Finally, a Change of Direction….

For a very long time now, I have pondered how to make the jump from blogging solely about news and politics to also documenting less-divisive, more inspiring matters. Until now, such a development has yet to come to fruition, as it is easy to talk oneself out of any kind of drastic overhaul of web based-content. For fear of losing readership, the format has remained unchanged.

That said, this blog has reached the point where an expansion to new horizons, beyond the boundaries of strictly political matters, is imminent: there are too many things to discuss at the Jersey Shore—history, events, people, and places—all of which are intricately interwoven with one another, to restrict new content. Additionally, there are more than enough websites out there that are strictly political, but very few I can think of which focus upon the important trifecta that helps to make a community: people, government, and history.

Numerous stories are waiting to be told, so it would be a shame to neglect them. 

Yes, the political columns will remain and there will definitely be many more in the future; however, elections and government are but two of the things that make the Garden State what it is. There really is a great deal more I have wanted to write about yet never did for lack of isolating the political audience.

Now, the time feels right to try something new.

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Time to Stop Playing Games with the West End

As is now apparently unofficial tradition, last week’s City Council meeting featured memorable and occasionally heated exchanges between the Administration and opponents of the West End District Overlay (WEDO). As previously documented in this column, WEDO, ostensibly designed to mend zoning problems in Long Branch’s West End neighborhood, will allow the long abandoned movie theatre on Ocean Avenue to be replaced by a mixed use religious center, where services will be held on upper floors and commercial space leased on the bottom. The area is a C-3 commercial zone; religious institutions are not permitted.

Back in 2012, Chabad of the Shore, which has performed religious services out of a storefront on Ocean Avenue, a consistent violation of the zoning laws for several years now, sought approval for a use variance that would allow them to construct the religious center in place of the theatre. The zoning board denied the proposal. Chabad threatened to sue, and the Administration appears to have eventually caved, accommodating their demands by creating WEDO. Some locals (full disclosure, this blogger included) believe WEDO constitutes illegal spot zoning (attorney Scott Kelly has sued the City on these grounds) and have requested that the Administration condemn the abandoned theatre by eminent domain to expand West End Park.

Thus far, the Mayor and Council have been wholly opposed to these efforts. When activist Vincent Lepore asked each member of the City Council point blank whether they supported expanding the park, each responded in the negative (Councilwoman Joy Bastelli was absent from the meeting, so her own official position of the proposal has yet to be added to the record). But why this adamant opposition? West End Park, located literally parallel to the abandoned theatre, is one of the hidden gems of the city. The park’s only shortcoming is its small size and that it is potentially stifled by the traffic along Brighton Avenue on one side and the blighted theatre and retail complex on the other.

Expanding West End Park could only help the community, while the WEDO overlay, which will allow a non-permitted use, could potentially negatively impact the area economically. In a city where the number of tax-exempt properties has soared from $212,900,000 worth in 2000 to$736,493,500 in 2013, the tax burden is rising, bearing down even harder upon the middle-class residents and shows no sign of slowing down. With Broadway blighted and Pier Village Phase III in limbo, more businesses are needed in town. West End, the most organically thriving neighborhood in the City, could and has accommodated more businesses than it currently has operating. Indeed, three of the empty retail spaces next to the theatre (Lou’s Uniforms, West End Deli, and Tre Amici) were thriving and popular, their inability to survive allegedly the result of a rent spike by the landlords.

By tying the properties that burnt down in the 2012 Brighton Avenue fire to WEDO (as opposed to simply granting them a zoning variance so new shops could be built with residences on the top floor), the City is preventing these vacant lots from being developed while the lawsuit is pending. The same goes for the West End School Property, which the New Jersey Repertory Company hopes to turn into a live performance venue. There was no reason for WEDO to exist, and these properties certainly shouldn’t be included in it.

