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Archive for the ‘Ocean Grove fires’ Category

We took this portrait during a fire in Ocean Grove.. Undated. Blogfinger photo.

 

JOHN WILLIAMS AND ITZHAK PERLMAN.   This theme from Schindler’s List is about saving human lives, and that is also what these firemen do.

All such heroes put their own lives on the line; it’s part of the definition of hero.

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Paul Goldfinger ©. April 22, 2019. OG North End. Pathfinders.  Click to enlarge.

 

By Paul Goldfinger, Editor@Blogfinger.net

The walking path has now been opened, following the boardwalk north past the two piles of rubble and other signs of the great fire.  A truck from the Neptune Office of Emergency Management has arrived, but their role in the cleanup is unknown to us.

You could stand on your head, but no one from the Mother Ship would offer some information on Blogfinger.  The last time that happened was with Committeewoman Mary Beth Jahn, when she opposed the North End Plan,  and she later got dumped by the Township Comedy.

The two rubble piles remain. Safety fence along the boardwalk.

Some boardwalk damage was evident. Paul Goldfinger. © 4/22/19.

Bikers, joggers, walkers, and tricky kids have returned this morning, the day after Easter Sunday.

I even saw a young woman walking with her friend, chattering back and forth as they swung their arms.  They both wore black leggings  (girls in their spring  clothes) and one wore a shirt that said, “Á La Mode.”

That made my day, trying to understand her messaging. Lately we see a lot more T shirts with messages other than “Marquette University” which also showed up this morning.  You can’t blame her for not wanting to be in Wisconsin in April.

 

North End wreckage at the north side of the damage. April 22, 2019. Paul Goldfinger ©  Click to enlarge.

 

This jury rigged path will allow life to resume as access to Asbury Park returns, and the merchants over there breathe a sigh of relief.  Now all that remains is to wait for the Asburians to begin the beguine.

JAZZ AT LINCOLN CENTER ORCHESTRA WITH RUBEN BLADES AND WYNTON MARSALIS:

 

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Banner on the pink La Pierre, facing Asbury Park,  says “Now Renting.” Blogfinger photograph May 21, 2018. © As seen from the A. Park side.  Click to enlarge.

 

La Pierre as seen after the March 2017 fire. The empty area at the site of the Warrington Hotel remains undeveloped due to a zoning dispute with Neptune Township.  Photo by Gary Colyer.

By Paul Goldfinger, Editor @Blogfinger.net

The La Pierre condominiums (16 Lake Avenue—-with no parking) had severe damage during the Warrington conflagration of  March 3, 2017.  The La Pierre is located between the Ocean and Founder’s Park.

Their rental banner suggests that they have completed restoration of that building.  The work began quickly after the fire. The La Pierre has condominiums  for sale and rent.  It used to be a historic hotel with 100 rooms; the condo conversion took place in 1988 with 36 units.

You can see the excellent retaining wall there, but the wall uglifies on either side.  The wall particularly needs to be restored at the east side of Lake Avenue, near the boardwalk. That presumably will be paid for by the North End redevelopers.

The banner facing Asbury Park is consistent with the recent recognition that Ocean Grove real estate will be marketed  to those whose eyes are on A. Park.  We have seen ads that essentially say, “Live in Ocean Grove because it is cheaper, but leave your heart in Asbury Park.”

This is not good for the evolution of OG as a historic district with its own objectives, values, and culture. Those who set their sites on A. Park will likely not care much about the historic small town vision for the Grove.

And the North End Redevelopment Plan will create an appendage to A. Park, ie South Asbury Park in O. Grove.  Whatever housing is eventually placed there will be all about the proximity to A.P. not the proximity to O.G. proper.

BLOSSOM DEARIE  from her album  May I Come In?    “Corcovado.”  1998.

