Despite pleas, mayor says homes likely to go

Schneider tells resident group plan submitted is deficient


Staff Writer

LONG BRANCH — Residents fighting to save their homes from being razed to make way for redevelopment will likely lose the battle, Mayor Adam Schneider said last week.

“I think Matzel and Mumford will successfully present a plan to the city,” he told a residents’ group known as MTOTSA at the Oct. 26 council meeting.

The mayor was responding to a plea made by JoAnn LaRosa, whose mother lives in the neighborhood that has become known as MTOTSA — Marine and Ocean terraces, and Seaview Avenue.

“They [MTOTSA] have the right to want their homes,” LaRosa told Schneider. “When Long Branch was going down the tubes, these people stayed. Give them a break and incorporate them into your plan.”

She asked Schneider if the three-street neighborhood could become a part of the city’s redevelopment plan and avoid being bulldozed.

“Probably not,” he said. “Could I be wrong? Absolutely.”

When LaRosa asked Schneider what he would do if his house was located in a neighborhood that was threatened with being destroyed, he responded he would have gotten involved in the process 10 to 12 years ago.

“I wouldn’t have found out suddenly,” he said.

Members of MTOTSA continue to speak out at council meetings in an effort to get officials to acknowledge their fight to save their homes from being taken by eminent domain.

The neighborhood is slated to be razed and replaced with high-priced townhouses and condominiums planned for phase II of the Beachfront North redevelopment zone.

MTOTSA members want the city to remove the 36 properties in MTOTSA from the redevelopment plan, and allow them to upgrade and renovate their homes to conform to redevelopment standards.

About 15 MTOTSA members attended last week’s meeting wearing T-shirts, stickers and pins that read “Eminent Domain Abuse”.

MTOTSA submitted a revitalization plan to the city on May 18.

The plan includes a commitment to repair, restore and remodel their properties to conform to the city’s oceanfront redevelopment project.

“We submitted a plan,” Bill Nordahl told Schneider at the council meeting. “We looked at the city’s plan and saw the things we liked. Your response was negative with only objections.”

The plan fell short, according to Schneider, who said that in order for the city to consider the revitalization plan proposed by MTOTSA, certain areas had to be addressed.

“You would do yourself a world of good if you hired an attorney who contacted a planner,” he said. “We told you where the plan was deficient.

“You didn’t like our responses and you shut down,” Schneider said.

City Council Attorney James Aaron told Nordahl the city requested that the group address about a dozen issues in the plan.

“We asked for the quality of things proposed in the plan so things can be fleshed out,” Aaron said. “There were no answers.”

Nordahl responded that there has been no positive response from the city and MTOTSA is currently talking with lawyers about representing the group.

The city signed a binding contract with designated co-developers Applied Cos., Hoboken, and Matzel and Mumford Corp., a division of K. Hovnanian, Middletown, in February 2000.

On Feb. 27, the developers submitted redevelopment plans to the city for MTOTSA.

“I believe the city needs this kind of work,” Schneider said. “The fact is, redevelopment is working. We never said we want to bring in better people or wealthier people. We want a better city and a wealthier city.”

“You should be for all the people in Long Branch, including my mother and her neighbors,” LaRosa told Schneider. “We should have you work and help all the people. That is your job.”

“People get upset and say we are not for the people,” Schneider responded. “We are for 32,000 people on a daily basis. All of them are our clients, our constituents.”

He said he and the council believe they represent what is best for all the city’s residents.

“I work for the city every day, seven days a week,” he said.

“I have listened to [MTOTSA] and I have heard them,” Schneider said in an interview on Oct. 28. “Right now every two weeks, the same people get up and have their say. All that happened in the last year is that they [MTOTSA] lost a year.”

When the redevelopment process started more than 10 years ago, Schneider said the lower Broadway area, the Broadway corridor and the oceanfront areas were in a deteriorated state.

“There was slum housing and it was a crime-ridden area,” he said. “Now we are [developing] better housing, more open space, a better economy, a lower crime rate and a better road design.”

He said redevelopment is already under way.

“All those [developments] have been absent from the community for over 35 years,” he said. “These are not goals, this is actually happening.”-