And what of that abandoned movie theatre? Our local eyesore is undoubtedly a hazard and likely structurally compromised. A walk by the property several days ago revealed broken liquor bottles throughout the alleyway, several points by which the blighted structure could easily be entered by transients or children, rampant graffiti, several holes in the roof, a plastic bag containing what appeared to be clothing (a sign someone was probably using the building as shelter), and rusted metal. There is likely mold, asbestos, and rats inside as well; a strange smell that occasionally leaks from the vents implies stagnant water. All this is easily accessible, next to a playground frequented by children. At the City Council meeting three weeks ago, activists highlighted these hazards (and I took several pictures of the existing conditions, which you can see here).

At the last meeting, activist Patty Verrochi asked if the building had ever been cited for these obvious code violations. The Mayor and Council President stated they were unsure of which specific properties within Long Branch were cited for code violations and the matter would need to be taken up with code enforcement. An OPRA request answered Verrochi’s question: the property was previously cited. In 2008, Ocean Avenue Partners, the owners of the building, was sent a Notice of Violation for the following: “1) all window and doors must be boarded up, 2) clean all trash and debris around the property, 3) paint over graffiti on outside of building.” The letter sent by the City also noted, “as of the previous inspection, the doors were open, and the interior of the building was easily accessible.” A lengthy notice was sent in 2013, noting that the apartments above the deli and uniform store were in terrible condition. In February 2014, they were sent another one, this time because the doors to the vacant apartments were left open.

Last Friday, a truck full of workers arrived at the theatre property. The rusted metal stairway was removed, several bushes were cut, and the openings were boarded up, likely in anticipation of last week’s car show. Though needed, these alterations represent the bare minimum a property-owner can invest. They simply aren’t enough. The fact of the matter remains: a structural hazard shouldn’t be next to a children’s playground. The West End theatre should have been condemned years ago and likely would have been if not for several conflicts-of-interest between City officials and the property’s owner(s). (Post-cleanup pictures are available here). Interestingly, it appears alterations were also made to West End Park to allow for easier access for special needs children—including the moving of a concrete benchand the sawing off of what was a wooden frame—which was another concern that was raised at the Council meeting.

Resident Alexandra Jacob, an advocate for special needs children, addressed the Council stating she was alerted to the situation in West End after reading a quote from Mayor Schneider, printed in the Link newspaper, that read: “I am more than happy to listen to you that we need more [accessible playground], I’m just telling you it’s not going to go in West End Park.”

“I am proposing that each park in this city have equipment for special needs children,” Jacob said. “If you deny such needs, you are violating the rights because of their disabilities. The last thing a special needs parent wants to hear is the word, ‘budget.’ It does not belong when it comes to our children. Cut back on other areas. Our children will grow up to be adults in this town. Lets stop catering to outsiders and start catering to locals!”

“First of all, what you claim to have read in the Link, I asked you what you read, you told me it was in there, I don’t think it was, because I never said it,” the Mayor responded. “Secondly, we never denied a swing-set for handicapped kids in West End Park. West End Park does not have a particularly big playground, it is handicapped accessible, it is ADA compliant, and if it’s not, what I told you and I told the woman who was here last week, we will be glad to upgrade it if there is a need for more equipment. We have about seven or eight parks, all of them ADA compliant, almost all of them if not all of them with handicapped accessible swings.”

“I need all of them…” Jacob interjected.

“Ma’am, now you’re interrupting me, which is exactly what you did on the phone,” the Mayor said.

“And you were nasty to me on the phone!”

“We’re done,” Mayor Schneider said, thus ending the discussion.

Earlier in the evening, when activist Vincent Lepore asked whether the Council supported expanding accessibility in the park, the tension reached a breaking point. Asked whether they agreed with the Link quote, Councilwoman Billings reiterated her position that the park is handicapped accessible already, Councilman Pallone noted he never heard the Mayor make such a statement, and the other Council-members refused to answer. Councilman Sirianni dismissed Lepore’s line of questioning as a whole, stating: “I am not playing your game.”

