Posts Tagged ‘derelict buildings in Ocean Grove’

By Charles Layton

Although Marshall Koplitz still isn’t living up to his court promises regarding the derelict Park View property in Ocean Grove, the Township has decided it has no choice but to accept his latest explanation: Hurricane Sandy.

As regular readers know, the neighbors living near the Park View Inn, at 23 Seaview Avenue, have been trying for years to force Koplitz to improve that boarded-up nuisance property.

Here is a thumbnail history of Koplitz’ most recent failures to comply.

On July 28 of 2011, after years of ineffectual prodding by Neptune Township, Koplitz signed a consent agreement in Municipal Court binding him to restore the Park View as a 31-room hotel. This was to be done under a five-phase schedule.

For instance, under Phase II of the schedule Koplitz was to have submitted floor plans and elevations for the Township’s approval. He was late in doing that. In April of this year the Township declared Koplitz in default of the consent agreement. In May the Township again declared him in default and threatened to take him back to court. Failure to comply with any portion of the rehab schedule was supposed to have triggered a fine of at least $35,000. But the Township gave Koplitz extra time, and he finally did submit floor plans.

Marshall Koplitz. Photo by Charles Layton

Marshall Koplitz. Photo by Charles Layton

Then, in early October, the Township found Koplitz to be in default of the next phase of the rehab schedule, Phase III. Under that, he was to have submitted more detailed, corrected plans to the Neptune Construction Department. Later that month, Hurricane Sandy arrived.

In early December the Township’s attorney, Gene Anthony, formally notified Koplitz’ lawyer by letter that Koplitz was in default and said he was acting in bad faith.

On December 20, according to Township records, Koplitz’ lawyer advised the Township that Koplitz didn’t miss the Phase III deadline due to bad faith but because of the hurricane. Koplitz’ hired engineering firm had an interruption of business due to the storm-related blackout and cleanup, and because they had to relocate their office  due to flooding, the lawyer said.

Anthony has advised the Township Committee that he thinks the Municipal Court would accept that excuse. Therefore, rather than go back to the court, the Township has given Koplitz a new extension of the deadline: January 31. This, Anthony said in a letter to Township officials, will be “the final deadline” on this phase of the work.

Note: It is the stated policy of Koplitz’ lawyer, Michelle Lebovitz Lamar, not to comment to the press on these matters.

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By Charles Layton

Marshall Koplitz, owner of the notorious Park View Inn building on Seaview Avenue, has again failed to meet his obligations under a court order, prompting Neptune Township attorney Gene Anthony to accuse him of acting in bad faith.

This week, in a letter, Anthony gave notice to Koplitz’ lawyer that her client is in default of the court order. By our count this marks the fourth time this year that Anthony has threatened to take Koplitz back to Municipal Court for being in default.

Koplitz and the Township negotiated a consent order in July of 2011, in which he promised the court and the Township that he would renovate the boarded-up and dilapidated Park View Inn according to a specific five-phase schedule. This agreement came after years of conflict with the Township, with neighbors and with the Ocean Grove Fire Commissioners over the dangerously run-down condition of his hotel.

Although he has since met some of that agreement’s deadlines, he has missed others, to the frustration of many long-suffering Ocean Grove residents living nearby.

Marshall Koplitz at an HPC meeting last December. Photo by Charles Layton

Marshall Koplitz at an HPC meeting last December. Photo by Charles Layton

The subject of this week’s letter, from Anthony to attorney Michelle Lebovitz Lamar, was Koplitz’ failure to submit revised architectural plans to the Township. Although Koplitz did submit plans, Anthony wrote that those plans “have not been responsive to the requirements of the Construction Department.” Given that the department requested revisions “as early as June 6, 2012,” Anthony wrote, “it is hard to believe that proper corrections and completion of such plans have not been completed six (6) months later.” The delay, he said, “is unreasonable and is tantamount to bad faith on the part of your client.”

