A blog about living in Aberdeen, New Jersey.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Providence Baptist Church

The Providence Baptist Church has served the Cliffwood community since its founding in 1927 by the Reverend and Mrs. Smith. Before that, parishioners had to travel to Mount Moriah Baptist Church in Cliffwood Beach.

For some years after the building was erected, congregants had to bring chairs from home because the church had no pews. And a pot-bellied stove burned coal or old wood to keep folks warm during services.

The congregation was led for nearly thirty years (1958-1987) by the late Reverend J. L. Dargon, who is credited with edifying both the physical structure and spiritual life of the church.

The Reverend Amelda L. Lee had been associate pastor for thirteen years and active in the church for over forty years when she became the church's first female pastor in 2007. She had retired from a career in the federal government and returned to school, receiving her doctorate from Andersonville Theological Seminary in 2005. Her previous experience as superintendent of the Sunday School and director of the youth choir made her particularly well suited to the task of leading the congregation. Her work in prison ministries gave her a mission focus that would invigorate the membership's spirit of service.

The church building is located at 49 Kennedy Avenue. Sunday School begins at 9:30 am, followed by worship at 10:30 am. Its food pantry, which is open every third Saturday and is available in emergencies, is part of the Statewide Emergency Food and Anti-Hunger Network (SEFAN).

For further information, call the church at 732-566-4430. You can also learn more about the congregation from some of the sources I used for this article:

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Maya Angelou Highlights 80 Years of Rainbows

One of the best things about living in the New York City metro area is the wide array of cultural events available to us. This evening, my family and I attended an appearance by Maya Angelou at nearby Lincroft, New Jersey's Collins Arena at Brookdale College. The event at Monmouth County's community college was promoted by the New Brunswick Area Branch of the NAACP, the National Organization for Women (NOW), and the school itself, which issued one free ticket per student. The event's three thousand tickets sold out on 17 February and the arena was packed with onlookers

It's hard to summarize Ms Angelou's performance, which was at once down-to-earth in manner and profound in substance. She sat in a chair rather than stand behind a podium due to her knees. She spoke conversationally and forthrightly to the large crowd, but her charm allowed us to feel as if she was speaking to each of us individually.

She's seen the world she grew up in turned on its head, something that seemingly startles and amuses her. For example, she told of getting a police escort to an event in Arkansas, a state where as a child she had feared "the boys" when they were "patroling" African-American neighborhoods like hers on horseback looking for men to beat or kill. She recounted childhood memories of hiding her uncle, a store owner, in a potato bin to protect him from roving bands of policemen.

Ms Angelou said she loves to appear at community colleges because the students there recognize the importance of education and, despite the odds, are trying to make it happen. She pointed to the story of Terence, the north African slave, who was educated by his Roman master and eventually became a poet. A slave remains human despite his station in society, Terence said in one of his half dozen works that have survived. In essence, a man must assert his humanity and consider nothing beyond his reach or out of bounds.

Eighty years of life have taught Ms Angelou that each person has a chance to make a profound difference in the lives of untold numbers of people through a chain of getting and then giving in response and learning and then teaching in response. She says the people who take on this lifelong challenge of passing it on become rainbows for people suffering under life's storm clouds.

I must say, though, that those three thousand folks lost the spirit of the evening when they got into their cars and tried to leave the Brookdale campus. The 35 minutes I spent in vicious dog-eat-dog traffic snarls, mind games, and alternate merge violations were harrowing and utterly nerve-wracking. My daughter suggested it would have been better if the order of the proceedings had been reversed and Ms Angelou had instead stood on the side of the road to deliver her message of peace to the dueling drivers as we fought our way towards Phalanx Road and our blood pressures soared. Whatever Ms Angelou said was certainly lost on some folks.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Will Obama Fund Cliffwood Beach Seawall Pedestrian Project?

After tonight's rousing speech by President Obama to a joint session of Congress, I wondered how his words might translate into meaningful change for Aberdeen Township. For example, a town council press release dated 22 January 2009 provided the council's wish list of local projects that could be set in motion if sufficient Federal stimulus funding could be acquired. Might we receive some of this money?

The township announced last month its intention to apply for the following projects:
  1. Renovation and expansion of the George Hausmann Senior Center.
  2. Relocation of a water main currently situated on a Garden State Parkway overpass to run underground below the roadway.
  3. Construction of the Cliffwood Beach Seawall Pedestrian Project (augmenting grants that have already been awarded to facilitate the launch and completion of this project).
  4. Refurbishment of two water lines that run below Route 35.
  5. Construction of a sewage pump station and lines in Freneau, allowing for the addition of sanitary sewers to that section of the township.
No. 3 above is a request for funding to complete the Cliffwood Beach Seawall Pedestrian Project, part of a walkway that currently runs from Laurence Harbor (see photos) to Cliffwood Beach in Old Bridge Township.

A Bayshore Independent article of 29 January 2009 followed up on the press release and reported the following details about the sea wall effort:

"The Sea Walk Enhancement Project is a project that has gone on for a number of years, and we have received grant money in the past for this project, but we would like to receive funding for the completion of the project," Aberdeen Township Manager Joseph Criscuolo said. "The project has been done in several phases and there is quite a bit of beach erosion there."

Criscuolo said revitalization is the end goal for the sea walk project.

"The sea walk runs from Cliffwood Beach to Laurence Harbor, and there actually was a pedestrian bridge to the Morgan section of Sayreville at one time," Criscuolo said. "We want to re-create what used to be there and revitalize a recreation area and walking path for residents to enjoy. On a sunny day, you can actually see all the way across the [Raritan Bay], and it offers quite a beautiful view."

According to the township's online slide presentation outlining the sea walk project, available on the Web site, the project spans a 5/8-mile portion of publicly owned bayside property, allowing for ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) access at Lakeshore and Beach drives and the wall itself, and restoring foot traffic to the shoreline in Cliffwood Beach.

