Berkeley: 2017 A Look Back

The county has finalized its purchase of 775 acres in Berkeley known as the former Pulverizing Tract, a mostly undeveloped parcel freeholders said shows unique natural features. (Photo courtesy Ocean County Freeholders)

BERKELEY – Open space and land use were critical issues in Berkeley this year, as large amounts of acres were spared from development and other park areas were rebuilt.

South Seaside Park Hearings

Attorney Joseph Michelini, right, begins cross examining Berkeley’s township planner, Stanley Slatechka, at the Planning Board meeting. (Photo by Chris Lundy)

The South Seaside Park Homeowners and Voters Association appeared before the Planning Board several times in 2017 as part of an ongoing movement to de-annex themselves from Berkeley Township. South Seaside Park is located on the barrier island near the Seasides. The residents feel that they are more like their neighbors, who left Berkeley years ago, than they are a part of Berkeley, which is miles away. Part of the Planning Board hearings involved arguing that Berkeley spends more of its resources on mainland residents than them.

 Recreation Advances

Butler Beach, at the end of Butler Boulevard, was re-opened. The project was paid for through federal and state money, and a nonprofit that builds playgrounds.

The new skate park in Veterans Park was opened. It was designed with suggestions from local incline sports players.

Land Preserved

The township and county partnered to buy a tract of land to keep it open space. The 13-acre property is on Route 9 adjacent to other preserved land. It is south of John F. Kennedy Boulevard and somewhat across from Cosmo’s auto wreckers.

Another tract of land was also purchased. It was 775 acres known as the former Pulverizing Tract. It was bought for $11 million by the county to preserve it.

 Opioid Epidemic

Heroin, often mixed with fentanyl, has become an epidemic in Ocean County. Hundreds of people have died of overdoses, and hundreds more have had their lives saved by Narcan sprays administered by first responders.

Local police have combatted the problem by increasing drug education in schools and cracking down even harder on dealers.

They are also differentiating between the crimes of dealing drugs and possessing drugs. Those who are caught up in addiction are being given another chance by coming into certain police departments and being evaluated for free rehab. They turn in all their drugs and they don’t face any charges under the Blue HART (Heroin Addiction Recovery Treatment) program. Brick, Manchester, Stafford, Lacey, and Ocean Gate are now part of this program.

The root cause to the epidemic is addiction to prescription painkillers, police said. That’s why there are places to drop off unused medications for the police to burn and keep it out of the hands of addicts. Also, Berkeley, Toms River, Brick and Lacey have joined a lawsuit against pharmaceutical companies to recoup costs from dealing with this epidemic, and to force those companies to change the way they market their medicines to everyone.

 Deadly Intersection Will Get Signal

The intersection of Frederick Drive and Route 9, which is crossed daily by residents in the nearby neighborhood to get to the shopping center, will be getting a traffic signal. The township officials have been urging the State Department of Transportation to allow one to be built for years – they even put aside money to pay for a portion of it. There have been three fatalities at that intersection since 1999, police have said.

Federal Visitors

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and Ivanka Trump, advisor to the President, made a stop in Bayville on Nov. 13 to promote the tax bills that before they were voted on in the House and Senate. They were hosted by Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-3rd), and Gov. Chris Christie opened for them.

 Beachwood Turns 100

The small borough of Beachwood was officially made its own municipality – carved out of Berkeley – in 1917. The town celebrated with a centennial spin on borough events and by installing a fountain near the place where one had existed back when Beachwood was a resort community.

 Performing Arts Academy

A new Performing Arts Academy building for the Ocean County Vocational-Technical School was announced. Currently, the Performing Arts Academy is housed in Hangar 1 of the Joint Base-McGuire/Dix/Lakehurst. Its lease will be expiring soon. Additionally, with added security regulations, parents and staff have said that location is not as convenient as it once was.

Technical theater classes focus on the behind-the-scenes technology. (Photo courtesy of OCVTS)

Students will select from four majors: theater, vocal, dance and audio engineering. This would be in addition to its academic curriculum. The 60,000-square-foot building is expected to open in 2019. It will be located on the campus of Ocean County College. The goal is to create a continuity of education, so that OCC classes can be taught to high school students. The high school and the college students would be able to share facilities, although not at the same time.

The Ocean County Freeholders created a $27 million bond to pay for the school. They committed $8 million of its total cost. The state of New Jersey will be paying 40 percent of the project, or $10.6 million. The Jay and Linda Grunin Foundation has pledged $8 million.