Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Focus on Oceanfront Promises

Fortunately, due to the hard work and super committed community spirit at the time Asbury Partners took over the oceanfront, the elected officials at that time were hard pressed not to insist - contractually - that the historic buildings would be restored and maintained in return for the fire sale price the Partners paid for the entire waterfront. The penalty for the partners was to lose their redevelopment rights. 

Those rights were on the ropes when the City took the Partners to court to do just that. That was when the anxious partners hired Madison Marquette to pacify the city. 

The City sacrificed a lot in residents’ treasure for that commitment. Legal fees alone were astronomical. 
We need to all focus on Joanne Vos and her firm Maraziti Falcon, LLP, Cedar Knolls, who the City has hired to analyze its legal position. And, we can chart Tommy DeSeno’s progress - volunteer work - in gathering all the documents that relate to the ‘02 agreement into some cohesive form. Tommy is an attorney and lifelong son of AP. No need to split our time to raise funds.

BACKGROUNDER: Oceanfront Landmarks

We are continuing our conversation about the oceanfront's iconic landmarks. Around 2014, prompted by the lack of work Asbury Partners' majority shareholder, iStar LLC, had undertaken, let alone finished, on the boardwalk, the City threatened to withdraw the master developer's development rights. The two sides held a hearing in county court in Freehold, where the Partners pulled itself out of the soup by hiring a retail and entertainment developer at the eleventh hour. Madison Marquette would restore, maintain and handle rentals, in the pavilions, Casino, the Carousel House, Convention Hall and the Paramount Theater.

