By Chris Rotolo |RUMSON – In its current state, Piping Rock Park isn’t much to look at with tractors, steamrollers and construction materials piled on to what has been one of the borough’s most vibrant and active patches of open space.The site is currently under construction as the borough conducts a series of recreational improvements to the 4.3-acre parcel; it is due to reopen in spring 2019. But Thomas S. Rogers, Rumson municipal clerk and administrator, said that timeline was nearly disrupted last month when a 1,000-gallon heating oil storage tank was discovered.“It was a total surprise,” Rogers said in a Nov. 13 interview with The Two River Times. “But we acted quickly and responsibly and had it removed in a timely manner.”This potential snag in the process came when the park’s playground jungle gym was being removed. During that procedure, the contractor uncovered the concrete foundation for Peter’s Piping Rock, an old borough restaurant from the 1940s previously located on the site.Next to that foundation was the underground oil tank which still contained an estimated 400 gallons of oil, according to Rogers.Rogers said the borough hired an environmental engineer to oversee the safe removal of the tank and, upon inspection of the area, a small oil spill was discovered.“It was determined (the oil spill) either happened while they were filling the tank years ago or it might have been there from a prior tank,” Rogers said.Before the launch of Peter’s Piping Rock, the land was part of the estate of Rumson’s first mayor Frank McMahon. The tank could have been used to heat the furnace of a structure on the estate or the restaurant itself.“We dug out less than a cubic yard of soil and had it removed in a 55-gallon drum,” said Rogers, who added that all of the soil around the spill has been tested “and came back negative” for trace contamination.Construction on the site has continued as scheduled and Rogers said the project’s completion date is not in jeopardy.“If the weather cooperates, we’re expecting the tennis courts to be open before the end of the year,” Rogers said. “But there’s still some work to be done on the fields that will improve the quality and longevity of the grounds.”In September the borough began laying the groundwork for this renovated facility situated opposite Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School along Forrest Avenue by selectively trimming trees, removing existing park equipment and preparing to relocate the park’s 9/11 memorial to a more prominent position near the Carton Street entrance.When October came so did a completed plan for the scope of the work, which included a 250-foot radius baseball and softball field, with a patch of outfield turf that will double as a 180-by-330-foot multipurpose natural grass field, which can accommodate soccer, field hockey, lacrosse and football practice activities. The dirt diamond will be surrounded by a new backstop, team benches, spectator bleachers and an irrigation system for improved site drainage.The plan also included reconfigured parking lots along Carton Street and East River Road and additional parking stalls. New ADA compliant entry points and pathways and a modernized playground facility are also in the works for the 4.3-acre parcel.The pair of tennis courts on-site are being carried over from the park’s previous layout, even though the initial concept looked to have these courts removed due to a lack of use after the high school transitioned its teams to new facilities at Fair Haven Fields last year.By October’s end new concrete curbing and sidewalks had been installed along Forrest Avenue, which Rogers said eliminates the need for pedestrians to walk behind parked cars to gain entry to the park, “which is a major public safety improvement.”Rogers said an irrigation system is being installed in November, as is the new playground and a drainage system for that playground. Playground equipment, he said, will be arriving soon.This article was first published in the Nov. 15-21, 2018 print edition of The Two River Times.
In an interview about the Troiano matter, J.C. Lore, a Rutgers Law School professor, spoke of the importance of judiciary independence, even as he criticized the “ill-informed” comments Troiano made. Judges are living in a different era, he said, amid a “greater awareness and recognition” of rape and sexual assault and social media’s ability to “bring to light a situation like this pretty quickly.” A spokeswoman for the state judiciary declined to say whether Troiano might be reassigned. “We’re notcommenting at this time,”spokeswoman MaryAnnSpoto said in an email. At another point, thejudge said, “I still in mymind…distinguish betweena sexual assault and arape… [I]n my mind thereis a distinction.” State Sens. Vin Gopal (D-11) and Declan J. O’Scanlon Jr. (R-13) issued separate statements July 8 criticizing Judge James G. Troiano, who serves in the family division, about his remarks last year. “As with all cases, we are assessing our next steps, which will include discussions with the victim and her family,” said Christopher Swendeman, the prosecutor’s office spokesman, in an email. “He (the accused) can be tried as an adult,” he said. As for the case against G.M.C., the prosecutor’s office gave no indication this week when it might present the matter to a grand jury. In July 2018, Troianoruled against the MonmouthCounty Prosecutor’s Office,which wanted to waive up toadult court a then 16-year-old boy to face charges thathe raped a 16-year-old girl ata party in 2017. Troiano, a former mayor of Cedar Grove in Es- sex County, was appointed to the bench in 1992. He earned tenure, retired and was subsequently brought back to the bench on recall. Now 69, he is serving his latest two-year stint on recall, according to a record at the state judiciary website. By Philip Sean Curran On Tuesday, Assembly members Joann Downey (D-11) and Eric Houghtaling (D-11) also called for Troiano to immediately and permanently resign his position. “Judge Troiano’s comments are truly abhorrent and clearly highlight the fact that he needs to be re- moved immediately by the Supreme Court,” O’Scanlon said. “The Supreme Court has the ability to remove a judge for misconduct in office, or conduct evidencing unfitness for judicial office. G.M.C.’s attorney, Mitchell J. Ansell, could not be reached for comment July 9. O’Scanlon issued a similar call for the judge to step down, also noting that the state’s highest court can take action. “The Monmouth County Sheriff’s Office does not discuss security issues regarding Superior Court judges at the Monmouth County courthouse,” he said in a statement July 9. “However, we take any threat against a judge seriously and address and coordinate with the New Jersey State Police and the Administrative Office of the Courts, accordingly.” Published reports this week said Troiano has been facing threats in the wake of news accounts about his remarks. But the prosecutor’s office, asked if it was investigating threats against the judge, said that as a practice it does not confirm or deny the existence of investigations. Lawmakers from Monmouth County said this week they want a Superior Court judge sitting in Freehold off the bench after his “despicable” comments during a rape case that left critics demanding he resign. In his remarks, the judge noted the boy, identified as G.M.C. in court documents, “comes from a good family who put him into an excellent school where he was doing extremely well.” “Judge Troiano must resign, effective immediately, from any judicial posts he still holds – just based on his commentary and word-for-word thought process by his direct quotes,” Gopal said in a statement. “Situations like these destabilize the public’s trust in our judicial institutions. His comments regarding the accused ‘coming from a good family’ are disgraceful.” Likewise, Monmouth County Sheriff Shaun Golden declined this week to say if his office would be adding more officers to Troiano’s courtroom. Troiano could not be reached for comment July 9. No one answered the phone in his chambers in the Freehold courthouse. Those and other comments were included in a 14-page decision by a two-judge state appeals court which reversed Troiano’s ruling June 14 and remanded the case to Monmouth County. But Troiano’s remarks have prompted a backlash. “He is clearly a candidate for not just college but probably for a good college,” the judge said. “His scores for college entry were very high.” Judge Troiano’s disturbing and biased comments from the bench are a glaringly obvious display of his unfitness for judicial office.”