Asked for comment, Lamar told Blogfinger that it was her policy not to “speak to the press about any of my clients.” (Koplitz himself has failed to return our phone calls on several occasions. He has an open invitation from us to explain his side of these disputes at any time.)

Anthony said if Koplitz does not respond with the proper complete architectural plans by December 25, he will take the case back to Municipal Court. Under the consent order, if the court finds Koplitz in default he could be fined $35,000 or more.

NOTE: For extensive background on Koplitz and his various clashes with Neptune over property maintenance and safety issues, just type “Marshall Koplitz” at the top right corner of this page.

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By Charles Layton

As we know, Marshall Koplitz, owner of the famously derelict Park View Inn in Ocean Grove, has ignored the Township’s pleas, the complaints of long-suffering neighbors, the requirements of the local fire code and a court’s explicit orders again and again and again.

On Tuesday, Neptune Township declared him once more in default of a court order. This time the problem is his failure to deliver revised architectural plans to the Neptune Construction Department according to schedule.

Marshall Koplitz.

On July 28 of 2011, after years of ineffectual prodding by the Township, Koplitz signed a consent agreement in Municipal Court binding him to restore the Park View, at 23 Seaview Avenue, as a 31-room hotel with a commercial kitchen and a dining room/banquet hall. This was to be done under a five-phase schedule. Progress under that schedule, one might say, has not gone smoothly.

For instance, under Phase II of the schedule Koplitz was to have submitted floor plans and elevations for the Township’s approval. He was late in doing that. In April of this year the Township declared Koplitz in default of the consent agreement. In May the Township again declared him in default and threatened to take him back to court. Failure to comply with any portion of the rehab schedule was supposed to have triggered a fine of at least $35,000. But the Township gave Koplitz extra time, and he finally did submit floor plans.

Now, in a letter to Koplitz’s lawyer dated October 9, the Township attorney, Gene Anthony, says that Koplitz is in default of the next phase of the rehab schedule, Phase III. Under that, he was to have submitted more detailed, corrected plans to the Neptune Construction Department.

“On August 23, 2012, the Construction Department requested submission of revised plans,” Anthony said in his letter. “The Architect responded that all would be re-submitted by the following Friday, August 31, 2012. Despite a phone call on October 2, 2012, to the Architect’s office to determine the status of the final revised plans, the same have yet to be returned to the Construction Department in Neptune.”

Therefore, Anthony said, “notice of default is hereby given.” Unless the default is corrected within 15 days, Anthony wrote, he will file a motion in court to have the consent order enforced.

NOTE: For background, just type “Marshall Koplitz” in the search field at the top right corner of this page, and you will find some two dozen articles chronicling Koplitz’s recent struggles with the local government over various problems with the Park View.

The Park View Inn, seen from the Wesley Lake side. Photos by Charles Layton

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80 Main. Hardly working?

By Charles Layton

You may have seen the workmen’s scaffold on the side of 80 Main Avenue and wondered whether the long-promised rehab of that building is finally happening.

The answer is: not yet.

However, in Municipal Court on Thursday the absentee owners’ attorney, William Gannon, promised once again that this derelict building is about to be fixed up for sale.

The court fined the owners $250 and gave them another 90 days to get the work done. This was the third time in less than a year that the court has assessed such a fine and accepted such a promise.

The Township has been after the owners, Mark and Hal Ornstein of Howell, NJ, for a couple of years now for having allowed their property to fall into such an extreme state of disrepair.

For a time, the owners had sought to demolish the building, but the Historic Preservation Commission denied permission for that on grounds that the building is not beyond repair and that it is on the list of Ocean Grove’s “key structures,” meaning it is of special historical and architectural importance.

Gannon stated in court on Thursday that he has now found an architect for a total rehab job and that he will submit plans to the HPC within a week.

