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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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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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With the project delayed — weeds among the pipes. Photo by Mary Walton

1. Not much has been done for the past couple of weeks on the Broadway storm drainage project, and the natives are getting restless. Township officials say the delay has to do with unmarked utility pipes discovered underground, and that we’re waiting for New Jersey Natural Gas to relocate some of that stuff. The contractor is also awaiting delivery of some pieces of pipe for the storm drains, in order to avoid additional conflicts with what’s been found underground. Meanwhile, the Township engineer says the contractor will be working on the outfall at the Fletcher Lake bulkhead on or about May 21. Prior to that, we are told, they’ll be stabilizing an existing trench and cleaning up the site this week.

2. About a week ago we told you the Township had declared Park View Inn owner Marshall Koplitz in default of his court agreement. (Go here for details. ) Well, the head of code and construction, Bill Doolittle, told Blogfinger on Monday that Koplitz is back in compliance. He is under a court order to follow a set of specific steps aimed at rehabbing the nuisance property at 23 Seaview Avenue. He was declared in default of that agreement as of April 30 for having failed to submit architectural plans to the Township. Doolittle said Koplitz has now submitted those plans and is again on schedule.

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65 Abbott. Photo by Charles Layton

1. Neptune Township has issued another stop-work order on the controversial new house at 65 Abbott Avenue. This is the house where the height of the foundation and front porch were found to have substantially exceeded what the Zoning Department and the HPC had authorized. That violation was discovered after the house had already been framed, roofed and sheathed, presenting the builder, Sawbucks Contracting, with a serious dilemma. On March 6 the Township ordered all work stopped. Sawbucks then obtained a permit to lower the house. In the interim, they also received permission to install windows and wrap the house in Tyvek to protect it from the weather. However, according to Township officials, they also proceeded with construction on the second-floor porch. Township Construction Official Bill Doolittle inspected the site this week, discovered that unauthorized work and ordered it halted. For previous articles on this subject, go here and here.

2. Marshall Koplitz remains in default of a Municipal Court consent order to rehab his nuisance property at 23 Seaview Avenue, also known as the Park View Inn. However, the Township is giving him another 30 days to come into compliance. Under the terms of a July 28 court order, Koplitz agreed to a rehab schedule, under which he was supposed to have submitted complete architectural plans by now as well as approvals from the Zoning Department and the HPC. Township Attorney Gene Anthony said this week that Koplitz’ lawyer, Michelle Lebovitz Lamar, had asked for the extra 30 days because the partners in Koplitz’ architectural firm had split up. Anthony said he would give Koplitz the extra time rather than hauling him back into court because he thought Koplitz had “a legitimate excuse.” More to the point, perhaps, he said he thought Municipal Court Judge Robin Wernik would consider it a legitimate excuse. For background on all of this, go here.

3. Since the Mary Beth Jahn/Nick Williams controversy erupted this past week, commenters on this website have been seeking to better understand the arcane world of Neptune party politics. In an effort to help, Blogfinger has obtained the names of the two parties’ district leaders from the Municipal Clerk’s office. All of Neptune is divided into 20 voting districts, three of which are in Ocean Grove, and the party leaders in those three OG districts, according to the Clerk’s office, are:

– District 1: Repubs Matthew and Elizabeth Gannon; Dems Randy Bishop and (vacant)
– District 2: Repubs Ed Wyzykowski and Eileen Kean; Dems Paul Ristow and Carol Bernard
– District 3: Repubs Denis McCarthy and Grace Ann Shotwell; Dems Jeffrey and Caitlin Wood-Yesline

Each of the 20 districts is entitled to have two representatives for each party. However, not all those positions are filled. The Republicans have none at all in some districts, while the Democrats have only one in several districts, including District 1 in Ocean Grove. These vacancies make the system even more exclusive, as does the fact that in many cases the party’s two district leaders are husband and wife.

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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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By Charles Layton

After refusing for 17 months to install a fire alarm system in his boarded-up hotel, the Park View Inn, Marshall Koplitz has finally agreed, under considerable legal pressure, to do so.

Neighbors living near the 23 Seaview Avenue property had complained for years that it was a fire hazard. In August of 2010, the Ocean Grove fire inspector discovered that the building’s automatic fire alarm system had been removed. When Koplitz refused orders to replace the missing alarm system, the Board of Fire Commissioners issued violations, began levying fines of $1,000 per day and, last September, took their case to Superior Court.

On Wednesday, Koplitz’ lawyer informed the Township that he would install the alarm system.

In a letter dated February 14, the lawyer, Michelle Lebovitz Lamar, informed Township Attorney Gene Anthony that Koplitz had arranged to have electric service reintroduced into the building, and that once that is done “The automatic fire alarm system should be operational by the end of the week.” That letter was in response to an inquiry from Anthony at the request of Committeewoman Mary Beth Jahn.

In arguments last February before the County Construction Board of Appeals, Koplitz’ attorney had argued that the building was not in danger of catching fire because the interior had been gutted and debris cleared from the floors. The Board of Appeals disagreed, stating in its written opinion that the building was “extremely susceptible to the rapid spread of fire” which would be “a significant threat of harm to neighboring structures and occupants.”

