Tag Archives: Mayor Ben Lucarelli

Honoring Fair Haven’s Ray Taylor

By Elaine Van Develde

“It hurts me to say that most of the boys that went out there with me   are no longer here. But I am doing  all I can to keep their names out there for you. Thank you.”

It’s what a tearful Ray Taylor said after receiving a proclamation from the Borough of Fair Haven last week in honor of his service as a World War II and Korean War veteran and 91-year resident of Fair Haven who has consistently served the borough as a veteran who spearheaded the creation of Fair Haven’s Memorial Park that honors veterans from the borough.

Taylor was the “first speaker at borough ceremonies since the time he returned from World War II in 1946,  touching the hearts of many,” Mayor Ben Lucarelli said at last week’s Borough Council meeting.

“As long as any of us can remember, Ray has spoken at our Memorial Day and Veterans Day ceremonies,” the mayor said. “He is a very special human being. This year his words were so poignant that I was moved to say this is a  special individual and he should be recognized.”

So, a proclamation and keys to both the borough and the park were given to Taylor.

Taylor and his wife, Elizabeth, raised seven children in Fair Haven. They have 20 grandchildren and “many great grandchildren,” Lucarelli said, reading from the proclamation, which he said was bestowed upon Taylor as an expression of borough residents’ and staff’s “deep appreciation and gratitude to Ray for his many years of selfless public service to his country and his hometown.

“We wish him many more years of health and continued happiness.”

Taylor, 93, was born on June 24, 1922 in Long Branch. Moving to Fair Haven in 1924, he has spent 91 years in the borough. He served in the U.S. Army in World War II from 1942 to 1946 and in the Korean War in the 1950s when he worked his way up to the rank of sergeant first class and received a distinguished service medal and a Korean War commemorative medal.

While serving in World War II, he was stationed in Australia, New Guinea, New Britain, Guam, the Philippenes, Japan and spent 14 months in Alaska.

He was stationed in the Asian Pacific during the Korean War.

Congratulations, Mr. Taylor; and thank you!

Fair Haven: DeNormandie Park Stalled

There’s been a bit of a delay in bringing one long-awaited passive riverfront park to Fair Haven.

That park is the one slated for the foot of DeNormandie Avenue where the historic Williams/Robards estate sat until April.

After its demolition then, officials figured it wouldn’t take all that long to clear the lot of demolition debris and unhealthy trees before the landscaping plans started to take hold.

Then there was an unforeseen shortage of help in the borough’s Department of Public Works to bring that (clearing and leveling) phase of project to a timely fruition.

“DPW was a little off track on the progress with the park,” Mayor Ben Lucarelli said. “The reason for that was that they have been short on help in the department. There have since been new hires, so they should be able to get back on track.”

In the meantime, people are free to stroll onto the beach by the river there and, when the fencing is removed, they may walk on the property that will eventually house the passive park.

The mayor went on to say that the landscaping plan is well in the works and its implementation will soon follow with the tree removal, turfing and then landscape architecture and finishing touches.

All told, the mayor said, it will realistically take up to another two years to see the completed park with finishing touches.

“We have to wait for the next grant cycle,” Lucarelli said. “We will probably go for a Monmouth County Open Space Grant. We have to close out other grants first and make certain there’s nothing else in the works. If we decide that this project is a priority for the next cycle, it could be done by next spring or so.

“If we get in on the next cycle, it would be another year. But that would be for the full flushing out of the park and all the amenities (such as the landscaping, benches, walkways). The trees (that the arborist decides may be taken) will come down next. It’s clear enough to take a walk on for now and enjoy, though.”

That final phase of  the plan will include a plaque commemorating the significance of Williams family and its Robards descendants and the site.

Charles Williams, a freed African-American slave, built the house on the land that was deeded to him and his family.

Winifred Robards, the last in the family line to live in the home that fronted the Navesink River, was known to invite children to play on her property. She told many that she wanted them to enjoy the riverfront location and it was her wish that the land, when she left, be preserved with public access for all to enjoy.