Cliffwood Beach, the presentation states, was a popular resort town in the early 1900s, boasting a boardwalk, saltwater pools and amusements, until 1960 when Hurricane Donna ravaged the area and destroyed the boardwalk. Along with the area's economy, the beach also began to erode.

In order to prevent further land and beach decay, the Army Corps of Engineers constructed a seawall rising approximately 20 feet above bay level that spans the entire proposed sea walk section from Lakeshore Drive to Beach Drive.

According to the presentation, access improvements to the Lakeshore Drive access point are slated to include a new gated access, allowing for increased access control and visibility into the proposed ADA-accessible asphalt parking area. Additional improvements would include the installation of a handrail system, ADA-compliant ramps, as well as striping and signage.

In order to accommodate ADA access to the sea walk from the parking area, the township would also install a soft boardwalk, consisting of "engineered plastic-wood planks joined continuously with environmentally resistant ropes that can be laid out directly on the existing sand, to provide for acceptable access requirements, and then rolled up, removed and stored when environmental conditions require such, as in winter months," the presentation explains.


There will be a special joint session of the Aberdeen Township Council, Matawan Borough, and the Aberdeen-Matawan Library on Thurs evening at 8 pm at 1 Aberdeen Square. And don't forget the zoning board meeting on Wed evening at 7:30 pm. Council agendas and minutes are updated regularly at the township website.

Board Approves 09/10 Schools Calendar

Principal Michele Ruscavage hosted the Matawan-Aberdeen Board of Education's monthly action meeting last night at Matawan Regional High School. Everyone remarked on the glistening condition of the school's rooms and corridors, a great improvement over previous years. One board member remarked to me after the meeting that the high school not only physically gleamed but had turned around in many ways, all in large part due to Ms. Ruscavage's leadership.

Many teachers attended last night's board meeting to see three of their popular colleagues -- John McCabe, Enid Lassman, and Steven Hutnik -- recognized as they head for retirement after years of dedicated service at the high school. A number of parents were there to see their children honored for achievements in the arts, in sport, in the classroom, and in the greater community.

Among several items on its agenda, the school board approved the 2009-2010 calendar, which features a school opening on Wednesday 2 September 2009. When you make your summer vacation plans, keep in mind that the school year will begin nearly a week before Labor Day this fall.

The board also approved a five-year $25,000/yr contract with RealTime Information Technology to provide an Internet system that will facilitate "real time" Internet communication between teachers and parents regarding student progress.

The personnel report indicated that two new mathematics instructors -- TBD at the high school and Concetta Kelly at the middle school -- are to serve through the end of this school year to cover gaps caused by a resignation, a rescission, and a maternity leave.

Matthew Bratsch stepped down from his position as student representative on the board last night. Bratsch said he felt he could contribute more to change at the school from outside the system. He took a seat in the audience and soon took the public podium to speak to the availability of books in his English classroom. The board engaged the topic and agreed to look into it.

The board agreed to look into public concerns over whether the board is adequately notified of changes in the professional certification status of school district employees.

Note that the next meeting of the school board has been rescheduled for 30 March 2009.

Members of the public had little time to review too few copies of the agenda before voting ensued last night. The personnel report alone was eight pages long. One parent who found the table empty of agendas rose to an issue that was already scheduled to be addressed. The board ought to seriously consider setting a deadline for papers that will be considered at board meetings and then make the agenda and all papers available online several days prior to the event. For sunshine laws to be effective, public hearings must facilitate proper debate.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Development vs Conservation in Aberdeen

According to an 18 December 2008 article in the Bayshore Independent, Aberdeen citizens gathered at a meeting of the township's Planning Board on 9 December to express their concern over a plan to meet Council on Affordable Housing (COAH) requirements through development of 62 townhouses near their homes on the northbound side of Route 34 near Lloyd Road. Despite their protestations, the plan was approved and will now be dealt with at the 25 February 2009 Zoning Board of Adjustment meeting.

In all the hubub regarding the Village at Aberdeen portion of the project, no one seems to have raised any concerns over the rezoning of conservation /recreation (CR) lands that will be required to build Renaissance at Aberdeen (red zone on map), a 132 unit affordable housing project on the west side of County Road behind a self-storage facility at Route 35 in Cliffwood. Maybe that issue should be raised on Wednesday?

The NY/NJ Baykeeper filed a cautiously optimistic report (pdf) circa 2005 on Aberdeen's plans to protect environmentally sensitive wetlands, floodplains, and surrounding waterfront lands through the implementation of a special zoning category. The report said, "This action will help guide away from these areas development projects that might have a large impact on the physical environment." Under duress to meet COAH requirements, the township seems to be chipping away at its stance on environmental protection by diverting lands to development that had been set aside. Worried about who their neighbors might turn out to be, township citizens as well seem to have missed the ball on waterfront preservation. Too bad, since so much of the township is seashore, lakes, and creeks.

Once this inevitable rezoning takes place, maybe Aberdeen can divert some commercial lands to CR status and in such a way protect an equivalent parcel of land from development? A September 2008 draft (pdf) of the NJ Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation Program Plan (CELCP), which discusses conservation and recreational lands and programs that can help avoid their diversion to other uses, might be a place to start for some ideas on how to proceed?

Herding Viewers at Hazlet Multiplex

Have you ever been to the Hazlet Multiplex Cinemas to enjoy a blockbuster film only to have management come to the front of the theatre and bark at the audience, either with the use of a megaphone or a loud voice? If you've missed it, all I can say is it's an experience.

No doubt theatre managers have to limit misbehavior and the rule of law takes a backseat when Spiderman or Batman is in the house. Then again the movie theatre isn't grade school and the manager isn't my principal.

