GOP Keeps its Hold Streak in Rumson

By Elaine Van Develde

Historically, officials in Rumson can’t remember a time when a Democrat or independent sat on the governing body.

There has, however, been one consistent candidate for Borough Council for many years now — Michael Steinhorn.

This election was no exception. With two seats up for grabs — those of Republican incumbents Benjamin Day Jr. and Shaun P. Broderick — Steinhorn again threw his hat into the status quo ring, attempting to mix it up on the dais.

Garnering 512 votes, or 16.5 percent of the votes this time around, he failed. His campaign was characteristically low profile.

The top vote-getter in the Rumson council race was Day, with 1,313 votes, or roughly 42 percent of the votes. Broderick won 1,265 votes, or about 41 percent.

There were nine write-ins.

Alabama Power: Haven of Heroes

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By Elaine Van Develde

When the storm’s rage subsided, the Rumson-Fair Haven area was left literally powerless for nearly two weeks. Then the guys from Alabama Power rolled in to the rescue, quickly being dubbed Hurricane Sandy heroes.

In what seemed like effortless work to them, sorely needed electricity was on and humming away within a couple of days.

Area residents flocked to Fair Haven Fields to feed the crew and heap on the accolades. The Alabama guys met them with smiles and a great service that has gone unforgotten.

Remember these warm smiles?


Dem Breaks GOP Hold on Fair Haven Council

By Elaine Van Develde

The unofficial results are in and they’re showing that, for the first time in more than a decade, the all-Republican hold on Fair Haven’s governing body has been broken.

Newcomer to the local political scene, Aimee Humphreys, has unseated longtime Republican incumbent Jerome Koch.

With what was considered a good voter turnout for mid-term elections at the borough polls, according to Monmouth County Board of Elections’ results tally, Humphreys beat Koch by more than 100 votes — her 1079 to his 963.

The high vote getter in the council race was Susan Sorensen, who won her second three-year seat on the dais with 1,216 votes, or roughly 37 percent to Humphreys’ approximate 33.

Total votes cast for the council race were 3,268.

There were five write-ins. And as “unofficial” results dictate, provision and absentee ballots have not all been counted.

Republican Mayor Ben Lucarelli has won his uncontested bid for re-election with 1,354 votes. There were 25 write-ins.

The last time the GOP hold on the dais was broken was when Joseph Szostak won his independent bid for mayor in 2002. He served one term through 2006 when former Mayor Michael Halfacre won the mayoral election.

He served until 2012, or one-and-a-half terms, when he stepped down upon being appointed by Gov. Chris Christie to serve as director of the state Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control.

Watch for a follow-up interview with the newest member of the governing body and Sorensen. 

Voting in 2012 in the Wake of Sandy

By Elaine Van Develde

Two years ago, voting in a presidential election in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy became historic for many reasons.

One of those reasons was just the logistics of where displaced people whose towns and selves were handicapped by the storm were voting.

Then there was the notion of getting people out from under their Sandy-plagued circumstances to vote at all.

Well, the turnout was much higher than anticipated. This is how it looked at one polling place in Fair Haven — the firehouse — that took in its Sea Bright neighbors to vote.


Two RFH area girls helped out at the polls at Fair Haven Firehouse during the 2012 elections in the aftermath of Sandy. Photo/Elaine Van Develde
Two RFH area girls helped out at the polls at Fair Haven Firehouse during the 2012 elections in the aftermath of Sandy. Photo/Elaine Van Develde

Rumson, Fair Haven Elections: Incumbents Want More Time

By Elaine Van Develde

They apparently just haven’t had enough.

That’s why Fair Haven and Rumson borough council incumbents are running for additional three-year terms on their respective governing bodies — and largely unopposed.

Fair Haven Mayor Ben Lucarelli faces no competition for his first full four-year term. Lucarelli filled former Mayor Michael Halfacre’s unexpired term when he was appointed director of the state Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control in January of 2012. The current mayor then won the uncontested election to finish Halfacre’s term through 2013 in November of the same year.

Newcomer Democratic candidate Aimee Humphreys is vying for one of two seats up for grabs on Fair Haven’s Borough Council. Running a lower-profile campaign, she is attempting to unseat either Susan Sorensen or Jerome Koch, both Republicans, on a platform of lowering municipal taxes and fighting reassessments. Humphreys was unavailable as of press time.

Sorensen is competing for her second term on council and Koch has served since 2002.

The two are running on a platform of experience and track records in office for keeping municipal taxes flat for six years, garnering $3.5 million in grants to offset the cost of capital improvements and more. They say, in their campaign literature, that they would like to “continue to run our borough like a successful business.”