Taxpayers contributed roughly $200,000 to the acquisition of the $1.2 million swath of land. The remainder of the money to purchase it came from state, county and non-profit grants — all of which were contingent upon a commitment to eternally preserve the land as open space.

— Elaine Van Develde/photos and story

Former FH Sunoco at a Standstill

Site of the former Fair Haven Sunoco gas station Photo/Elaine Van Develde
Site of the former Fair Haven Sunoco gas station
Photo/Elaine Van Develde

It seems as if plans for future development at the Fair Haven Sunoco station have run out of the gas to drive them home.

One thing, though, seems pretty clear — that the site at 626 River Road won’t become another gas station.

The site has been completely cleared of underground tanks and remediated for safe development. But it’s static and empty, with no sign of any sort of comeback — not yet, anyway.

“There’s no tenant,” Fair Haven Mayor Ben Lucarelli said. “It’s in a state of limbo between Sunoco and someone who may or may not be under contract (to develop the site). The site has been decommissioned and debranded, so one would assume that was done for a transfer of title. Maybe, maybe not.”

Who that title would have been or is in the works of being transferred to, the mayor said he did not know.

As for the notion of another gas station, not only have the tanks to make that a reality been removed, but “that business model in a small town is shot,” Lucarelli said. “Any new gas station being built right now is something like a WaWa or a Quick Check, with 16-24 pump operations on big highways.”

There used to be several gas stations between Rumson and Fair Haven. Now each borough is down to one.

Fair Haven is in the process of reworking its master plan. There has been talk of some zone changes and alterations.

What sort of development do you think the site, now zoned for business, is ripe for? 

 

Fair Haven Faces Proposed Tax Hike

By Elaine Van Develde

It’s not yet set in borough books, or even officially been introduced; but, if there are no cuts from the draft, Fair Haven property owners could be facing an average hike of roughly $102 in municipal taxes in 2015.

Average means what quantifies as the current average assessed property value in the borough of $720,900, up from $688,540 last year, Borough Administrator Theresa Casagrande said at Monday night’s Borough Council meeting. It actually means a lower tax rate per $100 of assessed value, but the rise in average assessed value naturally raises the rate on the average home.

What it boils down to is that “the conceptual average home will pay 101.83 more than it did in 2015,” Casagrande said. “I want to make it clear that this is not 1-2-3 Main Street. I could sit here and tell you that our tax rate is going down, but (the reality is that) as your average assessed value increased what we did was we calculated what an average assessed home paid this year versus what the average assessed property paid in 2014.”

In the grander scheme of budget talk, it means that spending plan in the borough, with its budget rough draft, went from about $8.3 to $8.4 million, or roughly a 3 percent increase.

The amount to be raised by taxation, or “appropriations minus revenue,” has been drafted at $6.1 million for 2015, calculating an increase of $231,591.

The number is arrived at from figuring the “combination of a slight increase in appropriations with a reduction in anticipated revenue,” which Casagrande said is down this year by about $148,000. That loss is largely due to the borough not being able to calculate in the $117,000 it got from FEMA last year for Hurricane Sandy damage.

A portion of the tax hike blame rests with unavoidable standard raises in employee health care costs and pensions, which, this year, will cost the borough $437,696.

“It’s a good budget. We have to maintain a level of affordability with quality municipal services,” Council President Jonathan Peters, liaison to the borough Finance Committee, said. “We don’t want to be a high cost, low service town.”

And while most council members at Monday night’s council meeting called the spending plan, in the works since January, a “good budget,” Councilman Robert Marchese said he “cannot stomach raising taxes. This gives me pause. Period. We need to care about seniors and those living on a fixed income. Taxes just can’t keep going up.”

And all that has been considered, Casagrande said, mentioning that there is a senior tax abatement program via the state dubbed Senior Freeze for which many have already applied. The income limit for the program is $85,553.

And, Mayor Ben Lucarelli said, when considering per capita expenses, or municipal services offered, Fair Haven is beyond the high end, comparatively, at about $1,397 on an average per capita spending of $1,295 to $1,350 in small versus large towns. But, he said, the services provided are much better than those in larger towns with lower taxes.