Maybe megaphone man has toned down the lectures about feet on the seats, noise, and cell phones? Maybe he doesn't issue as many warnings about potential removal from the theatre for violations of the theatre's code of conduct? Then again, there haven't been many blockbuster films of late either.

All I can say is that I've never been so ready to take my business elsewhere as when this guy takes center stage. Especially when I'm treated like a five-year old but charged adult ticket prices. (See poll to the right)

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Raising Sand Has a Few Interesting Pieces

Robert Plant and Alison Krauss won the Grammy for their album Raising Sand. This song, Rich Woman, is the most popular of the album's songs, according to iTunes. I like Gone, Gone, Gone and Stick With Me Baby much better. In general, the album is too country for my current tastes.

MRHS Huskies Claim Third at District 21 Wrestling Meet

Matawan's wrestling team (08-09 seniors pictured at right) came in third at the NJSIAA District 21 meet on Saturday at Manalapan with a score of 104.5, according to an article at Asbury Park Press correspondent Steve Falk's blog called Hitting the Mats. Howell defeated Jackson Memorial, 205.5 to 188.5.
  • Antista beat Shaughnessy of Howell in 1:14 in the 135 weight class. Antista later pinned Baker of Jackson Memorial in the semi-final round.
  • Short defeated Skinner of St John Vianney in 3:12 in the 125 weight class. Short later lost in the semi-final round to Young of Jackson Memorial 6-2.
  • Long defeated Post of Freehold in 3:55 in the 145 weight class. Long was later defeated in the semi-final round by Wilton of Jackson Memorial 2-1 in OT.
  • Rivera beat Murphy of Jackson Memorial in the 189 weight class. Rivera was later pinned in the semi-final round by Melon of Howell.
  • Georgiano of Jackson Memorial defeated Hodge in OT in the 215 weight class 5-2. Hodge lost by major decision in the semi-final round to Davis of Freehold 15-3.
  • Howley beat Moschella of Holmdel in the heavyweight class 15-5. Kahle of Jackson Liberty pinned Howley in 5:07 in the semi-final round.

Ice Cream Palace

A visit to Aberdeen just wouldn't be complete without stopping at Ice Cream Palace on Route 34. Locals go to Ice Cream Palace after a movie at Clearview Cinema or bowling at Strathmore Lanes. In this economy, Ice Cream Palace is a good choice for dessert after dinner at one of the local restaurants if you want to save a few bucks. The counter is usually staffed by some of the nicest kids from the local Matawan Regional High School. Expect a crowd in the summer.

Ice Cream Palace is located in Aberdeen Town Square Center. Some of the online maps show it at the intersection with Atlantic, while another suggests it is further north on Rte 34 at Lake Lefferts in Matawan. One site even suggests it is in Middletown. Those online maps are a wonderful concept but someone needs to iron out some of the kinks.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Main Street Village in Matawan

Main Street Village is a popular shopping center at the corner of Main Street and Route 34 in Matawan. We sometimes will play a board game at Starbucks over coffee accompanied by a snack from Abbate's Bakery, followed by a visit to Trattoria Rustica for subs or pizza and sodas. If the ladies dropped in to get their hair done at Rapulzel's Hair Salon & Day Spa while I got a haircut at Tommy's Barber Shop, our visit would be complete.

Last summer, the Bayshore Independent published an article lauding the approval of 21 new business licenses in Matawan, including three start ups at Main Street Village -- The Pottery House, Oxxo Care Cleaners, and the A J Pizzle Restaurant.

Speaking of restaurants, Chowhound has useful discussions of local restaurants online. Check out this discussion from last fall regarding a BBQ place that had just opened across from the train station on Main Street. I've found that a Chowhound article with only a couple of replies can provide fairly comprehensive information, unlike many of the other "restaurant review" sites I've seen. I haven't studied the matter in detail, but maybe a number of local residents contribute regularly?

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Report of Two Aberdeen School Board Candidates Prompts Online Brawl

There was an announcement in Sunday's Aberdeener that Liz Loud-Hayward and Joey Warren will run for Matawan-Aberdeen School Board. Others are expected to announce their candidacies in coming weeks. Aberdeen NJ Life encourages a healthy discussion of the issues and a large voter turnout.

Unfortunately, adherents and advocates alike engaged in considerable sniping in the comments section below Mr Warren's announcement. People of all persuasions should check their hostilities at the door and tone down the rhetoric more than a few notches. What's up with this nonsense? This isn't Bosnia or Fallujah. Civil discourse should be a norm of the Aberdeen-Matawan community, especially when it comes to the discussion of our children's education. While they may be earnestly focused on the money and politics associated with that big chunk of change that makes up the school budget, these zealots should consider what their children might learn about civics from their online conduct.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Google Alerts on Aberdeen Can Be Too Informative

I just had to point out that Scotland has an Aberdeen Federation of Racing Pigeons Societies. Find out more at the federation's Pigeon Basics web page.

Photo source: Poetry, Sciences, and Other Tales of Writing

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

More About the Aberdeen Train Station and Commuter Lot

For those interested in Aberdeen Township controlled parking at the Aberdeen train station to catch the North Jersey Coast train, I snapped a few photos of the parking signs and the payment kiosk to give you an idea of the situation. There are few daily spaces, so get to the station early if you want a space. Permit parking is for all intents and purposes unavailable.

You will notice that the signs, which are just across the street from each other, disagree slightly on the number of parking spaces. One says there are 225 daily parking spaces (in yellow) and 500 permit spaces (in white), while the other says there are 210 daily, 469 permit, and 22 handicapped accessible spaces. The latter is apparently more recent and the older one hasn't been corrected. The difference is surely due to the marking of accessible spaces, which can take more room than regular spaces.