Some Township officials remain skeptical that the work will be completed within the 90-day schedule required by the court. They think it very likely that at least one more trip to court may be necessary before the job finally gets done.

“It is vital to our historic district that 80 Main be repaired and maintained,” Committeewoman Mary Beth Jahn told us on Friday. “Each key structure that is murdered in Ocean Grove, regardless of intention, represents a step closer to the loss of the Grove’s historic status.”

A “for sale” sign is on the front porch of the building. Century 21 says the asking price is $680,000 for the building, including the rehab work that is to come.

Bill Gannon could not be reached for comment on this story.

Photos by Charles Layton

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By Charles Layton

The Park View, seen from the Wesley Lake side. Photo 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.

This swab turned red, indicating lead, when it was touched to one of the paint chips from the Park View Inn. Photo by Mary Walton

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.

Marshall Koplitz

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.

Neighbors say chips of paint, like those shown here, are peeling off and blowing onto adjacent properties. Photo by Mary Walton

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Owners given 90 days to renovate. Photo by Charles Layton

By Charles Layton

The owners of the building at 80 Main Avenue got another court order this week to hurry up with renovation.

It does appear that this much-admired but much-neglected building will eventually be fully repaired and converted from its earlier use, as a doctor’s office, into a single-family home. However, the road to that goal has been long and frustrating.

In 2010 the Historic Preservation Commission — alarmed at the condition of this key historic structure — asked the Township to do something about it.

The Department of Code Enforcement issued a list of violations including rotted wood, peeling paint and missing and broken shingles. Nothing much was done, and in February of 2011 the building’s absentee owners, Mark and Hal Ornstein of Howell, NJ, pleaded guilty to code violations in Municipal Court, paid a fine and agreed to address the building’s problems.

The Ornsteins had wanted to demolish the building, but the HPC refused permission for that on grounds that the building was historic and could be saved. On September 8  the owners promised the court that they would carry through with renovation.

This past Thursday, the court fined the owners $250 for delaying to live up to their agreement and set a new, 90-day deadline to complete the work.

The Township’s attorney, Gene Anthony, said the owners’ attorney, William Gannon, “has found an architect to complete plans to renovate the house.”

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CL photo

1.   A last-ditch effort is afoot to save the derelict house at 14 Spray Avenue. We reported recently that the Township had condemned this old house – classified as one of Ocean Grove’s “key structures” —  and that it probably would have to be torn down. But not so fast! Now comes word that a member of the family that owns the property wants to make emergency repairs and then renovate the building. Also, we are told, a prospective buyer is interested in rehabbing the place. Both the current owner and the potential buyer were told that repairs would have to be made very soon or the Township Committee will schedule a demolition hearing. Neighbors have been complaining about the condition of 14 Spray since at least 2009. The owner has made some corrections, but a recent inspection showed the building to be in a hazardous condition. The above information comes to us from Bill Doolittle, the head of code and construction, via Committeewoman Mary Beth Jahn.

2.  Neptune police have charged Michael Barrett, 29, of Heck Avenue, Ocean Grove, with stealing a credit card and making charges on it. Police said Barrett entered a neighbor’s unlocked car, took the credit card, used it for purchases and then replaced it in the car, hoping thereby to avoid detection. The crime took place on April 7, according to police. The victim got wise when the bank reported suspicious transactions against her account. Barrett was released after posting bail.

3. Back in January, we reported that the Neptune Zoning Board had given permission for the owner of 6½ Surf Avenue to further encroach into Ocean Grove’s famous “flared setback” area. (For that article, go here.) But on Tuesday the owner’s attorney, Jennifer Krimko, informed the Historic Preservation Commission that this further encroachment would not happen. The run-down two-family structure is about to be rehabbed. The front porch already intrudes 1.69 feet into the flare — a so-called “pre-existing nonconformity” — and the rehab was to include second-floor porch structures that would compound that intrusion. Both the next-door neighbors and the HPC had strenuously objected to this, and on Tuesday Krimko told the HPC that the architect had altered the original plans. Both the HPC and the neighbors said they were pleased.