Actually, Councilman Sirianni is correct in one sense: a game is being played in Long Branch, and he should refuse to engage in such tomfoolery. But the self-proclaimed “West End Watch-dogs,” those who want to dissolve WEDO, expand handicapped accessibility in the parks, increase government transparency, and improve the quality of life for all residents, aren’t the ones responsible. Actually, the Watchdog’s message to City Hall could accurately be summarized as, “Game Over!”

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West End Theatre: a Dismal Past, an Uncertain Future

Though the seaside community of Long Branch has once again found itself snarled in litigation related to real-estate, at last week’s City Council meeting, Mayor Adam Schneider seemed confident his vision for mixed-use properties in the West End neighborhood would come to fruition. He dismissed proposals for a new county park as a pipe-dream. This was not the first time the Mayor criticized calls for a county buyout of the long abandoned movie theatre on Ocean Avenue, adjacent to West End Park. Since a group of local activists (this blogger included) began calling on the Monmouth County Freeholders to purchase the blighted parcel, which has stood vacant for two decades, the City has dismissed the feasibility of such a plan, arguing that their overlay ordinance is best suited for the neighborhood.

Two weeks earlier, during a City Council meeting, the Mayor explained that, per a conversation with Freeholder Tom Arnone, the County wasn’t interested in West End:

“I am the one who talked to Mr. Arnone,” he said. “And frankly, your proposal is not going to go anywhere. There is no, and I am perfectly happy to discuss it, here or any other place you’d like me to…but your talking about a five million dollar piece of property, the County is not, Mr. Arnone told me very specifically they are not interested, they don’t have five million dollars, they don’t come in to purchase it, and they are not going to do it unless we’re interested.”

On June 23rd, he repeated the sentiment.

“That proposal is nonsense,” he said in response to one resident’s support for the park. “There is no proposal, frankly. The county is not interested they have made that very clear to us.”

Of course, supporters of the park proposal haven’t lost hope. The Freeholders, they claim, are far from unanimous in their views regarding Long Branch. There are, after all, four other individuals on the Board of Freeholders, two of whom will be seeking re-election this November. The resistance from the Mayor and Council, though unsurprising to long-time observers of Long Branch politics, hasn’t stopped residents from voicing their vision for West End; lawn signs have popped up around town, on homes and businesses, supporting a new park. Facebook is abuzz with chatter, and activists plan to raise their cause directly to the Freeholders at their July 23rd meeting in West Long Branch (when Freeholder Arnone will undoubtedly be asked to clarify his alleged view that the park proposal “isn’t going anywhere.”)

After-all, why isn’t it going anywhere? Why has the proposal been written off so quickly? Especially from the municipal level, where the financial cost to the City would be minimal, but the potential impact on the community priceless, it doesn’t seem to make much sense that the idea has been discarded to the point that, when asked at the June 9th meeting whether they had even discussed the proposal, the City Council responded with awkward silence. In other-words: no.

To further complicate matters, last week a local attorney filed suit against the city, arguing the overlay is illegal and constitutes “spot zoning,” the reforming of existence zoning laws for the good of a specific private entity at the expense of the the public. Thus, the sale of the property, and any new construction on the lot, is deadlocked for the time being. West End’s future is, for all intents and purposes, up in the air.

But how did this situation come to be? Why is a dilapidated theatre and empty storefronts sitting along one of the finest stretches of beach at the Jersey Shore, a tourist haven that bustles with visitors every weekend? It doesn’t make sense to outside observers, though those “in the know,” the students of local politics, are often left scratching their heads as well. The West End Theatre has sat abandoned, a rotting, asbestos filled embarrassment within an otherwise impeccable neighborhood, for almost twenty years now. For some perspective on that, the last time it was open for business: Bill Clinton was president, the Super Nintendo was boasting sixteen whole bits of excitement, the Power Rangers had just made their debut on Fox Kids, and this blogger was about to enter kindergarten.

