A New #TomsRiverStrong Monster Emerges: CASH!!

Earlier today Philly.com published a report about the recent invasion of Orthodox Jews in Toms River Township. For the most part, I must say, the report was fairly balanced, and given the immense amount of hate and bigotry that has been disseminated in recent months, I give them a lot of credit.

But I learned something new. The article cites one  Laurie Venditto, a homeowner in Toms River:

In adjacent Toms River, those tensions started in late 2014 when bearded men in wide hats began knocking on doors. They had friends in Brooklyn, they said, who would pay top dollar for the houses.

“The guy who came around our street called himself ‘Charles from Brooklyn,’ ” homeowner Laurie Venditto recalled.

He “must have been here 20 or 30 times” to tell her and others on Hunters Court that his fellow Haredi Jews were moving in.

“He said we wouldn’t want to live here when he was done,” Venditto recalled, speaking in the ground-floor office of her corner home.

Sidenote: I wonder if  Charles from Brooklyn left a business card or a phone number? He did stop by “20 or 30 times”. I guess if the Vendittos wanted to sell their house, they would have to wait for Charles from Brooklyn to stop by a 31st time? Just wondering out loud.

The article concludes:

In Toms River, Venditto said she and her husband had gotten past their initial resistance to last year’s “threatening” message of “Charles from Brooklyn,” and had recently listed their home for sale – with an Orthodox-owned real estate firm.

Eleven of the 23 houses on Hunters Court and two adjacent cul-de-sacs have sold since 2015 at an average price of $631,000.

Venditto said she will miss her home of 19 years.

“We raised our children here.” But with their children grown, and the housing market hot, it seemed a good time to move on. “It’s the circle of life,” she said with a shrug.

Her new Orthodox neighbors across the street are “lovely,” Venditto said. But the real estate agents bearing what she called ” ‘suitcases of cash’ . . . gave me the feeling I was not welcome.”

Cash. Cash is what convinced the Vendittos to sell. Actually, cash gave them the feeling that they were not welcome. Who new cash could be so bad? Sounds terrible. They actually had to sell their home because of the “suitcases of cash”. My heart goes out to this lovely family.

The only question that remains is how do we fight this new monster?

#TomsRiverStrong

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I’m Not An Anti-Semite But The Jews……

By: Anonymous

The sheer volume of articles and posts do not seem to abate. Most of them are accompanied by “I am not an Anti-Semite but……”. How can an issue or problem be attributed to a specific faith– the Jewish one, but at the same time not be anti-Semitic?

Ira Stoll of The Algemiener calls out the New York Times on this issue, and I think he really drives the point home.

If these businessmen — Jona Rechnitz and Jeremy Reichberg — were, say, Presbyterian, Episcopalian, atheists or lapsed Catholics, do you think the Times would mention it in the third paragraph of the news item about the investigation? Of course not. It’s hard to see how the information is relevant here. The Timesstory doesn’t mention the religion of the police officials, or of the FBI agents, or of Mayor de Blasio, or of the federal prosecutor doing the investigating. Only the Orthodox Jews have their religion dragged into it.

Likewise, does the Times mention in its science or business pages the religion of the scientist or businessman every time that a successful discovery or profitable deal is made by an Orthodox Jew? No. But when there is a whiff of corruption or a grand jury investigation, you can be sure the newspaper will find a way to mention Orthodox Judaism prominently in a negative context.

When will the Asbury Park Press come clean? When will the paper admit its disdain and hate for Orthodox Jews?

#TomsRiverStrong

TomsRiverNJStrong@Gmail.com

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The Once Beautiful Township of Toms River

By: Shak Shuka

Sometime over the past few days I happened upon this article by Kelli Finnegan in which Kellie describes her childhood memories of growing up in Toms River. Reading her article, I couldn’t help but wonder, what are we missing here? Toms River sounds like such a beautiful town (albeit with a history of hate). Driving through Toms River on various occasion, I had a similar impression.

So why so much hate? Why do folks like Johnny ArthurChristy Barber, and  Gina Marie DiRienzo, insist on making it their top priority that Orthodox Jews should not be allowed to live in Toms River? They claim they are not anti-Semites, yet a recent post from Gina indicates her true intentions.