You can park in empty permit spots after 10 am for the regular daily rate. Daily parking is free after 4:30 pm. Parking is free on holidays and weekends.

Note that Matawan Borough has its own parking spaces with a separate set of rules, payment kiosk, and another unbelievably long list for permit parking.

The reason there are not more daily parking spaces is likely because the township and borough don't want to attract more vehicles into local streets. A shuttle is available to bring people back and forth from free commuter parking at the PNC Arts Center, but that's a lame effort that hasn't worked well. It's too bad, really. I commute to Metropark because daily parking is available and the cheaper fare into the city helps defray the parking costs.

My daughter got a pic of the old Matawan train station, which was recently refurbished. One of the new double-decker trains happened to be in the station, so I got some shots of it as it departed for NYC. (The view is to the NNW from the Atlantic Avenue crossing)

Monday, February 16, 2009

Beach Drive in Cliffwood Beach

It was a bright, crisp afternoon here today, so my daughter and I decided to take some photos at the shore. We drove down South Concourse and made a left onto Beach Drive and parked in a small lot there near the western end of the Cliffwood Beach seawall. From there you get a beautiful view of Staten Island across Raritan Bay and an excellent vista on Keyport harbor.

Behind the beautiful homes there are houses on a promentory about twenty or so feet above us along a section of North Concourse that turns a horseshoe and becomes Woodcrest Drive. The view of the bay from up there is stupendous, especially from a gap in the houses between North Concourse and Woodcrest. (Note that Google Maps considers Woodcrest to be in Keyport. There's no municipal border on this side of Matawan Creek, is there?)

For over seventy-five years, this area was the home of the Cliffwood Beach Fossil Preserve, a state- and township-sponsored shelter which protected an internationally renowned treasure trove of fossils first discovered in 1858. School field trips and research grants were mounted to conduct studies there. But the Conrad house was threatened by the 1/2 ft per annum shore erosion, so the preserve had to be abandoned. As a compromise, Rutgers University sent paleontologists to record what they could before the seawall was filled in and access to the preserve was lost. A full report of this quandry and its resolution, including a history of the site and a series of maps, photos, and charts, is available online in pdf format at NOAA's Coastal Zone Information Center.

It is interesting to note the difference in the roads back then. In the 1970s, before this last section of the seawall was built, a road connected Marshall Concourse, Seawood, and Woodcrest along the bayshore. One of the maps shows Cliffwood Avenue connected to Woodcrest, but that surely is a mistake. I'd be interested in hearing more about that period in Cliffwood Beach's history and a discussion of the changes to the local roads that resulted from the construction of the various phases of the seawall.

Photographs above and below, from top of bottom, are 1) a view of Staten Island across the Raritan Bay, as well as, in the far distance, Manhattan skyscrapers (left of center), the Verrazanno Narrows Bridge (right of center), and Brooklyn (right); 2) a view westward from the seawall near Beach Drive; and 3) a view of Keyport from the seawall near Beach Drive in Cliffwood Beach.

Cablevision DVR Ain't Tivo

We recently switched from Verizon's FIOS to Cablevision. While the speed of the Internet connection is far superior on Cablevision and the picture no longer breaks up, the Cablevision DVR's capabilities are in the Dark Ages. I prefer Tivo -- I have one upstairs -- but I've been using the Cablevision DVR because it will record two shows at once. I have an old Tivo in mothballs but it can only record one show at a time. I'll have to wait for Christmas in July to buy a new dual Tivo device -- or maybe President Obama will bail me out?

I've been using the Cablevision DVR and its remote for weeks now, and I'm a heavy user, so I'm as qualified as most -- especially since the manual didn't say much about the DVR's features, such as they are.
  • If you want to search for a show to record, you need to know what day it is on because the system only searches shows within a particular day's listings.
  • If you can figure out what day your show is on, then you have to search through a whole day's worth of listings sorted only by the first letter of the show's name.
  • As you mindlessly click show after show, the remote builds up a memory of your clicks and won't stop advancing the listings when you finally reach the one you want.
  • There is no master list of shows you routinely watch, so managing your shows means you have to find them in the queue of upcoming shows and toy with them there.
  • I think I'm getting repetititive stress from all the clicking.The remote isn't exactly user friendly. Arrows are placed near one another so you can suddenly shift up the channels page in the Channel Guide when you meant to move an hour ahead or back in programming selections.
  • The Verizon DVR was much better than the Cablevision device, but both pale in comparison to Tivo technology.
I don't understand how Cablevision could be so behind in DVR tech? Maybe Cablevision is waiting for a decision from the US Supreme Court on whether they can begin offering DVR services remotely? Maybe they've seen no point in updating their DVR because they've put all their advancement eggs in the remote DVR basket? See Zonkio's cyberlaw year in review for the latest summary. For some history, see Freedom to Tinker and its 2007 article about a lower court decision that went against Cablevision.

BTW, I'm so glad to be rid of the Verizon FIOS modem, which served double duty as a wireless router. The signal was pitiful, so my household is elated to be back to the Linksys wireless router we used to use. OMG is our signal better!

School Board Elections; Aberdeen Twp Council Meeting Set for Tues 17th

As I wrote in a recent blog article, Aberdeen-Matawan school board elections are approaching. The deadline for submitting nominating petitions is 2 March. While the deadline for amendments to challenged petitions is 8 March, that is a Sunday so petitions are actually due by close of business Friday 6 March. Other filing dates are available on this page. Elections are on 21 April.

