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News from Monmouth County, New Jersey

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    Gov. Phil Murphy on Friday discussed allegations made by former players about dismal living and working conditions on Sky Blue FC. Watch video

    The "buck stops with me" and changes are underway. 

    That was the message Gov. Phil Murphy delivered Friday as he discussed for the first time allegations made by former players about dismal living and working conditions on the New Jersey professional women's soccer team he owns.

    The situation at Sky Blue FC came to light this week in a pair of reports by soccer news websites, and Murphy called the conditions "unacceptable."

    "At the end of the day, the buck stops with me and my fellow owner," said Murphy, who co-owns the team with Steven Temares, the CEO of Bed, Bath & Beyond.

    "We take this very seriously. It's not tolerable. It will not go on."

    Life on soccer club owned by Gov. Murphy is allegedly sad and bleak

    The reports by The Equalizer and Once A Metro, published Tuesday, cite interviews with former players and a former coach who described how Sky Blue players have been set up to live in shack-like homes, play in facilities without showers, and practice in dirty clothes because of a lack of laundry service, among other complaints. 

    A former player who spoke on the condition of anonymity confirmed the club's conditions to NJ Advance Media on Wednesday.

    Murphy said Friday that in some of those cases, the issues are "in the past" and have already been "corrected."

    "In other cases, it's in the process of being corrected and was already," the governor said after an unrelated news conference in Long Branch. "In some cases, we still have wood to chop."

    "I'm proud of our intentions," added Murphy, an avid soccer fan and multimillionaire former Wall Street executive who has owned the team since its inception in 2009. "I'm proud of why we're doing this and why we continue to do it. But I'm not proud of those stories."

    Murphy said Temares already has held a "very constructive meeting" with representatives of the players.

    "We've clearly had very explicit, specific conversations with our management team, both on and off the field," the governor said. "We're having a miserable year on the field, which I hope we'll get better at. But there's no excuse whatsoever to not correct the things off the field."

    Murphy has said he is not involved with the day-to-day operations of Sky Blue, which is winless so far this season. That falls to Temares. 

    But Murphy is the majority owner of the club, which is based in Tinton Falls and plays its home games at Yurcak Field at Rutgers University in Piscataway. 

    Murphy released a statement Wednesday night saying the players "deserve better" and that he's requiring management to "improve" the conditions. But Friday was the first time he answered questions about the issue.

    Murphy explained that he and his wife, First Lady Tammy Murphy, bought the team because there was no "top-flight" professional women's soccer league in the U.S., despite successful national team.

    "We got in there early because we didn't think that was right," he said. "We knew we wouldn't make any money ever. In fact, we've lost a ton of money on this. But that was never the reason we were in this. It was to create the best women's professional league in the world."

    Tax returns show Murphy has lost about $5 million on the club over the years, including about $523,000 in 2016.

    Brent Johnson may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @johnsb01. Find Politics on Facebook.


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    Some of the lifers are eligible for parole. Here what got them locked up

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    A trauma doc at the Jersey Shore walks us through the injuries he sees the most -- and how to avoid them.

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    N.J. home makeover is a regular feature on that showcases designer, contractor and DIY renovations, large and small.

    N.J. home makeover is a regular feature on that showcases designer, contractor and DIY renovations, large and small. To submit your renovation for consideration, email with your full name, email address, phone number and town/city. Attach "before" and "after" photos of what you renovated.

    Like most homeowners, Ellen Martin wanted to update her Red Bank home so it would be a lovely and comfortable place.

    But as an artist and curator of the Oyster Point Gallery in Red Bank, she also wanted her redesigned living room and the adjacent den to be a suitable backdrop for her artwork.

    "The art will usually go up before the furniture goes in," says Martin, for whom displaying art goes beyond adding color or interesting details to a room.

    "Art is essential to my life, and it's very important to me to have it displayed in a way that adds to my general calmness in life," she said.

    Creating a sense of calm also was at the core of her desire to renovate her home of five years.

    "I want to breathe a sigh of relief every time I walk into my house," she said.

    But she was never able to accomplish that on her own.