A work schedule with hard deadlines was drawn up for most of the latter, except that there would be no immediate deadlines for restoration of the Casino. Several pavilions were demolished – along with their plumbing and sewer lines – and 'replaced' with 'temporary' metal shipping containers, pop-up retail, painted trendy, whimsical shore side colors. Around that time Asbury Partners also produced a list that included most of the landmarks, which it labeled “Imminent Hazards”. The City's approval of the list freed the master developer to demolish any of the buildings without first gaining the City's approval.
Since then progress stopped then started with deadlines sliding and alternating with new spaces in bold designs, opening and closing and opening again, while work north of Convention Hall was set aside for later. With retail growing, iStar and Madison Marquette formed a separate company to manage it, called Madison Asbury Retail LLC. That brings us to the current spot where the City in August this year saw it necessary to hold the Partners' – iStar LLC – and Madison Marquette, now officially iStar's “sub-developer”, in default.
Coming as the default resolution did, just weeks before the hugely successful Sea Hear Now festival, AR was compelled to point out the lack of consistent action on the part of the Asbury Park City Council - 1) To first acknowledge through its Resolution of Aug. 25th, 2021, 2021-386 Default Notices, the lack of any engineer's report that all elements of the 'Convention Hall Complex' “are safe for human occupancy”... Thereby not verifying the safety of the oceanfront landmark buildings. 2) Then failing to block public access to said hazards – the same buildings it calls the "Convention Hall Complex"; 3) Its decision to leave most of that "Complex" open to an expected 30,000 people during the Sea Hear Now Festival over the Sept. 17 - 19 weekend. 4) Then, inexplicably the City the following weekend, Sept 24 - 26, barred another concert due to the dangerous condition of the same buildings. This puzzling behavior created considerable confusion among social media posters, including visitors to this page.
Suggestions flowed in for doing a non-profit search, or a wealthy partner for the City (As if we don't already have one), holding a Go-Fund-Me, and on... At the core of this writer's response is my own memory of nights of public hearings and planning board nearly all-nighters, while neighbors crouched over the plan – all of us hanging on every word that stated we were granting the rights to the whole oceanfront and all of its buildings for fire sale prices to the buyers in exchange for their restoring and maintaining the priceless works by world class architects, master visionaries of NYC's Grand Central Terminal and Asbury Park's Convention Hall, Whitney Warren and Charles D. Wetmore.
To understand what is being painted now as a dilemma between residents desperate to hold onto Asbury's landmark buildings, which absolutely do set Asbury Park several cuts above its largely unremarkable neighbors to the south and the north, and the purportedly limited options facing the city fathers. In such situations City leaders have appeared too often to cower before powerful master developer iStar LLC and its sub-developer Madison Marquette – we can't afford a prolonged lawsuit!, is a worn-thin excuse for rolling over. But this time, the City decided to cite both of these entities, in the form of Madison Asbury Retail LLC, for its failed obligations under Asbury Partner's original 2002 agreement, the principle target of the City's default Resolution 2021 - 386.
They even hired a legal consultant, attorney Joanne Vos, of Maraziti Falcon, LLP law firm in Cedar Knolls, to locate and analyze the genuine legal docs. More on the docs and Tommy DeSeno Esq's charitable offer later. Suffice to say, we who seek to understand also need to look back at that oceanfront redevelopment deal of 2002.
Back then the City was literally tied to an earlier redevelopment plan – the ill-fated 1980's plan, Ocean Mile -- that the city approved under developers Henry Vaccaro of Asbury Park and his partner Joe Carabetta, of Bridgeport, Conn. Their project halted suddenly, unlike the drawn out deep freezes of '07 – '10, when the Esperanza, for one, was left to whistle in the wind while sub-developer Dean Geibel and his Metro Homes LLC paused in '07 to work on other projects in Hoboken and Jersey City – the latter being the Trump Plaza high rise.
Most people who first came to town at the dawn of the 21st Century, including me, looked upon the aborted concrete skeleton towering over a deserted beachfront, its metal panels clanging in the unobstructed wind, and assumed that some con men had swept through the town stripping it bear before slipping out under cover of dark.
We pointed fingers at the owners of once distinctive architecture that lay barren or at best vacant. Once affordable apartment buildings like The Britwood and The Jersey, little more than a block from the ocean, stood empty and decaying. We blamed those would-be developers for the city's dwindling revenues and mounting debt.
How could we have known then that the city was stalling or outright denying building permits for the special ocean redevelopment zone to anyone but the master developer. The most expensive real estate in the City was frozen. This was the scene when the second deal was struck – at a bankruptcy court in Bridgeport, where a judge had held contractor Carabetta's Asbury Park ocean redevelopment rights within an expanding suit, for nearly two decades.
But that day, the judge decided to release Asbury's oceanfront from that bankruptcy. Present that day, in addition to Vaccaro and Carabetta, were the people who became Asbury Partners: representatives for M.D. Sass, two brothers from Belmar, Larry and Glenn Fishman. I'm not sure whether Marty Sass and his partner in the NYC-based asset management company they ran were both there in person. But Marty later bragged in a real estate industry magazine that he had landed a very lucrative purchase of oceanfront distressed property.
We would later learn that the brothers Fishman had worked for Sass for many years buying tax liens from local municipal tax sales at the Jersey Shore for Marty's NYC-based private bank. Tax liens on residential properties are usually considered low risk investments, since the property owners, either investors who hate to part with tax money or absentee landlords, don't want to let them go and will pay off the taxes and liens before the sheriff sells the properties. Meanwhile investors like Sass earn a very nice return for their investments.
Among those surprised by the judge's seemingly sudden actions, which also saw the parties through negotiations and the exchange of payments to Carabetta and Vaccaro for their prized rights to develop one of last stretches of open Atlantic Ocean beachfront to Sass all in one day, was a quiet, successful builder who had been waiting a long time with his own plan for Asbury Park.
Ted Murnick had built two high-rise apartment towers, the affordable, functional mid-town Monroe and Deal Lake Tower with the same floor plan, but views of Deal Lake and the ocean that more than justified its slightly higher rent scale. Murnick had even assembled a tabletop beachfront of a miniature replacement for Ocean Mile.
Despite his blueprints and occasional protests at town hall meetings, the newly elected council would go on to insist that the “Asbury Partners” deserved to get anything they wanted in exchange for taking the huge risk it was willing to chance on the distressed beachfront and its crumbling facades. All for less than what one condo in the 17-story Asbury Ocean Club goes for today. They had to grab the offer, they'd shoot back at doubtful taxpayers, no one else was willing to take it on.

Friday, July 16, 2021

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

A new format for Asbury Radio - The Podcast & 5/27 Council Report

May 30, 2020 - Saturday night

AsburyRadio - The Podcast is Changing Its Format -

In order to focus more attention on areas that we feel can get lost in the avalanche of today's breaking news, AsburyRadio will go to an every-other-week schedule. Simply put, the podcast will be on when the council isn't. This should allow us to dig deeper into subjects that require more sources of data and expert input. During the week that the council meets, you'll find a streamlined report such as the following:

May 27, 2020 Council Meeting Report on Asbury Radio Podcast

The City of Asbury Park resumed its audio-only weekly council meetings via Zoom with residents having to hunt around for the call in number and password. If you gave up without calling in, you may want to give it another go by listening to the archived audio on APTV, over Optimum on channel 77 or Verizon on channel 30. The reason being that redevelopment was on the agenda once more, with a redevelopment zone and tax abatements anew for discussion. Don't be fooled by the three-page agenda. The attachments run 226 pages. Aha, yes it's in the details once more.