I just received the agenda for the next regular meeting of Aberdeen Township Council, which will be held on Tuesday 17 February immediately following the workshop meeting scheduled for 7 pm.
  • At the regular meeting there will be the first reading of an ordinance (5-2009) allowing the council to exceed the municipal budget appropriation limits, followed by the first reading of an ordinance (6-2009) related to township salaries.
  • I have an old agenda for the 3 February public meeting and these same ordinances were to have been introduced at that meeting. Next meeting will be 3 March.
  • Ten items considered routine will be voted upon at once as part of a consent agenda.
  • One of the ten items is related to water allocation diversion rights and a NJDEP contract. After a bit of quick research I found that we have been in Critical Water Supply Area #1 since 1985 and are under special scrutiny for our water use. Our local water supply is derived from the Potomac-Raritan-Magothy aquifer, one of four red-flagged aquifers in Middlesex, Monmouth, and Ocean counties. See Northern Water Allocation Permitting and the Bureau of Water Allocation for further details about the state program. Matawan has a useful page on water quality and supply. Aberdeen's water department page is rather limited.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Troubled Watershed

Matawan got involved with the NY-NJ Harbor Estuary Program back in 2005 as part of a scouting project. Based on the project's description, which I found at the estuary program's website, the borough's environmental commission supported the endeavor to help protect the Raritan Bay from runoff pollution. Four years later, the commission's itinerary isn't even posted on the borough's webpage. I see that the commission sponsors an annual clean up day. Maybe the commission could develop another environmental project? Check out the video at the bottom to see what Lake Erie residents are doing to keep prescription drugs from their water supply.

Matawan Creek & Pews Creek Educational Outreach Program in Raritan Bay Subwatershed

The Bayshore Regional Watershed Council (BRWC) will partner with the Borough of Matawan Environmental Commission and with the Friends of Pews Creek volunteer group to label approximately 400 storm drain inlets that empty into Raritan Bay with a marker that reads "No Dumping - Drains to Bay." These partners, along with local scout and school groups, will label drains along Matawan Creek/Lefferts Lake and Pews Creek, waterways that are bounded by heavy residential and commercial development. BRWC will distribute informational door hangers to local property owners to emphasize that stormwater is not treated before entering the bay, and to inform residents on how to mitigate nonpoint source pollution. This will be one step in educating people about local water quality so that they can change their attitudes and behaviors to help solve the problem. To further educate local residents, BRWC will also hold a stream clean up and a free public nature walk for Matawan Creek and Pews Creek.

Saturday, February 14, 2009


Duffy made it to the 2009 Grammys album with her hit Mercy. Good stuff.

Here she is in the studio recording her song Syrup & Honey.

And here she sings a big production version of The First Cut Is the Deepest and Bring It On Home to Me.

Lake Lefferts

Lake Lefferts is a lake in Matawan that was formed by the damming of Matawan Creek in 1928. The lake is situated between Main Street, Ravine Drive, and Route 516, crossing under Route 34 between the First Presbyterian Church and the Buttonwood Manor restaurant.

The lake was named after real estate developer Jacob R Van Mater Lefferts, according to The Independent. He died in 1989 at the age of 76, his New York Times obituary said, adding, "Mr. Lefferts, a graduate of Columbia University, built several thousand homes in the late 1950's and 1960's in Monmouth County, especially in Middletown. He was an avid gardener and planned developments that retained existing trees and placed houses on winding streets, a departure from the grid patterns that were then the vogue."

You can see a map of the lake at Google Maps. FindLakes provides a map and a few details about the Lake Lefferts Dam. You can see some nice wildlife photos of the lake at May Lee's Art. The Borough of Matawan does a nice fireworks display over the lake for Independence Day.

I took some shots of the lake today from Ravine Drive's boat launch, which has a wooden hut with recreation equipment, a couple of piers, a boat launch, concrete walkways, park benches for enjoying the lake, as well as a bunch of canoes available for summer fun. Homes can be seen on the far side, and in the distance you can see the Buttonwood Manor restaurant.

Sports Signups in February?

Don't look now but it's time to sign up for spring sports. Actually, it is getting late. Here's a list of local clubs that need your support and might still be looking for players, coaches, and/or sponsors. Feel free to post a link and provide some pertinent details if your Aberdeen-Matawan sports club is holding registrations.
  • AMYAA girls softball already started registration in January. Walk-in sign ups will be held at the Matawan Community Center on Broad Street next Wednesday evening 18 February 2009 from 6:30pm-8:00pm and at Aberdeen Town Hall on Saturday 7 March 2009 from 10am-12:30pm. Registration can also be accomplished by mail. Check the registration form for all the details.
  • Huskies softball begins at the Matawan Avenue Middle School in April. An interest meeting was held in January.
  • The Babe Ruth League is still accepting registrations for baseball. Check their site for a phone number.
  • The Soccer Club is encouraging prospective coaches to attend a training event at Holmdel HS.
  • Check the MAMS and MRHS athletics directories to find out more about your favorite public school sports programs.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Calvary Baptist Plans Renovations

According to township planning board minutes, Calvary Baptist Church on Lloyd Rd plans "to demolish the two existing outbuildings, sidewalk, paving and curbing and construct a 6,350 sq. ft. one story addition to the existing one story frame church, to contain offices, classrooms, nursery, preschool and expansion of existing library. Variance required for front yard set back 35.20 ft. to proposed addition, where 50 ft. required)."

Affordable Housing Awaits Testing of Former Industrial Site

$402,000 grant to fund Aberdeen pollution probe

By Jim McConville • KEYPORT BUREAU • February 12, 2009

ABERDEEN — The township has received an estimated $402,000 state grant that is to be used to perform an environmental investigation of the former South River Metal Products site on Church Street.

The check for $402,259 comes from the Municipal Grant Program of the Hazardous Discharge Site Remediation Fund, a program administered by the state Department of Environmental Protection and the New Jersey Economic Development Authority.

The South River Metals building has been vacant for about seven years and was deemed unsafe by code officials for a number of reasons, including a fire at the site.