4. Ocean Grove Neighborhood Watch reports the following recent crime incidents. A bicycle was stolen from the area of 20 Lake Avenue. Someone stole personal items from an unlocked vehicle in the area of 130 Clark Avenue. Someone entered an unoccupied apartment in the 80 Heck Avenue area and stole personal items. And a thief assaulted a man in the area of Lake Avenue and stole his briefcase.

5. A neighbor reports that as of Wednesday painting has finally begun at 24 McClintock Street. (They’re painting it bluish-gray.) On February 16, under legal pressure from the Township, the absentee owner of this notoriously dilapidated OG house entered into a court agreement to fix all outstanding maintenance violations. Subsequently, repairs were made to the porch and windows. Now, it seems, the painting that was promised will also get done. For background, click here.

6. Another bit of crime news: Dayshaun Cooper, arrested on January 6 for burglarizing a home in the 100 block of Abbott Avenue, was released from Monmouth County Jail on Tuesday. The reason for release: his sentence has been served.  Cooper, 20, entered the Abbott Avenue house on October 17, police said, and stole two televisions. His last known residence was on Adams Street in Asbury Park.

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By Charles Layton

14 Spray is on the list of Ocean Grove's "key structures." Photo by Charles Layton

It looks like the run-down house at 14 Spray Avenue will have to be torn down.

Neptune Township’s head of code and construction, Bill Doolittle, has condemned the property, and according to Committeewoman Mary Beth Jahn the Township Committee will soon hold a demolition hearing.

Neighbors have been complaining about the state of this derelict home since at least 2009. For the past year the Township has sought to induce the absentee owner to correct long-standing code violations. Despite limited funds, the owner has struggled to comply with various code department and court orders.

The house, built in 1895, is one of Ocean Grove’s “key structures,” meaning it is listed in the Township’s Master Plan as being of special architectural and historical importance. Although some cosmetic improvements have been made, the house is said to be in very bad condition on the inside.

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People lined up all down the block for The Sampler Inn’s cafeteria food and convivial atmosphere. Photo courtesy Historical Society of Ocean Grove

By Charles Layton  @Blogfinger

By the time the Township demolished it in 2009, The Sampler Inn had stood at 28 Main Avenue for approximately 90 years. It was one of Ocean Grove’s most beloved institutions. As you can see from the photo above, people used to flock to its cafeteria for a traditional fare that included whipped sweet potatoes, creamed spinach, macaroni and cheese, lamb chops, ham with raisin sauce, a rich array of desserts and, at breakfast, among other things, a generous selection of hot cereals.

But the years took their toll. When The Sampler’s absentee owners filed for bankruptcy in 2006, the place had become a first-class public nuisance — boarded up, empty and gutted on the inside, unmaintained, with a caving-in roof and other structural atrocities. Teenagers broke into the place in summer to prowl and explore. Vagrants camped there in winter, sometimes drinking, sometimes warming themselves before sterno stoves.

Jeff Dean, who lived on Heck Avenue just behind The Sampler, said if the place had ever caught fire “the whole neighborhood would have been gone.” Another neighbor, Danny Beaman, said, “I remember being in bed and hearing noises and getting out of bed and running to see if The Sampler was on fire.” Some of the people living closest to The Sampler were disabled or elderly; they’d have had a tough time escaping from a raging inferno. “The Sampler was two feet from my mother’s house,” said Lisa Noll. (Her mother was in her early 80s, and a man living in the same house was in his 90s.)

The neighbors, especially those on Heck in the second block from the beach, fought for years against the menace that The Sampler had become. It was a battle to defend their properties, their peace of mind and, as they saw it, their very lives. But it was also a battle for the common good of Ocean Grove, alerting people in this town, and some people in government, to take derelict buildings more seriously.

