A blog about living in Aberdeen, New Jersey.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

iPod tHerefore iAm

Have iPod, will travel. That's become the mantra of many NYC commuters. Since I got one for Christmas, I don't leave for work without my iPod. My wife and daughter installed quite a bit of my music collection on it before they gave it to me. It has a huge memory capacity. Since the holidays, I have loaded more of my CDs on it and have been checking out the iTunes store.

Not only does one load music on an iPod. I spend time organizing my music and rating the songs on a scale of one to five. I like using shuffle and the playlist features -- my highest rated songs, my most played songs, and recently added songs. Those work best when the songs are rated for my preferences.

I've used the Get Info feature to reassign music from one genre to another and to add or fix album art. I also use Get Info to keep classical and holiday music from being included in shuffled music.

I enjoy listening to podcasts, too. My current favorites include Radiolab and On The Media, both of which are produced by WNYC Radio. I guess I picked the wrong time to check out Atlantic Monthly's video podcasts. They've had a series on breast feeding. Intriguing, but not exactly something I want to watch on the train on my way to Manhattan. For fun, I listen to Car Talk. I've not settled on a good podcast for movie reviews. Any help on that?

Meetings This Week (March 29-April 2)

Meetings this week include:

  • The Matawan-Aberdeen School Board calendar lists an action meeting tonight at 8pm at Crest Way.
  • The Aberdeen Zoning Board just sent out its agenda for the 1 April meeting, which will be held at 1 Aberdeen Square at 7:30 pm. RCM Group LLC is on the hot seat again this week for its plans to build affordable housing on County Road near Route 35 and a townhouse complex on Route 34 near Lloyd Road. The agenda is carried over from the 11 March meeting.
With the weather beginning to improve, you'll want to be thinking: what can I do outdoors? Be sure to check out upcoming events in April and May at the Aberdeen Township website. April events include a spring beach cleanup day, tree planting, and an Easter egg hunt. A fishing contest is set for early May. Registration information is also available for the 2009 soccer season as well as summer soccer camp.

Monday, March 30, 2009

News Updates as of 30 March 2009

  • Chris Keller of Matawan qualified for post season meets in shot put (NCAA East Regionals) and hammer throw (IC4A) as a member of the Monmouth University Hawks track team. The 2009 NCAA East Regional Championship will be hosted by North Carolina A&T in Greensboro, N.C. from May 29-30. The MU senior was chosen as Northeast Conference Field Athlete of the Week.
  • Matawan Regional High School competed at the Monmouth County Consumer Bowl held March 16 at the Monmouth County Library Headquarters. The team consisted of Ryan Sandberg, captain; Jose Avila; Maryann Foecaj; Russell Ahmed; Jarrad Mandeville-Lawson; Steve Koback; Amanda Rosiello; and Serena Gohar, teachers.
  • Maloney's Pub of Matawan got a rave review from a member at the Beer Advocate.
  • Nature's Prime, a Matawan-based food distribution company, closed its doors after its owner pleaded guilty to bilking his customers of $25,000, according to the Asbury Park Press.
  • Matawan man charged with burglary in Hoboken, according to NJ.com.
  • Pacific Health Laboratories, a Matawan-based company and maker of sports drinks and food bars, is releasing a new product, according to Businesswire.
  • Local artist's work appears in Red Bank gallery, according to MyMatawan blog.

Music Faculty Recital at Brookdale

My wife, daughter, and I attended the Music Faculty Recital this evening in the Experimental Theater at the Brookdale Performing Arts Center in Lincroft. The two-hour show was a mix of modern and classical piano, steel drum Calypso, and ensemble jazz performed by professors from Brookdale Community College's Music Department. The department has been putting on these recitals each semester for roughly fifteen years and this one was a hit, as always. I especially enjoyed Carly McIlvaine's soprano performance of Exultante, Jubilate by W. A. Mozart. Ms. McIlvaine was accompanied on piano by Helen Benham, my daughter's class piano instructor at Brookdale. Ms. Benham also performed the works of Gilman Collier, who attended the event and will soon celebrate his 80th birthday.

The Brookdale Big Band will be performing at the Main Theater of the Performing Arts Center on Saturday 4 April 2009 at 8:00 pm. Tickets are $17 general admission, $15 seniors, and $5 students. Check the school calendar for further details.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Reverend Charles McKnight

The Reverend Charles McKnight was received by the Presbytery of New Brunswick in 1741 and was ordained a Presbyterian minister a year later. Born around 1710, Rev. McKnight was from a Scottish family that had planted in County Antrim, Ireland. He came to New Jersey around 1740 and worked in Cranbury with the Presbyterians. He was installed as minister for the Shrewsbury and Middletown Point congregations on 2 April 1767. The Reverend preached at the church in Mount Pleasant, which is present day Freneau in Aberdeen. Mount Pleasant Church was a precursor to the First Presbyterian Church of Matawan. He also served as a trustee at Nassau Hall, which later became Princeton University.

During the American Revolution, Rev. McKnight used the pulpit to speak out against the British. The Honorable J. T. Headley said of Rev. McKnight:

At the commencement of the dissatisfaction with the legislative acts of the mother country, he had been accustomed to express sentiments adverse to the crown, with a boldness that caused considerable dissension among his people.

Potter's American Monthly said years later his parishioners recalled "the fervid words and impassioned expressions of their pastor when he got on his favorite theme of the rights of the people, or was expressing his sympathy with those who were leading their countrymen towards national independence."

Rev. McKnight sent two sons to war. And to show the congregation his earnestness, even at an advanced age, Rev. McKnight himself joined the fighting. He received a head wound at the Battle of Princeton as General Hugh Mercer fell nearby.

