The OG summer tents are sought after by painters, photographers, tourists, renters, historians, strollers, bikers, and others. Our tents are unique. From a photographer’s point of view, we look for new ways of seeing the tents; we try to be creative with lighting and composition. It’s not easy to come up with something different, but that is what we require at this Ocean Grove website where photography is used more than words to describe our town.
When I submitted a “plain vanilla” portrait of the tents for the book “New Jersey 24/7” I was surprised that the image was one of the winners, but then I realized that those of us who live here are a bit jaded, like New Yorkers who take the Empire State Building for granted.
But for you OG photographers, Blogfinger will continue looking for fresh ways of seeing our historic and beautiful tents.
ADAM LEVINE “No One Else Like You .” From the film Begin Again
By Paul Goldfinger, Editor @Blogfinger. (Originally posted in November 2015 and now minimally edited for this New Year’s Day edition of Blogfinger. The original question posited in the headline is still valid.)
There are multiple factions in the small town of Ocean Grove (pop 3,700,) and these organized groups are largely isolated from each other. Woven into the fabric are homeowners and renters who live here but do not belong to any organizations, thus becoming, by default, a faction of their own.
According to social scientist Steve Valk, whose family has lived here for several generations, it would be important for these factions to find ways to appreciate and cooperate with each other. For example he cites the religious groups and the secular groups which ought to find common ground for the benefit of the town. One example of such cooperation is the recent interaction, since Sandy, between Ocean Grove United (OGU) and the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association (CMA); however we have recently seen how tenuous that relationship is when we recall the clash about Sunday sermons this past summer.
The CMA ran the town from 1869 to 1980—-111 years. Neptune Township treated OG as a sort of gated community. The CMA made the rules and imposed blue laws until the N.J. Supreme Court put a stop to that in 1980 when Neptune took over active governance in the Grove (although they were technically the governing body almost since the town’s founding.) Since 1980, the CMA has continued its mission and it has largely kept out of the way of Neptune Township.
But we now see the CMA and the Township working together on the North End Redevelopment Project, but suspicious elements have been revealed, and that project does not seem to be designed primarily with the town’s best interest at heart.
As for the Neptune Township governance, you have seen the results of our recent poll which shows that 80% of respondents mistrust the Neptune Township Committee. Interestingly, over the years, there were times when the citizens rose up against Neptune control resulting in law suits and even a failed referendum to allow the Grove to become a separate town which it did for one year in 1925.
The other organizations here also tend to have their own agendas and to be run like private clubs. Such groups include the Homeowners Association, the Historical Society, Ocean Grove United, and the Chamber of Commerce. They don’t work together very much for the good of the town. They are busy with their own activities. For example, the Chamber of Commerce runs big events to try and drum up business for the merchants. But what do they do for the benefit of those who live here? We asked them to take over sponsorship of the Town-wide Yard Sale, but they refused. When we introduced a new idea for the town—the Blogfinger Film Festival—a benefit for the boardwalk—-only a few of the members would be sponsors for the program, and hardly any attended the event.
When we think of factions in town, we can see the visible ones, but how about the invisible ones such as families that have lived here for generations and are part of networks that act in concert with each other, with the CMA, and with the Township governance, especially where land use, zoning, and parking are concerned. Let’s call that “the network of special interests.”
For them the town of Ocean Grove seems like a gift that keeps on giving. This network never speaks publicly, shows its face, or identifies itself, but what it does and has done will impact all of us and will determine what the town will be in the future. We have seen the results of favoritism for those special interests in the Greek Temple and Mary’s Place. The North End Redevelopment Project is a good example to keep an eye on. Who will be the winners, and who will be the losers?
Because of indifference by the public, organizations, and special interests, Ocean Grove may become an at-risk town which could end up a failed historic place without focus and character, such as is seen in other shore towns—unless the public pays attention and the organizations here begin to work together for the overall benefit of the town and not just on their narrow pet projects, like the Homeowners Association which is currently circulating a simple minded parking survey while ignoring the improprieties and illegalities around town regarding land use issues. The HOA has teamed up with the Neptune Committee ever since 2008 when it supported 165 residential units, mostly condos, at the North End.
In 2002, a professor* at Monmouth University published an academic paper about OG history, emphasizing the powerful way that the activist HOA of 25-30 years ago fought for the town and saved its life. Below is a quote** from that research about that era.
Contrast the conclusion below with the current HOA which now is failing Ocean Grove through impotence, inaction, and lack of focus towards the issues which currently threaten our town the most.
The Home Groaners need to step up and save the town once again, but this version appears to so far be hopeless in that regard.