One recent evening some of those Heck Avenue neighbors got together over refreshments in Beaman’s living room and relived their experiences. Theirs is a story that needs to be recorded and remembered. Lessons can be learned about the power of aroused and well-organized citizens.

Some (but by no means all) of the veterans of the Sampler campaign. Front, l. to r.: Kirsten Beneke, Sue Beneke, Danny Beaman, Carmen Rivera and Lisa Noll. Standing: Jay Shapiro, Gloria Wigert and Jeff Dean. Photo by Mary Walton

Some had fond memories. Although Sue Beneke, who lived right next door to The Sampler, endured years of anxiety and inconvenience, even she considered the place “a beautiful institution.” Her daughter, Kirsten, recalled how, as a child, she would go to the side door of the kitchen every morning and get a muffin for breakfast. Another Heck resident, Carmen Rivera, volunteered to teach English to a young girl from Poland who worked at The Sampler. Relations were usually neighborly, and when a problem arose people tended to seek constructive solutions. Beneke said some of the college kids who worked in the kitchen used to play a radio very loud at 5 o’clock in the morning. “So I bought them all radio head sets, and they actually used them,” she said.

Still, even before the place became a total wreck, there were problems, many associated with the kitchen, which faced Heck Avenue. One problem was rodents.

Beaman: “I used to watch from my front porch. There was a hole in the back wall where the cats would line up and wait for the mice to run out. It was amusing; they would wait in line patiently for the next mouse to come out, and then they would go chasing after it.”

Noise and truck pollution were less amusing. At a certain point, the neighbors said, large trucks started arriving at 5 a.m. to deliver goods to the kitchen. They would leave their engines running, filling the street with foul-smelling exhaust.

Then there was the leaking garbage — “dumpster juice” and “dumpster puddles” they called it. The odor drove people inside. “I just remember one summer day all of us had to go inside our houses because the garbage was leaking out of the dumpster,” Jay Shapiro said. “It was bad.”

Sue Beneke recalled “big canisters of fat” in back of the kitchen. “We tried to build a fence around the back of the kitchen, that would hide the fat vats and the dumpsters and everything,” Beneke said. “We drew the design. And then I went over there to the owners and said, ‘All the neighbors will even pay for it. We’ll pay for this beautiful Victorian fence for the kitchen, take the loading dock down.’ We were even going to make it like a French bistro. But they would not let us do it.”


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By Charles Layton

Marshall Koplitz is in trouble again.

He appears to have defaulted on terms of a consent order that binds him to rehab the notoriously run-down Park View Inn.

Neptune Township has now declared him in default on the consent order, which was issued by Municipal Judge Robin Wernik on July 28 of last year. The consent order came after years of bitter haggling and months of delays by Koplitz in the face of a previous court order.

Under terms of the July 28 consent order, Koplitz had agreed to a specific plan to revive the boarded-up and long-dilapidated building at 23 Seaview Avenue as a functioning hotel with 31 guest rooms, a commercial kitchen and a dining room/banquet hall.

The renovation was to be done in five distinct phases, with a deadline for each phase. Failure to meet any one of the deadlines subjects Koplitz and his company, 23 Seaview Holdings, LLC, of Englewood Cliffs, NJ, to a minimum fine of $35,000 plus the possibility of additional fines and penalties.

Under the second phase of the agreement, Koplitz was to have submitted complete floor plans and elevations for approval by Township authorities and the Historic Preservation Commission.

In a letter to Koplitz’ lawyer, dated March 8, Township Attorney Gene Anthony said that “notice of default is hereby given.”

According to the consent order, once a notice of default occurs Koplitz receives an additional 15 days to “cure” the default — in other words, to live up to the terms of the consent agreement. If Koplitz does not, Anthony said he will file a motion asking the court to impose the prescribed penalty.

We sent an email to Koplitz’ lawyer seeking comment, but have received no response.

For our original story on the consent order, go here.

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