Victoria Renner, 50, a Republican candidate for the Belmar Borough Council claims that Bochrim at Mesivta Kesser Torah – which is near her street – are loud and dirty, that the school itself has outgrown the neighborhood and that the council should do something about it.
Renner addressed the council during a sometimes heated exchange Wednesday night.
On Thursday, Mayor Kenneth E. Pringle, a Democrat, said that Mesivta Keser Torah School on 11th Avenue near D Street has been a fixture in Belmar in some form or another since about the 1920s. (The Yeshiva, is part of the Congregation Sons of Israel.)
“We’ve been through this over and over again with Mrs. Renner,” Pringle said. “The police respond to reports of violations and they are rarely substantiated.
Several students interviewed Thursday said they believe complaints are rooted in anti-Semitic stereotypes and they are being singled out from other young people who live in the neighborhood.
“I think so, definitely . . .,” said Ike Spitz, 16, of Brooklyn. “We’ll be playing football in the street and one of the neighbors, they’ll call the police, saying we’re impeding traffic. But other kids, they can play basketball in the street, a block up, and no one calls, nobody bothers them.”
Renner said that it’s not uncommon to see the students making noise, being up at all hours of the night, smoking, discarding their cigarettes on the ground as well as snack food wrappers and pizza boxes. There’s now a problem with rats, she said.
“Nobody in the community deserves to be abused this way,” Renner said. “Nobody. It’s not just Vicki Renner who is unhappy with this.”
William Tyler, 38, of 12th Avenue, agreed. He’s a Plainfield police officer who lives next door to a house that serves as a dormitory for the school.
Tyler said the students’ religion is irrelevant and that he likes the students on an individual basis. But there are nights where they have turned their dormitories into animal houses, behaving like any other young person liberated from an adult’s supervision.
A rabbi at the school declined comment Thursday.
Recently, Tyler attempted to invoke the Open Public Records Act in an effort to determine when the borough approved “a college” in town, which he said aptly describes the yeshiva because it houses both high school-aged and college-aged students.
Borough Administrator Robbin D. Kirk said no approval for a college has ever been given, but that borough records show that the school has existed in Belmar since 1926.
“As a community, we allowed this happen,” Tyler said.
He said the council should have kept a better eye on the school’s growth.
Police Chief Jack Hill said his department has responded when appropriate.
“Belmar Police Department protects its citizens on an impartial basis and thoroughly investigates any complaint of quality of life issues, and we take necessary enforcement action when justified,” Hill said.
Alice Cadotte, chief sanitary inspector for the Monmouth County Board of Health, said a Belmar health inspector visited the yeshiva last year.
“She has been out to the Jewish community center last summer and early fall with a garbage complaint and she believed it was resolved in September,” Cadotte said. “She hasn’t had a call since then.”
Renner said she believed the school would be best served if it moved inland, where it could buy more land, considering what the cost of property is here.
Tyler said the borough should apply its tough quality-of-life laws, designed to crack down on summer renters with respect to noise pollution and garbage, to the yeshiva.
Council President Meredith Brennan, who lives on 11th Avenue, said she does not see what Renner and Tyler see.
“I don’t have dorms on my street,” Brennan said. “There are kids around, don’t get me wrong, I see the kids in white shirts.”
Pringle warned Renner that she was risking a federal civil rights lawsuit.
“You can’t say don’t walk on our streets, you can’t say don’t walk in groups,” Pringle said. “This is a ticket to a federal courthouse.”