When that per capita number is lowered, “the level of services drops dramatically,” he said. And, he added, Fair Haven is known for providing a premium of municipal services that most people, in his experience, do not want to do without.

With this budget, officials said, a lot of the debt service in the borough, or $189,00, was wiped out, bringing the total debt down to $3 million.

“We’re now at the same level we were at in 2008,” Lucarelli said. “The budget has been chopped down and creeped up since then, but has never exceeded the 2008 number.”

For six years straight, from 2008 to 2013, Fair Haven boasted holding the line on municipal taxes, which comprises a little more than 20 percent of the tax bill, with no municipal tax hike (and one minuscule decrease) until last year.

 

Editor’s Notes & the R-FH Area Week Ahead

Happy Monday, Rumson-Fair Haven area friends and fans!

OK, so spring has not exactly sprung as we would have liked quite yet, but it looks like there’s hope of some sort, soggy as it may be, for a rise in temps as the week progresses. Please!

In the meantime, it’s a chilly start to the week today.

There are Borough Council meetings in both Rumson and Fair Haven this week. Fair Haven’s meeting is Monday night at 7 p.m. at Borough Hall. Click here for the agenda. Rumson’s meeting is Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. at Borough Hall. Click here for that agenda.

Taking a look back at last week, here are some tidbits from the notebook the likes of which your editor is going to start sharing on a weekly basis:

Continue reading Editor’s Notes & the R-FH Area Week Ahead

Fair Haven Mayor: ‘I’m Up to the Challenge for Safer People, Safer Streets’

Fair Haven Mayor Ben Lucarelli and native Fair Havenite Dickson Mercer, speech writer for U.S. DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx Photo/courtesy of Ben Lucarelli
Fair Haven Mayor Ben Lucarelli and native Fair Havenite Dickson Mercer, speech writer for U.S. DOT Secretary Foxx
Photo/courtesy of Ben Lucarelli

By Elaine Van Develde

To know Fair Haven Mayor Ben Lucarelli is to know that he is an avid bicyclist and troubadour for safe bike and pedestrian travels. It’s also to know that the cycling he loves has taken two of his friends, people he cared for and admired, in the past two years, and walks across the street took two other members of the community before them.

So, the issue of bicycle and pedestrian safety on the streets where he lives hits home in more ways than one for Mayor Lucarelli.

Councilman Jerome Koch succumbed to injuries he sustained in a tragic accident with a motor vehicle while riding his bicycle last year. And triathlete Cole Porter died in 2013 after a mishap in the Tour de Fair Haven race when he collided with a race officiator on a closed borough-wide course.

Besides Lucarelli’s friends falling victim to fatal bike accidents, in the early 2000s a man was killed when hit by a car crossing River Road.  A woman was killed in 2009 crossing the same main street in the same area of the 1.6-square-mile borough.

So, when the mayor was offered the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (USDOT) Mayor’s Challenge for Safer People, Safer Streets, he eagerly accepted and headed to a summit “to identify and remove barriers to improving non-motorized safety” last week in Washington D.C..

The mayor is passionate about the idea of safely integrating pedestrian and bicycle traffic with motor vehicles. For him, that passion emanates from those focal home-base tragedies to encompass a community, even worldwide spectrum.

“We have people utilizing the roads right now and bad things are happening,” Lucarelli said on Wednesday. “It’s been very difficult (trying to come to terms with Porter and Koch’s deaths). To a certain extent, the effort I am putting forth with everything I’ve got is to honor both Cole and Jerome.”

While the mayor pointed out that there was a distinct difference in the cyclist tragedies — Porter’s being on a closed, motor vehicle traffic-free course — the legacies of the two are a persistent source of motivation. He was in the race Porter was in, yards away; and he had passed Koch on the road not long before before his accident.