In Rumson, Republican incumbents Shaun P. Broderick and Benjamin W. Day Jr. are vying to keep their seats on council.

Their only competition is Democrat Michael Steinhorn, who has attempted to break the characteristically longstanding Republican hold on the governing body several times and lost.

Steinhorn also ran for Monmouth County Surrogate in 2011 and lost to incumbent and former Middletown Mayor Rosemarie Peters.

The polls are open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. at all the regular polling places in both boroughs.


Police: Area Man Arrested After Allegedly Threatening Assault on Fair Haven Girlfriend

The following information was culled directly from police records. Arrests to not constitute convictions.

A young Highlands man, who had active warrants out of Fair Haven for his arrest, was arrested in Highlands on Oct. 29 after “an early morning incident that started in Highlands and ended in Fair Haven,” police records said.

Levi Soza, 24, allegedly threatened his Fair Haven girlfriend, violating a restraining order, according to police records. He was also charged with criminal trespass and burglary.

Soza is currently being held at Monmouth County jail in lieu of $28,000 bail, pending a Nov. 13 court date, according to police.

Fair Haven police also reported the following arrests and incidents for the month of October … 

 A River Road business owner reported an attempted break-in on Oct. 4. Sgt. Jesse Dyksta and Ptl. Koetzner responded and observed what appeared to be pry marks on an outside door. No losses were reported.

Detective Stephen Schneider is investigating.

• Douglas Denoia, 25, of Ocean, was arrested on Oct. 6 and charged with possession of a radio capable of receiving police, fire or emergency medical communications while in the commission of a crime.

Sgt. Jesse Dykstra signed the complaint.

• A Princeton Road resident reported on Oct. 9 that an unknown person had stolen a dry cleaner bag containing clothing from their front porch.

• Jeffrey Kowal Jr., 18, Red Bank, was arrested by Patrolman Eric Patton on Oct. 13 and charged with possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia, following a motor vehicle stop.

Kowal was also found to have an active contempt warrant out of Middletown in the amount of $1000. He was released after posting full cash bail, pending a court appearance.

• Sergio Varela-Limon, 25, Highlands, was arrested on Oct. 15 by Patrolman William Logrotteria and charged with driving while intoxicated following a motor vehicle stop.

• A Harrision Avenue resident reported on Oct. 15 that a girl’s bicycle was stolen from their property sometime during the previous evening.

Special Officer II Robert Henne took the report.

• Jeanne Manigrasso, 44, of Eatontown, was arrested on Oct. 29 on the charge of an active warrant out of Tinton Falls in the amount of $1000 following a motor vehicle stop.

Manigrasso was processed and released after posting full cash bail. Special Officer Brooks Robinson was the arresting officer.

• A Third Street resident reported on Oct. 30 that a savings account was opened in her name fraudulently by someone else.

The incident is being investigated by Cpl. John Waltz. No losses have been reported at this time.



Park to Keep Riverfront Space Open in Fair Haven

By Elaine Van Develde

“It’s been a long, arduous process,” Fair Haven Mayor Ben Lucarelli said, “but sooner than later locals will have a park on the riverfront to call their own.”

The mayor and other local, county and non-profit officials brought the decade-long concept one step closer to fruition on Friday when they gathered to commemorate Fair Haven’s acquisition of the property on the Navesink River at the end of DeNormandie Avenue.

Officials have eyed the 6.9-acre $1.2 million swath of land as future passive recreation facility for years now, since the tenure of former Mayor Michael Halfacre. However, for one red-tape reason or another, it’s taken a persistent fight and many avenues of grant acquisition to keep the land that was intended by its owners to remain in the public trust just that — and at the right price.

In the end, taxpayers are contributing $200,750 for the property, “most of which has already been budgeted for,” the mayor added.

The remainder of the funding was allocated as follows: NJ Blue Acres Grant Program paid for the bulk, or $608,750 of it; the Monmouth County Open Space Grant Program kicked in $250,000; and, most recently,  the non-profit Monmouth Conservation Foundation contributed $100,000.

In order to procure the grant money, the borough needed to commit to certain conditions: the home is to be demolished; a passive park with riverfront access must replace the home; there are to be no impervious surfaces; and the park is to be named after the property’s founding family, the Robards with a plaque anchored on the site giving a brief history of the family. The timetable, starting with the demolition, for all of this is slated for the spring of 2015.

This way, it’s guaranteed to be the borough’s “to enjoy for future generations going forward,” Lucarelli said. Once property is acquired as open space, using state, county and non-profit funding, it must stay just conserved as such.