** 2002: “The HOA has maintained or reconstructed the carefully planned infrastructure of the founders, and even as Ocean Grove is being reborn as a contemporary tourist site, the HOA has worked with the CMA to preserve its sacred foundations. Just like the CMA, the HOA has been outstanding in its ability to secure what it wants and what it believes the community needs. Property values have risen, the community is again a safe place, tourism has been revived, an enormous amount of social capital has been generated, and the Victorian charm of the town has been restored.”
By Karen Schmelzkopf* in the Journal of Historical Geography, 2002
That two-story building, #58-60 Main Avenue, has shops on the ground floor and 5 rental apartments on the second floor.
The owner, Sackman Enterprises, of NYC and Asbury Park, wants to add a third floor. They want to renovate the apartments and turn them into five (5) two-bedroom condominiums with one of the bedrooms on the third floor for each unit.
The third floor may be added according to the HD-B-1 historic mixed use zoning. The lot is double, 3,600 square feet (60′ x 60′). The maximum building height is 35 feet. Blogfinger got to review the site plan today at the Municipal Building. Luckily they gave us more than five minutes to study it.
The lawyers for the owner requested that their application be heard by the Planning Board, but there is reason to believe that the correct place would be the Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA). That is what the Planning/Zoning office thought in the first place and that is how they initially marked the paper work—–The application and plan have “ZBA” written on them.
But later that department decided to send it to the Planning Board as requested by the applicant’s attorneys. We do not know the dynamics of that decision, but we suspect legerdemain.
The reason that the ZBA would be a proper destination is that the building is non-conforming, and the third floor addition is non-conforming. Only the ZBA can grant the proper variances for the addition and for its use as condominiums.
And part of the problem for approving this project is density. It will increase congestion and parking problems in a part of town where those issues already exist. The Planning Board might not be interested in those aspects, but the ZBA may be.
In addition, an RSIS parking waiver should be proffered if the applicant wants to increase density without offering off-street parking. Of course Neptune Township will likely ignore this Land Use law as they have done for years in approving condominium projects sans parking, all over town.
It seems that the owners want to finesse this project by having it sail through the calm waters of the Planning Board on Wednesday, December 14, 7 pm, in the Municipal Building.
If you are cynical about the way that projects get approved in this town, and if you are resigned to having the citizens of Ocean Grove lose these battles due to the lack of opposition, at least you can be informed. Come to that meeting. You can stand up and ask a question or not, but you may find it interesting to hear the discussion which may actually become heated and thus great fun.
The PB chair is Sharon Davis—–please be kind to our man Jack.
Link to the BF article on this subject 12/3/16. There is a photo of the building:
By Paul Goldfinger, Editor @Blogfinger and Jack Bredin, Blogfinger researcher and reporter.
In recent posts, Blogfinger acquainted our readers with the renaming of Wesley Lake into the “Wesley Detention/Retention Basin.” We alerted our readers to the change in Wesley Lake from public open space land to a water retention basin on the Tax Map. Jack Bredin, Blogfinger researcher, has reviewed this issue and he has used the Neptune Township Master Plan (2011) and the latest Tax Map as his main sources.
Today’s post focuses on the “Name Blame Game” and tries to get some answers.
Our emphasis is on Wesley Lake, but the same thing happened on the Neptune Township Tax Map for Fletcher Lake which also has a new name: “Fletcher Detention/Retention Basin.”
The link below is to our latest post (Nov 13, 2016) on the subject of “What’s in a Name?”:
We pointed out that the Neptune Master Plan supports the idea of keeping our lakes clean. It says, “Encourage the reduction of runoff into surface water bodies.” We think that the name change was done to save money for developers in Asbury Park and Ocean Grove.
This name change would not be permitted by the DEP or the Green Acres program.
In addition, Wesley Lake and Fletcher Lake are on the Township’s ROSI list (Recreational and Open Space Inventory) where the Township is committed to hold these lands reserved for recreation and conservation “in perpetuity” in exchange for Green Acres funds.
But instead, the Township seems to be committed to dumping even more dirty water into Wesley Lake and using the Lake as a municipal facility.
Our prior posts also contained email exchanges with Tee Lesinski, a member of the Wesley Lake Commission, who said, “The Commission had nothing to do with the name change, and Wesley Lake is not a retention basin.”
Despite our publicizing this issue, no one from Neptune Township has explained to the citizens of Ocean Grove who is responsible for the name change and what is the true reason for it. We believe that the Neptune Township Committee has to accept responsibility for the name change because they have the exclusive authority over the Tax Map. Only they could order the change.
At the last Township Committee meeting on November 28, 2016, Jack Bredin once again waited patiently for the public portion and then he went to the microphone to publicly ask the 5 man/woman Committee about this name change situation. What he said was recorded and will appear in the Committee’s minutes, although it might take quite a while.
Here is a summary of what Jack crammed into 5 minutes:
—– He reminded them of their environmental obligations under the State Land Use Law and their own Master Plan. They are supposed to reduce dirty street water runoff into our lakes, not increase the runoff according to the Tax Map renaming Wesley Lake.