“Jerome was just a regular guy — a father, a grandfather — out riding his bike around,” Lucarelli said. “It was an accident, an extremely tragic one that hit me hard. Unfortunately, it was also an example of how society is not yet acclimated to the integration of bikes in the flow of motor vehicle traffic — a growing, natural trend that’s becoming more and more necessary.”

For Lucarelli, it’s all about the general populace growing in accordance with a simple measure that keeps pace with ever-changing demographics, community revitalization, a healthier environment and pure economics.

And, for him, the mission begins at home, where his heart is.

Now after attending the Safer People, Safer Streets summit, Lucarelli says he’s even better prepared to be an ambassador for pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly streets his own town and promoting the innovation in the surrounding area. And he is equipped with what he sees as a trove of  information he’s anxious to share.

“While in American society the motor vehicle is the predominant mode of transportation, almost to a debilitating degree, there is now a greater demand to use roads for bicyclists and pedestrians, so that demand needs to be facilitated,” Lucarelli said. “Society’s changing in this direction and I think it’s for the better for everyone. We have to learn to use the roads in a more bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly way. Suburbia needs to wake up and find these facilities.”

The mayor explained that statistics show that as the population increases, the demands on the infrastructure become more strained.

For instance, according to U.S. DOT estimates, the country’s population is slated to increase 25 percent in the next 30 years, or by about 80 million people, up from roughly 319 million.

In 2013, according to U.S. DOT statistics, there were about 4,300 vehicle-pedestrian accidents that resulted in death. The same year, there were 471 fatal vehicle-bicycle accidents.

Both the federal and state DOTs recognize that the shift becomes a more natural one with the statistic change and encourages nationwide involvement to the extent that, Lucarelli said, many of the grants available will be given more liberally to the municipalities that embrace the concept.

“It makes sense. There’s not enough money, or room, to widen roads to accommodate the coinciding increase in vehicular traffic,” he said. “So, we need to rely more on a combination of mass transit, pedestrian and bike traffic so that vehicular traffic is reduced. When bicycle and pedestrian lanes are added to roads, and people acclimate to knowing they are there, it’s for the better.”

In Europe, Lucarelli noted, the acclimation has been historically consistent. Europeans are less reliant on cars as a chief mode of transportation and more on bikes, so the roads are naturally more bike- and pedestrian-friendly.

And it’s cheap to make the change, he said. It involves, in most cases, a bucket, or few, of paint. As part of the state DOT Complete Streets initiative, bike lanes are painted onto the existing main roadways with what’s dubbed sharrows, on-road signage to signal narrowing.

It’s also much more difficult to get a license to operate a motorized vehicle, including motorcycles, he noted. The licenses are graduated with the power of the vehicle. For instance, he said, it would take six years to get a license for a 100 horsepower motorcycle in France, whereas in the United States it’s more a matter of months, if that.

And in Europe, where cyclists outnumber drivers, there are no helmet laws, just by virtue of the fact that drivers are naturally more aware, Lucarelli said.

“Here, in the United States, you need a vehicle to survive,” he said. “So, the standards are different.”

And the U.S. DOT is busy fulfilling what officials there have said is a salient need to bring bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly travel to the states.

For the immediate area, including Sea Bright, Rumson, Fair Haven and Red Bank, the mayor said he’d like to see a marked main roadway paths for cyclists in stretches from one bordering town the other.

The roads are county roads, so that must come with county road improvements. Fair Haven has been implementing its own Streetscape program for the past several years. The NJ DOT Complete Streets end of it he said he hopes to see come to fruition by 2016.

And he’s been adamant about pushing it.

“The change is happening, the DOT is backing it and we’re going with it,” Lucarelli said.

 

New Fair Haven Fire Truck to be a First Responder

By Elaine Van Develde

If all goes according to plan, in about a year, the Fair Haven Fire Department will have a new $500,000 piece of equipment to be the first of trucks to respond to the scene of a blaze  — a Pierce pumper.

The pumper will replace a 1981 pumper that “is still running hard,” Mayor Ben Lucarelli said, but is not completely OSHA compliant, or up-to-date.