According to "Presbyterians Pioneer at Matawan: 1682-1959:
  • The Mount Pleasant Church and its green were being used regularly for patriotic meetings before and soon after the start of the Revolution -- meetings which had full support of the militant pastor.
  • In retaliation for his activities, a British detachment assaulted the compound from several directions and after some sharp fighting in which men on both sides were killed or wounded, their aims were accomplished.
  • The British burned down the church at Mount Pleasant and took the Reverend captive. Rev. McKnight was taken to New York, where he fell ill with pneumonia while incarcerated and died on New Year's Day 1778, soon after his release by the British.
His son, Dr. Charles McKnight, graduated Princeton in 1771, along with James Madison, Philip Freneau, et al. He served as a surgeon in the Continental Army, eventually being named Chief Physician of the Army and Surgeon General. You can see a picture of his surgical kit at the Smithsonian's The Price of Freedom: Americans at War website.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

7th Annual Garden State Film Festival

The Seventh Annual Garden State Film Festival is set to run 2 - 5 April 2009 at the Paramount Theater and other venues in Asbury Park. If you'd like to attend, here are links to the schedule and directions. The website is full of places to eat, lists of the glitterati who are expected to be there, even instructions on how to volunteer (lots of the staffing of this festival will be volunteers). The event was recently covered in The New York Times.

The City of Asbury Park is having a renaissance. Check it out.

I Love A Parade

My wife marched with her Red Cross colleagues today in the St. Patrick's Day Parade in nearby Keansburg. I guess Keansburg couldn't fit the parade into its schedule before this, but all seemed to have had a good green time just the same.

The Jersey Coast Chapter has been very busy over the past year. The chapter handles blood drives, first aid training, and so much more. My wife volunteers on local and national disasters, responding to apartment and house fires in Monmouth and Ocean counties as well as hurricanes in Louisiana and ice storms in New Hampshire.

You should look into volunteering for Red Cross. You'll meet new friends and have many edifying experiences. You may even get to travel, although it won't be the kind of trip you'd normally take for vacation. There are so many ways to help, I'm sure you'll find the way that's perfect for you.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Double Blunder on NJT Train

I committed an unforgivable sin this morning on the train. I had the nerve to momentarily misplace my monthly train pass while wearing my iPod earphones. Outrageous! I fumbled around for a while before finding it in a jacket pocket. Inconceivable! I got the official roll of the eyes from the dramatically annoyed conductor. I guess I got a little confrontational at that point. Peaceable but pointed.

After that exchange and the conductor had moved along, my neighbor tapped me on the shoulder to say that the same conductor had treated him similarly last week for not producing his ticket fast enough. The man chuckled and said he was just glad the conductors aren't allowed to wear guns.

Last week, a conductor was walking down the aisle slapping iPod wearers on the shoulder as a preliminary to ticket collection. I get the sense they've had it with people not paying attention to their ticket puncher noises and little shouts of "All tickets out!" I can sort of understand their frustration. But then again I think they get paid more than enough to be a bit inconvenienced by their riding public. I'm certainly inconvenienced by NJT more than my fair share of the time. Squeezed on trains like a sardine and poor customer service, yet the fare remains the same or goes up.

I was standing the other day on my way home from the city. I had missed the rush, yet there still weren't enough seats even on an evening train. (I was just glad not to be mashed into the car face on face like most rides in the morning rush.) There were no conductors to announce the train's destinations at the bottom of the PATH ramp, as usual, so I jumped on the train and hoped it was mine. I searched for clues. When the train left the station, the only announcement was that the conductor at the back of the train had been assigned something like ten cars to collect tickets in. Needless to say there were no announcements about where that train was heading. Like a ghost ship, the train pulled into and out of the Newark Airport stop without an announcement of any sort. I was near the open door of the train and heard a guy by the escalators commenting on the fact that none of the tourists knew to get off the train. He turned and shouted to some of the confused folks he could see, making his own mini-announcement on behalf of NJT, directing them to get off and identifying the stop as the airport. Having done what he could, he shook his head in disgust and grabbed his bag, heading for his own flight.

So this is the sad state of customer service on New Jersey Transit trains lately.

Fast Food Tour of Aberdeen

Step away from your diets and careful gnoshing for a moment. Come join me if you will on a local quest for fast food from a national chain. If you urgently need a fast food fix, Route 34 is the best place to be in Aberdeen. Between Lloyd Road and Broad Street you will have fast access to Saladworks, McDonald's, KFC, Taco Bell, Burger King, as well as 7-Eleven, Dunkin' Donuts, and Starbucks. Route 35 in Cliffwood has its own McDonald's as well as a Wendy's. There's a Pizza Hut and 7 Eleven at Morristown Road near the Garden State Parkway Exit 120.

Speaking of the GSP Exit 120 side of town, the Subway shop near CVS has been closed for some months due to a "family emergency" of some sort. I wish they'd return. For now, you'd have to head out of town, either to Hazlet on Rte 35 or maybe Browntown Shopping Center on Rte 516, to find a Subway. I've been getting my sandwiches at the Super Wawa at the corner of Route 35 and Cliffwood Avenue. They have a computer that lets you direct the staff on how to dress your sub just the way you like it, then you can print out a receipt, pay for the sub and pick it up. DD makes pretty good oven-toasted sandwiches in NYC; I've not tried them around here.

If you're looking for Quiznos, forget it. I love Quiznos subs, but they tend to be rather expensive. I get my fix in the city now and then. Today, in fact. I think you'd have to travel way out to Middletown past Sears on Rte 35 to find the Q around here. The one in Union Beach closed a while ago.

I now return you to your appropriate diet, which hopefully was already in progress.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Interfaith Dialog

A friend of mine is involved in interfaith dialog in Monmouth County, encouraging people of different faiths and creeds to talk and seek understanding. I encourage you to attend if you can. We certainly could use some understanding in these uncertain times.

Sunday, April 5, 2009 -- 4:00 to 6:30

Event sponsored by

Monmouth Center for World Religions and Ethical Thought


at UUCMC Meetinghouse Community Room

1475 West Front Street in Lincroft.

Interfaith Dialog on Forgiveness


Reform Judaism - Milton Ziment

Muslim - Sayed Haq

Christian Scientist - Joanne Stankievich

American Baptist - Elizabeth B. Congdon

Hindu - Ved Chaudhary

Hindu - Madhav Phadke

Moderator – Joe Ritacco

Event is free and there is no need to pre-register.

Light refreshments will be served.

Everyone is invited.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Township Blogging Research

I went to the Old Bridge Library on Sunday and checked out some research materials for this blog. No rest for the weary. I successfully defended my thesis last week, so I'm preparing some materials for future blog articles.

