Eatontown Mayor Gerald Tarantolo said that he recently got a call from a parent, who lives in the Pine Brook Road section of town, which left him disturbed.
Speaking to some residents meeting at borough hall on Tuesday night, Tarantolo said the caller told him: "I'm not letting my kid walk to school through there."
At the parent's suggestion, the mayor took a ride out through Howard Commons, the now-empty military housing adjacent to three apartment complexes.
"I was appalled by what I saw there," said Tarantolo. "It was worse than the Bronx in the 60s."
Tarantolo called the situation a "blight" on Howard Commons. Once home to the families of soldiers stationed at Fort Monmouth, the neighborhood is vacant, overgrown and quickly becoming dilapidated, and he feels, potentially dangerous.
The residents at the Tuesday meeting had gathered to hear Tarantolo's latest update on Fort Monmouth and its progress toward redevelopment. They echoed his concerns about the empty housing.
"It's terrible," said one resident named Danny. "I live right on Eaton Crest. It's terrible."
Another resident said she felt scared when she drove through the area and noted the holes in the fencing.
Tarantolo said that after his ride through the empty neighborhood, he immediately called the manager of the garrison at Fort Monmouth, which is essentially the town government of the fort. According to the mayor, the garrison manager said that there was a problem of vagrancy there, but that the garrison couldn't keep track of it. (The garrison is in the process of in anticipation of the).
The specific problem affects residents who live in the apartments at Eaton Crest, Wedgewood and Victoria Gardens. They live outside of the school busing perimeter and their children are expected to walk the approximately 7/10 of a mile through the old neighborhood to Memorial Middle and Vetter Elementary schools.
The mayor said that parents in this neighborhood have had to make other arrangements to get their kids to school. "I kind of feel for them," he told Patch, saying that he knew it was an inconvenience to parents.
Tarantolo said he wants to see those kids bused safely to school but since this is a problem caused by the federal government's decision to shut down Fort Monmouth, he said, he wants the federal government to pay for it. Finding federal funding however has proved difficult.
Bruce Steadman, executive director of the ), said Wednesday that the Army has said it will not pay for the busing of students.
Instead, FMERA has asked that the Army demolish the housing, which is ultimately a part of the . Because these structures were not built to, they are not fit for reuse. FMERA plans to sell the land to a developer for high denisty housing.
No word yet on if and when the Army will demolish.
Check back with Patch for more details on reuse of the Howard Commons property.