Greene accuses Democrats of stalling on YMCA location

Mayoral candidate calls
to condemn piece of land
owned by Perth Amboy

By sue m. morgan
Staff Writer

Mayoral candidate calls
to condemn piece of land
owned by Perth Amboy
By sue m. morgan
Staff Writer

OLD BRIDGE — Charging that the Democrat-controlled Township Council is deliberately stalling on selecting a site for a YMCA, Republican Councilman Richard J. Greene wants a resolution passed that would require the facility to be located at Peter A. Mannino Park.

Greene, the GOP candidate for mayor, also called for the township to begin condemnation proceedings against Perth Amboy unless that city’s Democratic leadership agrees to negotiate the sale of a 1-acre triangular piece of land located at the entrance to the 165-acre park. Mannino Park, which is yet to be developed, is located on Route 516 at Owens Road.

To date, Perth Amboy officials have not been willing to work with Old Bridge regarding the acre of land, valued at $18,000, which would be used for access to the park’s main entrance.

Several leading Democrats sitting both on the dais and in the spectator seats at Monday night’s council meeting audibly sighed as Greene accused the party of carrying out a political agenda by delaying the selection of a site for the YMCA.

The Democrats have conducted numerous studies of two recommended sites just to buy time, Greene said.

"Why should this hold up starting up and selecting a site for the Y? I think it is a stall," Greene said.

With 111 acres available for development, Greene said Mannino Park is a better site for the proposed 51,000-square-foot building than the other suggested site, a 3-acre parcel located west of the ice arena at the municipal complex.

If the latter site is selected, tennis courts would have to be relocated at a cost of $300,000, and numerous trees that buffer the municipal complex from the adjacent Arbors development would have to be removed, Greene said.

"It would destroy the aesthetic view [for] the people living in the Arbors," Greene said.

Mannino Park presently has no roadway access or water and sewer hook-up, Greene acknowledged.

However, since the township administration expects to develop the park as recreational space, those amenities will eventually have to be provided anyway, he said.

"This area is going to be developed for the future use of our kids," Greene said as he showed drawings of both suggested sites.

For two years, the township has unsuccessfully tried to negotiate with Perth Amboy’s administration to acquire the 1-acre piece of land, Greene said. A business administrator for Perth Amboy has stated that negotiations to purchase the land must be carried out by attorneys for that city and Old Bridge, Greene said.

Unless Perth Amboy officials provide written confirmation that the city will enter into those negotiations, Greene said he plans to request a resolution to begin condemnation proceedings. Such a request would be made at the council’s next meeting on May 5, he said.

Reminding the council that Perth Amboy Mayor Joseph Vas is now seeking election to the state Assembly’s 12th Legislative District, Greene suggested that Vas "take the interests of the children of Old Bridge into consideration and do the right thing" by sitting down with the town­ship to discuss the matter.

Greene claimed the Democrats have de­layed the site selection because they do not want the Republicans to get the credit for bringing the YMCA to town.

To back up that statement, Greene read a paragraph from a copy of a fund-raising feasibility study conducted by an indepen­dent consulting firm retained by the Red Bank-based Community YMCA. That or­ganization has agreed to partner with Old Bridge to construct and manage the planned recreational center. The consultan­t’s report indicated that although both Democrats and Republicans want the YMCA in Old Bridge, political partisan­ship has fostered a climate of one party not wanting to allow the other to get credit for the project, Greene said.

According to the report, such partisan­ship could possibly hurt future fund-raising campaigns to construct the building, he said.

"Shame on us if this is true," Greene told the council.

Democratic Councilman Dennis Maher, who chairs a nonpartisan steering commit­tee assigned to bring the YMCA to fruition, defended the council’s decision to conduct the studies.

A council-sanctioned, $13,500 study of potential uses for Mannino Park is neces­sary to ensure that there will be enough room to accommodate the YMCA build­ing, athletic fields for the Sayrewood South Little League and Sayrewood South Rebels football league, and other active and pas­sive recreational uses, Maher said.

"I don’t see the rush. I want to see both Mannino Park and the Y," Maher said.

"I want to see that this site will accom­modate the Sayrewood South Little League, Sayrewood South Rebels, and whatever else the (township) administra­tion wants there," he added.

The council’s approval of that study proves the council is fully committed to exploring Mannino Park as a viable site for the YMCA, Maher said.

W. Thomas Badcock, the township’s di­rector of parks and recreation, contended that the study of Mannino Park was unnec­essary.

"You could put Yankee Stadium in Mannino Park without the parking," Badcock said.

In addition, YMCA officials have con­ducted marketing feasibility studies to see if fund-raising opportunities exist in the township, and if residents will actually support such a facility, and at what cost. YMCA officials have stated that they hope to raise as much as $3 million from indi­viduals and corporations to defray the costs of construction.

"The YMCA is doing their due dili­gence," Maher said.

At a steering committee meeting sched­uled for April 29, YMCA officials expect to be able to tell committee members what individuals and families are willing to pay for membership.

"[The YMCA] are not in a position for site selection. They are still doing their due diligence," Maher said.

Township officials are seeking to build the recreational center at no expense to taxpayers within two years. The proposed facility includes a much-desired aquatic fa­cility and 25-meter indoor swimming pool.

In January, the council contracted CME Associates, a Sayreville engineering firm, to evaluate both the Mannino Park site and the site at the municipal complex.

However, some township officials in­cluding Greene and his Republican col­league, Ward 6 Councilwoman Lucille Panos, as well as Mayor Barbara Cannon, have contended that the YMCA should be constructed at Mannino Park. Constructing it there would allow the YMCA room for future recreational growth and preserve the tennis courts at the municipal complex, those officials have said.

Panos and Badcock also sit on the YMCA steering committee.

Trying to discourage any notion that he had an agenda in mind, Greene prefaced his presentation by stating that he just wants to move forward with making the YMCA a reality.

"This has nothing to do with me trying to take credit," Greene said. "It has every­thing to do with doing right by the town­ship."

Rumor has it that the Democrats do not want the YMCA placed in Mannino Park because it is named for a deceased Republican councilman from Ward 2, William A. Baker, Greene said.

Baker, whose ward includes both the Arbors and the municipal complex, dis­puted such rumors.

"If you think the Democrats are stalling because the park is named after a Republican, you’re wrong," Baker told Greene.

"I spoke to the people in the Arbors. They don’t want it there," Baker said. "I’m a Democrat. I want it in Mannino Park."