Jack also reviewed the ROSI statement and the Green Acres obligations for protecting all places on the list for recreation and conservation. A ROSI statement is required to be signed by the Mayor and the Chairman of the Planning Board and is attached to each application for Green Acre funding.
—–This obligation is confirmed by the Neptune Township Planning Board Chairman and the Neptune Township Mayor when they signed off on the 2011 Master Plan.
—–Jack asked who will take responsibility for the name change on the Tax Map?
—–He asked who will publicly explain why the name change was done?
—–He pointed out that all Township maps (eg zoning and Wesley Lake Commission) must contain the same name change as is present on the Tax Map. These maps must be consistent with the Tax Map, but they are not.
—–And he wanted to know why there is no formal resolution available to authorize the name change. Without a “Resolution” there are no “Reasons” to change the name of Wesley or Fletcher Lake.
In response to Jack’s comments, no one on the Committee or the Township Attorney was willing to answer the questions.
Jack’s inquiry was met with silence.
Those of you who support the current Township Committee have got to wonder about such issues as transparency, following the law, representative government, caring for the environment, and favoritism for developers. The “Name Blame Game” is a perfect touchstone for illustrating those concerns.
MATT CAVENAUGH. “Something’s Coming” from West Side Story 2009 Broadway cast album.
“Jack Ancona, LLC, aka the Warrington Hotel ” intends to go ahead with plans to remodel this former rest home into a high-end boutique hotel overlooking Wesley Lake. Supposedly it will have 16 rooms. The owner of the building, which is next to the site of the former Park View Inn, has received site plan approval from the Township. At the last Committee meeting, the owner was granted approval to “build and locate an innkeeper’s suite in the basement.” Such a structure is prohibited by ordinance, but the Zoning Board of Adjustment has permitted this, and so has the Township. The Township has executed a Developers Agreement with “Jack Ancona LLC” to make sure that the work is done properly. But Developers Agreements are not executed until all other approvals have been recorded.
We will look into those approvals, including concerns about the 3 lots that are included in the Warrington’s plans. The Warrington used to be shown on the tax map as existing on one lot: Block 101, Lot 2.
Meanwhile the building is in poor condition. Sawbucks Construction Co. has been sending one or two workers into the building daily for the last 4-6 weeks, and the neighbors have noted daily hammering. No one seems to know what those workers are doing inside. They wonder if building permits were granted for this work. Such permits should be openly posted at the site.
The Neptune Township Police Dept has been “exceptional” according to a neighbor in responding quickly to calls to deal with incursions at the site. Graffiti has been cleared from the building, and, according to nearby residents, the contractor has taken down shrubbery on the lakeside, and that is supposed to be illegal in a Green Acres location, which Lake Avenue is said to be.
As usual, due to lack of transparency, the neighbors on Seaview Avenue are complaining that they do not have enough information regarding the future of the site. They worry that the hotel, which will not have on-site parking, will worsen an already difficult parking situation. Many people in that vicinity are year-round residents, and they already often have trouble with parking, 12 months of the year. One resident estimates that at least 10% of those who park there are headed to Asbury. They also are worried about the garbage disposal from the hotel. How will that be accomplished?
The owner has told some of them that all guests will park off-site somewhere and then be offered transportation back to the hotel. Has such a shuttle plan been approved? This sounds potentially like an innovative solution, but will it work and satisfy those high end customers, and where will they park those cars? And will those well-to-do guests return after experiencing the OG parking life?
Locals are also worried because the hotel front is on Lake Avenue, a walkway, and they were told that the hotel has been granted an access pathway between the buildings to reach the Lake side of the hotel from Seaview, but that no garbage, deliveries, or other non-personal items can be moved via that passageway—-it would be just for guests and their luggage. We have no details regarding these elements.
It is said that a room in that luxury hotel might cost up to $300.00 per night. Can someone want to stay there when there is inconvenient parking and when there is no alcohol inside? And what about parking for visitors that the guests attract? And how about the Asbury Hotel, a boutique hotel just a few blocks away in A. Park?
More details should be provided to the public. How will this hotel impact the quality of life for that community?
Finally, we have reported on speculation that the Township would like to turn that part of Lake Avenue into a road for cars. There is widespread anticipatory opposition to that idea. See our recent articles about whether Lake Avenue is a road or a street. If it is not, then no road could be built there. It would be illegal.
See our forthcoming piece about the 4 lot subdivision which is the site of the former Park View Inn on Seaview, next door to the Warrington. There are some related issues.
Here is a link to a related article dated March, 2015 on BF:
Steve Valk (photo above) is a contemporary dance dramaturge, visual artist, designer and currently the director of the first Insitute of Social Choreography in Frankfurt Germany. He is an American who visits his family’s Ocean Grove home every summer. He has done that since his childhood in the 1960’s.