 

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Rob Spahr photo NJ.com March 3, 2017. ©

By Paul Goldfinger, Editor at Blogfinger.net

It has been nearly a month since the March 3 fire, but the Coaster woke up on March 23 and published a front page story wondering if the Ocean Grove fires in recent years might represent a “pattern” due to a “serial arsonist at work.”  Their article is just a repeat of the speculation that was reported in the days after the Warrington fire.  (You can search Blogfinger regarding the March 3 fire by using our search box at the top right corner of the blog.)

The lead Coaster headline asks “Ocean Groves Fires: Coincidence or Not?”    The Coaster interviewed an OG realtor  who said that the fires were “very suspicious and need to be investigated.”   No kidding!

As expected, the investigation results for the March 3 fire are not yet being released, although, so far, apparently there is no evidence to suggest foul play.  Typically, the authorities never make public announcements about their fire investigations.

Over 90 people were displaced from their homes, and some of them are busy hiring lawyers to look into the matter.  One of the victims told us that he sustained serious lung damage during the event and he is relentlessly investigating the situation himself, including pursuing research about the owner of the Warrington whom he holds responsible for leaving such a vulnerable building to deteriorate while exposing the neighborhood to fire risk.

A few years ago, the owner of the Warrington made offers to buy the properties of 3 of the homes that were destroyed in the fire  (25 Seaview, 27 Seaview, and 29 Seaview.)  Getting access to one of those lots would solve his “land-locked” problem in terms of getting permission to build. But each of those owners refused.

The Warrington owner had previously received permission to remodel the old Warrington Hotel, but after the fire, since the situation was now changed to build a new hotel on  an empty lot, he was denied the building permits which he was seeking soon after the deluge.

As part of the Coaster piece, the President of the OGHOA, Barbara Burns, was interviewed. She said, “No one knows if this is a conspiracy or a coincidence.”    It seems that she has been able to narrow down the possibilities to two.

“Burns also added that she does not believe  Ocean Grove residents are overly concerned about fire.”  Really?

She concluded with  “I don’t think they worry on a day-to-day basis, but after a fire, certainly people think about it more.  But I don’t think they feel unsafe living here.”

But would Ms. Burns feel that way if she had lived in the vicinity of the Warrington?  Those people had been chronically concerned on a day to day basis, especially since their fears were ignored by the Neptunites at the Mother Ship. We know because BF interviewed one of those close neighbors in October, 2016*.

The same was true for that other fire risk beauty–the Park View Inn that stood rotting for years as the neighbors looked on with trepidation.

Here is a quote from that October, 2016 Blogfinger piece——link below*  “He says that his neighbor, whose home borders the path that runs from Lake to Seaview, adjacent to the Warrington, has been “living in hell” due to the garbage, the crime, the safety and health risks, strange people peeking in his windows, the physical degradation of the Warrington, the congestion and other concerns.” 

October 2016 Warrington post in Blogfinger   *

And here is a comment from Simon, one of the victims, who often complained on Blogfinger about his safety concerns at the Warrington:

Simon: “Now that WE lost our homes with all our personal items we had from many years, how do we get that back?

The Warrington…. my neighbor and I called Neptune concerned on the happenings, on what was taking place there, with less then little results. Sawbucks was called on what they were doing back there: 2 days a week hammering with no new lumber; also with no visible results.

“Now that we all are looking for places to live, it’s a little too late for responses. All the neighbors’ insurance companies are investigating the fire that started at the Warrington. I hope they have to pay back all the homes they burned down. Pay back from the insurance companies—- but it will never make the HURT go away.

“Also 4 animals had to pay the price and lost their lives. I wish someone could tell me what was it all for—was it for greed?  People could have also died as a result. Thank God for that. My prays go out to all the other victims.  I am rebuilding ASAP.”