That was the aim of local officials and the property’s original owners from the onset — to keep riverfront access open so that future generations can enjoy growing up Fair Haven style.

Frequently, the mayor has talked about how he grew up in Rumson with “sand between my toes.” The riverfront has been a mainstay for most who have grown up in the area, though the price and taxes of owning property on the riverfront is staggering for those of modest means — as were the Williams and Robards families, whose relatives had made the property their home since the 1850s.

For that reason, Lucarelli said, the descendants of Charles Williams — the free black man of his time who built his home and settled his family at foot-of-DeNormandie spot — felt that if they must sell the property, it would be their wish to preserve it as open space for all to enjoy rather than cloister it as an elite private property.

The most recent owners, the Robards descendants, whose family had lived in the spot since 1855, knew that as well and, for that reason, wanted to keep it open to the public.

“Winifred Robards (who lived there since 1855, when she was 3) was known to invite kids onto the property to play and enjoy it all the time,” Lucarelli said.

Soon enough, they and future generations will.

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The Start of Sea Bright Rising

By Elaine Van Develde

It was about this time two years ago that Woody’s Ocean Grille Owner Chris Wood and Head Chef Onofrio Muscato saw an immediate need to help the hungry, cold and displaced in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.

So, they just pulled out the grill and started flipping burgers, eggs and anything else they could to serve up some comfort to the superstorm’s victim. Before long, the U.S. Army National Guard was sent to set up camp and help. Word spread and soon there was a parking lot full of mess tents, food trucks, clothing bins and more.

Sea Bright Rising was born.

Two years later, Sea Bright Rising has brought in $1.3 million and distributed $1 million of it, Wood said recently. And the organization is not done yet. Many more of Sandy’s victims are still displaced and Sea Bright Rising wants to help.

Check out the non-profit’s website at

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Fair Haven Schools’ Writers’ Workshops Aim to Grow Good Authors

The following is an edited release provided by the Fair Haven Schools District:

“When you think you’re done, you’ve just begun.”

That’s the motto of the student Writers’ Workshops at Viola L. Sickles School in Fair Haven.

And while you may have guessed otherwise, Colleen Doogan told a roomful of surprised parents that her blossoming writers actually get excited when they hear this phrase.

“They view it as an invitation to carry on with a process they thoroughly enjoy,” said Doogan, who is in her first year as the district’s K-3 literacy coach. What does a literacy coach do? She provides support for teachers to enhance their reading and writing instruction.

Doogan hosted a Parent Literacy Lab at Sickles on Oct. 9 for parents of students in Kindergarten through fifth grade to demonstrate how Fair Haven schools’ teachers and administrators are set on growing good writers through modeling, engagement and reflection.

“I know it’s hard to do, but when your children tell a story you should try your best to drop everything and really listen,” Doogan told the parents. “Encouraging the telling of good stories is a key to good writing.”

A former first grade teacher who followed her passion to become a reading specialist, Doogan’s resume includes serving as staff developer at the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project at Columbia University under the leadership of Lucy Calkins. Doogan worked closely with the renowned literacy expert and author, and taught at reading and writing workshops in school districts nationwide.

She described the writer’s workshop at Sickles as “an essential component of a balanced literacy program.”

“The students are learning to develop good writing skills by writing — a lot,” she said. “Even our Kindergarteners are learning the importance of sequence in a story.

“We do what real writers do, because students are motived to write more when they understand that they have an authentic purpose and a real audience.”

Sickles students begin the writing journey in Kindergarten, where they are encouraged to create drawings that tell a story in sequence; and, when they are able, to add words to the drawings.

First graders are provided with writing folders containing papers with space for drawings and sentences. Second and third grade students move on to writer’s notebooks, which they fill with all kinds of writing — storytelling, instructional and historical pieces, to name a few.

When students move on to the fourth through eighth grades at Knollwood School, they further develop their writing skills through a host of instruction and activities.

In the writer’s workshops at Knollwood, students keep writers’ notebooks and publish finished pieces in a variety of genres. These students work on the same types of writing as their Sickles counterparts, but they write with increasing sophistication.

For example, fourth graders create book reviews and personal essays while the eighth graders pen literary essays and “position” papers (bringing together research and persuasive writing).

“The increased availability of digital resources and tools along with the use of Google for Education has allowed some Knollwood students to maintain online notebooks,” said Ellen Spears, the district’s director of Curriculum and Instruction. “Many teachers also encourage students to publish on blogs and also to other authentic audiences.”