I picked up "New Jersey's Multiple Municipal Madness," by Alan J. Karcher. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1998. It tells how we ended up with so many towns in this state. I'm reading a case study about South Amboy, which remained intact until 1838, when it began to spin off towns like East Brunswick, Monroe, Cranbury, Spotswood, Old Bridge, Sayreville, Helmetta, Jamesburg, South Brunswick, Milltown, South River, and who knows what else. The author talks about the politics and money behind most of these individual decisions to break off smaller and smaller jurisdictions. Lots of interesting stories in this book.

I also picked up "Afro-Americans in New Jersey: A Short History," by Giles R. Wright. Trenton: New Jersey Historical Commission, Department of State, 1988. It breaks up the story into readily researched time periods: prior to the first US census after the signing of the US Constitution (-1790); the first US census after the Civil War (1790-1870); the last census available when the book was written (1870-1910); pre-World War II (1910-1940); post-war and up to when the book was published (1940-1988). I've learned a lot already in just perusing the book. For example, did you know that of the 13,646 free blacks living in northern New Jersey in 1840, 2,180 of them lived in Monmouth County, the second largest population in that part of the state after Mercer County. Monmouth was fourth in its number of slaves in 1840 with 85 out of a total of 682 in the northern part of the state. The book is full of interesting stories, not just statistics.

I hope to feed some information from these books into occasional pieces for this blog. Stay tuned.

This evening I attended the Aberdeen Township Zoning Board meeting. It was actually sort of interesting, in a Let me build a 30 foot high garage in my yard sort of way. Or a I built my pool myself six years ago and forgot to pay for my building permit with the $100 I put in escrow, so can I get my $100 back and by the way I built my pool too big and I need some variances or I'll have to tear down my pool kind of way. Or an I need a 6 foot vinyl fence in my yard to keep people's headlights from shining into my house or My backyard is too small for the huge pool I want to install sort of good time. I recommend it. Try to schedule your visit for when the neighbors come to the meeting to submarine the plans. Things actually went rather smoothly, all in all. Most everyone got everything they wanted, and it was relatively painless. I still am not completely clear what memorialization means. Maybe someone can fill me in on the process? I recognized Maureen Camillary up there on the board. Everyone on the board seemed diligent and asked questions. No doubt there is lots of homework with this job, but members get to see the pictures and plans while we in the audience get only a verbal description. Oh, well.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Area is Very Dry, Prone to Wildfires Next Day or Two

The weather service has issued a warning of increased fire threat for Central Jersey, Southern Jersey, and Eastern Pennsylvania. We have had dangerously low precipitation and low humidity for a couple of days, which could cause wildfires. Relief is expected on Wed or Thurs.

507 AM EDT TUE MAR 24 2009



Monday, March 23, 2009

No Direction Home

When I get off the PATH train at Newark during the evening rush, I head for the ramp that takes me down to Tracks 3 and 4 to catch a Northeast Corridor train to Metropark.

Unlike the photo, the ramp is always full of commuters heading for a local or express train to South Amboy, Long Branch, or Bay Head on the Jersey Shore or straight down the main line towards New Brunswick and Princeton. I'm used to the commute, though, and I bear up well in the bustling crowds. That's what makes a good New York City commuter.

When I am at the part of the ramp pictured, I can see one or two trains in the station with their doors open and the conductors looking at their watches. What are their trains' destinations? No clue. Some of the Long Branch trains have a sign on the side of the train saying where they are heading. Many of the Jersey Avenue trains heading to Metropark arrive with New York signs still on the side. Oops!

There is never a conductor at or anywhere near the bottom of the ramp. Never. Not even if there are open train doors there. An experienced conductor knows better than to stand in that location because he or she will be deluged with questions about the train's destination. Gosh, I wonder why? Maybe because there is no signage? You think?

Instead, NJ Transit has a pair of computer monitors with detailed computer information about the trains immediately due or currently in the station, and another pair of monitors with a bare-bones list of upcoming trains, their track numbers, and estimated times of arrival. Sounds good, except the bare-bones monitors are about forty feet from the bottom of the ramp in either direction, and the detailed monitors are twice that distance from the ramp, again in either direction. (For a while NJT was running ads on the monitors while the trains were in the station.)

So, when I reach the bottom of the ramp, I have a choice to make. I can check the paper schedule on the wall and miss my train. I can run down the platform, knock down some people, check the schedule on the monitor and miss the train. Or I can simply hop on a train and hope it is going where I want to go. BTW, asking a fellow passenger provokes the ultimate in anxiety.

NJ Transit has to put on its thinking caps and figure out a creative way to inform PATH customers about the trains in the station when they're coming down the ramp. That is a major stress in thousands of people's lives. We all want to get home as quickly as we can and want to take advantage of a train that happens to be in the station. But we don't want to gamble that it is going our way and find out otherwise on our way to who knows where.

Photo of ramp from Resurgence City: Photo Gallery 2.

Local Stories - March 2009

  • St. Joseph's Catholic School in Keyport is one of several Bayshore schools the Diocese of Trenton expects to close, according to the Independent.
  • A Cliffwood Girl Scout won an award for her work in organizing blood drives, per the Asbury Park Press.
  • Two Matawan Regional High School boys from Cliffwood Beach are to have their work displayed at Teen Arts Festival at Brookdale Community College, according to the Independent. The boys, both state champion polevaulters, fashioned a nearly 12 foot long mako shark model for art class.
  • Moore's Bar & Liquors on Route 35 in Cliffwood was ordered to pay $625,000 for serving alcohol to a drunken patron, who subsequently caused a car accident that blinded and paralyzed a man, according to the NJ Injury Attorney blog site.

Aberdeen/Matawan Continue to Seek Library Funds to Ease Muni Budget Shortfalls

Since my recent post on how the Matawan Aberdeen Public Library is being asked to use its savings to help the township and borough to mitigate unanticipated budgetary shortfalls this year, the Independent has published a follow up to its earlier article. It seems that Aberdeen Mayor David Sobel and Matawan Mayor Paul Buccellato still intend to break into the library's capital improvement piggy bank. They're just giving the library more time to make the decision now, in comparison to the bum's rush they were giving the library back in February.