State safety statue requires that, since 1991, all firemen ride inside the cab of the truck and have a safe, enclosed place of refuge in which to retreat on the scene to escape, for example, toxic chemicals emitted from a fire. Fair Haven complies, but there’s just not as much room in the 1981 truck or efficiency.

The new Pierce pumper can seat eight in its cab. The days of hanging off the back or side of the truck while rolling onto the scene are long gone, Lucarelli said.

No decision has been made on which of the remaining three working apparatus, if at all, will be retired, donated, sold or kept.

And, the decision is not one that needs to be made any time soon, if at all, Fair Haven Council President Jonathan Peters said at Monday night’s Borough Council meeting when introducing the bond ordinance authorizing the funding of the new truck. “The cost to keep them is actually minimal,” Peters said. “And we certainly don’t want to buy another truck sooner than later.”

While some may criticize Fair Haven for “spending another half a million dollars, they need to realize that the last (quad) truck bought replaced the 1954 American LaFrance (quad) truck, and this (pumper) is replacing one bought in the 1980s,” Lucarelli said. “It’s cyclical; and it just makes sense.”

The last truck that was purchased, to replace the now retired 1954 American LaFrance quad, was a 2008 quad — a truck that brings four essentials, ladders, hoses, pumps and water tanks to the scene of a fire for firefighters.

Then there is a 1975 Mack quad that was refurbished in 1990; and the 1981 Pierce pumper that will be replaced or augmented by the new pumper truck.

While the pumper is the first on the scene of a fire, the quad ladder trucks, as opposed to aerial trucks used in some fire companies, get the hook and ladder equipment up and working, Lucarelli explained.

“It’s just a matter of different firefighting culture,” he said. “While some towns have the big aerials that go over the top of a fire, cut a hole (in the roof) water is blasted in, Fair Haven goes in the front door (and on the roof when they need to), inside and fight the fire.”

Administrator Theresa Casagrande commended former Fair Haven Fire Department Chief Derek DeBree for his help in keeping officials well-informed on the particulars of the purchase.

The ordinance to release the funds is scheduled for public hearing and adoption at the next council meeting. The first step, upon approval, will be to release a $24,000 deposit.

 

In with the New at Fair Haven’s New Year’s Day Reorganization

 

By Elaine Van Develde

Reorganization 2015 in Fair Haven brought a new council member to the dais — a lone Democrat — and new fire and first aid line officers.

In addition to Mayor Ben Lucarelli being sworn in to his first full four-year term, incumbent Susan Sorensen took the oath for her second council term. The newcomer to the governing body, Aimee Humphreys was sworn in to her first three-year and then took a seat at the dais for her first council meeting..

Fair Haven Fire Department and First Aid Squad members were sworn in as follows:

Fair Haven Fire Department line officers

• Chief, Scott Eskwitt

• Deputy Chief, Mike Weihl

• First Assistant Chief, Tim Morrissey

• Second Assistant Chief, Matt DePonti

Fair Haven First Aid Squad officers

• Captain, Joe Truex

• First Lieutenant, Kim Ambrose

• Second Lieutenant, Amanda Lynn

Fair Haven Fire Police Officers

• Captain, Lew Davison

• First Lieutenant, Frank Scalzo

• Second Lieutenant, Dan Chernavsky

Water Rescue/Dive Team

• Co-Captain/Sr. Administrator, John Felsmann

• Operations, James Cerruti and Robert Frank

• Training Officer, William Heath

Fair Haven Fire Department Ladies’ Auxiliary

• President, Trudy Wojciehowski

• Vice President, Amanda Lynn

New Year’s Day R-FH Area Reorganizations

By Elaine Van Develde

Both Rumson and Fair Haven’s reorganizations are, as usual, slated for the same day, same time — New Year’s Day at noon.

Though they are, naturally, in different places — Rumson’s at Bingham Hall and Fair Haven’s at Borough Hall. And, the agendas are different.

In Fair Haven, Democrat Aimee Humphreys will be sworn in to her first term on Borough Council. Mayor Ben Lucarelli will be sworn in to his first full four-year term in office after filling the unexpired term of former Mayor Michael Halfacre. Susan Sorensen will be sworn in to her second term on the dais.