TomsRiverStrong

Who are “they” and what does “stay strong” mean?

I can go on forever about the references that these hateful individuals make. It seems quite suspect when a group is supposedly concerned about local issues, but then posts articles from across the globe (e.g. Monsey, Kiryas Joel, and Isreal??) as if it relates to the matter at hand. It seems quite suspect when they claim the issue is about overzealous real estate agents, but then it seems that the issue is really about what the Jews have done to Lakewood. Its seems quite suspect when Gina Marie reposts the following from Johnny Arthur:

TomsRiverStrong

How in the same breath can you say “This is not anti-Semitic”, but preceding that, talk about ways to keep Orthodox Jews out of Toms River??

Why did Christy Barber start a Change.org petition to stop the Chabad (posts about the Chabad upcoming in the near future) from obtaining a use variance by claiming that by allowing the Chabad “to operate as a religious school will have a paralyzing effect on the traffic of an already congested road”, when it is a well known and documented fact that the Chabad only has a handful of students come by a few times a week for Hebrew lessons? Will 5-10 students paralyze the area? Does Christy have an issue with the adjacent Our Lady-Perpetual Help Church and George P. Vanderveer American Legion Post 129? 

Mindblowing. Or perhaps not.

 

#TomsRiverStrong

TomsRiverNJStrong@Gmail.com

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Toms River Prostitutes Arrested In………..Lakewood

Lakewood Police Department reports via Facebook that three women were charged  with Promoting Prostitution amongst other charges.

Joanna Curcio, 50, and  Billie Lee Foster, 32, both of Toms River, were arrested after the Lakewood Police Department  Street Crime Unit conducted a March 24th sting targeting prostitutes who advertised online to perform services at local hotels.

Are the residents and governing body okay with prostitutes living in Toms River? An outcry on #TomsRiverMatters and #TomsRiverStrong Facebook groups has yet to be seen. I guess they are too busy ensuring that Orthodox Jews do not move in and ruin their township. A township of prostitution (see additional info here and here) and hate.

#TomsRiverStrong

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Toms River Man Arrested For Car Burglaries

Brian Salters, 39, of Stevens Road in Toms River was aressted and charged with burglary and possession of stolen property in addition to a drug related charge.

See Asbury Park Press report here.

When will the people of Toms River wake up and realize that they have bigger issues than Orthodox Jewish families seeking to live the American Dream? When? When will Mayor Kelaher wake up?

#TomsRiverStrong

Do Lakewood Residents Pay Taxes?

By: Jason Yodeah

Of all the complaints about Lakewood, by far the most popular is that the Jewish residents of Lakewood don’t pay property taxes. The common wisdom is that the typical resident has declared their home to be a house of worship, thereby earning a tax-exempt status and allowing the owner to avoid paying any property taxes. Since a large number of households are doing this, even the majority according to some accounts, Lakewood is in a perennial budget crisis due to their revenue shortfall.

It is understandable that this causes resentment in neighboring communities. After all, the average American is struggling to pay their mortgages and working long hours or multiple jobs, and watching an entire population gaming the system is hard to stomach. And if they are not paying into the system, why do they deserve services such as busing to private schools?

But is it true?

Fortunately, this question should be simple to answer since there is a plethora of information on the Internet. All of the property tax assessment records, both the details and statistics, are publicly available for free on the county website, and Lakewood’s audited financial statements are available on the township website.

To properly frame the question, what we are trying to answer is if there are a large number of households that are tax exempt. If there turns out to be a large percentage of properties that are tax exempt, this would support the theory. If there are not, then the theory is wrong.

The Ocean County Board of Taxation has a report on their website that contains all the raw data that we need. It is under Statistical Reports and then under Line Item Breakdown. The 2015 report can be found here.

There are a lot of numbers in this table, but we only need two columns. “Class 15 Exempt Total” shows the number of properties that are tax exempt. (Each of the class types are a different category of property, class 15 means tax exempt). “Total Ratables & Exempt” are the total number of properties in a town. To get the percentage, we can simply divide the two columns.