 

And here is a recent communication from a nearby neighbor addressed to a fire victim:   “The Warrington  housed the disabled, mentally ill, and drug addicts. Drug trafficking was seen by the neighbors; afraid to say anything due to fear of retaliation. The State of NJ shut down the building—- never to open as a boarding house.
This was all told to the Neptune Zoning board meetings when the Warrington owners were filing for permission to build the HIGH CLASS HOTEL.. Past behavior predicts future behavior, so I gave a copy to the Board. No one listened. I went to every meeting. “
The investigation is led by the Monmouth County Prosecutors Office. We are told that the State Fire Marshal’s arson office has dropped out of the investigation.  We know nothing about the Federal ATF review.

We will continue to watch for new information about that horrible March 3 fire.  If you hear anything new, please email us at Blgfinger@verizon.net

NINO ROTA: “The Halls of Fear” from The Godfather.

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Doing what's best for OG. In this case, the Whitfield was recently torn down and will be replaced by single family homes. © Paul Goldfinger photo.

Doing what’s best for OG:   In this case, the Whitfield Hotel was recently torn down and will be replaced by single family homes. Let’s figure out what’s next. It’s not easy.  © Paul Goldfinger photo.

By  Paul Goldfinger, Editor @Blogfinger.  Jack Bredin,Researcher @Blogfinger

So, where do we begin with our discussion regarding the massive fire of March 3, 2017 in Ocean Grove, NJ?  So many questions come to mind. At Blogfinger  we have one news writer, one researcher, a couple of editors, some itinerant citizen photographers/reporters, no fact checkers, no IT staff, no professional journalists, and finally, more questions than answers.  And don’t knock the citizen reporters; after all, Paul Revere was one, and look at what he accomplished.

But what we do have are our readers and our freedom to speak out.   On March 3, there were about 6,000 hits on our site.  Surely some of our readers have expertise that they can share to help us with our questions.  After all, we are an “information sharing website.”

And now, after the fire, we need to create some order out of the many issues to be raised.  We will begin today with a collection of questions.  We will raise a few and ask you to send us some more.  Then, as with our Warrington initiative, we will focus on certain subjects individually.

You may ask a question anonymously or with your actual name. We may post questions without attribution. We have already begun specific topics about fire investigations in town, about current fire damages, and about aspects of the Warrington situation.

At the outset today, the quest for information will be chaotic.  But if we find that certain questions are attracting a great deal of interest, we will dissect them out and give them their own platform on Blogfinger.net.  Meanwhile this post will be the place to suggest more questions and answers.

 

ONE.  Why don’t citizens band together to demand that the Neptune Township Committee immediately change the zoning for the Warrington lot to single family house zoning.  The Committee has the power to override the current site plan which gives special zoning to the Warrington owner. Then the owner will have to present a new site plan to accommodate single family Victorian-style houses..

TWO. Will the Zoning Board of Adjustment prove to the people of Ocean Grove that the Warrington site plan was officially signed and on what date?   Will that site plan allow for a new hotel even though the old hotel is now gone?

THREE.    Lake Avenue is a privately owned lot on the tax map.  The owner is the OGCMA.  It also is designated as “privately owned public open space” which gives the CMA a Green Acres tax deduction.  So, how could the ZBA grant permission for the Warrington developer to encroach on that land?  Did they get DEP approval first?

Blogfinger was told by the ZBA official that there is a permission letter from the CMA to the developer, but does the CMA actually approve of such encroachment into a public walkway? Did the ZBA look into the Green Acres situation before it allowed the Warrington developer to encroach on this public space?

Green Acres sign on Lake Avenue in Ocean Grove. See wording below. Blogfinger photo.

Green Acres sign on Lake Avenue in Ocean Grove. See wording below. Blogfinger photo.

This faded sign above is on Lake Avenue at the foot of the New Jersey Ave. bridge across Wesley Lake and pertains to Lake Avenue.  It says: “GREEN ACRES TAX EXEMPTION PROGRAM. This privately owned land is dedicated for public recreation/conservation. State of New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. PO Box 412, Trenton, NJ 08625.  NJSA 54:4-3.63 Et. Seq”   If the CMA were to cancel their participation in Green Acres, they would have to pay taxes on the involved property.

