By Charles Layton
It’s been more than two years since neighbors presented Neptune Township with a petition, asking that something be done about the dangerously derelict Park View Inn at 23 Sea View Avenue.
Although the Township has since taken the owner, Marshall Koplitz, to court and forced him to agree to rehab the building, little tangible progress has been made in the building itself. It remains an eyesore. Neighbors still live in fear that it could catch fire and burn them out of their homes. One elderly man who lives nearby is said to keep a packed bag beside his door in case he suddenly has to flee for his life.
But now these neighbors have a new concern. They say that paint, possibly contaminated with lead, is spreading from the Park View onto their properties. “You’ve got paint peeling, chips are blowing off the building, and the neighbors are getting it on their porches, it’s on the street, it’s in the alleys,” one man said.
This man, who wishes to remain anonymous for now, recently bought a lead detection kit and used it to test samples of the paint chips from the Park View. Most of those samples tested positive for lead, he said.
He and some friends are now circulating a new petition, which they hope to deliver soon to the Township Committee. It asks that the Township perform its own independent testing to confirm the existence of lead. “If lead paint is found,” the petition says, “we would ask that the Township of Neptune take steps to correct this situation immediately.”
“Our concern is for little kids, for pets, you know,” one of the petitioners said. “I don’t know what danger that paint is to adults unless you actually eat it, but I suspect if the town found out about it they would have to do something to get rid of the lead paint.”
The test kit these neighbors used contains pencil-like swabs. When a swab is pressed against a surface, such as the surface of a paint chip, a liquid chemical causes its tip to turn red if lead is present. If no lead is present, the tip of the swab remains white.
When this test was applied to the paint samples from The Park View, neighbors said, most of the samples turned the swabs red.
Some of the neighbors along Sea View Avenue are losing faith that the Township has the determination to force Koplitz to fix up his property. Back in June of 2010, when 33 of these neighbors submitted their previous petition, they were given to understand that the Township would keep them informed from that point forward. But this has not happened. “We’re getting no feedback from the Township,” one of the petitioners — the man with the lead test kit — said.
They worry that Koplitz will continue to make excuses and stall, just as he has done for years — and just as he did with The Sampler Inn, another of his derelict buildings that became a public nuisance and was finally demolished in 2009. Their greatest fear is of a fire breaking out inside the Park View and spreading to nearby homes, which has happened on two other occasions in the same general vicinity in recent years.
Koplitz is under a court order to rehab the Park View on a specific schedule, but the neighbors have yet to see many visible signs of improvement. He was, this spring, twice declared in default of the court agreement, although the Township’s head of code and construction, Bill Doolittle, has since said he is back in compliance. Still, so far as anyone in the neighborhood knows, he has not yet obtained bank financing for this rehab project, as the court order requires. A workman who has entered the building in recent months told one of the neighbors that the place remains a total mess inside.
To be fair, though, there was one positive development this week. Workers showed up and cut the grass and then edged all around the property.