    "Wherever I lived, I found that I was constantly moving my furniture around to find an ideal living arrangement," Martin said. "I could never get it to feel right. Everything was never in the right place. Finally, I decided that I wanted a place where I could feel completely comfortable and that I would probably need professional help to achieve that."

    Her choice of a professional was based on a single photo. It was a living room shown in a local newspaper advertisement, and it resonated with Martin. It was quiet, elegant, updated and simple. Much like Martin's own work, the room in the photo was tonal, with subtle variations of one or two colors. That was the aesthetic she envisioned for her home, so she hired Jana Manning, the interior designer behind the room.

    The process that led to her desired home design was not what she had expected, however.

    Homeowners who are prepared to renovate a space will often have a file with photos of rooms or particular decorative or design features that appeal to them. Martin had such a file.

    "She didn't even look at it," Martin said of her first meeting with Manning. "She handed me what was about a 10-inch pile of pictures and asked me to go through them and pick out what I liked. At the end of the process, my pile contained pictures that were nothing like those in the notebook I had dutifully been compiling for years. My taste had drastically changed. It was an enlightening process."

    Manning says it wasn't so much that Martin's taste had changed, but that the photos she was given showed rooms where the focus was on the environment rather than the furnishings.

    "I wanted her to see examples of spaces that could deliver for her the physiological, mental and emotional impact that she was looking for," Manning said. "Where she said she wanted her envvironment to provide her with a sense of calm and mental clarity, the photos she had didn't accomplish that. They had well-selected elements that placed the overall environment in a secondary role."

    Manning says her goal was to mesh Martin's skill as a curator with "the overall sense of well-being that a fully developed environment can deliver."

    To accomplish that, some structural changes were made. The den had been a porch area enclosed by previous owners. The resulting room still had the door that once opened to the outside. Manning had it replaced with pocket doors that would become a focal point in the updated room. A doorway between the kitchen and the living room also was moved and enlarged.

    "We were able to allign the door opening with the windows and the furniture to create a subliminal feeling of order," Manning said.

    Manning used order in the room's architectural features to create a calming design, and she also worked with color. At least six different grays complement the original pale-brick fireplace in the living room.

    "We chose many shades so that it all stayed harmonious and so that some elements became enmphasized but other elements just receded and harmonized," she said.

    Gray also is used in the den.

    "We added a lot of emphasis to the pocket doors," Manning said. Attention is drawn to the doors' design with a dark gray paint.

    "Where we had the strong contrast, that element is going to stand out more," she explained. "It created a very interesting and strong focal point at the end of the room."

    Martin, a painter-turned-photographer is also director of Jersey Artist Registry, an online gallery with links to the work of established and emerging New Jersey painters, photographers and sculptors.

    Martin considers Manning an artist working in another medium, and she says her home design changes have had the desired effect.

    "I also love that we tore down some very dated-looking built-in shelves in the living room so that I could really enjoy and share my art with visitors," she said. "In my main rooms, the living room and den, what I show is a very curated collection."

    Additionally, one bedroom of her three-bedroom, three-bathroom house serves as a studio and personal gallery space.

    "It's really white walls with a lot of art," Martin said. "Probably about 15 or 20 pieces are shown."

    The living room display shelving Martin lost was gained in the den where handmade bookcases flank the entry to the living room.

    "It feels cozy to have all of my books and artifacts nearby," Martin said. "The den is more informal but still comfortable and very pulled together. It's where I watch TV or just hang out."

    Manning says the den has a more enegetic color scheme because it's more casuual.

    "We're not always looking to have our pulse lowered and to slow our breath," she said. "We also want spaces that are fun to hang out in, where we feel more gregarious."

    In all, the project took a little more than two years to complete and cost about $110,000, including the design, construction, materials, furnishings and appliances used to update the living room, den, kitchen and entry of the 1,910-square-foot house.

    "We tried to make everything special," Manning said. "We did not race through the project. We made sure that what we were choosing were timeless things that Ellen would enjoy for the long haul."