FOUR:. Will the Township agree to follow RSIS standards all over town with the exception of single family houses? That would be the first step to stop condoization and mandate single family zoning all over town, as requested by the Master Plan?  This would improve fire safety in OG. Do they realize that three of the major recent fires have involved condominiums or hotels destined to be condominiums?

FIVE:. Do you remember the #50 Main Avenue fire on Feb 6, 2015.?  That one occurred on a Friday and destroyed a building that had apartments upstairs; stores downstairs.  Here is a link that talks about that fire:    Fire chief discusses Main Ave. fire 2/6/15

SIX.  How much insurance was placed on the Warrington?

SEVEN. Who owns the land at the Warrington site? ( CMA or  developer.)  Who owns the cottages near the Warrington which were destroyed, and what happens to those lots if the new Warrington is built?  And what happens to the easement for Lake Ave to Seaview Ave so that the hotel guests, workers, UPS, etc. can get by?

Will the new Warrington developer buy or use those two adjacent sites for an on-site parking lot?  Will the Township force the new Warrington to provide on-site parking, as per RSIS standards?

EIGHT.  Regarding the new Warrington, will the Township allow that building to be placed on a land-locked lot as before?  Will the Township continue turning its back on NJ Land Use Laws?

NINE.   Is it true that the owner of the 50 unit La Pierre rental building is the same person who owns the Warrington?   When a building burns down, does the owner still have to pay ground rent when the building no longer exists?

TEN.  From Old Timer:
Real estate – will people still want to move to OG?
Insurance – will everyone’s home insurance increase?
Aesthetics – is OG becoming a continuous disaster area (major fires
and Sandy)? Will it ever be normal (“good old days”)?

ELEVEN.  From Bythesea:

Looking ahead…what is likely to happen to the affected land? There is now a large new area to be redeveloped that is right up against the existing North End redevelopment zone. Could the consequence of this fire be more non-conforming development as an integrated part of the North End monstrosity development? If the fire was intentionally set, which they will figure out, then maybe the ultimate motivation for the perpetrators is to enable the North End to take on an additional dimension that was not possible before.

Conspiracy thinking, I know. But this is Neptune Township in bed with unscrupulous, money grabbing developers.

TWELVE:  From Citizen:

Who is running Neptune Township? Is it the Governing Body or is it a shadow government with non-elected individuals, such as developers,  manipulating elected puppets and telling them what to do?   This is not unheard of in local governments.

THIRTEEN:   From Suffering Surfer:

Are there laws regarding a work site? If not, why not? We need laws such as: an uninhabited work site in Ocean Grove, such as a derelict building being renovated, must be properly secured when workers are not present and all electricity and gas must be turned off.

JAMES TAYLOR:

 

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This image was posted with our March, 2011 story on the Surf Avenue fire. Photo by John Gallagher. Special to Blogfinger. ©

This image was posted with our March, 2011 story on the Surf Avenue fire. Photo by John Gallagher. Special to Blogfinger. ©

By Paul Goldfinger,  Editor @Blogfinger

3/3/17.  Ocean Grove, NJ.      Fires have been problematic in Ocean Grove since its founding.   Over the years, many hotels, boarding houses, and homes have been destroyed in town. The fragile wood structures were vulnerable, and whenever a fire would occur, it would spread so fast that it would light up an entire group or even a block of structures.  The construction would allow the flames to accelerate from the basement to the roof in just a few minutes.

In Ocean Grove we have an excellent fire department which has developed skills in dealing with our close quarters conflagrations.  But the risks in recent winters have been fearsome and disturbing.

Since 2010, we have had 4 major fires, and three of them have occurred in March.   Fortunately there were no deaths or serious injuries.