Last year he was consulting with the Martha Graham Ballet Company in New York City
I have met with Steve in the past to tap into his long term perspective and interest regarding Ocean Grove and what needs to be done to preserve its future. We had our first meeting for this summer today, but it wasn’t predominantly about the Grove. We will get to that before he leaves.
We got together this morning at Café Volan on Bangs Avenue in Asbury Park. It’s a down-home sort of place where the mood is bohemian and the coffee is excellent. We need a place like that in Ocean Grove. Steve likes to bike around OG and AP, but then he often wears another hat as he goes into New York to meet celebrities such as the creators of the Sopranos and Northern Exposure, among others. Check on the link below to get up to date. You can find other posts by using the Blogfinger search box above and type in Steve’s name.
SIDNEY BECHET with the Gershwins’ “Summertime” from Porgy and Bess
In a front page article in the NY Times*, it is reported that the Justice Department is looking into secret investors who are behind high end real estate deals. They are especially interested in professionals such as real estate agents, bankers, and lawyers who are involved in developing such entities.
Oftentimes shell companies are formed such as LLC’s** (Limited Liability Corporations) that shield the identities of investors. Frequently foreign buyers are involved using cash payments as they seek real estate deals to hide or launder their money.
Currently the investigators are focusing on New York City and Miami.
There is an LLC that is involved in the North End Redevelopment Plan. It is called WAVE, and we posted an article about it in April, 2015.
Since 2007. the identities of the WAVE investors have been hidden, even though they have been doing business with Neptune Township, the governing entity that is in charge of the North End Area in Need of Redevelopment.
You would think that any group doing business with the Township would be required to disclose the identities of its investors, and if it refuses, the Township should open bidding for others to be redevelopers of the NERP. But the Township continues to be involved with WAVE.
This is not to say that there is any evidence that WAVE’s principles are doing anything illegal, but any entity doing business with the Township should be totally above board and transparent, or it should be excused from participating in this project. This is about appearances, and the Township ought to make sure that its business associates are squeaky clean. As far as we can tell, the Committee does not know whom it is dealing with.
**”Simply put, an LLC is the least complex business structure. Unlike an S corp or C corp, an LLC’s structure is flexible. It also gives you the perk of pass-through taxes, limited liability (obviously), and legal protection for your personal assets. Plus the added benefit of looking more legit than the other guys.” Internet definition.
In 2012, a student project from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts Film School found its way to Ocean Grove where they were looking for a place to film some period interior scenes. This house on Main Avenue was perfect. We asked Marlee Roberts (above left), the producer, if we could screen the finished project in Ocean Grove, and that inquiry eventually led to the First Annual Blogfinger Film Festival in the Grove. We showed only student film shorts, and there was a second edition in 2013. Unfortunately we could not continue due to lack of sufficient interest in town. We coulda been a contender.
Marlee Roberts has continued with her career, and she has appeared in at least four movies and has been involved in a number of film projects.
The New Jersey Site Improvement Advisory Board (SIAB) will meet briefly on Thursday, December 17, 2015 in Room 129 of the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs. The meeting will begin at 10:AM and should be over by 10:30 AM. The agenda is attached.
Immediately following, the streets and parking committee will discuss the special area application for the Ocean Grove neighborhoodin Neptune Township, Monmouth County. This meeting should end by noon. If more time is needed for testimony, the committee will meet at a later date. Note that there will be an opportunity for public comments.
This is a chance for citizen activists to voice their concerns that an approval of the Neptune application might make it easier for condo conversions without parking to continue in Ocean Grove.
And,incidentally, Blogfinger will attend the meeting, and jack Bredin, our researcher will present a novel idea to the sub-committee. Some of you should come just for the shear spectacle of it all. Maybe the Home Groaners will show up along with other do-nothing representatives of OG’s citizens including the Township Committee.
NEW JERSEY SITE IMPROVEMENT ADVISORY BOARD. Streets and Parking Committee:
Meeting Agenda for Thursday, December 17, 2015
CALL TO ORDER
OPEN PUBLIC MEETINGS ACT
APPROVAL OF MINUTES
Ocean Grove proposed standards to be discussed by streets & parking committee
Take a look at the link below and pay attention to the permitted uses in the historic district, especially the ocean front area. This is what was submitted to the Federal Government in the 1970’s when permission was requested for the historic designation. What would they think now if they saw the NERP plan and the condos in that area?
Below is a portion of the above document (screen shot) which describes how the North End was when Ocean Grove was first developed—-this is the true OG history which should be emulated with the same spirit, including nothing residential east of the boardwalk and nothing west either, although a hotel was later built over there to the west.
Do you believe that “anything goes” when it comes to Ocean Grove zoning issues? Well, most Grovers do not trust the Township to do what’s best for OG. You might consider going to this meeting.