    What she renovated

    The living room, den, entry and kitchen of a three-bedroom, three bathroom ranch-style house in Red Bank

    Who did the work? 

    Jana Manning redesigned areas of the house, and the homeowner hired various contractors to complete the work.

    How long it took

    Two years and two months. "It was completely worth it," Martin says.

    What she spent

    About $110,000

    Where she splurged

    Moving door openings, creating a new lighting design and changing the flooring throughout. As for furnishings, she splurged with many of the items in the living room: the four grey chairs, the wall sconces, the lighting, the window coverings, the flooring and the rug. She also had custom-made bookshelves in the den and a custom-made coffee table in the living room. 

    Where she saved

    "In the den, we went with less expensive wall coverings, and some furniture from mass merchandisers such as Crate and Barrel," Martin said. The sofa was also purchased there. "We were able to get a great Mitchell Gold sofa on sale."

    What she likes most

    "I absolutely love the living room because it's a serene room where I can read, work, nap and entertain up to 20 guests comfortably," Martin said.

    What she'd have done differently?

    "Without mentioning names, I would pick a contractor with higher standards."

    Kimberly L. Jackson may be reached at Find Entertainment on Facebook.

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    From tax evasion charges to a fake bomb threat, celebrities from the Garden State and those passing through it have wound up in all types of trouble with the law

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    It takes special training -- and a mental toughness -- to impersonate children or child traffickers in these online stings, investigators say

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    Each of New Jersey's 21 counties is governed by a board of chosen freeholders. The number of members on the boards vary from three to nine.

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    Pets throughout the state await adoption from shelters and rescues.

    If you're interested in helping homeless animals but aren't able to adopt one, there are a number of other ways you can be of assistance.

    Realistically, not everyone can adopt. People who live in apartments or developments that have no-pets policies fall into that category, as do people with allergies or disabilities that will not allow them to care for pets of their own. Here are some suggestions for ways people who want to help can participate in caring for homeless animals.

    * Help out at a local shelter. It's not glamorous work by any means, but it's vital and will be very much appreciated. You can do anything from help walk dogs to bottle feed kittens, help clean kennels or cat's cages or even help with bathing and grooming. Contact your local shelter to find out their policies regarding volunteers.

    * If you're handy, you can lend a hand in many ways. Shelters usually need repairs of many kinds, so fixer-uppers can help out like that. If you sew, quilt or crochet, you can make blankets for your local shelter.

    * Help out at an adoption event. Many shelters and rescue groups participate in local events by hosting a table with pets available for adoption. They also hold these program at malls, pet supply stores and banks, and can always use a helping hand.

    * For galleries like this one and for online adoptions sites, often a shelter or rescue group doesn't have the time or equipment to shoot good photos of their adoptable pets. Something as simple as making yourself available to shoot and provide digital files of pet photos can be a big help.

    * Donate. It doesn't have to be money; shelters need cleaning supplies, pet food, toys for the animals and often even things we don't think twice about getting rid of like old towels and newspapers. Every little bit helps.

    If you don't know where your local animal shelter or rescue group is, a quick online search will reveal a number of results. It doesn't take a lot of time or effort to get involved but it provides immeasurable assistance.

    Greg Hatala may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @GregHatala. Find Greg Hatala on Facebook.

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    One-third of 26,000 registered medical marijuana users in New Jersey qualified for the program because of chronic pain or anxiety.

    Are you interested in the N.J. cannabis industry? Subscribe here for exclusive insider information from NJ Cannabis Insider

    Adding chronic pain and anxiety to the list of qualifying conditions has done more than any other change by Gov. Phil Murphy to expand New Jersey's medicinal marijuana program, according to health department data.

    Of the roughly 11,000 patients who have joined since the beginning of the Murphy Administration, 7,700 have one of the new conditions added on March 26, state Health Department spokeswoman Donna Leusner said. Some patients have more than one qualifying condition.

    Put another way, one-third of 26,000 registered medical marijuana users in New Jersey qualified for the program because of chronic pain or anxiety.