Let’s do this for Lakewood. The number of tax exempt properties is 1,591. The total number of properties is 26,208. Dividing the first by the second, we get 6%. Of course, this number includes non-residential properties such as government buildings, parks, schools, synagogues, and churches. But we have an upper bound: the number of tax exempt residences must be much less. Hardly a majority or even close.

We can do the same calculation for every town in Ocean County. Here is the results of exactly that, sorted by percentage exempt:

Class 15 Exempt Total Total Ratables & Exempt Percent Exempt
EAGLESWOOD 315 1453 21.68%
LACEY 2851 18253 15.62%
OCEAN 592 5904 10.03%
MANCHESTER 2034 21693 9.38%
LT. EGG HARBOR 1177 13090 8.99%
TUCKERTON 151 2033 7.43%
BERKELEY 1986 28486 6.97%
BARNEGAT 861 13097 6.57%
BEACHWOOD 266 4308 6.17%
LAKEHURST 53 862 6.15%
LAKEWOOD 1591 26208 6.07%
STAFFORD 881 15662 5.63%
PLUMSTED 177 3257 5.43%
HARVEY CEDARS 66 1321 5.00%
PINE BEACH 47 977 4.81%
S. TOMS RIVER 59 1294 4.56%
JACKSON 929 20742 4.48%
BARNEGAT LIGHT 52 1345 3.87%
SEASIDE PARK 77 2114 3.64%
ISLAND HEIGHTS 33 942 3.50%
OCEAN GATE 40 1143 3.50%
SEASIDE HEIGHTS 69 2149 3.21%
BAY HEAD 33 1086 3.04%
BRICK 944 33464 2.82%
BEACH HAVEN 72 2779 2.59%
SHIP BOTTOM 52 2115 2.46%
PT. PLEASANT BEACH 74 3385 2.19%
LONG BEACH 201 9271 2.17%
TOMS RIVER 862 42339 2.04%
SURF CITY 38 2301 1.65%
MANTOLOKING 8 576 1.39%
PT. PLEASANT BORO 112 8342 1.34%
LAVALLETTE 25 2760 0.91%
Average 5.31%

We see from the table that Lakewood, at 6.0%, is slightly above the average of 5.3%. We also see that there are 10 other towns in Ocean County that have a higher percentage of exempt properties.

So despite the large number of Synagogues, and despite the accounts of all the residents turning their homes into a place of worship, the actual percentage of exempt properties in Lakewood is completely in line with the other towns of the county. This does not point to a large number of residents escaping property taxes, in fact the numbers show this is not at all a reality.

But we need to be skeptical. What if the county records are not accurate? What if residents are being assessed but are not paying their tax bills? We know that Lakewood’s finances are in shambles, so where is all the tax money going? What is going on here?

Fortunately, we can find Lakewood’s most recent independent audit here. The audit contains a detailed set of financial statements. The auditor is Holman Frenia Allison, which is a well-regarded CPA firm based in Toms River who has audited numerous municipalities in NJ.

The pertinent information is on page 11. We see that the total revenue for 2014 was $199 million. Out of that $164 million was “receipts from total taxes”. This would be the property tax payments. We can do a quick estimate: let’s divide the total tax payments by the number of properties. Dividing $164 million by 25,839 (the 2014 number) we get $6300. This is a very rough estimate of the average tax payment. That is very close to the actual average as showing in the table in this article on myCentralJersey.com.

So what does that prove? It shows that the numbers work out. We saw before that the number of tax exemptions is not out of the ordinary, and almost all residents are assessed taxes. We now proved that the tax assessments are actually translated into tax payments and realized as revenue for the town.

But wait a second! If the revenue is so high, then why is Lakewood having so many budget problems? We can answer that by looking at the same audit, also on page 11. The amount of revenue for 2014 was $199 million. The amount of expenses was $188 million. The difference is $11 million. That’s right, Lakewood had an $11 million surplus in 2014, and $5 million in 2013. The Asbury Park Press reports that in 2015, they had a $12.7 million surplus. So the surplus is not a one time fluke. And it certainly doesn’t look like there is anything wrong with Lakewood’s finances. In fact, they are quite good.

