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Titles Don't Make Leaders, Actions Do.

Titles Don't Make Leaders, Actions Do.
By Amy Sara Cores

On May 9, 2017, we went to the CAFRA hearing regarding the development of 1800 homes on Eagle Ridge Golf Course in Lakewood. My assistant and I handed out campaign cards and greeted the members of the community that were primarily coming to express their opposition to the project. Many of those people were our senior citizens. They greeted us warmly and smiled. Many of them asked me for my help to stop the project and I asked them in turn for their vote to be in a position to help them after the election in November.

What was striking was that there were more than a thousand people in attendance. The development of Lakewood has gotten to the point where the town is on the verge of self-destruction. There is such a stark divide in the residents’ view of how Lakewood should grow that it conjures up the image of the trenches of WWI. Both sides are fixed in their views, unable to cross no-man’s land and bridge the gap. On one side is the large Hassidic community and the large real estate developers. On the other side, is the senior community and other residents. Anyone who criticizes the Hassidic community is labeled anti-Semitic.

Let me be very clear. Identifying the problems in Lakewood is not an attack on Judaism or the Hassidic community. As a Jew growing up in the south I know what it feels like to be attacked in that way. This is about rapid over development that is causing such tension in the community that it is being expressed in term of hate, rather than in terms of solutions.

Something has to be done.

We have a company, GDMS Holdings, LLC who has purchased the Golf Course and some immediately adjacent properties. GDMS now wants to overtake the Kokes Brothers as the largest developer in Lakewood. How much more can Lakewood stand? Last year, Lakewood approved 501 single-family homes and duplexes. This project alone is four times that.

This week over a 100 teachers were fired from the public schools. The State recently bailed out the school district. The streets cannot handle the volume of traffic. The potential revenue from taxes is being eroded as many ‘residences’ are re-zoned as tax-exempt places of worship. Funds are being diverted from the public schools to pay for private schools. The town cannot withstand this continued rapid development. From 2000 to 2010 Lakewood’s population grew from approximately 60,000 to 93,000 (34%). Lakewood went from being the 22nd most populous municipality in the state to the 7th in 2010.

So with the problems so focused on growth, roads, schools, children, I had to ask myself why there were so many seniors? There were literally seniors being bused in to attend the meeting. The answer is simple, they chose to live in these quiet retirement communities, where the property taxes were lower, but they wanted to remain in the great State of New Jersey. Now, developers like the Kokes Brothers and GDMS Holdings are seeking to buy up these larger plots of land and convert them for other uses.

The seniors want to stay near their children and grandchildren in NJ. They do not want to be forced from their homes. And, they want to make sure that their tax dollars benefit the entire community. They also want to ensure that their pensions and government benefits are protected, but that is for another editorial comment.
What can be done? The first thing to do seems much simpler than you may think. Vote. Vote out all of the current leaders. From the members of the school board, to the town council, to the state legislators, to the state senator. Vote them all out. Not only have they done nothing to fix the problem, they have in fact helped to create the problem. Vote them out.

But when you do, replace them with candidates that are going to work to fix the problems by focusing on all of the citizens. Right now there is a large special interest group in Lakewood. They vote. They vote as a block. They put up and support candidates for office who support the policies and changes that the special interest group, the Kokes Brothers, and now apparently GDMS Holdings want to affect. Senator Singer has not expressed any significant opposition to this project. Why would he? He received income from the Kokes Organization and uses a residence owned by GDMS Holdings to maintain a “residence” in the district. In other words, he is in the pocket of the largest developers in Lakewood. Yet he sold his home and moved to Island Heights a few years ago.

Not only do many of the residents in Lakewood want a moratorium on the rapid over-development, but so do the residents of the surrounding towns. The rural landscape of southern Monmouth and Northern Ocean Counties is threatened. We need to form our own special interest group in LD30 focused on ensuring that the growth rate in our communities is supported by the infrastructure. We need to ensure that our public schools are properly funded and supported. We need public school funds to be used for public schools before a single dollar is used for private schools. We need to ensure that public dollars are not being deferred for private improper uses.

If you have not figured it out, I am running against Robert Singer in this year’s senate race. It is time to replace Singer. He has long ago stopped serving the interests of our district. We need to have representatives at all levels of government who are focused on serving the people, not themselves. We need to have public servants who have a real stake in the community that they serve.



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