When Koplitz still refused to install the alarm system, the Fire Commissioners appealed in Superior Court. Meanwhile, the Commissioners continued to levy fines of $1,000 per day for every day Koplitz remained out of compliance. At that rate, by Blogfinger’s unofficial count, those accumulated fines would total $265,000 as of Wednesday of this week.

There was no immediate word from the Fire Commissioners as to whether they intend to ask the Superior Court to order Koplitz to pay any or all of those outstanding fines.

“This is good news,” said Ted Bell, when informed about the letter to Anthony. Bell was one of the area residents who collected 33 signatures on a petition in July, 2010, urging the Township to take action against Koplitz. “Where will the alarm monitoring system be located? The Ocean Grove firemen and the Neptune construction officials should have some input on this — it should be monitored 24 hours per day, seven days a week.”

For more on the alarm system issue, go here.

Marshall Koplitz at HPC meeting, December 13, 2011. Photo by Charles Layton

Koplitz and his brother and business associate, Elliott Koplitz, have allowed the Park View to deteriorate for many years. However, since July 28 they have been under a Municipal Court plea agreement with the Township to restore the building as a 31-room hotel. The Historic Preservation Commission has approved plans for the restoration. For background on that issue, go here and also here and here.

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Editor’s note: Once in a while, Blogfinger will post an update on all those derelict buildings of greatest concern to Ocean Grovers. We hope this makes it easier for our readers to see the entire playing field and evaluate overall progress.

By Charles Layton

35 Embury Avenue – This major eyesore and menace to society was torn down on Thursday afternoon (December 29)  — a milestone in the fight against blight in the Grove. A builder, Mike Wilson of Little Silver, purchased the property in September after the Township declared it to be uninhabitable. He has said he plans to either build a new house in its place or sell the lot to someone else who wants to build there.

Front door, 80 Main. Photo by Charles Layton

80 Main Avenue – On February 24 the owners of this once-handsome but now long-neglected property agreed to make repairs under a plea agreement with the Township. On September 8 the agreement was amended in court to give the owners more time. Their attorney, William Gannon of Ocean Grove, says the new plan is for a total renovation, converting the property from commercial use (it was once a doctor’s office) to a single-family home. He has predicted that the work, by Gannon Building & Remodeling, could be completed sometime this spring.

23 Sea View Avenue (The Park View Inn) – The owners, Elliott and Marshall Koplitz, are under a court order to restore this old, unoccupied building as a 31-room hotel with a dining room/banquet hall. On December 13 the Historic Preservation Commission approved plans presented by Marshall Koplitz and his architect. However, although Koplitz has so far lived up to the July 28 court order, which was part of a plea agreement in Municipal Court, doubts remain as to his ability to carry through. People both in and out of government wonder whether he will be able to get bank financing. A complicating factor is that Koplitz is contesting a court action having to do with ongoing fire violations on the property. He owes approximately $200,000 in unpaid fines in connection with this matter. (For background on all of this, go here  and here and also here.)

24 McClintock Street – The survival of this building is in doubt. The Township has tried giving the out-of-state owner a citation, has had the Municipal Court impose a fine, and has struck a rather generous plea bargain, but none of this has resulted in even modest repairs. The owner, Jason Richelson, recently hired a local lawyer, Jennifer Krimko, to negotiate in his behalf. The Township is expected to go back to court on January 12 and ask the judge to levy another fine. Krimko says the house will be repaired in the early months of 2012. However, the neighbors’ patience with the owner’s excuses and delays is wearing thin after years of inaction, and some Township officials are starting to wonder if their only practical recourse is to condemn the building and have it demolished.  (For more info, go here.)

91 Cookman Avenue – Ocean Grove builder Jack Green purchased this badly-deteriorated house last summer and said he intended to restore it to something resembling its original condition. It is a “key structure,” which means the Historic Preservation Commission considers it to have special architectural and historical significance. At a November 29 meeting, the HPC raised questions about Green’s restoration plan because of the degree to which he proposed to expand the house’s original footprint. Green says he’ll soon submit a new plan that conforms more closely to the HPC’s wishes.

78 Main Street – The New York City owner has pleaded guilty to code violations and has been fined on two occasions. On October 27 her attorney told Municipal Court Judge Robin Wernik that she had been undergoing chemo treatments for cancer and had been distracted. The Township nevertheless wants to hold her to her commitments under a June 23 plea agreement.

Note: Our previous update on these buildings was published on September 19, 2011. Anyone wishing to read that, go here.

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1. Neptune Township Attorney Gene Anthony said Monday that before signing a consent order to rehab the Park View Inn, one of its owners, Marshall Koplitz, told the Township that funding was available for the project. Anthony was responding to a question at the Township Committee meeting, posed by Kennedy Buckley of Ocean Grove. Buckley cited a recent Blogfinger story (read it here) revealing that in 2009 the owners had defaulted on a $2.75 million renovation loan for the Park View, and questioning whether they could get another such loan now. Kennedy asked whether Koplitz had “hornswaggled” the Township and the Municipal Court by failing to disclose the default and the litigation that followed.

