted. While this might not change the results of the election, it would give voters the chance to have their votes counted. Read More

HELICOPTER DANCE OFF RETURNS TO ASBURY

HELICOPTER DANCE OFF RETURNS TO ASBURY

Asbury Park and music go hand-in-hand. The city will forever be synonymous for its contribution to the American musical landscape. On Saturday though, Asbury’s comedy scene was making its mark at the Lakehouse Music Academy on Lake Ave.

Improv troupe Helicopter Dance Off took off with cheering from the crowd, a sure sign that this group of guys had been missed. Helicopter Dance Off (or HDO for short) was a main staple at-the-now defunct Aqua Bar in Convention Hall every summer weekend for the past two years. After Aqua Bar shut its doors it was tough to find a new home, but the newly opened art music performance school was the perfect fit.

improv-3-(1) improv-6

If you are familiar with improv, there is a set of different games each member in the troupe has to collectively perform. The first game of the night was “World’s Worst,” where someone in the crowd gave a suggestion and the troupe used that suggestion to act out the World’s Worst _____.

Their comedic style can be absurdist at times, but it works because they carry the balance of being smart and sometimes mildly offensive. Every joke was on point, followed by a barrage of laughter. They ended the night with a game called Party Quirks, where one troupe member is forced to guess who has come to his party. The other members play characters based off of suggestions from the audience. Characters for this party? A Crispy John Locke, a Viking Christopher Walkin and a Horny Godzilla.

Helicopter Dance Off will be performing monthly themed shows at the Lakehouse Music Academy starting September 14th.Also, they will be teaching workshops and classes.

Review of disputed Asbury ballot documents show A-Team violated rules

Review of disputed Asbury ballot documents show A-Team violated rules

[The following commentary appeared in the current issue of the triCityNews. We rarely put the content of the paper on-line, but in this case it's in the public interest to do so. Procedures were not followed with a large number of ballots in Asbury in the last council election — and that should never happen again.]

ASBURY PARK – Last week, I blasted the judge in the Asbury ballot case for simply throwing out the election challenge of the A-Team council candidates. That slate wants 327 disqualified ballots opened, which could change the results of the May 14 election with two, if not three, A-Team candidates winning.

So I did what the judge should do — and what an appeals court will tell him to do — I took a look at the ballots myself to determine what actually happened with them. [I filed an Open Public Records Act request to get access.]

Look, I’m vocally in favor of the A-Team having their day in court if they want it. But what I saw with my inspection of the ballot documents were substantial and unacceptable violations of procedure by the A-Team campaign. [The A-Team were candidates Jim Keady, Duanne Small, Daniel Harris III, Remond Palmer and Nora Hyland.]

Take your time and follow this story. It’s an important one. For the A-Team should back off their election challenge and appeal, and acknowledge they made substantive procedural errors. More importantly, this should never be repeated in future elections. Read More

This ain’t Berkeley: Republican praises Central Jersey marijuana facility

This ain’t Berkeley: Republican praises Central Jersey marijuana facility

It’s not every day that an elected official gets up and praises the opening of a medical marijuana facility around here.

And that certainly doesn’t happen every day from a Republican.

But a news release came across our desk today from state Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon — a Republican representing northern Monmouth County — that does just that.

O’Scanlon is an interesting cat.

He’s a fiscal conservative, and the ranking Republican on the Assembly budget committee. O’Scanlon [above with Monmouth GOP Senator Jennifer Beck] is also pro-life on abortion, yet he’s one of the few Republicans in Trenton who favor same-sex marriage.

Most interestingly, in the early days of the triCityNews newspaper — which publishes this site, along with the asburyparksun.com and asburyanchor.com — O’Scanlon was actually our food critic! It was fun stuff. O’Scanlon didn’t know enough to know what he was talking about, yet he knew just enough to be dangerous.

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