Of course, while locals may view the recent mixed-use proposal as a superior alternative to the existing crumbling eyesore, it is important to remember this was not the first attempt to utilize that property. No, the theatre’s perpetual vacancy is not the result of lack of interest on behalf of potential investors. Long before it even fell into such disrepair, magnate Mitch Leigh (Broadway aficionados will likely know him for Man of La Mancha) purchased the property, hoping to renovate and restore the theatre as an artistic hub in an already hip community. Alas, it would never come to be.

As theAtlanticville reported in 2002, Leigh lost hope in the project after the adjoining properties were purchased, inflating the costs and making his own dream of a local theatre monetarily infeasible. Who purchased those neighboring lots?

None other than Solomon Dwek, then a prominent figure in Long Branch.

According to DataUniverse, in 2003, Leigh sold the empty theatre to Ocean Avenue Partners, LLC. for $1,450,000. Records on file with the Monmouth County Clerk’s office show that Dwek was a “managing member” of the LLC. (For reference, it is in the property records, Inst. Number: 2003195731, Book/Page: OR-8262/7558).

Files obtained from the Division of Revenue & Enterprise Services, Business Records Service show that in 2003 the corporation’s registered agent was Michael Benedetto, of Ansell, Zaro, Grimm, and Aaron, P.C. (For reference, Business Id: 0600170012, Certificate Number: 6000044010). If the name “Aaron” sounds familiar, it is because he is none other than James Aaron, currently Long Branch’s attorney,who recently sent a frivolous claims letter to litigant on behalf of the city, asking Scott Kelly to withdraw the lawsuit pertaining to the overlay so that the new development can proceed on the theater lot. It is, of course, worth noting that theAsbury Park Press reported that Benedetto and Dwek were involved in several ventures before Ansell, Zaro, Grimm, and Aaron, P.C. severed their relationship with the real-estate developer, who was by then a pariah.

Confused yet?

The theatre itself has been trapped in something of a limbo ever since (though Ocean Avenue Partners, LLC recently planned to sell it to make way for the new development). While the surrounding neighborhood has continued to evolve, channeling the personalities of Monmouth University students and locals, it has decayed. With the building sitting vacant, however, there is now talk within City Hall of the West End needing revitalization. Though one walk down Brighton Avenue reveals a thriving, close-knit community or cute storefronts and cozy cafes, it is not typically in Long Branch’s nature to let neighborhoods grow and evolve organically; things need to be done centrally. Thus, the overlay was passed, arguably to spark some kind of renaissance in the West End, and allow for the construction of mixed used buildings.

However, if all goes according to the City’s plans, the vacant theatre will be replaced by a three-story, mixed used building. Commercial businesses will occupy the ground floor, religious facilities the upper-levels. This area was not zoned for religious use, hence the need for the overlay ordinance. The locals pushing for the county park as an alternative fear that the religious operations within an area not zoned for such purposes compromises the integrity of the City’s Master Plan, which was designed to maximize the efficiency and economic stability of the city, and could have negative consequences the other businesses in West End. This is why the Planning Board rejected an application to utilize the space for religious use in 2013. Some have accused the city of passing the overlay design in an attempt to stave off litigation resulting from that decision.

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New Proposals in West End

Several weeks ago, the debate regarding the future of West End’s zoning ordinances were documented in this column: the Long Branch City Council approved an overlay design that would allow Chabad, a religious organization, to construct a multiple-level house of worship (with retail space on the ground level) on the parcel currently occupied by a long-vacant movie theater and zoned for commercial properties. Some locals, concerned about what impact such sweeping construction would have on the neighborhood’s economy, brought their concerns before the municipal legislative body, arguing that parking, taxes, and existing businesses could be adversely impacted. How, they argued, could Chabad be trusted to operate within the confines of this new ordinance, specially crafted for their benefit, when they have been operating in direct violation of the existing ordinance for years? Throughout the discussion, the Mayor and Council remained steadfast in their support for the overlay, un-phased by criticism that the reform seemed to be designed specifically to stave off a lawsuit with Chabad.