Humphreys unseated three-term incumbent Jerome Koch. Shortly after the elections, with one council meeting left to the year, Koch was tragically killed in a bicycle accident on River Road.

Fire Department and First Aid officers will also be inducted into their new annual roles.

There are no new council members in Rumson to be sworn in for this year’s reorganization. However, the usual municipal reappointments will take hold as well as those of fire and first aid officers.

In Rumson, however, Mayor John Ekdahl is known for his annual speech. Which, he tells Rumson-Fair Haven Retrospect, will be delivered about half way through the ceremony.

 

Meet the Freeholders in Fair Haven

By Elaine Van Develde

If you want to get a glimpse of how county government works, you’ll have your chance tomorrow, Nov. 25, when the Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders conducts its meeting in Fair Haven at 7 p.m. in Borough Hall.

The Freeholders make the rounds to different towns each year to provide people with the opportunity.

With this turn in Fair Haven, the agenda, Fair Haven Mayor Ben Lucarelli said at the Monday night council meeting, is pretty full.

“The mayors from the Two River Council of Mayors will be with me,” he said. “We’ll be representing the complete streets resolutions and urging the county to use complete streets (designs, which include arrow-type signage on the street and bike lanes) in repaving county roads.

“Also, teachers and students from Brookdale will be here advocating  making an appeal for increased county support of the college. It should be an interesting, informative night.”

 

 

Honoring Vets in Rumson, Fair Haven

By Elaine Van Develde

“Many of those who were drafted into war many years ago were only seniors in high school. They were so young, their faces looked like dough,” Fair Haven Mayor Ben Lucarelli said, explaining the significance of what is dubbed the Doughboy Statue that stands at Memorial Park.

It’s where the Veterans Day ceremony in the borough took place on Tuesday. It’s also where some of those once dough-faced soldiers, now wearing the passage of time and life experience on their faces and in their eyes, gathered to pay tribute to fellow vets, those who have passed, those killed in the line of duty and those still in service.

They gathered in both Fair Haven and Rumson.

In Fair Haven, World War II vet Warner White, recipient of the Purple Heart award and Combat Infantry Badge, made his way up to the mic to speak of his time on the Atlantic French Coast at Utah Beach (D plus 94) and the Battle of the Bulge.

A native of Ohio, White has made Fair Haven his home since 1962.

Modest, as many World War II vets are, White quipped, “Ya see this picture of me here (pointing to the program). They make it look like I’m saluting. I really wasn’t. I was just combing my hair.”

He spoke of his experiences and all listened intently, including the very young, doughy-faced students in attendance.

Also recognized were a couple of the oldest living World War II vets in the audience: Ray Taylor, who served in Korea as well, and Oscar Hille, of the U.S. Army Air Corps. Also still living in Fair Haven, Rumson-Fair Haven Retrospect has learned, is 97-year-old World War II vet, Ken Curchin.

In Rumson, special recognition was paid to Jack Donovan Fowler, who was a First Lieutenant in the 7th Armored Division of the Battle of the Bulge.

Captain Daniel J. Edwards was the “presiding officer of the day” for the ceremony and Captain Mike Lilley, of the U.S. Marine Corps, spoke. Lilley, a Rumson resident, is executive director of Better Education for Kids, Inc.

All are the faces of service to the country. There were many thank-you’s and handshakes Tuesday morning. And Mayor Lucarelli called for that and more consideration to be a constant.

“In war there are and (have been) so many casualties and lives lost … Many who served and return have wounds that cannot be seen, such as post traumatic stress disorder and brain trauma …

“If you see a vet, thank a vet. If you see a vet and it seems like he’s having a hard time, understand. Go up to him and comfort him if you can.”

The casualties of the wars … 

• World War I, 115,000 lives lost;

• World War II, 405,000 lives lost;

• Korean War, 36,000 lives lost;

• Vietnam, 50,000;

• Persian Gulf conflicts, 7,000.