As a reward for the completion of all their hard work, Fair Haven students in all grades share their best writing with classmates and parents at yearly events dubbed Writer’s Celebrations.

“All of our students at both schools are being immersed in the writing process,” said Sickles School Principal Cheryl Cuddihy, who compared the experience of learning to write with that of learning to drive.

“You don’t learn to drive by using just the blinker one day and the steering wheel the next,” she said. “You need to experience the car as a whole and improve with practice.”

The parents took part in writing and reflection activities with Doogan and with Literacy Specialist/Kindergarten Teacher Kerry Leahey, and were gifted with writer’s notebooks. But the evening’s best takeaways were the strategies Doogan shared for bringing out the “hidden writer” in every child.

“My wife Danielle and I felt very strongly about learning how to encourage and model good writing,” said Thomas Pantaleo, parent of second-grader Thomas and fourth-grader Lucia. “I thought the workshop was terrific, and I came away with guidelines that will make me a better ‘coach’ for my kids.”

Parent Literacy Lab was the first in a series of events planned during the school year by the Fair Haven Family Institute. The Fair Haven Family Institute was created to provide parents with an inside look at exciting initiatives taking place throughout the school district.

With assistance from the Fair Haven School District Technology Coordinator Pat Young and Technology Support Technician Pauline Clark, the Parent Literacy Lab was live-streamed to a local family that had expressed interest in the event but was unable to attend. The expansion of live-streaming to additional households is planned for the near future.

The Fair Haven Family Institute web page features timely and helpful information including details on upcoming events. It can be found on the school district website at

Upcoming Fair Haven Family Institute presentations include:

• Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC”) on Nov. 12 at 7 p.m. in the All Purpose Room at Knollwood School and;

• Google for Education on Dec. 2 at 7 p.m. at Knollwood School.


Sandy’s Slam to the Fair Haven Waterfront

By Elaine Van Develde

Fair Haven was a luckier victim of Hurricane Sandy’s penchant for whipping up the floodwaters. But neither the dock nor the marina and little beach at the end of DeNormandie Avenue quite stood up to it.

The water level rose above decks and it’s stormy strength ripped up chunks of the borough’s iconic landmarks while it tossed debris all over the place in both spots.

It’s all been put back together since. But, this is what the area at the end of DeNormandie looked like then. Today’s weather brings a hint of it all back.

Fair Haven Dock after Sandy ripped out chunks of it. Photo/Elaine Van Develde
Fair Haven Dock after Sandy ripped out chunks of it. Photo/Elaine Van Develde

Donovan’s Sandy Demise

By Elaine Van Develde

When the superstorm stopped, it plopped Donovan’s Reef in Sea Bright down in pieces.

People of the Rumson-Fair Haven area mourned the loss to an unforgiving Sandy. And when they were allowed to travel over the bridge into Sea Bright, many diehard loyalists of the Donovan’s summer tiki tradition by the sea could be found sitting and just staring at what once was piled in a heap feet away from its spot of origin.

After surviving rumors of commitment to rebuilding, a sale and total obliteration flipping back and forth, Donovan’s owners have announced that they will be rebuilding. This past summer, though, one non-functional Tiki hut marked the spot. Until next season …

Here’s what the demise of the popular spot looked like in 2012, just after the storm …

All photos by Elaine Van Develde, not previously published

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Happy Halloween! Enter the R-FH Area at Your Own Risk!

By Elaine Van Develde

From a former Haunted Mansion ghoul, and your founding editor of Rumson-Fair Haven Retrospect, Happy Halloween and may you get yourself a good scare and give one, too!

There’s a mad scientist gatekeeper of sorts at the corner of River Road and Church Street in Fair Haven that we couldn’t resist featuring as a sort of Halloween host. Look for him tonight.

And while you’re trick-or-treating, remember, from this trained monster, that all good ghouls know how to give a good scare (all in fun, of course).

So, for the adults, here are a few tips:

• Play your part with heart. In other words, believe who you are for the night and other tricksters will believe it all, too.

• Give ’em a good stare-down. If you can stay in character without cracking a smile, you can send people screaming into the night.

• Give ’em a good shock scare. After staring them down, when they least expect it and think all is calm, prove them wrong and give a good scream, hiss or thump, followed by something your character would shout out.

• A good evil laugh as they run is always a fun follow-up.

Most of all, don’t try this at home unless you’re an adult or a kid supervised by parents who love the same sort of Halloween fun.

And, above all, have FUN and stay safe! Remember the area rules from police.

As, Haunted Mansion ghouls say, “I’m scared o’ you!” Happy haunting!

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