    N.J.'s medical marijuana program to double in size as supply crisis grows

    Chronic musculoskeletal pain (fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, and lupus, for instance) and chronic pain of visceral origin (think irritable bowel syndrome and endometriosis, among others) accounted for 47 percent and 6 percent, respectively, of the new cases, Leusner said.

    Anxiety accounted for another 40 percent of the newly qualifying patients, she said.

    Migraines accounted for 9 percent of the increase and Tourette's Syndrome 0.5 percent, she said.

    Dipan Patel, a physician and partner at Garden State Pain Control, a practice in central and north Jersey, said half of the 200 patients they've referred to the program qualified under the expanded chronic pain categories.

    "Our focus has been on reducing opiates," Patel said. "It's been successful. Our patients are a lot happier."

    Bob Grife, a pain management and holistic medicine physician in Ventnor said he became a participating doctor in the program in December and already has recommended 300 patients.

    "It's most effective (treating) anxiety. Adding anxiety to the list of approved diagnoses was a good idea," said Grife, who has operated his Comprehensive Wellness practice for 14 years.

    Cannabis "is not a panacea," but it's a good alternative to Benzodazepines, or benzos,  for the treatment of anxiety, with fewer side effects, he said. "When it's part of a comprehensive wellness program, so far, it has been amazing."

    Murphy also has made challenging the stigma surrounding cannabis to attract more physicians to the program a priority. There are 664 participating physicians, 123 more since late March, Leusner said.

    Both doctors joined the program before Murphy took office, and said they didn't need convincing. They also agree the stigma, while still present, is starting to wane.

    New York University Langone Medical Center, where Patel completed a fellowship in 2016, "was supportive of the use of medical cannabis."

    Ask Alexa

    Grife said he has seen "no backlash," from making cannabis a central part of his practice. "I get a lot of referrals. Nobody has given me any difficulty."

    If doctors listen to their patients, they will want to explore cannabis, Grife said.

    "A lot of people who qualify for it are already doing it," he added. "Why not give them the choice of doing it safely?"

    A version of this report first appeared in N.J. Cannabis Insider.

    Are you interested in the N.J. cannabis industry? Subscribe here for exclusive insider information from NJ Cannabis Insider

    Susan K. Livio may be reached at Follow her on Twitter @SusanKLivio. Find Politics on Facebook.

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    Photos on social media appeared to show an armored vehicle behind police lines.

    No one was hurt and no arrests were made after an hours-long police standoff with a man with a gun ended peacefully in Manasquan on Sunday night, authorities said. 

    A spokesman for the Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office described the man to NJ Advance Media as an "armed suspect in crisis," and added that the county's emergency response team was involved.   

    9-hour standoff ends as man who held family member hostage surrenders, cops say

    Police closed First Avenue between Main Street and Riddle Way and told people to avoid the area in a note posted on Twitter at 7:33 p.m. At 9:57 p.m., borough officials said police activity had been cleared and all areas were re-opened. 

    Video and photos posted on social media show a large police presence, including a SWAT team. A drone with green and red lights was seen flying over a home, according to

    One video shows authorities leaving the scene at around 10 p.m. while another shows an ambulance driving away from the area. 

    Manasquan police didn't respond to a request for additional information. 

    Jeff Goldman may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @JeffSGoldman. Find on Facebook.



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    In the second trip report in our search for N.J.'s best hot dog joint, we'll visit several hot dog legends, and a hot dog truck run by two ex-cops in front of an adult novelty store.

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    Volunteers bagged plastic lids, cup, straws, bottles and bottlecaps Sunday in Deal

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    As if the highways in New Jersey couldn't get any worse -- two Central Jersey rest stops will be closing after Labor Day for planned renovations.

    As if the highways in New Jersey couldn't get any worse -- two Central Jersey rest stops will be closing after Labor Day for planned renovations.

    Starting after Sept. 3, the Thomas Edison service area on the Turnpike in Woodbridge and the Monmouth service area in Wall on the Parkway will be closed for major improvements, new facilities and restaurants, Turnpike Authority spokesman Thomas Feeney said.