On Saturday, March 13, 2010, the Manchester Inn on Main Avenue, was destroyed. That fire originated in the Inn and resulted in the destruction of 5 nearby homes as well as serious damage to 2 more, plus the Inn. The Inn was supposed to be converted to condos. It was replaced by single family Victorian style houses.

On Friday, March 11, 2011, the Surf Avenue fire destroyed 2 homes on Surf Ave. and seriously damaged 4 homes on Atlantic Avenue.  There was a condo building under construction at the time. It was rebuilt.  Our reporting questioned the conclusions of the investigation, but we were frustrated in our efforts to get transparency from the County.*

And now, of course, we have the Friday, March 3, 2017 fire that occurred early this morning.

The one significant fire since 2010 that was not in March occurred on Friday, Feb. 9 and was the Main Avenue fire that totaled 50-54 Main Avenue and damaged an adjacent building.

In the first three instances, no suspicious findings were reported by investigators.  Usually the fire evaluations are performed by the County Fire Marshall and the County prosecutor’s office.

Our article* in 2011 raised concerns about the trustworthiness of fire investigations in the Grove.  Here is a quote from that 10/30/11 BF article with a link to it below.

“It is obvious from recent comments on this website that many people in Ocean Grove have little confidence in the fire investigations conducted by these county offices. So long as public officials keep the facts to themselves, behaving as if they have something to hide, people will naturally be suspicious and distrustful. As they should be.

“If the reason for the seeming laxity of these two investigations is that our fire investigators lack sufficient knowledge of fire chemistry and fire dynamics, then the county should upgrade its standards and give its people more professional training.  In the meantime, though, either the county or Neptune Township would do well to engage a skilled team of outside, unbiased professionals to conduct independent, thorough investigations of both those major fires. It’s clear that our own officials lack the will — and perhaps also the ability — to do a credible job. But the public needs answers.”

https://blogfinger.net/2011/10/30/editorial-our-fire-investigators-have-let-us-down/

Now we will probably have a long wait to get results of today’s fire investigation.

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Small apartment fire. Olin AVe. at Pilgrim Pathway in Ocean Grove.  Paul Goldfinger photo ©

Small apartment fire, 2004. Olin Ave. at Pilgrim Pathway in Ocean Grove. Paul Goldfinger photo ©  Click to enlarge.

NIKKI LONEY:

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8/4/16  Photo by Susan and Barry Krumm

8/4/16 Photo by Susan and Barry Krumm

 

8 pm. By Jean Bredin. Blogfinger staff. ©

8 pm. By Jean Bredin. Fire is out.   Blogfinger staff. ©  8/4/16

 

8:30 0pm August 4, 2016. Pilgrim Pathway at Olin Avenue. Paul Goldfinger photo ©

8:30 pm August 4, 2016. Pilgrim Pathway at Mt. Hermon  Way . Situation under control.    Paul Goldfinger photo ©

A fire broke out in a second floor apartment above the hair salon at the intersection of Mt. Hermon Way and Pilgrim Pathway.   A large emergency response ensued, with about six fire trucks on the scene at about 7:30 pm.   The fire was quickly extinguished. We were unable to get any more information from the fire department or the police.

8:38 pm the view from Pilgrim Pathway near the Chamber office. Paul Goldfinger photo © 8/4/16

8:38 pm the view from Pilgrim Pathway near the art gallery.  Paul Goldfinger photo © 8/4/16

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Bringing dirt in to the site.  Later crushed stone will arrive to support adjacent foundation. Paul Goldfinger photo. March 24, 2015. ©

Bringing dirt in to the site. Later crushed stone will arrive to support adjacent foundation. Paul Goldfinger photo. March 24, 2015. ©

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Ocean Grove. March 11, 2011. Surf Avenue.  By Ted Aanensen, Blogfinger staff photographer   ©

Ocean Grove. March 11, 2011. Surf Avenue. By Ted Aanensen, Blogfinger staff photographer ©

STUART MATTHEWMAN:  “Amapola.”

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