2006-01-05 / Front Page

Lichtenstein selected as Lakewood mayor for '06

BY JOYCE BLAY Staff Writer

Lichtenstein selected as Lakewood mayor for ’06
BY JOYCE BLAY
Staff Writer

LAKEWOOD — Revitalizing Lakewood’s downtown will be the focus of Meir Lichtenstein, who on Jan. 1 was selected by his fellow Township Committee members to serve as mayor in 2006.

Committeeman Raymond Coles will serve as deputy mayor.

Lichtenstein spoke with the Tri-Town News on Jan. 2. He said he will seek a balance in addressing the concerns of merchants, customers and visitors to the downtown area while also ensuring the rights of Lakewood’s day laborer work force, some of whom he said were mistreated or not paid for the work they performed.

Lichtenstein said he has instructed the township attorney and manager to review all municipal and state laws that govern acts of public drinking, loitering, littering, graffiti and property damage, public lewdness and harassment, and inappropriate conduct.

The issue of anti-loitering laws was discussed at a committee meeting in 2004. At that time, Township Attorney Steven Secare said anti-loitering laws were a violation of a person’s constitutional right to congregate.

Coles asked for public empathy with day laborers — many of whom are immigrants and some of whom are in the United States illegally — rather than condemnation of behavior arising from cultural differences.

“I don’t want us to lose sight of the fact that these issues downtown involve people, people who have less than any of us in town,” he said. “In our quest to clean up the downtown, I don’t want us to lose sight of the fact that these are human beings.”

In addition to the issue of day laborers, Lakewood’s governing body may also be focusing on improvement of the town’s largest businesses, which are also in the Urban Enterprise Zone (UEZ).

As last year’s liaison to the board of the Lakewood Development Corporation (LDC), which oversees the UEZ, Lichtenstein confirmed recently that Rabbi Aaron Kotler of Lakewood’s Beth Medrash Govoha rabbinical college had made a presentation to members and a request for funding of a combination medical center and business incubator to be located in the Jamesway shopping center on Route 9 north.

Lichtenstein said he would not be a member on the LDC board this year. His replacement is Committeeman Charles Cunliffe.

Cunliffe said he would continue to push for Lichtenstein’s initiative to improve the area.

“There’s nothing that hurts the community more than to have the north and south ends of town sitting there in a state of disrepair,” Cunliffe said Monday, referring to the Jamesway and Seagull Square shopping centers. “Before you know it, [those properties] can really [deteriorate]. They’re both on the Route 9 corridor. I’d like to see us work with federal and state agencies to revitalize both areas.”

The former Jamesway is Lakewood’s largest shopping center and Seagull Square is its second largest. Seagull Square was sold to a new ownership group in early 2005. Manager Simcha Shain said at the time that the shopping center was being assessed in order to determine how to make it financially successful. He said then that plans could include turning the shopping center into a medical park.

However, Walgreen’s, a pharmacy, and Community Surgical, two businesses currently in Seagull Square, will shortly move to a new facility nearing completion on Route 9 in neighboring Toms River, according to signs posted at the new shopping center in Toms River.

Shain did not return several calls this week.

Despite the pending departure of medical businesses from Seagull Square, Elihu Weinstein, the shopping center’s owner, remained upbeat about its future when he was interviewed on Dec. 18.

“We feel there’s a great opportunity and we always had a plan to do something great with the shopping center,” he said.

Weinstein said he would call back with an announcement of a change that could herald the improvement of Seagull Square, which has several vacancies. He had not called back as of this week.

In December, Lichtenstein was asked why the LDC had not suggested that the medical center being proposed at the Jamesway shopping center instead be sited in Seagull Square, since that location was apparently being assessed for conversion to a medical park.

Lichtenstein did not directly respond to the question.

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