Keep in mind that the local municipalities fund libraries based on a state-mandated formula. Aberdeen and Matawan are required to contribute a portion of receipts to their local library. Since our library has been thrifty and saved its pennies towards a major development project, it is wrong to take that savings away and label it some kind of undesignated surplus. Mayor Sobel's logic that the library has available funds because its entire annual receipts are higher than its operating expenses shows a complete lack of understanding of how non-profits plan for the long-term and use fund accounting practices to designate monies for capital improvements and building projects. It is extremely unlikely that either municipality can or will restore these funds once they are tapped, so planned projects will be seriously delayed or cancelled entirely.

Show your support to the library in this difficult period.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Eat at Court Jester Wed 25 Mar Noon to 9 pm: Support Cliffwood PTO

The Cliffwood School PTO is hosting a Family Fun Night at Court Jester in Aberdeen Towne Square on Route 34. Simply have lunch and/or dinner (eat in or order for take out) between noon and 9 pm on Wednesday 25 March 2009 and 10% of your sale will go to the school. Please mention to your server that you are participating in the Family Fun Night at the time you order so your purchase will apply towards the program. Alcoholic beverages may warm the soul but will not count towards the program.

Even if you don't have kids in the school, support education. Make a day of it. Consider popping in for dinner before the Zoning Board meeting, for example. Or have dinner and then take in Duplicity with Julia Roberts at Clearview Cinemas next door. You could even have lunch and then check for open lanes at the bowling alley. Well, you could. Just don't pull a muscle. And be sure to tell them you're there for Family Fun Nite!

Phone System Out of Service at Aberdeen Municipal Building Through Monday Afternoon

The township just issued the following notice:

Township of Aberdeen Resident Advisory - March 22, 2009

We are currently experiencing problems with the phone system at the municipal building. If you have an emergency please call the Aberdeen Police Department as the lines to the Police Department are operational. Repair is expected to take place on Monday afternoon when the parts are delivered.

Aberdeen Township
Municipal Building
One Aberdeen Square
Aberdeen, NJ 07747

High Style Burgers at Monmouth Mall

I'm hearing more and more about how the popular chef Bobby Flay has opened a burger joint at Monmouth Mall. Bobby's Burger Palace was even reviewed recently by Capital Spice, a Washington, DC-based blog. Chowhound began the discussion in March 2008 when it reported that the Eatontown planning board was allowing a major expansion at the mall, which would place Flay's new restaurant on the outskirts of the property somewhere along Route 35.

Be sure to check out Sally's reviews of the new Zebu Forno in Freehold and McDonagh's Pub in Keyport. Add a comment or a question at her blog site and she'll be happy to give you her thoughts on local cuisine and culture.

Matawan Company Turns Green

Green Gear, a blog that reviews and rates environmentally sustainable products, gave high praise in a 12 March 2009 blog article to an innovative item manufactured by a Matawan-based company from recycled tire rubber. The review received attention from Marketwire.

Mr. Green Gear goes on a bit too long but gives our Vibe Away Washing Machine Anti-Vibration Pads a 5 out of 5 gears rating. He picked up the product at a trade show and was impressed. Mrs. Green Gear and their dog have cameo appearances in this quaint YouTube tour of their laundry room, with a focus on their personal washing machine with its new rubber feet.

iVoice Inc. has branched out into green technologies under the names B Green Innovations and I Green Innovations, focusing first on recycled rubber products like the Vibe Away and EcoPod. Note that the company took some recent actions to protect the value of its common stock.

Northwestern Monmouth County in 1889

Rutgers University has a nice collection of Monmouth County maps, including an historic 1889 county map. I've excerpted a portion of that map for this blog which shows the northwestern part of the county.

Matavan (Aberdeen Township) is outlined in yellow, with Cliffwood indicated in the north and Mt Pleasant in the south. Icons mark a school house and a Methodist Episcopal church. Matawan Creek and Brown's Point are shown. Matawan Borough appears in green. Within it stands the Matawan post office.

Note that neighboring Raritan consisted of what is today Hazlet, Union Beach, and Keansburg. Hazlet train station is clearly marked.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Greenwood Avenue Gone Wild!

There is a Green Acres-funded park near the waterfront in Cliffwood Beach. It was originally equipped with a recreation department hut, concrete benches and tables, bocce courts, shuffleboard, basketball courts, playground equipment, tennis courts, and a small parking lot. Today the basketball courts are about all that remains of what was first installed. The tennis courts have been converted to a rink for in-line skating. It was always a bit too breezy down at the shore to play tennis anyway. Vandals pretty much wrecked the rest. Some new playground equipment has been installed.

To get to the park, travel north on Cliffwood Avenue to West Concourse, then continue on Greenwood Avenue to Lakeshore Drive.

* Google Maps oddly has extended Greenwood Avenue across the park all the way to Whale Creek. Believe me when I tell you, it ain't so.

* Google Maps shows Greenwood Avenue connecting with Cliffwood Avenue. Seems to me that West Concourse connects with Cliffwood Avenue and the latter joins up with Greenwood. At least that's what the signs say.

* Google Maps says that Ocean Boulevard in the Cliffwood Beach section of Old Bridge in Middlesex County crosses the bridge over Whale Creek, passes the park and joins Lakeshore Drive. I've never seen a sign on the Monmouth County side to suggest what the name of that road is. Is it really Ocean Boulevard? People realize that's the bay out there, right?

View Larger Map

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Independent Covers Upcoming School Board Election

Today's Independent includes an article about the upcoming Matawan-Aberdeen school board elections. It includes interviews and comments about the three incoming board members, who are all running unopposed. Liz Loud-Hayward and Joey Warren will replace Pat Demarest and John Barbato, whose terms as Aberdeen representatives to the board are expiring. Gerald Donaghue is returning as a Matawan representative to the board.

There is also an article about recent attempts to fill the Zavorskas vacancy. I didn't see this other article Thursday morning, so I have edited my blog to reflect that.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Lewis H. Stemler - Matawan Township Committee Chairman

Lewis H. Stemler, a.k.a. Louis Stemler, was born in New Jersey in November 1864, the son of German emigres John and Mary E Stemler of Matawan Township. Lewis and at least two brothers grew up in the township, where their father worked as a truck farmer and served terms as a local Roads Overseer and Superintendent of Roads.