The township gained ownership of the brownfield site (a developed parcel that might be polluted) through foreclosure because of unpaid taxes. Such sites are designated brownfield sites in an effort to spur cleanup and development of industrial land.

The South River Metal facility was eventually demolished in 2006 when the Township Council approved a $600,000 bond ordinance.

The future land developer, PRC Group of West Long Branch, demolished the factory and the sky bridge attached to it.

The state grant will cover the costs of environmental investigation that will provide data to determine how to clean up contaminants on the site, Aberdeen Township Manager Joseph Criscuolo said.

Soil, groundwater, sediment and surface water sampling and laboratory analysis have been completed. A final report is being prepared for submission to the state DEP this March.

Once that report is approved, PRC Group will file application with the state to receive cleanup funds.

"They'll probably submit for brownfield grant funds," said Criscuolo. "They'll (PRC Group) do that, or we'll do that with them."

Once cleaned up, PRC Group will redevelop this site and an adjoining property into an age-restricted community. Preliminary plans for the 15 acres call for approximately 90 affordable rental apartments and 60 condominiums in several multistory buildings, along with a swimming pool and clubhouse for the complex's residents.

PRC Group will pay for the construction of a community center on the site that would be open to all seniors in Aberdeen.

Source: APP

See also the Aberdeen Township public statement in this regard.

Elizabeth Parents More Concerned Than Ours to Have Voice?

Elizabeth parents take court action over school board's public comment policy

by Leslie Kwoh/The Star-Ledger
Thursday February 12, 2009, 3:19 PM

A group of angry parents filed a court injunction against the Elizabeth school board this week, claiming a move to revise the public comments portion of meetings violates their freedom of speech.

"I'm sure this is unconstitutional," said James Carey, 43, the Elizabeth chair for the People's Organization for Progress, and the father of two daughters in the K-12 district. "This thing is out of control."

In this 2004 file photo, then-Elizabeth School Board Vice President Cherry Wilcots looks on as then-President Raul Burgos tells a member of the community their three minutes are up during the public portion of a meeting.

What angered Carey and a handful of other parents, who filed the injunction Wednesday at the Union County court, was a resolution the board passed last month requiring residents who wish to speak at a meeting to sign in beforehand.

The move, the group contends, would further restrict the voices of concerned parents. The new rule supplements a resolution the district adopted in 1986 that limits a resident's speaking time to three minutes and prohibits personal attacks, vulgar language or the naming of individuals. That resolution also grants the board president the right to interrupt or terminate a statement if it is lengthy, abusive or irrelevant, and to ask anyone who does not observe "reasonable decorum" to leave the meeting.

However, district officials say the sign-in sheet is simply a way to help the board organize its meetings.

"You want to be able to conduct the business of a school district effectively and efficiently," said district spokesman Don Goncalves. "This way, we have a list of individuals who want to speak, and on what topic, so we can organize our meetings accordingly."

Since last year, all New Jersey school districts have been required to include a public comments portion at their meetings, but the policies governing it are up to each individual school board, according to the New Jersey School Boards Association.

"School boards can put reasonable time restrictions on public comment, can restrict the length of comments, can restrict comments to items on the agenda," said association spokesman Frank Belluscio.

Elizabeth's regulations do not seem unusual and actually mirror that of many school districts, he added, some of which have had similar resolutions in place for decades.

In Dennis Township in Cape May County, residents are limited to a speaking time of three minutes and must sign in prior to meetings, according to a bylaw adopted in 1999. The presiding officer may also interrupt or terminate a statement, or request an individual to leave. In the Matawan-Aberdeen Regional School District, participants can only speak on one issue at a time, for no more than three minutes, and must register before the meeting. In Hamilton Township, the public comments portion of the meeting is limited to 30 minutes, with each participant allotted a maximum of five minutes.

Still, some parents in Elizabeth say they worry that introducing more rules will only alienate the public. Ronda Bell, who has two children in the district, said she stopped attending meetings last year after becoming frustrated with the way the board runs the public comments portion. Bell, 42, said she recalls several times when a resident was interrupted mid-sentence, and not permitted to continue.

"I think they're trying to dominate what goes on in the schools," Bell said. "They don't want to listen to us."

Source: NJ.com

See also this follow up edition several hours later.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Biking thru Aberdeen

Bikely.com shows a number of bike routes that pass through Aberdeen. They suggest the Henry Hudson Trail from Matawan to Bay Head, orManasquan to Matawan, or Red Bank to Highland Park. The site has a decent search tool and the maps have intermediate points marked with clickable icons that tell you what road you'll be on.

Maybe today's blustery weather isn't appropriate for a bike ride, but soon the sun will be out and the flowers blooming again and you'll be looking to get outside. As for today, we've got the remains of that storm system that caused a devastating tornado in Oklahoma -- its worst February twister ever.

Jaws Redux In Stop Motion Animation

A fun adaptation of the Matawan Shark Attacks of 1916 by a local talent. Nice job, Nina!

