Eatontown Mayor, Redevelopers and Army in Talks Over Howard Commons
Redevelopers may try to push for an early demolition of the derelict housing to address Eatontown's safety concerns.
Eatontown's mayor and members of the fort redevelopment authority will have a conference call with Army officials on Tuesday in an attempt to speed up demolition of what they say is the blighted Howard Commons section of Fort Monmouth.
The move follows a discussion at this week's meeting of the Fort Monmouth Economic Development Authority (FMERA), of which Eatontown Mayor Gerald Tarantolo is a member. Tarantolo told the board that he was very concerned about the vacant neighborhood which is slated for demolition.
"I'm really concerned," he told the board. "I understand that things take time but I think this is an area where we should devote some special effort ... It's desitined to be torn down. Let's do it now!"
FMERA, which is overseeing the redevelopment of the still Army-owned property, has had plans all along to ask the Army to demolish the buildings, which do not meet municipal safety codes.
In an e-mail to Patch on Thursday, FMERA Executive Director Bruce Steadman explained further: "Our initial discussion with Army on this subject related to the demolition of the housing to be done BEFORE an RFP (request for proposal) for the redevelopment of the property, with the idea that if the demolition occurred BEFORE the RFP that the property would have a higher value in a sale."
The neighborhood, left vacant by the exiting Fort Monmouth families, recently came under the mayor's scrutiny when he heard from a parent who said he wouldn't allow his child to walk to school alongside the abandoned and overgrown buildings.
Upon looking into the matter, the mayor discovered that there were 42 children in the neighboring apartment complexes who were in the same situation, and whose parents felt forced to ferry their children back and forth to school out of concern for their safety. Tarantolo tried unsuccessfully to get the Department of Defense (DOD) to pay for busing of these school children.
Tarantolo often cites his take on who pays for situations like this, by saying about the DOD, "I didn't close Fort Monmouth. You did. You caused this problem. You should pay for it."
When board members met on Wednesday they voiced support for the mayor's concern and tossed around the idea of sending a resolution to Washington making their demand for immediate demolition.
That idea was tabled and after an executive session the board moved to schedule the conference call with Army officials next week.
Steadman, who suggested the idea, told Tarantolo at Wednesday's meeting, "If they hear from the mayor directly, it will have more meaning."