Take for example resolution 2020-25 for a multifamily building at 1201 Memorial Drive (Block 203, Lot 5), south of Springwood Avenue to Neptune, and Atkins to the East, Ridge to Atkins between 4th and fifth avenues. Douglas Development Corp, owned by the Jemal family and based in the Washington, D.C. area, appears to specialize in commercial development. The 108- to a possible 110-units of new construction look to be of a higher architectural quality, with better landscaping and building materials than the immediate area, at least in the artist's rendering. With 154 planned parking spaces in an underground garage and a first floor parking deck, the amenities reflect a more upscale design as well. It was unclear though whether tenants in the affordable units will also enjoy their own parking spaces. The affordable units will include 3-bedroom, as well as 1 and 2 bedroom units. Councilwoman Eileen Chapman asked if the affordable units will be spread throughout the floors. They will, said Gouin.

Although attracted to this area by what it believed to be a 15% affordable housing allowance, the developer is still willing to provide 20%, or 21 affordable units, among the build-out -- provided an extended tax exemption can be reached. "That's the only way it's going to work" in an affordable housing context, explained Steven Gouin, of Giordano, Halleran, Ciesla, PC Red Bank, attorneys representing Douglas Development. That and if the property, currently the site of an industrial building, can be designated as within a redevelopment plan.

Another multifamily development proposal was presented, this one for Block 4003 Lots 1, 2, 12, 13, 14, and 16-216 Third and 215 second avenues by Andy Karas for K. Hovnanian. And, Michele Alonso, Director of Planning and Redevelopment proposed an amendment to the Strategic Area Rebuilding Spirit (STARS), which is expiring in July. The adjusted plan will switch the 3-story family townhouse previously designated and substitute the denser style 2.5-story and will eliminate commercial uses from the STARS plan. In their stead will be green requirements, such as 1.5 per unit spots. The amendments go to the Planning Board next, which will hear comment and make its recommendations to the council.

Plans were also presented by City Planner Michele Alonso, and a team from K. Hovnanian for residential housing under the names Baltic and Aegean, to be sited on Bergh St., between Second and Third avenues: Architect Frank Minervini, attorney Andrew Karas, Carl Erler of K. Hovnanian, Engineer Robert Curley, Landscape Architect, Brian Leff, and Professional Planner David Roberts.
A total of 42 parking spaces were proposed in drawings for the Aegean and 27 for the Baltic.
The Aegean will contain 27 dwellings consisting of 2 one-bedroom units, 3 one-bedroom with den units, 7 two-bedroom units, 12 three-bedroom units and three units that have two bedrooms with a
windowless “Home Office.”
The Baltic will contain 17 dwellings consisting 11 three-bedroom units, three, two-bedroom units and three units that have two bedrooms with a windowless “Home Office.” Each building will consist of three stories of living space and one story of parking that is partially below grade for a total of four stories. Roof decks are provided on both buildings. In addition, all units have a balcony.
The council authorized Resolution 2020-177, a Professional Services Contract for $84,500 to T&M Associates, the city's engineering firm, to support the city in Covid-19 Risk Management Support.
See our report tomorrow on the AP June 1 City Center Rally last night to protest the killing of George Floyd. Please see photos and video now and at Facebook.com/APRadioVoice .
If you like what we're doing and would like to support it, please see My Paypal/ Maureen Nevin - Thank you!

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Coming up on AsburyRadio -- The Podcast

This week - May 24th, 2020 at 4 pm

AsburyRadio - The Podcast presents Who's Building AsburyPark's West Side Housing? Are residents getting construction jobs? What are the barriers? This theme was postponed several times, most recently in order to gather more details. Please tune in at 4 on Facebook.com/APRadioVoice  

Future topics AsburyRadio - The Podcast is considering...


Now that the weather and Covid-19-ordered social distancing are easing a bit, we can expect the parking wars to return to Asbury Park, just as sure as the dive-bombing Blue Jays and Ocean Grove's annual grumblings over Asbury's visitor overflows.
We noticed, in the 5/14 - 5/20 Coaster newspaper, that Loch Arbour is plotting its own parking remedies. The latter could establish two permit parking zones: one on Euclid and another on Elberon avenues, both between Ocean Place and Ocean Avenue, according to the weekly. Parking-envy will definitely take over neighbors to the south side of Deal Lake, many of whom head north when oceanfront visitors sweep into their usual spots, when they hear this: Loch Arbour residents of the two zones, it is proposed, will get two free parking permits, only for guests of the resident, but good for three days. Sheer Luxury! And, each household will be entitled to purchase two additional permits for $50 each. The generosity stops at the border though. Violators risk a $125 fine. And those too handy with Photoshop will risk 30 days in jail.
I think I feel a screw being tightened? What do you say? What will be the effect, if any, on your parking strategies? The village commissioners will hear input on the ordinance June 3.