Stemler had the longest record of service on the Township Commitee, serving from 1903 to 1934. He twice held the position of chairman -- the equivalent of township mayor -- from 1903 to 1911 and again from 1923 to 1934. He replaced Paul R. Dolan, who served for one year (1922) after a five-year run by Thomas J. Sinnett (1917-1922). Stempler was replaced by William Hyer, Sr., who served for one year (1934) before turning over the reigns to John Marz, Jr. (1935-1957+)

Stemler served concurrently for three months at the end of 1933 as the township's Chief of Police to fill a nagging vacancy left by Patrick A. Hagan, who died in office on 20 July 1932. Stemler is said to have worked as police chief without pay for the last quarter of 1933, and then for $200 annual stipend in 1934. Stemler was the last of the police chiefs under the old constabulary system. Thomas F. Powers, D.D.S., was the first chief of police under the modern system, serving from 1936-1942 and briefly again after World War II from 1946-1947.

Stemler also served on the Board of Education for at least twenty years until a law was passed in 1930 prohibiting simultaneous service on a governing body and a school board. He was serving as President of the Board of Education at the dedication of Matawan High School on 19 February 1909.

A Stemler Drive was supposed to be included in Heritage Estates circa 1986 in his honor, according to the Township Historian's report on township street names. Google Maps shows a Stemler Drive in Cliffwood just off County Road. (Is that Heritage Estates?)

View Larger Map

Sources for the above include the US Censuses for 1880, 1900, 1910, 1920, and 1930, the township historian's biography on Stemler, a report on the history of township officials, and the centennial publication Township of Matawan, 1857-1957, compiled by Mrs. Frank Tiemann, and Google Maps.

Yet Another Reason to Dislike Verizon

New Jersey is suing Verizon over its FIOS service promotions. The state has received nearly 270 complaints, according to Businessweek.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

John Marz, Jr - Mayor of Matawan Township

Matawan Township (the former name for Aberdeen) was once governed by Township Committee, with three members each serving three year terms.

From 1935 to 1952 , the Committee's chairman was John Marz, Jr. (26 May 1904 - October 1972), son of German immigrant farmers John and Emma Marz. Marz became the township's first mayor when that title for head of government was adopted in 1952. He was still mayor when the township centennial was celebrated in 1957.

Marz was one of seven siblings (ages 16 - 29) living with their parents in Cliffwood in the 1930 US Census. John and his younger brothers Martin, Gus, and Fred worked on the family farm with their father, who was 60 years old at the time.

Marz Way in Cliffwood Beach is likely named in His Honor's honor.


Township of Matawan, 1857-1957, compiled by Mrs. Frank Tiemann and published by the Matawan Township Centennial Celebration Committee.

US Census for New Jersey, Monmouth County, Matawan Township, Cliffwood, 1930.

Social Security Death Index

Menzel Family, www.ancestry.com

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Meetings This Week (March 15-21, 2009)

Aberdeen Town Council will hold a workshop followed by a regular council meeting beginning at 7pm on St. Patrick's Day. Aberdeen's Planning Board meets on 18 March at 7:30pm.

Keep up with meetings by using the township's March 09 calendar. Agendas for the above meetings are embedded (pdf format) in the calendar. Just click on the hyperlinks.

Cablevision Wireless at NJ Transit Stations

My wife sent me this Multichannel News article from earlier this month. It announces Cablevision's rollout of free wifi service for its customers in selected locations in our area. Soon the whole area will have wifi available.

Cablevision Goes Airborne In Jersey

Rollout Provides Access At Most NJ Transit Train Stations Across Northern and Central New Jersey

By Todd Spangler -- Multichannel News, 3/3/2009 10:57:57 AM MT

Cablevision Systems has completed rolling out Optimum Wi-Fi wireless Internet access in commercial and high-traffic areas in northern and central New Jersey, as part of its $300 million project to bring wireless access to broadband customers in the New York metropolitan area for no additional cost.

In New Jersey, Cablevision is working with Comcast on a trial to expand Cablevision customers' access to commuter rail stations in Comcast's service area including Metropark, Maplewood, Westfield, Linden and Middletown.

The partnership gives each MSO's customers reciprocal access to the other operator's Wi-Fi network, at any of the New Jersey train stations that have been activated for service by either company.

NJ Transit Station: EdisonCablevision's newly activated New Jersey Wi-Fi zones cover most of the operator's service area in Bergen and Passaic counties, and parts of Essex, Morris, Middlesex, Monmouth and Somerset counties. The Wi-Fi service also is available at many northern and central New Jersey Transit train station platforms and parking lots, including Elizabeth, Metuchen, Edison, and Aberdeen-Matawan.

Cablevision said it expects to complete the Wi-Fi to its entire three-state footprint over the next year. Last fall, it expanded the service in its Long Island, Connecticut, and Westchester and Dutchess County, N.Y., service areas.

Cablevision advertises the service as providing symmetrical speeds of up to 1.5 Megabits per second, from any standard Wi-Fi device. A searchable list of hotspot locations is available at www.optimum.net/WiFi/Find.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

School Board Searches for Candidates to Fill Unexpired Term

The Matawan-Aberdeen School Board is searching for candidates to compete for the unexpired term of Cathy Zavorskas, who recently left the board. A notice appeared in the Asbury Park Press on Friday. Deadline for nominations is 1 April 2009.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Lake Lefferts, Revisited

I've updated my article on Lake Lefferts to include the name of the person for whom the lake was named. I have some questions for my readers, though. The lake was formed in 1928 by damming Matawan Creek, but Jacob Lefferts was only a teenager then, so does anyone know when the lake was actually named for him? Presumably Mr. Lefferts did some real estate development in Matawan in the 1950's-1960's, perhaps the development of the fine lakefront? Seems to me the lake was already named Lefferts when I moved to the area in 1978, so it wasn't named in his memory since he didn't die until 1989. Tougher still, did the lake have a name between 1928 and whenever it became Lake Lefferts?

Also, does anyone have details about the large boarding house or academy pictured above? It is in such a nice location on Lake Lefferts, why hasn't it become a fancy condominium development or exclusive senior center? I'd be interested in postings or emails about that as well.