    Both plazas will be closed entirely until they reopen for Memorial Day 2019 -- which means no restrooms or fuel facilities, Feeney said.

    Though there has been no decision yet on what stores will be offered at the revamped facilities, drivers can peek into the new Grover Cleveland building on the Turnpike or the Atlantic service area on the Parkway for a hint at what the new buildings could include, officials said.

    This 'summer of hell' project could torture commuters for years

    The renovations of 16 rest areas in the Garden State, announced by former Gov. Chris Christie in Aug. 2017, will cost $250 million, but at no cost to taxpayers. HMSHost and Sunoco will fund the projects, in exchange for new contracts to keep operating the food and fuel concessions there for the next 25 years, Feeney explained.

    But the temporary closings will also cost more than 280 HMSHost employees their jobs, company spokesperson Shayna Iglesias confirmed.

    Managers will be temporarily relocated, and the Maryland-based company will relocate other hourly associates to various mall and airports around the state, she said. 

    When the service areas reopen around Memorial Day 2019, all associates will be eligible for rehire, Iglesias noted.

    "We intend to create more job opportunities in the region with an increase in our overall workforce," she added.

    The Thomas Edison rest area, one of the busiest and biggest facilities, will reopen a new facility about the same size in 2019, and cost roughly $14.9 million, officials said. 

    Monmouth service area, the first rest stop on the Parkway to be replaced, will cost roughly $11.45 million.

    Sophie Nieto-Munoz may be reached at Follow her at @snietomunoz. Find on Facebook.

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    According to its Trulia listing, the taxes are estimated at about $21,552.

    In this week's "On the market" property, we feature a home in Fair Haven with 3,634 square feet of living space. 

    The home is listed for $1,299,000. According to its Trulia listing, the taxes are estimated at about $21,552. 

    The home features 6 bedrooms and 4 bathrooms.

    The median sale price for homes in the area is $955,000.

    Alexis Johnson may be reached at Follow her on Twitter @alexisjreports. Find on Facebook.

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    Here's how some of the towns who already have smoking bans have been handling it.

    While banning smoking on New Jersey beaches was relatively uncontroversial after Gov. Chris Christie left office, the new law signed by his successor last week did leave at least one key question unanswered: Who will enforce it?

    The answer, according to an informal survey of shore towns with bans already in place? Practically nobody. That's because beach smoking bans are almost universally accepted by bathers once they're aware of them, officials of those towns say.

    "Most people, once you tell them, they oblige," said Mayor Anthony Vaz of Seaside Heights, a town once made infamous -- fairly or otherwise -- for defiance of local laws against public drinking, fighting and other unhealthy behavior by the MTV reality series, "Jersey Shore."

    Like Vaz, Municipal Clerk Daina Dale of Harvey Cedars said she could not recall a single summons having been issued under her borough's beach smoking ban, which was adopted in 2013.

    Ship Bottom is now in its second summer with a smoking ban in place and the level of compliance is higher than the tide at sunset. As for the number of summonses issued under the ban, Borough Clerk Kathleen Wells said, "I have not heard of any being issued."

    In those and other shore towns, the smoking bans are posted publicly on the beach or boardwalk or on their municipal website. For smokers who don't notice or for whatever reason try to carry a pack or a lit cigarette onto the beach, municipal employees selling or checking for beach tags are trained to politely point out the prohibition.

    In Beach Haven, the borough's web site warns bathers there is "No Smoking of any kind on Beach Haven beaches." For those unaware of the rule, Deputy Clerk Kristy Davis said borough lifeguards routinely point it out, protecting bathers not only from rip tides, but also first- and second-hand smoke.

    As in other towns, Davis said lifeguards cannot issue summonses, and in the rare instance that that official action is in order, the police are called.  

    New Jersey's new ban, which takes effect in January, is part of a broader statewide anti-smoking measure, the New Jersey Smoke-Free Air Act, that expands a 2005 ban on smoking in enclosed public areas and workplaces to include public parks and beaches. It was signed into law Friday by Gov. Phil Murphy, who was among supporters who insist it will protect people's health, the environment, the beauty of New Jersey's parks and beaches, and the state's tourism industry.