Her second piece on the Atlantic Ocean goes swimmingly.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Dangerous Crossroads

I've been thinking lately about the most dangerous places to be driving or walking in Aberdeen Township. Here are my choices.
  • Atlantic at the train station: There are just so many ways for pedestrians to either get struck by a car or give a driver a heart attack at or near the corner of Atlantic and Harrel near the Aberdeen train station. [Google Maps says that Aberdeen Road becomes Railroad Plaza after you cross Main Street, and then becomes Harrel Street between Johnson Street and Atlantic. I'm personally unacquainted with the name Harrel St.] The worst time of day to pass through the area on Atlantic is during the evening rush just after a train has entered. There is always a vehicular mad dash for the parking lot's two-lane exit onto Atlantic, first a few speeding cars and then more and more until the exit gets gummed up with a huge crowd of cars jockeying for position and honking at each other. They struggle to make lefts or go straight across Atlantic, while those making a right have to content with the steady stream of train passengers crossing the road and tracks at the same time until they empty the train. The morning rush involves single passengers with coffee, umbrellas, and briefcases. They often aren't looking where they are going or think they are immune to the rules of the road. Think carefully before driving through this area at rush hour. And keep an eye on the traffic if you are on foot at the train station.
  • Crossing Route 35 at Cliffwood Avenue can be a nightmare in a car or on foot. The crossing guards have a harrowing job keeping the school kids safe. I heard there was a major intersection project in the works that would include the land where Burlew's Pizzeria stood and maybe the vacant lot across the highway across from the A&P lot, but it has been several years and nothing is happening. Maybe the other properties involved haven't cleared yet? If someone knows the status of that project, or if there even is such a project, let us know.
  • Turning left from the Route 34 common left turn lane can be dangerous. As you approach on Route 34 South intending to pull into the Strathmore Lanes parking lot, a driver on Route 34 North can suddenly turn on his left turn signal and head into the lane in front of you to make a left onto Mill Road. This can raise your blood pressure because traffic is using moving at a fast clip. I always watch oncoming traffic for hints of their intentions, but often such decisions are last minute, so be careful.
  • I've walked home from the train station to Cliffwood Beach on more occasions than I care to ponder. It is about three miles and only perilous for a pedestrian if you don't choose a good route. If you walk Main Street towards Keyport, there is no safe way to walk along Route 35 North to Cliffwood Beach. I typically cross over Route 35 on the bridge and, just across the street from Town & Country Inn, I make my way down through the fence to Washington Street and then to Amboy Avenue. The other option from the train station to Cliffwood Beach is Aberdeen Road to Matawan Avenue to Cliffwood Avenue. Perspectives on that walk along Aberdeen Road can range from "Wow! Who would have thought Nature's wonderland was in my own backyard!" to "OMG! I'm in a dark swamp and no one's around to hear me scream!" Cars race through this desolate area, giving new meaning to the expression passers-by. You might meet the occasional crabber on the bridge. BTW, it can seem really awkward if there are two of you walking six feet apart on Aberdeen Road. Maybe these strangers should conduct introductions and chat along the lonely walk? Nah! This is Jersey.
Maybe you know of other dangerous spots in town for cars and walking? Maybe you ride a bike, push a stroller, or pull a grocery cart? Maybe you think an intersection needs a traffic light? Comments welcome.

The picture of Town & Country at night was found on Christian Montone's blog. He has quite a few pictures from Asbury Park and other places in NJ, as well as shots from Greenwich Village and Staten Island, NY.

Monday, February 9, 2009

A View From Cliffwood Beach

Here's a look down West Concourse from my house in Cliffwood Beach. On a less hazy day you could see Manhattan skyscrapers across the Raritan Bay. Today I can only see a fuzzy Staten Island through the winter haze.

Notice the tall oaks that give the neighborhood its Cliffwood name. They keep our houses sheltered from the winter winds and the summer sun. They also provide plenty of leaves and acorns to tend to and lots of branches for the squirrels to climb around on.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

The Latest Reviews and Surveys

Sally's Culture Section has added reviews of Court Jester and Kicky's Restaurant in recent days. She has also added two surveys -- one to find out why you visit your favorite cafe, the other to find out which purveyor's coffee you prefer.

I have a more pedestrian survey on my page. I want to know where you like to shop for groceries. Well, I should rephrase that. I meant "where do you shop for groceries." Presumably few of you like to shop for groceries. (That can be the subject of another survey.) Check it out in the upper right hand corner. Results in a week.

BTW, does anyone know if Blogger allows you to manage your surveys once they are completed? I'm not keen on letting them take prime space on my blog site, but then again it might be interesting to form a catalog of previous surveys.

St Clement Parish Website?

What's with the St Clement Parish website? The diocese and Parishes Online both link to the same site, but clicking on that URL gets you automatically forwarded to a company called Crown Moose, which is trying to sell the apparently available domain. Did the church not pay its bill? Heaven forbid.

I found this Flickr site with several interesting photos of St Clements, including the World Trade Center memorial. I've linked the parish to that site for now. Someone let me know if the parish has a new page, if the current page has been hijacked, or if the church site is down.

New Aberdeen Township Web Page

For a few weeks now, Aberdeen Township's web site has had a new design. Kudos to the webmaster for the effort.

Aberdeen Web News is available for free by subscribing online. Monthly newsletters are also available. You can subscribe for Code Red, which notifies you quickly when there is an emergency situation in the township. You can even file a resident service request form online so the township can address a concern or complaint.

For those who are lucky enough to have a parking permit or who get up early enough to find one of the daily spaces, Aberdeen now posts the train station parking rules. If you want to catch the bus, you can park at Strathmore Shopping Center now. The rules for doing that can be found online.

A couple of notes: The bus parking page doesn't exactly say why someone would want to pay a premium to park at the bowling alley. It might be helpful to explain the relationship to the transit system. Also, the URL and the title of the page misspell the shopping center's name as Stratmore.

A relic of the old Aberdeen Township site is an online notice saying there is a fourteen-year wait for parking at the train station. I knew it was a long time, but golly gosh, Batman! Does anyone in the township know what sort of earnings the township is getting from those spaces? I hope we are making more than the people in the neighborhood who are shrewd enough to charge market rates to those willing to park on their lawns for a nice chunk of monthly change. That page is no longer linked to the township site -- probably best not to brag about having to think so far ahead about your parking needs.

