Rooms with a view at issue for tenants

Riverview Towers residents doubt benefits of Navesink House addition


o help calm the qualms of the Riverview Towers residents in Red Bank, the architect and planner of the proposed Navesink House addition said most residents have nothing to fear about the proposed expansion of the high-rise building.

Peter L. Shaffer, the Boston-based architect and planner who represents Navesink House, gave a fairly lengthy and extensive slide presentation at the Zoning Board of Adjustment meeting April 6. He contended that the majority of Riverview Towers residents will not have their river view obstructed by the construction and some may even have their view improved by his plans.

"This improves the situation for a whole lot of the people," Shaffer said.

Out of the 130 apartment units in the Riverview Towers, about 87 percent will not be affected by the razing of the Twin Gables apartment building, 36 Riverside Ave., and the building of an addition to the existing continuing-care retirement building, Shaffer said. He also said that 8 percent of the building, approximately 12 apartments, will have an improved view. Five percent, eight apartments, will have the view in some way affected.

"Was it possible to come up with a plan where no view was affected? No, it was not possible," he admitted. "But we are improving more views than [we are] affecting negatively."

Shaffer also said that his plan offers other benefits over the existing situation between the two buildings. According to his plan, the addition would have a deeper set-back than Twin Gables has; and the distance between the two buildings would increase to 10 feet from the current 4, thus allowing more sunlight in the lower apartments, he said. Shaffer also said the same would be true for Shrewsbury Manor, another adjacent apartment complex.

"For the whole community more people will make out better with the Twin Gables coming down," he said.

But despite Shaffer’s insistence that all would be right with the neighborhood if his plans were permitted to proceed, there were rumblings of skepticism from the audience, many of whom were Riverview Towers residents. But Zoning Board President Lauren Nicosia restricted the audience to only questions directed toward the architect, saying general comments would be permitted at a later meeting.

Mary Ann Chizmore, a Riverview Towers resident, did question the plans, believing the construction would obliterate her view.

"I’ll be in an air shaft," she said. "Never mind the river, I’ll lose my light."

Ann Melson Stommel, 76, an 11-year resident of the Navesink House, said the emphasis has been misplaced. "Everything is about the view and not about housing," she said.

Stommel said she never married or had children, and relies on the services provided by the Navesink House for her care, and hopes the board will approve the planned addition to provide care and housing for other seniors.

Because of the late hour and the time restriction put in place by the board, the matter was carried over to the next meeting on May 4.

The Navesink House, 40 Riverside Ave., is a not-for-profit, continuing-care retirement building owned and operated by American Baptist Estates. It has purchased the Twin Gables apartment building and has petitioned the Zoning Board for a variety of use variances to allow an additional 36 independent living units on the property.

According to Rose Ciaburri, marketing manager for the Navesink House, Charles E. Peters, president of the Navesink House, sent a letter March 22 to the residents of the Riverview Towers to invite them to what was termed an "informational meeting" on March 29 to address their concerns for this proposed expansion. Scheduled to appear at the meeting was the architect to answer any questions. Two times were scheduled to accommodate the residents, 3 p.m. and 8 p.m., but none attended, Ciaburri said.

The Navesink House also retained Connie Selby, of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage, Rumson, to help relocate the 18 remaining tenants of Twin Gables and to explain how the expansion of the Navesink House "will increase property value" of the Riverview Towers, Ciaburri said.