    Fines for violators rise from $250 for a first offense, to $500 for a second, to $1,000 each for third and subsequent offenses.

    The beach smoking ban, endorsed by health experts and environmentalists, was one measure on which Murphy and the powerful state Senate president, Sen. Steve Sweeney (D-District 3), were squarely in agreement. Sweeney sponsored the measure, which was had been approved previously but vetoed by Christie, who said the issue should be left up to individual municipalities.

    The widespread acceptance of local smoking bans reported by municipal officials was consistent with results of a Fairleigh Dickinson University poll in June, which found that 75 percent of respondents supported a statewide ban.

    Former Belmar Mayor Matt Doherty, who now heads the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority in Atlantic City, said he was told by commercial constituents that his borough's ban was good for business.

    Officials say even police officers who happen to spot a beach smoker will inform him or her of the ban and ask them to put out their cigarette or cigar before resorting to a summons.

    In the event that a bather refuses to comply, becomes belligerent or later is seen trying to light up surreptitiously, the officer already on hand or one who is called in may then issue a summons.   

    "Typically, that's how it kind of works here in Seaside Park," said Borough Administrator Sandy Rice. "It's a cooperative effort between our lifeguards, our beach tag officers and our police."

    But Rice said actual summonses are rare.

    "Most people will comply," she said.

    Steve Strunsky may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @SteveStrunsky. Find on Facebook

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    Todd Ritter was a 22-year Piscataway police officer Watch video

    A former police officer who admitted to hitting a handcuffed suspect in a patrol car and trying to cover it up was sentenced to six months probation on Monday.

    Those charges against Todd Ritter ended his 22-year career as an officer in Piscataway. He was suspended without pay in February upon being charged.

    About two weeks before, 19-year-old Isiah Benbow was thrashing in the backseat of Ritter's cruiser kicking the glass between the front and back seats, yelling at and eventually threatening Ritter. The incident was captured on police video.

    "I'm gonna break it," Benbow yells about the glass partition. "... Why you gotta lie? ... I'm gonna kill all you all (expletive), watch!"

    Ritter then gets out of the car, opens the back door and punches Benbow in the face.

    He later admitted falsifying a report to indicate that Benbow kicked him in the groin.

    Ask Alexa

    Ritter, a 54-year-old resident of Millstone, Monmouth County pleaded guilty to simple assault in May and agreed to forfeit public employment.

    Judge Joseph Rea, when sentencing Ritter in Superior Court in New Brunswick said he received 33 letters of support for the ex-officer, according to Rea said he could have given Ritter between one and five years probation, but said six months was enough, according to the report.

    "All of us to varying degrees make mistakes. It's very important for you to understand this is a lapse. This does not make you a bad person. Don't forget that," Rea said, the news site reported.

    Ritter's wife also testified, as did two crime victims whom Ritter had helped during his career.

    Ritter joined the force in 1996 and had a salary of $120,948 before he was suspended.

    This article contains information from The Associated Press.

    Joe Brandt can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @JBrandt_NJ. Find on Facebook.

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    This is the third of five trip reports in our search for N.J.'s best hot dog joint.

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    It is KRE Group's fifth purchase of a garden-style apartment property in less than three years.

    The not-as-high-profile side of the Kushner family continues to build their real estate portfolio through garden-style apartment properties, as they announced their fifth such acquisition in less than three years Tuesday with the purchase of a 304-unit apartment complex in Atlantic Highlands for $56 million.

    Kushner Real Estate Group bought the 36-acre property, which consists of one- to three-bedroom units, as well as a swimming pool, tennis courts and playground, in partnership with Verde Capital.

    Formerly known as Thousand Oaks Village, the property just off Route 36 will now be called Atlantic Pointe, according to a news release.

    Even as KRE Group is in the midst of developing some of the state's most ambitious, high-density projects, the real estate investment and management company has steadily put an emphasis on acquiring garden-style apartments within the radius of Manhattan with the intent on renovating the units and upgrading the properties' amenities.

