By Charles Layton
On Thursday, in Municipal Court, the owners of the Park View Inn, Marshall and Elliott Koplitz, won another week’s delay in reaching an agreement to comply with Neptune Township’s building maintenance code.
The Park View, at 23 Sea View Avenue in Ocean Grove, is an unoccupied former hotel that has deteriorated for years while its absentee owners ignored tax bills, ignored mounting fines and interest on fines, and ignored the pleas of various town agencies and dozens of distressed neighbors.
On Thursday, Neptune Township’s attorney, Gene Anthony, assured Judge Robin Wernik that in exactly one week he will return to court with a signed consent agreement committing the Koplitzes to a strict timetable for rehabbing the building.
Marshall Koplitz and his attorney, Michelle Lamar, appeared alongside Anthony in court, but Koplitz said nothing and Lamar said little other than agreeing to join Anthony in court next Thursday at 3:30 p.m.
Later, when I asked Lamar for her thoughts about the consent agreement, she declined to comment.
These owners’ conflicts with Neptune officials over the Park View date back at least to 2007, when the township first took them to court over code violations. The following December, in a letter, Anthony wrote that the building remained in disrepair and seemed in “danger of failure or collapse.”
The following years brought a stream of further code violations and further refusals to cooperate with township officials. In June of last year, 33 neighbors signed a petition urging the township to crack down. “Paint is peeling, windows are broken or boarded up with unattractive plywood, the fire escape is rusted and unsafe, gutters are broken and hanging, porch columns are broken,” the petitioners wrote, and “we are concerned because the building may become a fire problem.” The following month, the Historic Preservation Commission also asked the township to address the problem of 23 Sea View.
Despite all of that pressure, the Koplitzes continued not to cooperate.
On March 24, Judge Wernik issued an order that the Koplitzes negotiate an agreement with the township for repairing their property. On that occasion, both Lamar and Anthony told Wernik that they were very close to such an agreement. In the following months, negotiations sputtered along, broke down, resumed, and were punctuated at intervals by profane outbursts from Marshall Koplitz. At one point, in May, according to Committeewoman Mary Beth Jahn, Koplitz “went kablooey” during negotiations and told Anthony that the township could perform an erotic act upon itself. It appeared, at that point, that talks were at an impasse.
However, this Thursday Anthony assured Judge Wernik that the parties were on the verge of signing “a consent order that resolves all issues.” Wernik asked why the two sides couldn’t come to an agreement “today,” and Anthony told her the issues were “very involved.” He also indicated to me that others in the township government, such as Bill Doolittle, the director of code and enforcement, would need to sign off on the final language.
The agreement will probably require the Koplitzes to restore the Park View as a hotel with banquet facilities for its residents. The process would proceed under a timetable consisting of phases, with deadlines for each phase and a penalty of at least $35,000 for defaulting on any portion of the agreement.
The initial phase might include the drawing of architectural plans and the obtaining of permits. Other phases would deal with such matters as obtaining necessary financing and meeting deadlines for construction.
Of all the owners of derelict properties with whom the township has had to contend, the Koplitzes have surely been the most difficult. Their history of defiance of authority is very long and, one could even say, spectacular. Over the past decade, some of their properties in Long Branch became notorious for fire code violations and as centers of disorderly and unlawful conduct. Outstanding fines in Long Branch eventually totaled more than $1 million, which the Koplitzes refused to pay. In 2006 the city settled for $400,000.
The Koplitzes live in Englewood Cliffs, NJ. They own various properties in Asbury Park and other municipalities. Their holdings include, in Ocean Grove, the Ocean View Inn at 22 Ocean Pathway and the Ocean Plaza Hotel at 18 Ocean Pathway. They also owned the Sampler Inn on Main Avenue, which fell into such extreme disrepair that in 2009 the township ordered it demolished. The Koplitzes also fought tenaciously at every step in that laborious legal process, costing the taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars.
Friday update, 11:55 a.m.: This morning, according to Committeewoman Jahn, police rousted a homeless person from under the porch of the Park View. Jahn also said that Gene Anthony drove past the property this morning and saw two people sitting on the steps; a cab arrived and picked them up. “He believes people may be living under the porch,” Jahn said. So Anthony is contacting the Koplitzes’ attorney demanding that they block access to the area beneath the porch.