By Charles Layton
Local builder and realtor Jack Green says he’s hoping to get a building permit soon that will allow renovations to proceed at 91 Cookman Avenue.
“I think we’re close, within a week or so,” he said on Sunday.
This will come as welcome news to neighbors who have worried and complained for more than a decade about this neglected and dilapidated old house.
It’s been a year since Green purchased it and promised to rehab it – to the great relief of these neighbors. Although he had said he expected to have it reconstructed and on the market by this summer, that has not happened.
Neighbors told me recently that the house had been badly neglected all through the spring. “It became worse and worse,” said Doris Jaeger. “The windows have been wide open,” said Anita Meeks. “The front and back doors, 90 percent of the time since [Green] bought it, have been open.” Evelyn Silla said animals were invading the place. “It’s a squirrel’s paradise.”
Meeks gave me a walking tour around the house, showing me how it was being left open to the elements.
“I was thrilled when I heard Jack Green had bought [the house] because there’s nobody else in Ocean Grove who could fix that up,” Jaeger said. “But he’s lost heart in the project, obviously, because he’s just letting it hang there.”
“He’s a class act,” said Silla, “and I just wish he would move in here and rehab this.”
When I spoke with Green on Sunday, he told me the doors and windows are now secured, and he thinks plywood is covering the holes in the roof. He said the building permit had been held up because the Township needed to see more detailed plans from his architect, Kate Comerford. He also said he had been talking to some people who had shown a possible interest in purchasing the house from Green and following his rehab plan, which has been approved by the Historic Preservation Commission.
This past winter Green had clashed with the HPC over details of his rehab proposal. But in the end Green and the HPC came to terms, and HPC chairwoman Deborah Osepchuk called the resulting plan “a home run.”
The house is one of a handful of derelict properties that have caused concern in Ocean Grove in recent years. It was built in the 1890s and is considered one of the Historic District’s “key structures,” meaning it has been listed in Neptune’s Master Plan as having special historical and architectural importance.
The place has been uninhabited and in disrepair since a fire broke out in an upstairs bedroom 13 years ago.