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

TomsRiverNJStrong@Gmail.com

1460156150_Facebook  1460156155_Twitter

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

1460156150_Facebook  1460156155_Twitter

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

TomsRiverNJStrong@Gmail.com

1460156150_Facebook  1460156155_Twitter

 

Toms River: Its Not Just The Orthodox Jews That Are Not Welcome

By: Anonymous

One can understand their frustration. Overzealous real estate agents knocking on doors at all hours of the day. Strangers peeking in windows and chatting up children. Individuals parked in front of homes for hours. Sounds crazy. Indeed it does, but there is one big issue: most of these stories are anecdotal. Other than a handful of verified storys, multiple social media pages and media outlets like the Asbury Park Press and the Shore News Network have the residents of Toms River whipped into a frenzy over anecdotal evidence. Anecdotal evidence.

The question begs to be asked: why? Why are the residents of Toms River and other municipalities in Ocean County so concerned about the influx of Orthodox Jews into their towns? Why are they turning out in the hundreds, and in some cases the thousands, to township meetings to denounce the “invasion” of Orthodox Jews? If the issue was only about overzealous and harassing real estate agents, why are there constant references to “Lakewood”, “Jews”, “Hasidics”, “Orthodox Cult”, and even references to the massive conspiracy of Jews from NY, Israel, Lakewood, to take over Toms River and its environs?

In my quest to clear up some of my questions and to piece together this puzzle of madness, I decided to do a little research.

Klu Klux Klan

In February of 2011, the Asbury Park Press ran an article titled “The Unfortunate History of the Klan in Ocean County”. The Klu Klux Klan legally organized in the State of New Jersey in 1923. A short time later the Klan saw Ocean County membership grow to 2,000 members out of a population of 22,155. It did not take much time and the Klan was already heavily involved in activities throughout Ocean County including, Point Pleasant, Lakewood, Brick, Jackson, and Toms River. The Klans activity in in Ocean County is well documented:

On June 17, 1923, members of the Klan got into their robes at Lakewood High School and marched to the First Baptist Church, escorted by state and local police.

The Fourth of July was being celebrated in Huddy Park in Toms River. Hundreds of people gathered there. The Klan burned a 10-foot cross west of the Main Street bridge as its contribution to the celebration.

Further capitalizing on their growing membership in the area, the Klan held various meeting and rallies including the following:

A reported 2,000 people turned out for an August Klan gathering at the Toms River Methodist Church, most of them outside in the driving rain. The women’s auxiliary was there in force. The church, which stood at Hooper Avenue and Washington Street, is gone now, its education building converted into courtrooms for state courts.

In December the Klan rallied at Gulick Field in downtown Toms River, before marching through the streets. An estimated 500 people attended.

More recently:

On Aug. 11, 1979, David Duke of Louisiana attended a Klan rally in Barnegat and announced he would be a candidate for President. It was hosted by a misguided Aaron Morrison, 17, at his parent’s home, although his parents abhorred the Klan.

One has to wonder how many residents of Toms River were raised by parents or grandparents that were active Klan members or were complicit bystanders?

Of Skinheads and Neo-Nazis

Fast forward to 2015: The Toms River Patch reports that Toms River is home to one of 40 hate groups in the State of New Jersey. New Jersey as a whole is the 4th most active state with Skinhead hate groups in the United States. 75% of the hate groups in NJ are comprised of neo-nazi/skinhead hate groups, with three of them located in Toms River, Point Pleasant, and Brick. The Patch article was based off of data compiled by the Southern Poverty Law Center, an organization dedicated to fighting hate and bigotry and to seeking justice for the most vulnerable members of our society. In 2005, members of “The Hated” skinhead group were nabbed in a bomb plot as reported by the NY Daily News. The Hated is the group that is active in Toms River.  One does not have to do further research to determine what these hate groups represent, what they have perpetrated, and what they continue to do.

One has to wonder how the residents of Toms River or Mayor Kelaher can allow a hate group to operate in their town? Are the residents and governing body of Toms River complicit in allowing this hate group to continue to operate? Where are the hundreds of residents that turn out in regards to the invasion of Orthodox Jews?

The United States Census Bureau

On the face of things, it seems that Toms River has a Jew problem. But that is not actually the case. Toms River seems to have a minority problem. Toms River has a African American and Hispanic, amongst others, problem. To determine this, I enlisted the help of the United States Census Bureau. Per the Bureaus 2010 census, Whites (this includes individuals reporting White as their only race) accounted for 89.7% of the towns population. Black or African American alone? 2.8%. Asian alone? 3.7%. I think you get the gist. Toms River has no interest in any minorities. I’d be shocked if the next census indicates an improvement in these numbers. Toms River does not want anyone that does not fit in their proverbial box. And that’s a shame. In 2016, you’d think the hate was long eradicated. Unfortunately, that is not the case. So don’t kid yourself into thinking that its just about the Orthodox Jews, because its not.

I began this article asking, why? Given the aforementioned, I think I know the answer. Hopefully you can come to the same conclusion.

#TomsRiverStrong

TomsRiverNJStrong@Gmail.com

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.