So, let’s sum up:

  • Very few of Lakewood residents are tax exempt.
  • Almost all of Lakewood residents are paying their taxes.
  • Lakewood has a regularly occurring budget surplus, and is in an excellent financial condition.

In short, the popular belief that somehow Lakewood residents are gaming the system and not paying taxes has been thoroughly debunked, and we have shown there is absolutely no truth to that accusation.

ABC – ACCUSATIONS OF ANTI-SEMITISM IN TOMS RIVER TURF WAR

ABC reports on the ongoing #TomsRiverStrong controversy. See report and video here.

The report quotes a Toms River resident that says it like it is.

Michele McNeill is one of the residents who believes the signs are offensive. She explains, “Do they want Muslims not to live here? Do they want blacks not to live here? Or is it just the Orthodox Jewish culture? To me it’s racist.”

One can only imagine the heartache Ms. Mcneill will endure once her friends and neighbors hear about this.

Ms. Mcneill actually brings up a really good point here though. One can only imagine the reaction if the #TomsRiverStrong campaign would be about African American’s and/or Muslims moving to the area. Al Sharpton and CAIR would be all over this thing like a hot potato.

Don’t get me wrong though. I get it. I wouldn’t want real estate agents knocking on my door multiple times at all hours of the day either. But the bigotry and racism that surrounds this campaign is inexcusable and quite un-American.

Peruse any of the “strong” social media groups. The posts are about Jews. The comments are about Jews. Many of them flagrantly anti-semitic and racist. There is no denying that. The fact that Lakewood Township has issues has nothing to do with young Orthodox Jewish couples and families seeking to live the American Dream by buying homes in the townships surrounding Lakewood. Yes. Lakewood is by and large an Orthodox town with much of the local government part of the Orthodox Jewish community. But that doesn’t mean that the issues plaguing this unique NJ town is caused by all of Lakewood’s Orthodox population. This should really be common sense, but most of these groups and “activists” don’t see it that way. To them its one big massive conspiracy created by Jews around the world. Simply peruse the Facebook page of groups like Monmouth and Ocean County Strong or #TomsRiverStrong and you should be able to come to the same conclusion.

And the idea that the Mayor of a town refers to the the influx of a specific ethnicity in his township as an “invasion” is far more disturbing than most of the anti-Semites hanging around social media. And he actually said this to Bloomberg, national and respectable (for the most part) media outlet! Its about the tone at the top. Toms River Mayor Kelaher isn’t just stirring the coals. He is the coals. He could have easily used his Bloomberg interview as an opportunity  to shut down the hate. Instead, he did the exact opposite. And then he refused to apologize. Perhaps Kelaher should take the cue from Mayor Gotto of the neighboring township of Howell. Back in November of 2015, Mayor Gotto called out (NJ.com) certain residents of Howell for their antisemitic comments and behavior. But guess what? Residents are threatening a recall (they recently received approval for a petition to remove the Deputy Mayor). So I guess I understand why Kelaher is not following in Gotto’s footsteps. He is scared. But that’s no excuse. As mentioned earlier, imagine the firestorm if Kelahers comments were about “Blacks invading” Toms River. Imagine.

Further stirring the coals, the Asbury Park Press has been publishing articles in their daily rag and posts on their social media accounts about the controversy and about Lakewood in general. Peruse the comments section in some of these posts. You may actually question if we are living in the age of the Grand Kligel Fligel Duke or the age of understanding and tolerance of minorities. Furthermore the Press has a habit of posting letters to the editor that are clearly, well stupid, but also borderline antisemitic. Things like the “Jews dont pay taxes” or “the FBI should investigate all the Lakewood Jewish charities”. If not anti-semitic, they are definitely generalizations and stereotypes that even a 10 year old should be able to understand are not appropriate. Yet, we have mature adults writing these letters which then get published in a regional newspaper. At times I wonder if these letters actually express the sentiments of the Press’ staff. It definitely seems like it.

Anyways, I digress. More to come.

This is America. America is a country of coexistence. If you cant deal with it, go live somewhere else.