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Saturday, January 13, 2007

Bill Handleman's Sunday column on the MAC

Here is Bill Handleman's Sunday column re: the MAC.

Please feel free to e-mail him your thoughts via his e-mail listed below..BUT....please post them to the blog as well for all to peruse.




Thanks,

TG





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WEST LONG BRANCH

Paul Gaffney looked mildly exasperated. He is the president of a university and a retired admiral after all, and a man in his position can’t very well afford to come across as fully exasperated.

Outward appearances aside, he may be approaching wit’s end.

Meeting with reporters late Friday afternoon, the president of Monmouth University was discussing the most recent revisions the school has made in an effort to expedite approval of its proposed Multi-Activity Center, the MAC as it is known to friend and foe alike.

At its Dec. 14 meeting the zoning board stalled progress on the project by failing to muster the required five votes. The three relatively new board members had voted against approval, giving no reasons for this.

The message was clear, though: West Long Branch would stand up and resist further encroachment by the university. Unclear was the reasoning behind some people in the community suddenly digging in their heels.

With the next meeting scheduled for Jan. 25, Gaffney wanted to put “some additional considerations on the table.”

“The door is still open,” he added, noting that he believed “reasonable people can come to reasonable accommodations.”

The school will reduce the seating capacity for the MAC by 720, bringing the number down to 4,122. The original proposal called for 6,000 seats.

The school will limit capacity events (those attracting 4,000 or more spectators) to 12 a year, down from the original proposal of 25.

The school will also notify the local police department in advance any time it anticipates selling 3,000 or more tickets for an event.

Having presented these new numbers, Gaffney proceeded to the good-neighbor portion of the program. The community is always welcome. Everyone benefits. The better the university, the better it is for the entire area.

And yet, as he gushed positive, Gaffney had this slightly pained expression on his face, one that said “What more can we do? I can’t keep beating my head against this brick wall forever.”

Boylan Gym, a tiny facility by current standards, is more than 40 years old. The proposed MAC would make Monmouth more competitive.

“I would say we’re at the bottom of the barrel in the Northeast Conference,” Gaffney said as he rattled off the names of rivals with bigger, newer buildings, from Robert Morris to Long Island University, from Quinnipiac to Wagner, from St. Francis of Pennsylvania to St. Francis of New York.

Many high schools have better facilities, Gaffney went on. His old school, Fairmont High in Kettering, Ohio, has a 4,400-seat gym. Granted, basketball is big in Southwest Ohio. But there are only 3,000 students at Fairmont.

Gaffney’s contention is that this is not unusual in today’s world.

Meanwhile, Monmouth, which plays a Division I schedule in basketball, has an enrollment of some 4,000 undergraduates and is looking to build a 4,122-seat facility in the middle of the campus, 647 feet from the nearest home.

So what’s the beef?

“Sometimes it looks like I’m an obstructionist, but I’m not,” Michael Pagones said after he learned of the university’s latest revised plan.

“I think it would be unreasonable of us to say ‘No, you can’t build anything’ … I would be approving of a facility somewhat the size of what President Gaffney is talking about. I don’t think it’s unreasonable.”

Pagones, an electrical engineer, lives on Larchwood Avenue, across the street from the football field. In the past, many of his neighbors have complained about the music on Saturday mornings in the fall, “this god-awful music” that assaults their sensibilities and rattles their windows long before kickoff.

This is not what drove Pagones to attend zoning board meetings and whatnot in recent years. No, he got involved because he felt the previous president of the university, Rebecca Stafford, did not care much about the community.

“Her attitude was ‘neighbors be damned’,” said Pagones, who bought his home on Larchwood 30 years ago. “That may an overstatement, but that’s how I felt.

“Promises went by the wayside. She said (total) enrollment would be kept at 5,600. Now it’s 6,200 or 6,300 … It’s a question of credibility.”

On the other side of campus, neighbors are still upset over the proposal for the dorm off Pinewood Avenue. While a judge has already ruled in favor of the university on the matter, the project has not yet begun. Some believe the resentment over the dorm may be at the root of the MAC controversy.

“I believe there is some bias on the (zoning) board, in favor of the university,” said Pagones, who thinks others feel the same way.

Now Gaffney come along and puts his additional considerations on the table.