Now, a group of locals have potentially thrown a wedge into that plan, presenting a proposal to the City Council and Monmouth County Freeholders that would turn the abandoned theater into public space, expanding the existing West End Park to encompass the adjacent parcel. Of course, proponents of the overlay design are unwilling to embrace this new proposal. Mayor Adam Schneider,who was quoted in Word on the Shore as saying the overlay would allow West End to start “moving again” (which begs the question: does this bustling little neighborhood need to get “moving,” because it certainly seems to be doing fine already, especially when juxtaposed against Broadway?) dismissing the new plan, arguing that it would undo ten years of progress.

Regardless, the park proposal was raised by local activist Vincent Lepore at the last City Council meeting: “The request, which has already been filed with the Freeholders, requesting the County to unilaterally come in and do the job, independent of the municipal and independent of the Open Space Program. Finally, after thirty years, we can get the County to get rid of a derelict building that has lowered the quality of life in the West End! This is the best plan for the West End to date; I challenge anyone to question it, and I challenge anyone to say it’s flawed.”

If the owner of the abandoned theater refuses the offer to sell, the County government could theoretically eminent domain the property at fair market value, a notion the City Council didn’t seem particularly comfortable with. How interesting that Long Branch seems unwilling to consider eminent domain for its legitimately intended purpose: to purchase an undoubtedly blighted property at fair market value, for the common good (in this case, a free park for all residents and visitors to enjoy). A mere decade ago, City Hall was apt to abuse that same policy, removing working classic families from undervalued homes to make way for private construction, condominiums, and retail space.

Why the sudden change of heart? Well, only two elected officials, the Mayor and a Councilwoman, were in office during the eminent domain controversy, so perhaps they are hesitant to reopen old wounds. There likely wouldn’t be a public outcry against using eminent domain in a responsible manner, for its intended purpose; it was the abuse of this policy, the seizing of non-blighted homes for the profit of private developers that left the City government with a severe black eye during that debacle, rendering it a nationally-recognized case study in how not to behave in regards to property rights.

Of course, that is the past. What matters now is the future: West End could be much greener if the plan advocated by Mr. Lepore gains traction among the County Freeholders. So, Long Branch residents and visitors, what do you think is the best plan for West End? The overlay or the public park? Should the County come in and fix a problem that has festered for three decades along Ocean Avenue, or should the City be trusted to get the act together?

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Another Season, Another Controversy in Long Branch

Another season, another controversy in Long Branch. This time, the debate isn’t related to eminent domain abuse, Pier Village, or the long awaited reconstruction of the beloved boardwalk, but rather, the future of the quaint West End neighborhood. The local Chabad, which has long hoped to expand its operations to an adequate facility, has rallied for a change to existing zoning laws, a move which would allow for the construction of a multi-level, block-wide mixed-use property (divided between a religious structure and ground-level retail space). Though a similar proposal was previously struck down by the planning board, it seems that rather than face a potential lawsuit, the City has moved to alter the zoning ordinances, which would allow Chabad to build their structure, spur new development along Brighton Avenue, and permit the New Jersey Repertory Company to renovate the former West End School into a theatrical venue.

Of course, some residents are wary of what economic impact this new development would have, particularly if a religious organization takes up shop in West End, a neighborhood known for outdoor events, quaint mom and pop vendors, and a lively bustling tourist trade. It is a bustling avenue, and West End Park, the local hub, is literally right next door. In the summer, its home to car shows, dog walks, and weekly concerts; the streets are jam packed for these events, sometimes for hours, and it can get noisy. Such is hardly conducive to a house of worship.

At the last City Council meeting, a group of residents voiced their opposition to this plan. In some cases, their critique had to do with suspicion regarding the motivating factor for the ordinance: as was already noted, it appears as though it was essentially an attempt to appease a potential litigant and stave off a lawsuit between Chabad and the City of Long Branch. If this plan wasn’t good for the neighborhood last time around, they wonder, then why is it suddenly being backed by the Mayor and City Council?

