Council Demands "Excruciating" Financial Details, Announces Site for Senior Center

Dec. 20, 2007 -- At last night's Asbury Park City Council meeting officials repeated the city's commitment to take a fine tooth comb to Metro Homes' financials. "The city is more than concerned about layoffs, especially at this time of year," said Mayor Kevin Sanders. Metro Homes is in default and the city will hold Metro Homes in violation of their agreement, he said.

Metro Homes, which halted construction on its Esperanza Ocean Avenue development officially on Dec. 10, must turn over a laundry list of financial information to the city. City Manager Terry Reidy said the city has the right to demand the information "in excruciating detail" and will take a "scrupulous look at their financials."

When asked who had advised the city not to pursue performance bonds initially, Reidy said attorney Glenn Scotland, one of the city's redevelopment attorneys, had explained during the city's press conference on the issue yesterday afternoon that in cases where private entities are involved, performance bonds are not usually required. If private and public financing is used, "yes," said Reidy, but not when private funds are used. "This is the normal way business is done," he said, relaying Scotland's answer.

However, Ed Johnson told the Asbury Park Press that no development on the waterfront should proceed without performance bonds. Such bonds would have protected the city from economic loss in the event a builder failed to complete a project, according to Johnson.

Reidy said Paramount Homes, owners of the North Beach development, which includes the Seville, Monterrey and Barcelona condo buildings, had assured the city that it is "alive and well" and moving toward the next phase. Reidy concluded that the city has other areas such as North Beach to look toward for drawing revenue.

Asbury Radio asked Reidy if Paramount Homes had mentioned its intention not to finish in advance the remaining unsold units in its Barcelona building. But Reidy said he wasn't aware of the plan to complete the units only as they're purchased.

Reidy also announced that the city had finally located a property on which the seniors could have a senior center. They've been without their own center since workers for Asbury Partners severed a live gas line with a power saw at the First Avenue pavilion, where the seniors used the upstairs until 2002.

The approximately 150' x 150' lot, on the corner of Atkins and Springwood avenues, is already owned by the city. The city will contract with Interfaith Neighbors, a city-based nonprofit that has built many affordable housing units, using grant money from Interfaith and previous donations from Bruce Springsteen, as well as monies put aside by the city from Asbury Partners for community purposes. Reidy said Interfaith has a grant that pays out $1 million a year for 10 years, and that the seniors' fund contains approximately $200,000.

Paul McEvily, a principal with Interfaith, confirmed the agreement. McEvily said he envisioned possibly a three-story building with commercial space on the ground floor, rental space on the second and a combination of senior center and municipal satellite offices on the third floor. McEvily said he'd like to see a satellite police facility there if it could be arranged.

Reidy gave the "best realistic date" for completion date for the center as July 2009.

Asbury Park Seniors' Deadline Passes with No Senior Center

September 5, 2007 -- For hundreds of Asbury Park seniors, angered by the five year delay in replacing the senior center they abruptly vacated due to a gas leak (caused by a worker taking a Sawzall to it back in 2002), September 5th held special meaning. That was the date the city council had to announce the acquisition of a property - through a deed or a lease - for a new senior center.

(Editor's Note: The original senior center was located on the beachfront on the second floor of the First Avenue pavilion. The unidentified potential site in the redevelopment zone was believed to be the former Salvation Army building on Grand Avenue. The Braverman Building is at 1201 Memorial Drive and Fourth Avenue.)

The seniors arrived with over 450 signatures on a petition calling for the council make good on its promise to have a site by September 5. So when council member John Loffredo announced that the city "was acquiring" the Braverman Building for the site of the new senior center, protestors were visibly confused. Note: The announcement mentioned nothing about the 'move-in ready building in the redevelopment zone' that had supposedly been the focus of their attention for the past several months. The council seemed to be slipping out of the trap the seniors had set for them. But wait, if this really was a viable site and they actually acquired it... The confusion was quickly replaced by euphoria based on the misperception that a site had been "acquired."

So when activist Joyce Grant took the mic it was largely to thank the 450 seniors who signed the petition and former council person Kate Mellina, who Grant credited with helping the seniors apply pressure on the city to act on their demand for a center. But there was one person in the council chambers that night who knew the Braverman Building was definitely not an option.

Frank D'Alessandro, a member of the Asbury Park Board of Education, and prolific essayist whose published satires of political life in the City have filled volumes, was also in attendance, for the first time in years. D'Alessandro knew for a fact that the Braverman Building, currently owned by the State, was bought by the State for $5 million specifically for the Board of Education to tear down and replace with a new building to house an Early Childhood Education Center. The plan, said D’Alessandro, represented the culmination of four years of work on the part of the board.

D'Alessandro said City Manager Terry Reidy told him the Board of Education had given up its interest in the building via a letter. (See APP report, 9/11/07.) Apparently Reidy told at least one council member the letter story but attributed the letter to the Superintendent of the school district. However, now there apparently is no letter.

As for the seniors, Grant now feels they've been duped into another possibly five-year harangue over another 'potential' site. It appears all they've gained this time is that they actually know the address of the property in question. Click here to read D'Alessandro's report on this meeting.