Friday, February 6, 2009

We Have Other Plans, Allison

I just finished reading the NYT design blogger Allison Arieff's apology for prompting a whole lot of verbal fisticuffs between suburbanites and city dwellers over her recent blog on "saving the suburbs." She says she was surprised and dismayed to see the fur fly. The original article's topic seems to have prompted all the fuss; the contents weren't really worth fighting over. Whatever the cause, starting fights among readers could be her big break. And it will get the newspapers out of the financial mess they're in. Good plan. The second blog in some ways is much more maddening.

Sorry, Allison, but I'm all for sacking the planners. It was urban planners who came up with bedroom communities and shore bungalows to serve city dwellers. Kinda classist, seems to me. No wonder there is animosity. And the designers have got grandiose but impractical ideas that can prompt a feeling of deficiency on common home owners. The perfect home is so neat it seems sterile and each room has cathedral ceilings. Well, I have mail on my kitchen table and my plain wallboard ceilings are only eight feet high, and yet I somehow survive. As for Armageddon, I'm still here to keep the critters from taking over, although the recent cold snap has caused us a bit of a tussle with the neighborhood wildlife over who should have access to the cellar. I guess we're fifty years ahead of the curve on that front.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

School Board Elections and Select HS Students to Focus on Biomed, Business, and the Arts

Aberdeen Township residents will be voting in school board elections on 21 April 2009. Behind the scenes, candidates have their own busy schedule. They have to get their election kits, file nominating petitions, post signs on neighbors' lawns, gather at neighbors' homes, and raise funds to pay for lawn signs and other advertising. For our part,residents will be getting ads in the mail and seeing feature articles in the local newspapers. The new board members will be sworn in in late April or early May. Take an interest in your candidates. Once you decide on your favorites, be sure to support their campaigns in any way you are able and please remember to vote. Even if you don't have children in the schools, you have both the civic right and responsibility to support the local educational system.

As for the local schools, this fall the Matawan-Aberdeen Regional High School will be launching what it calls career academies. Students wanting to focus on the biomedical sciences, business, or the performing arts must apply by 12 February to become candidates for this upcoming academic year. (Applications and other information available here.) Candidates will be selected by a special committee based on their academic performance in eighth and ninth grades. Performing arts students will be required to audition. An Asbury Park Press article on 19 January 2009 provides more details. (Since APP tends to take its articles offline after a time, I've copied the text here for your convenience.)

ABERDEEN — An open house for students and parents interested in three new career academies to begin at Matawan Regional High School next school year will take place from 7 to 9 p.m. Tuesday in the school auditorium, 450 Atlantic Ave.

Biomedical science, performing arts and business academies are designed to make students more competitive in the job market and increase attendance at four-year colleges. The new programs, which will start in 2009-10 school year, are part of a state education plan to change the teaching methods in New Jersey's high schools.

The biomedical science academy is geared toward students who are already high achievers in math and science and have an interest in the medical field.

The performing arts academy focuses on artistic students with musical, stage and dance talents and interests.

As for the business academy, it appeals to students with an interest in college business programs or a business profession.

Career academies are small, specialized learning environments within a high school that select a subset of students and teachers. Starting in the ninth grade, students will take core classes such as English, social studies and world languages. Students also will take courses that are specific to a chosen academy, such as biomedical technology, speech for theater majors or business computer applications. Students get the opportunity to earn college credits. Internships are offered during junior and senior years.

A special committee will decide which students are accepted in the academies based on their academic performance in eighth and ninth grades. Standardized test scores, an audition (performing arts academy), teacher recommendations and grade point averages will be used in the selection process.

For more information about the academies, call high school Principal Michele Ruscavage or Margaret DeLuca, director of secondary school accountability, at (732) 705-5355.

Monday, February 2, 2009

A Walk Around Treasure Lake

I took a walk around the neighborhood today and snapped some photos of Treasure Lake, the seawall that separates the lake from the Raritan Bay, and the entrance to Keyport harbor as viewed from Cliffwood Beach.

You will notice in the pictures below that the lake is frozen over. About a week ago, one of our neighbors was out on the ice with ice skates and a snow shovel plowing a path so people could skate. The weather's been a bit warmer in recent days, so I doubt the ice is thick enough for skating anymore. But there's plenty more cold weather ahead.

There's a snow-covered service road that connects Greenwood Avenue with the seawall area. Vehicle traffic is limited to township trucks courtesy of a locked barrier, but people park their vehicles nearby and walk around the barrier to go fishing or walk their dogs. Some folks drive ATVs through the area, but these vehicles ruin the dunes and seagrass and are a hazard to pedestrian traffic.

Once you get near the seawall, you have a choice of walking the rocky seawall itself or following a paved walkway behind the seawall that shields you from the sea breezes. The views are different, depending on which path you choose.

From the seawall you get a nice view of Staten Island directly across the Raritan Bay. Manhattan's towers can be seen over Staten Island about twenty miles to the north. To the west you see the Route 35 and Garden State Parkway bridges across the Raritan River at Perth Amboy. To the east on the Jersey side of the bay you see the entrance to Keyport harbor, as well as Union Beach and Keansburg. Across the water to the northeast you can see the Verrazano Narrows bridge leading to Brooklyn.

The leeward walkway gives you views of the lake and surrounding shrubs and reeds, eventually rising to the same height as the seawall as it nears Marshall Concourse and Seawood. Some dog owners park their vehicles at that end of the path to begin their walks along the bayside.

I wanted to bring to your attention a great new blog that intends to provide reviews of regional eateries and cultural hubs. It is already off to a good start, with early reviews including Club 360, Espresso Joe's, and Zebu Forno. Check it out.

I'd also like to welcome readers of the Aberdeener. While I have a more liberal political perspective than you'll find at the Aberdeener, I anticipate that my blog will tend to shy away from political commentary and focus more on social and cultural issues. The great thing about the blogosphere is that it provides an opportunity for all of us to contribute to the community in our own unique ways. I would encourage you to subscribe to local blogs and consider starting your own.