“What many people in this room are trying to figure out is what is going on and why there wasn’t a public hearing, on the public record, at a Council meeting, besides this one, in the form of a presentation of the West End overlay, so they can ask these questions and decide if it is in the citizens best interests instead of a government entity taking it upon itself to decide that,” local activist Vince Lepore said. “I requested a postponement, and tonight, apparently, you have ignored it.”

Lepore also warned that the City government was heading in a potentially troubling direction, setting a precedent that could very well run amok: “The City has now ventured into dangerous territory in fashioning an ordinance to accommodate subsequent litigation, particularly outside of a redevelopment zone, and sets a troubling precedent,” he said.

Others feared an increase in traffic and a lack of parking in the West End. Critics pointed out that there is likely a viable reason such development isn’t zoned for that area: for starters, parking is already scarce now, never-mind if existing spaces are taken away for new construction. And what if the bulk of the new spaces are being utilized by worshippers at Chabad: where will tourists and shoppers go? Ultimately, such concerns were dismissed by the legislative body.

“The parking will be better,” Councilwoman Kathleen Billings assured the skeptical attendees. “I know some people can’t visualize it, but if you read the ordinance, there will be shared parking. When the theatre is not having a play, they will let the public park, so there will be places for the public to park where they haven’t been able to park before.”

There were still others who feared that the move would negatively impact West End by altering its small-town appeal. These concerns were perhaps best summed up by Leslie Amato, a life-long resident of the neighborhood.

“Can’t we keep West End the gem that it is?” She asked. “Can’t we have small community businesses?”

Despite the public outcry, the City Council unanimously approved the ordinance, though before Chabad can actually break ground, their proposal will have to be approved by the city’s planning board.

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Holodomor Memorial, Clifton, NJ

HolodomorThis beautiful memorial to the oft-overlooked Holodomor, the genocide-by-famine of millions of Ukrainians by the Stalin regime between 1932 and 1933, is outside Holy Ascension Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral in Clifton, New Jersey.

 

 

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First Snow of the Year & Orthodox Christmas!

The Church of the Cathedral of the Holy Assumption Russian Orthodox Church, Trenton, NJ.

The Church of the Cathedral of the Holy Assumption (Russian Orthodox) in Trenton, NJ.

Well, the State of New Jersey had its first snow of the year, and just in time to give Eastern Orthodox Christians (who use the Julian calendar) a white Christmas! 

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Despite Challenge, Asbury Park’s New Government Takes Office

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On January 1st, while much of the Jersey Shore was nursing the year’s first hangover, Asbury Park’s newly elected Mayor and City Council were ready to get down to business. It was the day of the city government’s reorganization, and the members of the Asbury Together ticket—John Moor, Amy Quinn, Yvonne Clayton, Joe Woerner, and Jesse “Coach K” Kendle—were to be sworn in to their new leadership positions. The team had enjoyed a resounding victory during last November’s non-partisan elections, a hotly contested race that divided the city and rapidly turned dirty during its waning days when the A-Team was accused of fabricating an endorsement from Senator Cory Booker and of utilizing various irregularities in collecting vote-by-mail ballots, which resulted in over three hundred of these being purged from the roster.

And yet, despite early predictions to the contrary, Asbury Together was elected, and the voters endorsed their message of unity. John Moor was sworn in as Asbury Park’s Mayor shortly after noon. It was a moment his supporters had long anticipated. Indeed, last election cycle, it seemed as though Moor would be appointed Mayor, as he had garnered the most votes in his race for City Council and tradition long dictated the top vote-getter become Executive. Urban politics is rarely so clear-cut, however, and Myra Campbell, his former running mate, was appointed instead. Mayor Campbell told the Star Ledger she took the position because the opportunity to be the first black, female Mayor in Asbury history was a historic decision that may never be available again. True though that may be, the decision was controversial, with Moor’s supporters crying fowl and advocates of transparent government concerned that a back room deal had been made.