“I believe he has respect for the community,” Pagones said. “It’s a refreshing change from Rebecca Stafford’s presidency.”

If the university means what it says and will abide by the new guidelines, Pagones for one would be amenable to the new plan. He can’t speak for the others, but as long as Monmouth keeps its promises and doesn’t try to turn the MAC into some commercial cash cow, he said he was fine with what they were now proposing to do on campus.

This is what Gaffney was hoping for. Now maybe he can stop beating his head against the wall and looking mildly exasperated. Maybe soon reasonable people will have come to a reasonable accommodation.

Bill Handleman is an Asbury Park Press columnist. E-mail: handle@app.com and or tonygsports@aol.com

11 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Painting the picture of Pres. Gaffney as exasperated & tired of hitting his head against a brick wall may have done more damage than good. It will only encourage our opponents, who now may believe MU is about to throw in the towel if they stick to thier guns.

9:20 AM, January 14, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wonder how many of these 'good neighbors' would be complaining about traffic, noise, etc. from MU if they had a Div. I athlete in their family who was just given a free-ride to Monmouth?

9:58 AM, January 14, 2007  
Blogger Tony Graham said...

No...I don't interpret it that way at all.....I see it as MU has reached the last straw before the lawsuit.

11:22 AM, January 14, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The word will be NO what doesn't Gaffney get the N or the O ?

11:43 AM, January 14, 2007  
Blogger Tony Graham said...

And then the word will be LAWSUIT.


Gaffney is just trying to make a point to the world, before the resolution is adopted (if it is) Thursday ..that MU is doing all it can..within reason (that word again) to compromise..(and though he didn't say it - to show how unreasonable WLB is in the matter)

Even the local neighbor - Pagano - didn't seem to have a problem with the MAC as long as it doesn't turn into MSG ....

11:51 AM, January 14, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To be fair though, Tony, it was that same neighbor Pagones, who exaggerated (lied) about 'hours' of traffic after MU games, then gave us the line about 'cars parked on lawns' -- which apparently referred to football games, but hey, what the heck, when arguing against MU it doesn't have to be relevant to the MAC, does it? Just use the MAC as the convenient 'whipping boy' for all your woes with the school!

1:20 PM, January 14, 2007  
Blogger Tony Graham said...

I would think this situation is becoming an embarrasment to WLB. But does anyone in that town who has a say care?
Do they want to be dragged into court and spend more money on a case they will not win (well, maybe WLB lawyer (s) will do it for free.)

1:28 PM, January 14, 2007  
Blogger B_uzz said...

Well, if they go to the lawsuit route, I hope they go back to the previous proposals of larger seating capacity and more dates of high atendance. Their original plans are what they really wanted and so they should let the court decide if their needs are outlandish. They have been reducing their desires to appease the council and now all bets are off. This is what should happen since the council didn't like the compromises proposed. This would let the council know that they take the proposal as is or possibly risk losing the ground that they gained in the previous meetings. The lawsuit could gain all that Monmouth wanted, and actually I don't think that they should have given as many concessions to the council in the past meetings. Times change and progress shouldn't be stopped, just made acceptible to the parties involved. It shouldn't be a one-way street.

2:55 PM, January 14, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tony,

I agree with the last post. At the 1/25 board meeting let it be known the concessions are over, and if they don't take the latest offer MU goes to court and asks for EVERYTHING they did at first!

5:57 PM, January 14, 2007  
Blogger Tony Graham said...

I guess they appeal what was rejected. I don't know if they can or cannot go back to their original plans which were bargained by mutual agreement.


Now if I had a personal stake in this matter - which I don't though I do beleive it would be a plus for MU and WLB - I would pack the WLB meeting Thursday night with MAC supporters.

But hey, I am not suggesting or calling for any such action, that's merely my opinion.

6:06 PM, January 14, 2007  
Blogger Tony Graham said...

That's Thursday Jan 25th..just to review from Carol Gorga Williams' Press story that ran Saturday ....

The school will ask the board at its Jan. 25 meeting to reconsider its vote. The meeting
begins at 7:30 p.m. in Borough Hall, 965 Broadway, and Gaffney said the motion for
reconsideration, which is available for review in the borough clerk's office, is being made
now before the board memorializes, or formalizes, its Dec. 14 action.

6:10 PM, January 14, 2007  

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