Balking on the Beach

Asbury Park startled many a seasoned veteran of its prize-winning beaches this spring by limiting beach ticket sales, for social distancing compliance. Some locker renters paid their season fee only to find they weren't assured of getting a summer beach pass. What's your experience? Has the dust settled? Will you have both this summer?

What themes do you wish the podcast would take on? We're listening.


Tuesday, May 19, 2020

AP Tax Abatement Deals - Your Opinion?

AP Tax Abatement Deals

Now that the loss of millions in state aid to our school district has brought home in stark relief the downside of the City’s pilot programs that relieve developments from paying any school taxes for decades, will the City at once impose feasibility impact studies as prerequisite to completing any current or future deliberations? The studies can estimate the impacts on such aspects as financial, social, and fiscal long and short term effects on our local government as well as all local and state tax payers. What is your opinion Mayor Moor, Council and City Manager Vieiro? Assistant City Manager Manzella? Residents? Renters indirectly pay these tax increases, too. Thank you for considering this. Maureen - AsburyRadio- The Podcast
If you'd like to send a bit of support through Paypal: https://tinyurl.com/y6vqarsx

Sunday, May 17, 2020

It is Sunday May 17, 2020 - AsburyRadio - The Podcast

Getting the whole story is the trademark of AsburyRadio. In the age of Covid-19 that task takes extra time, be it for overworked government officials to respond to Open Public Records Act (OPRA) requests or simple questions.

Such is the case this week when we had planned, after a few too many postponements, to bring you a truly comprehensive report on Who's Getting the Jobs on Asbury Park's West Side? We've conducted interviews, but still need more. We're waiting for several responses and statistics. Rest assured AsburyRadio will bring you the full story as soon as we're satisfied that it's the best we can do.

Meanwhile, if you haven't already, please see the posts and other podcasts (available 24/7) on this page. Podcasts such as our Affordable Housing Zoning story, which covered the city's 8-ordinance plan for granting incentives to developers to build higher-story apartment buildings, to create greater population density in specific neighborhoods in the city. And, more recently, AsburyRadio revealed the answer to the much asked question about the role redevelopment tax abatements and payments-in-lieu-of tax (PILOT) programs, most of which exclude new owners from paying school tax, play. Do they increase the school tax burden piled on Asbury Park's individual homeowners? Quick Ans: Yes, the remaining tax payers make up the difference needed to keep the schools open.

Please wear masks, keep that 6' distance and hopefully we'll see you next Sunday at 4.
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Saturday, April 25, 2020

Podcast: Reaction to Affordable Housing Plan

Tomorrow is April 26th. AsburyRadio - The Podcast will discuss the public's reaction to the Council's Affordable Housing Plan, during the Zoom meeting last week - A Marathon Five-Hour meeting with sound, no video. One resident dropped off after being left on hold in silence for 15 minutes. Many residents were mostly critical of what they heard so far -- from the decision not to hold off the meeting until the Covid-19 restrictions are lifted to the complexity of the subject matter. Some issues raised included: The City's decision not to require developers to provide any parking for affordable units, a deal which entitles developers to extra building heights in exchange for providing 10 affordable units for every 50 market-rate built.
The meeting sputtered to an end, after five hours of fairly disgruntled public comment, at midnight and will pick-up again Thursday at 7 pm, when the remaining four or five ordinances in the plan must be voted on. The summarizing ordinance and #2020-11, which affects Deal Lake Drive, were passed unanimously, despite the public's opposition.
We'll hit the air tomorrow at or about 4 pm.
If you want to participate tomorrow, email me with a short description at AsburyRadio@aol.com. If you want to hang in 'the green room' and/or share a comment or ask a question on camera during the Podcast, text your cell number and full name to 732-261-4860 by 3 pm. If you don't want to be on camera let us know when you raise your hand to speak.
If you just have a question or comment, post it on this page or email it to me @ AsburyRadio@aol.com before 3pm if possible. You can also post on FB during the show.
See you tomorrow!