There is no R in FAFSA

We filled out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) the other day and just learned that we can afford to give our daughter nearly half of our take-home pay towards her annual college tuition costs. I guess they don't expect that we need to eat or heat our house or buy shoes? If you have young children and are saving dutifully towards their college fund, just remember that those savings will count against you, increasing your supposed obligation to provide out of what is left. Just like the Yankees, they have all the bases covered and you're out no matter what pitch you try to hit. Reasonableness is not in their vocabulary, which is why there is no R in FAFSA.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Big Movie Houses and Indie Films

What do our local movie theaters owe to us when it comes to the independence, diversity, and quality of their film offerings? My daughter pointed out to me the other day that the movie Milk didn't get shown at Hazlet Multiplex until it had drawn the attention of the Academy Awards. Same for Slumdog Millionaire. Maybe the big theaters have contract obligations, but don't they have any responsibility to the communities they serve? I was in Erie, Pennsylvania for a spell and, even though the place had only a couple of major theaters, they managed to show The Kiterunner within a few weeks of its release. And that is a much smaller market than here in Monmouth County, New Jersey. Our family travels to Red Bank to see indie films. We also use NetFlix to watch movies like The Visitor. The big houses will always show blockbusters to bring in large audiences for popcorn and soda, but they should tithe some space to art films to boost cultural diversity.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Zero Increase Sought by 2009-2010 School Budget

I walked in about ten minutes late to the Matawan-Aberdeen School Board's committee of the whole meeting last night. Brian Farrell was in the middle of a Powerpoint presentation discussing the merits of Achievement 3000, a computerized reading program that the school district plans to introduce to Special Education classes next year. This supplemental material will be presented in thirty minute lab sessions twice a week, but the students can also use it at home. If it works out, the district can use the program for social studies, science, and health classes. Keansburg and Long Branch school districts have used it successfully for 4-5 years.

The proposed school budget is $62.25 million, with $58.4 million allocated for the General Fund, $1.33 million dedicated to special purposes, and $2.5 million to pay for previous bond issues. Tonight's speech by Governor Corzine will reveal the NJ state aid figures that go into the calculation, but the Dept of Education directed school districts to use last year's numbers to submit their budgets. Our district is submitting its budget today to the Monmouth County executive superintendent. You may wish to watch the governor's speech to see what he says about funding of the schools.

The proposed budget provides for curriculum and textbooks, technology upgrades, and the development of four in-house special education programs so students being taught out of district can be taught here. It maintains class size and all interscholastic athletics, clubs,and intramurals. It cuts costs by using cooperative purchasing and transportation, aggressive bidding, and control of benefits. It reduces staff size by 3% through retirements and attrition. It addresses our high administrative costs, bringing them down below state and regional average levels.

Many board members spoke to the public last night to encourage them to vote on 21 April 2009 when the budget is presented. They noted that class size and programs would be affected if the local governments slashed this budget, which already represents millions in cuts and is tightly constructed. In other words, get out and vote on 21 April.

Since there were no handouts, I encourage the board to post the Powerpoint slides online, both for the new reading program and the budget. In the future, it would be helpful to have handouts for the budget. Powerpoint software offers various formats for note pages which would allow multiple pages to appear on a single page with lines for notetaking on the side. Individual pie charts would have to be printed full size for readability.

The meeting began and ended with an unexpected flourish. A local member of the community put herself forward to fulfill the unexpired term on the board of Catherine Zavorskas, who resigned on 24 February. Reverend Gattis, who attended with an entourage of supporters, spoke just before I arrived. At the end of the meeting under New Business, President Patricia Demarest moved that the Reverend be admitted to the board. Members complained that they had not been notified in advance of the nomination and that the process didn't allow for other candidates to be put forward. The motion failed, but members encouraged Reverend Gattis to present herself if and when the board called for nominees to fill the unexpired term.

The President offended many members when she presented her motion as a way to show that the board was there for the children and not just to play the divisive political games of adults. The Reverend's supporters may have objected to her treatment, but presenting her nomination in that way was clearly the partisan act of a lame-duck administration and had no chance of passage last night.

BTW, in reference to the Reverend's brief candidacy, Mr. Barbato clearly said it would be nice to have a representative from "that part of town." I wrote it down when he said it because it struck me as a biased remark. No doubt he couldn't believe he'd said it because no one wants to say such things; they just come out of our mouths. All the more reason to have minorities on the board, to sensitize members to such things.

It was good to see African-Americans outnumber whites in the audience last night, but that was clearly an exceptional occasion and for a special purpose. I don't expect they'll be back on any sort of regular basis. Attendance at board meetings can be as low as three interested parties, so all elements of society are shirking their civic responsibility to watch over how a small group of people spend over $60 million a year of public funds. Everyone in the community should strive to attend public meetings, just like voting. All the more if they feel they're not adequately represented in some way.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Meetings This Week

The following meetings are scheduled for this week in the township:
  • The Matawan-Aberdeen School Board will be having its Committee of the Whole meeting tonight Monday 9 March 2009 at 7:30 pm at the Central Office at One Crest Way. Items expected to be discussed include the school budget.
  • The Zoning Board meeting will be held Wed 11 March 2009 at 7:30 pm at the Aberdeen Municipal Building at One Aberdeen Square. Among those items expected to be discussed: More details on the two RCM Group construction projects, including Villages at Aberdeen on Route 34 and Renaissance at Aberdeen on County Road near Route 35, as well as plans for the revised use of the former Strathmore Bath & Tennis Club on Lloyd Road.
For further information about upcoming events, see the Aberdeen Township March calendar. On the left side of the calendar you can register for emails notifying you of upcoming meetings. You can also sign up for Code Red telephone notifications of emergency situations in the township.

Wrestlers Compete in State Championships

The Matawan Regional High School wrestling team sent competitors to the Shore Conference state championships in Atlantic City this year. I've excerpted a laudatory Asbury Park Press article from Sat 6 March 2009 and added an update from USA Today. Be sure to congratulate the team and its coach for their superb performance this year. And don't forget to support all our local teams!

Proving their might

Shore sees 26 wrestlers advance to today's quarterfinals


ATLANTIC CITY — The opening night of the NJSIAA Wrestling Championships saw many of the power teams in the Shore Conference advance multiple wrestlers to the quarterfinals.

Twenty-six Region VI wrestlers advanced to the quarterfinals from Friday night's pre-quarterfinals before a crowd of 7,365 at Boardwalk Hall. The quarterfinals will take place at Boardwalk Hall at 10 a.m. today. The semifinals will be at 5 p.m. today.