Shortly after that fiasco, the city’s electoral model was changed. No longer would the races be held in May, nor the Mayor selected by the City Council—now moved to November, the voters were allowed to directly elect their Executive. Four candidates entered the fray, vying for the city’s top office: incumbent Mayor Myra Campbell, Harold Suggs, the A-Team’s Remond Palmer, and Councilman John Moor. In the end, it was the Asbury Together ticket that won, meaning Moor finally became Mayor.

“This Council recognizes that together we can help the City, its residents, and its businesses for realize a future that can help Asbury Park become not the best city along the Jersey Shore, but the best city in the entire state,” Mayor Moor said. “Asbury Park is diverse and dynamic. We have many different voices and this Council will listen to all of them.”

Also sworn in was Deputy Mayor Amy Quinn, who became known as a champion of open and accountable government during her last term on the City Council. It was Quinn’s speech that likely explained why, despite the fact a public concerns portion was scheduled, none of the residents in attendance had anything to say.

“As a token of our appreciation, we are buying all of you drinks and brunch at Johnny Mac’s across the street right after this,” Deputy Mayor Quinn said. “So everybody feel free to come to the microphone—but your delaying all of us having drinks.”

Councilwoman Yvonne Clayton, who grew up in Asbury Park and recently moved back after an absence of several years, thanked her supporters and assured them she would spend her term working for all the city’s residents.

“I want to thank the previous councils for everything they have done; they took a city that was dying and breathed life into it,” the Councilwoman said. “This is our chance to move the city further…Most of all, I want to thank you for believing I have a place on this Council, and when I was running the one thing I would always say was my goal was to make this the best city for all its residents, and that is still my goal.”

Councilman Jesse “Coach K” Kendle drew upon pop-culture imagery to establish his plan for the city.

“I was sitting home one night, and I was looking at Gunsmoke, with Marshall Dillon,” he said. “And I got to thinking: Asbury Park is not Dodge City, but I tell you, he was the Marshall, he was in charge, and this Council here is going to be the same kind of man, its going to get Asbury Park back in order.”

Councilman Joe Woerner expressed his desire to better Asbury Park for all its residents, regardless of skin color or sexual orientation.

“Just a word about the vision that we have—and I think you have—about the city,” he said. “We want Asbury Park to be is a beautiful city where there is opportunity for everyone. And when we say ‘beautiful,’ we’re talking about the ocean, and the boardwalk, and the beaches, and the parks, and clean streets and safe streets, and architecture. And when we say ‘opportunities,’ we want everyone to have the opportunity to be successful and prosper. And when we say ‘everyone,’ it’s the same thing we said during the campaign; it’s everyone in this city. We have people from the East Side, the West Side, young people, older people, we have black, white, straight, gay, family, single, and we want everyone in this city to enjoy the opportunity and beauty that is Asbury Park!”

Asbury Park Mayor John Moor shortly before being sworn in.

Asbury Park Mayor John Moor shortly before being sworn in.

Clayton, Woerner, and Quinn will serve two-year terms; Kendle was randomly selected to serve four years. Though the day could best be described as “jubilant,” a grey cloud lingered over the proceedings: the recently defeated A-Team filed a lawsuit on December 16th, hoping to invalidate the outcome of the November elections. Even though they already conceded the race, the Asbury Park Sun has reported that the A-Team wants to have the three-hundred-plus vote-by-mail ballots that were disqualified counted. Even if every single one of them voted for Palmer, Moore would still have won the election, however, the margin could be small enough to force a run-off. That said, this seems like a long shot, and Judge Dennis O’Brien denied their request to have the city re-organization postponed.

The newly elected Asbury Park Mayor and City Council have taken office amidst a wave of public support. Hopefully, 2015 will be a year that brings new highs to the little City by the Sea; there are many good things on the horizon. If Asbury Park can stay unified, the potential to re-establish itself as a regional attraction and cure the various ills that have long plagued the city, is unrivaled.

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