    In less than three years, KRE Group has invested $350 million and acquired more than 1,800 rental units throughout New Jersey under this strategy. The other four properties are in Piscataway, Springfield and Plainsboro, where they own two properties.

    Jonathan Kushner, president of KRE Group, previously told NJ Advance Media they are primarily "feeding off the workforce in New York City."

    "Whether it is suburbs or urban, we like the business of owning apartments in New Jersey," he said.

    In the communities where they have acquired the properties, there are often strict zoning and building ordinances that prevent new multifamily housing from coming to the market.

    "The constraints on building a new apartment supply create a situation where the best way to create 'new' apartments is to transform old product, even from the 1960s or 1970s, into apartments with the new finishes, layouts and amenities that today's renters want," Darin Raiken, KRE Group's director of acquisitions, said last summer.

    Screen Shot 2018-07-24 at 12.04.26 PM.pngInside the a garden-style apartment in Plainsboro where KRE Group renovated the units after purchasing the property. Pictured is the original kitchen, left, and the renovated one. (Courtesy KRE Group)

    Raiken said the turnover in these apartments is very high throughout the state, so when a tenant leaves, KRE will renovate each unit on a one-by-one basis, as well as upgrading and adding amenities to the property.

    "No tenants have said, 'Please stop making our community better,'" Kushner said recently.

    While the two sides of the Kushner family are, as Jon said,  "fractured," they have had similar strategies in their approach to the New Jersey real estate market in recent years.

    Since 2012, Kushner Companies, whose former chief executive officer Jared Kushner stepped aside to serve in his father-in-law's White House administration, has purchased four apartment complexes.

    Kushner Companies and KRE Group are also the biggest investors in Journal Square, a transit-oriented neighborhood in Jersey City.

    KRE Group is the developer behind a three-tower project that will consist of 1,838 luxury rental apartments, while Kushner Companies has battled Jersey City and its administration over the right to build a two-tower project that has 1,512 units in Journal Square after they purchased a vacant lot for $27 million in 2014.

    Joe Atmonavage may be reached at jatmonavage@njadvancemedia.comFind on Facebook. 

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    Weather forecasters say New Jersey will get scattered showers and thunderstorms, with heavier rain moving in Tuesday night and Wednesday.

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    An annoying jughandle, an unnecessary u-turn and other complications at Exit 109 on the Garden State Parkway will be fixed for $10 million.

    A long awaited $10 million plan to make over a tough-to-navigate Garden State Parkway interchange got a green light on Tuesday.

    NJ Turnpike officials approved awarding a $10.89 million construction contract to Earle Asphalt Company to rebuild Exit 109 in Middletown where the Parkway meets Newman Springs Road.

    This is what drivers are getting for their toll money.

    The work eliminates an annoying turn, where drivers traveling to the Parkway north from Newman Springs Road now have to take a jughandle, make a left on Newman Springs Road west and travel to the Parkway on-ramp.

    Drivers will now be able to kiss that jughandle and u-turn goodbye. Instead, they'll get a ramp with a direct access over a new bridge to the Parkway North.

    An existing exit ramp for Middletown and Red Bank from the Parkway North that frequently backs up during commuting hours is also being changed to keep traffic moving. 

    That ramp will be divided and a new intersection will be created at Schultz Drive West to allow traffic from the Parkway to make a left on Newman Springs Road.

    Construction will start in a few months and work is scheduled to be completed by spring 2020, said Thomas Feeney, a Turnpike Authority spokesman.

    Big 2018 Parkway, Turnpike projects

    Construction will not require long-term lane closures or complicated lane shifts on the Parkway or on Newman Springs Road, because most of the work takes place off the road, he said.

    The original $60 million plan was put on a road diet late last year to stretch the New Jersey Turnpike Authority's $7 billion 10-year capital plan that ends this year.

    That plan was funded by the toll increase approved in 2008 and financed mega-projects such as widening the Turnpike between Exits 6 and 9 and the Parkway through Monmouth, Ocean and Atlantic Counties. 

    Larry Higgs may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @commutinglarry. Find on Facebook.



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