Anthony said Koplitz “specifically indicated the availability of funding” before he signed the consent order in July. He said Koplitz had originally wanted the entire deal with the Township to be contingent on his ability to get funding, but the Township refused to agree to that contingency. Therefore, Anthony said, if Koplitz fails to get bank financing it will put him in default on the entire agreement and subject him to heavy financial penalties.

2. The hot topic at the Township Committee meeting Monday night had to do with sagging pants worn by some of Neptune’s young men  — a fashion statement characterized by the visibility of undershorts (and sometimes more). The Mayor’s Youth Advisory Cabinet has taken a stand against the practice, and on Monday the Committee voted in favor of a resolution condemning it.

This is what they're talking about

The Committee’s action does not make the wearing of sagging pants illegal; rather, it encourages educators, parents and community leaders to “strongly discourage the practice.” Members of the public came to the microphone, mostly in support of the resolution. But two audience members said that, while they personally dislike sagging pants, they consider it an overreach for the government to try to dictate styles of dress.

The resolution states that “the origins of sagging pants comes from prison inmates being denied belts because of the risk of belts being used to commit suicide and as a sign of sexual deviant behavior within prisons.”

3.The Historic Preservation Commission is considering an application by local builder Jack Green to demolish part of the derelict house at 91 Cookman Avenue. Green and a partner bought the notoriously run-down property this summer and said they would restore it to something resembling its original condition. As a first step, Green asked the HPC on Tuesday night for permission to demolish a shed in back of the house and also a rear wall and other parts of the house itself, which Green says are structurally unsound due to water damage, rot and damage from a fire in the house’s northwest corner 11 years ago.

Fire damage inside the upstairs bedroom of 91 Cookman. Photo by Paul Goldfinger

Some HPC members had concerns because once Green demolishes the rear wall he intends to expand the house’s footprint farther into the back yard. That expansion will require a separate HPC application later on.

The Commission members asked Green to let them take a walking tour of the house, so they can see for themselves the extent of the damage. After doing that, they’ll resume consideration of Green’s application at the HPC’s next meeting, on December 13.

The 91 Cookman house dates from 1895, according to tax records. It is considered a “key structure” in the Historic District of Ocean Grove, meaning it is listed in Neptune’s Master Plan as having special architectural importance.

4. Journalism note: The Asbury Park Press has all but abandoned coverage of Neptune Township government, including Ocean Grove. Their reporter Michelle Gladden used to attend all the Township Committee meetings, and she used to write stories about the Grove from time to time, but since she was reassigned this summer, following the latest staff downsizing, no one from the APP shows up anymore. About the only Neptune stories one finds in that paper now are routine crime items.

However, the Coaster’s Don Stine is still on the Neptune beat. Every issue of that independently-owned weekly contains Neptune stories, and almost always one or more stories specific to Ocean Grove. (His piece on sagging pants is on page one this week.)


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By Charles Layton

I’m going to ask you all a question, but first I’m going to ask that you try to put yourself in the position of Marshall Koplitz.

Assume that you had a real estate business and that you owned a large, uninhabited building in Ocean Grove, specifically, the Park View Inn on Sea View Avenue, and that this building had been in a run-down state for years.

Further assume that the neighbors were so concerned about it – particularly due to the potential for fire – that 33 of them had signed a petition calling your building “an eminent danger” and urging the Township to take action. Assume that the HPC had also asked the Township to take action.

Now assume that the Township had summoned you to court and forced you to agree to rehab the building. But assume that, concurrently, the Ocean Grove Board of Fire Commissioners had ordered you to install an automatic fire alarm system. And that, for 14 months, you had been refusing to do that. And that the County Construction Board of Appeals had agreed with the fire commissioners, going so far as to state, in its official written opinion, that your building was “extremely susceptible to the rapid spread of fire” and was “a significant threat” to neighborhood residents.

Assume that since May 16 of this year, penalties had been accruing against you for failing to install that fire alarm system. Assume that as of September 8 those penalties amounted to $114,000, and you still hadn’t installed the system. And assume that since then penalties had been increasing at the rate of $1,000 for every day that you fail to install the system.

If you were Marshall Koplitz, what would you do? Photo by Charles Layton

And, finally, assume that the fire commissioners are asking the Superior Court of New Jersey to order you to pay your due penalties (which would amount to $146,000 as of this Monday, by my count) and also to install that alarm system without further delay.

Here is my question: Would you give in and install the alarm system? Or, even as the penalties mount, would you continue to fight on, possibly increasing the chances of another catastrophic fire in Ocean Grove? Possibly risking people’s lives?

This morning I telephoned Marshall Koplitz’ attorney, Michelle Lebovitz Lamar of the Sterns & Weinroch firm in Trenton, to ask about all that. “I prefer that you speak with Mr. Koplitz directly,” she said. “It’s a no comment.”

I have left a message for Mr. Koplitz at his office in Asbury Park.

 

For background information about this issue, go here and also here.

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