By JOANNE L. PAPAIANNI
Asbury Park officials will meet Nov. 30 with Master Developer iStar to discuss construction on the Boardwalk Project that was suspended after city officials voted to halt the work on the project.
At a meeting Nov. 8 residents and activists spent two hours criticizing both iStar and city officials for a lack of transparency about the project and the project itself. Sections of the north end of the boardwalk were ripped up by the developer to make way for a new meandering boardwalk. Such a plan was approved more than a decade ago by former city officials.
In response iStar has said it will launch a website over the coming weeks that will provide the community with information regarding its projects in the city.
In a written statement from iStar’s Brian Cheripka he said, “The website will give the public a direct forum to provide feedback about the future of the Asbury Park waterfront.”
At the last City Council meeting where hundreds showed up many said they did not like the new design for the north end of the boardwalk while others did not like the very idea of a private beach club which is part of the plan.
On Nov. 12 Jennifer Phillips Smith a lawyer with Gibbons, the law firm representing iStar, sent a written response to the city saying assertions made at the Nov. 8 council meeting that the governing body was not fully aware of the construction timeline or plans for the north end of the Asbury Park boardwalk were not correct.
The letter outlines the time frame of all meetings and correspondence with City Manager Michael Capabianco, Planner Michele Alonso and Mayor John Moor.
“Contrary to the statements of the mayor and council Thursday (Nov. 8) evening the city has been involved in the design process as construction plans for the mandate Boardwalk Project were finalized and approved,” the letter said.
Moor said in hindsight he can see that the city did not communicate enough with residents about the start of the project.
“The system failed; we want to learn the how and why to make sure the system doesn’t fail again,” he said. “The city dropped the ball several times. The city should have told the public the boardwalk was going to be ripped up.”
Moor also said as mayor he takes responsibility for the failure to communicate.
“If they want to shoot the messenger the buck stops with me,” he said. “The most important thing is that they (iStar) finally agreed to come back to the table.”
Cheripka also said iStar supports a planning process that supports a “community-based” vision for the redesign which he said should include a long term solution for the Bradley Cove development site.
In a letter from iStar’s lawyer, she said the city was made aware that construction would begin the week of Oct. 8 and. The letter also made it clear that the city is contractually obligated to comply with the Restated Redeveloper and Land Disposition Agreement, known as the RDA, which was signed on Oct. 28, 2002.
It states, “The city has no legal authority under the RDA to object to, or halt construction of Boardwalk Project at this late date. Any delay exposes the city to a number of claims and damages, which will increase on a daily basis.”