Long Branch, the No. 1 ranked team in both the Gannett New Jersey Top 20 and New Jersey Coaches Association Top 25, had five wrestlers advance. Group IV state champion Brick Memorial has three quarterfinalists. Group IV runner-up Southern has four quarterfinalists. Toms River North has two quarterfinalists, as does Toms River East. Matawan also has two quarterfinalists.

That's right, Matawan, which until last Saturday, had not had a region champion since 1997, has two state quarterfinalists in junior 125-pounder Johnny Short and senior 135-pounder Cesare Antista.

According to Matawan assistant coach Joe DiMario, who was a state champion in 1989 while at Manalapan, Friday night was the first time a Matawan wrestler had won a bout in the state tournament since 1997 when Justin Haskins finished fifth at 152. Antista, the Region VI third-place finisher at 135, went 2-0 on the night and Short, the Region VI champion at 125, won his only bout of the night.

Matawan has had only four state placewinners in its history and never two in one year. If both Short and Antista win one bout today, they will be state placewinners.

"This helps make the program more visible to people in our town," DiMario said. "This will get more kids out. Our rec team had 60-something kids on it. Our middle school team had 30-something kids. We had 28 kids on the freshman team. Six years ago, we had 15 kids on the team."

Short (34-3) avenged a defeat to Don Bosco Prep's Frank Acosta earlier this season by recording a 4-0 win in the pre-quarterfinals. He will meet St. Augustine Prep's A.J. Fisher in the quarterfinals.

Antista (32-1) majored Parsippany's Anthony Mariano 16-5 in the preliminary round and then defeated South River's Adam Mongelli 9-3.

"I felt pretty confident because I had beaten Mongelli during the year," Antista said. "I knew I had to wrestle hard because there's no easy matches at the states. Right now, my goal is to keep going as far as I can."

Antista, who will wrestle Wallkill Valley's Kodie Silvestri, the state runner-up at 130 last year, in the quarterfinals, is one of three Region VI wrestlers in the quarterfinals at 135.

UPDATE: USA Today later reported that Short defeated St. Augustine 7-5 in the semifinals in the 125 weight class but later lost to Willingboro 4-2 in the consolation semifinals. Antista was defeated in the quarterfinals 13-3 in the 135 weight class by Wallkill Valley.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

A Brief History of Aberdeen & Matawan - APP 2007

The Asbury Park Press provides a nice summary of the history of Aberdeen Township, formerly Matawan Township, and Matawan Borough, from which the township was formed, in its 11 January 2007 article Two Towns With a Shared History.

About a century ago, Cliffwood Beach, a section of Aberdeen, boasted a bustling boardwalk, played host to social activities such as baby pageants and was home to a swimming pool. There, visitors could compete with famous athletes such as Johnny Weissmuller, an Olympic swimmer who later became known for his role in "Tarzan" films, said Edward Fitzgerald, township historian.

It was around the same time that neighboring Matawan began to burgeon as a manufacturing hub for products such as ceramic tiles, while trains passed through the area to bring goods to other destinations, said Helen Henderson, a former president of the Matawan Historical Society who has written books on the Matawan-Aberdeen area.

"Today those factories are no longer manufacturing sites and, most of them, the buildings are no longer standing," said Henderson of Keyport.

Today, Matawan and Aberdeen are two different municipalities with two different forms of government, but they share a common past, both originating from Middletown Township, said Fitzgerald, 46, of Aberdeen.

The founding of the Matawan-Aberdeen area took place in the 1680s, when 24 Scottish Presbyterians settled in what is now known as the Freneau section of Aberdeen, according to "Matawan and Aberdeen: Of Town and Field," a book published in 2003 by Henderson and the Matawan Historical Society.

Like many Monmouth County communities, both municipalities have a strong agricultural background, Henderson said.

Established as Matawan Township in 1857, Aberdeen was part of an area that is now Matawan borough. In 1896, Matawan borough and Matawan township split, Fitzgerald said.

In November 1977, the voters of Matawan Township voted to changed the municipality's name to Aberdeen, creating a community identity separate from Matawan.

Aberdeen was, and still is, home to various neighborhoods that developed their own unique characteristics, Fitzgerald said.

The Oak Shades section, along Lower Main Street, began developing in the 1860s and at the turn of the 20th century saw an influx of Italian immigrants, whose descendents still are in the area. Developer William J. Levitt could be considered the father of the Strathmore section, Fitzgerald said.

"It was set up as a planned development, a community that would stand on its own," Fitzgerald said of the neighborhood, which included what are now Strathmore Elementary School and the Strathmore Bath and Tennis Club on Lloyd Road.

A notable event in Matawan's history was the shark attacks of July 12, 1916, at Matawan Creek.

While swimming with a group of boys in the Matawan Creek, just west of where it intersects with the train trestle, 11-year-old Lester Stillwell of Matawan was mauled and killed by a great white shark, according to Dr. Richard Fernicola, an expert on the attacks. When news of the attack spread, a group of men including W. Stanley Fisher, 25, of Matawan hurried to the creek. While Fisher was in the creek searching for Stillwell, he was attacked by a shark and nearly dismembered, according to newspaper reports at the time. The shark tore Fisher's right leg almost off his body. He died later at the hospital. Stillwell's body washed up near the train trestle two days later, Fernicola said during an interview last summer as the borough remembered the 90th anniversary.

A Matawan landmark is the Burrowes Mansion, which is listed on both the state and national Registers of Historic Places. The Main Street structure was built around 1723. It was later owned by John Burrowes, a businessman who had come to be known as the "Corn King." His son, John Burrowes Jr., was a major with George Washington's Revolutionary War army. On May 27, 1778, the younger Burrowes returned home from Massachusetts to visit his wife, Margaret Forman, who was living in the mansion with the elder Burrowes and family. In a skirmish, a company of British loyalists pursued junior through the house, firing muskets into the attic. He escaped through a window.

"Over the years, it has had many lives," Henderson said, adding that ownership changed several times. The house is now a museum.

The Burrowes Mansion is one of the few artifacts left that serve as a reminder what life was like centuries ago, she said.

Today Matawan, like other communities near major urban areas, has become a busy municipality home to many commuters, she said.

"Instead of a village with a farming development, it is now a suburban bedroom community," Henderson said.

Another Reason to Dislike Verizon

Check out this article at ReadWriteWeb to find out how Verizon is selling your privacy. Lots of folks in Aberdeen have Verizon and Verizon Wireless accounts. A recent mailing may have offered you the chance to stop Verizon from sharing your personal information. Did you toss it? I think I did.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Anna and the King Would Have Adored Siam Smiles

In response to my article about Route 34 as Aberdeen's new Main Street, a reader wrote me recommending a new Thai restaurant in town called Siam Smiles. He encouraged me to add the restaurant to my blog's list of local restaurants as it had become one of their favorite places for dinner. So tonight my family and I went exploring Asian cuisine and were pleasantly surprised at what we found.

The restaurant is in a humble storefront near a pizza place and a tanning salon, but once inside the atmosphere changes to a comfortable Asian hideaway under indirect lighting and ornately carved wainscoting. Large figures of Budda's face, fans with cranes dancing, and scenes of ancient elephant caravans adorn the walls. The music wasn't exactly an adventure in Thai culture -- I think I caught Whitney Houston in the background belting out something from My Bodyguard at one point, but it was soft and utterly ignorable. The floor was carpeted and the tables spaced for privacy and we were successfully shielded from both the front door and the kitchen by decorative screens.

Siam Smiles replaced Cafe De' Thai, a Thai-French fusion restaurant that was in the same location. The current owner-operators are a married couple, and they are assisted by their family. The chef-owner prepared Thai cuisine in Hoboken before coming to Aberdeen. The wait staff were very attentive and exceedingly gracious.

We had jasmine green tea and vegetable spring rolls with a peach sauce to start. My wife found the Gai Supparod (sauteed chicken with pineapple, celery, bell pepper, onions, scallion and cashew nuts in home made chili sauce) very tasty but not as spicy as she'd hoped, so she'll be trying something with a bit more zest next time. My daughter, on the other hand, found the Moo Tod Rad Prig (crispy fried pork in spicy chili and garlic sauce and topped with crisy basil) to be nice and spicy. I had the Massaman Curry (choice of chicken, beef, or pork -- I chose the pork -- with onions, potato, and peanuts in massaman curry paste and coconut milk), which was delightful. The chunks of potato and onion made it seem like I was having Irish stew, but in Bangkok, not Dublin.

Dinner for three, plus tip but without dessert was $55.00. Most meals ran between $11-14, but prices range up to $18.00 a plate, so you could double our tab if you bulked up on appetizers, soup, and desserts.

The restaurant is in the Pine Valley Shopping Center on Route 34 South, just north of the traffic light at Atlantic and south of the Hess station. I heartily recommend that you support this upstart business. It's a tough time to be starting out. They are sweet people, lovely hosts, and great cooks.

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Library Too Flush For Its Own Good

The Matawan-Aberdeen Public Library has been in a tight spot for years. So tight, geographically speaking, that it's been difficult for it to expand to meet the needs of our growing community. Consider the Old Bridge library, in comparison. Modern facilities, vast space, great parking. Then consider our library. An equally proficient staff, but the facilities pale in comparison because there is simply no room to expand in its current location.

So, it seems inevitable that the money that is awaiting an opportunity for expansion is now being eyed by a hungry pair of local governments that see the library's capital funds as a surplus in these hard economic times. The township and borough are asking the library to nearly deplete its funds to pay general operating expenses in the coming year, effectively providing a rebate to the two mayors and their councils. In return, there are vague offers of a new location for the library. Sort of a future draft pick, in a bibliographic sense. I'd offer to sell you the Brooklyn Bridge, but I think Mayor Bloomberg already has it on eBay.

The library's board wisely refused to attend the joint meeting of Aberdeen and Matawan councils, sending a lawyer and the head librarian to represent them while they decide what to do next. Another joint meeting has been set for Monday 9 March because time's a wastin'.

The Independent covered the joint session and explained many of the basic issues involved. It was a prime source for this article. The slant on the story is my own, but I hope it's yours as well.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Snow Adds Two Days to Board Nominations Deadline

In an update to my earlier posting, Governor Corzine released a letter today extending the filing deadline statewide for potential Board of Education candidates to turn in their petitions due to the inclement weather we had here on Monday. Candidates now have until Wednesday 4 March 2009 4:00 pm to submit their paperwork. Ah, the suspense!

As for how the BOE handled the posting of this breaking news: the public notice appeared on the school district's home page under a scrolling collection of Announcements. Clicking on the public notice takes the user to an undated specially added page. The BOE also notified its email subscribers of the change in deadline. Not to be too picky, but people not on the mailing list who check the 2009 candidacy/election dates page directly are left unaware of the change in deadline. Perhaps in the future the webmaster should modify the candidacy/election dates page instead of creating a new page?

School Board Nominations Closed

According to the Aberdeener, the deadline for petitions to run for Matawan-Aberdeen School Board closed on Monday afternoon with an uncontested slate of three candidates, one from Matawan (Jerry Donaghue) and two from Aberdeen (Joey Warren and Liz Loud-Hayward). Congratulations to the presumptive nominees.

The slot vacated by Cathy Zavorskas, who reportedly resigned from the board last week, cannot be filled at the coming election due to the timing of her resignation.

It would be helpful if the board's Member web page included a chart showing the members, their current term, and whether they represent the township or the borough. The biographies are very nice but don't always include the necessary details. A rundown on the other officials who typically sit at the front at meetings, along with their photos, would also be helpful and facilitate public discussion at meetings.

The board's next meeting of the whole will be Monday 9 March 2009 at 7 pm at 1 Crest Way. The next action meeting will be Monday 30 March 2009 at 8 pm.

Sunday, March 1, 2009


I wrote a blog article a few days ago about a development planned for County Road near the Route 35 intersection in Cliffwood where Funtime America and a self-storage facility are located. The development is supposed to be called Renaissance at Aberdeen.

I drove by there yesterday to look around and snap a few photos. There is some activity on the site, possibly unrelated to the housing project, consisting of construction roads, a cinderblock foundation on a patch of cleared land, and quite a bit of yellow construction equipment. I didn't get a good look as much of the area is fenced off and unwelcoming, plus the woodlands look too dense for a casual stroll.

This property backs onto Whale Creek, which floods from time to time causing a huge traffic snarl as vehicles must detour from Route 35 onto side streets to get by. (Click View Larger Map on Google Map below to get Terrain view)

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