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River Plaza Oxford House a Concern for Parents, Town Officials

Oxford House manager said facility should pose no problems to the area

River Plaza Elementary School file photo.
River Plaza Elementary School file photo.

An addiction recovery home recently opened near River Plaza Elementary has raised concerns from parents and Middletown’s Township Committee after an apparent drug-related death at another of its local facilities.

Oxford House, a nonprofit organization with drug and alcohol addiction facilities throughout the country, chartered a 127 Hubbard Ave. home last December that will house 10 men. A recent alleged overdose at a Rumson facility, leading to the death of a Holmdel man and subsequent court battle, has raised safety concerns at the elementary school, now an Oxford House neighbor.

“It’s especially very close to home for me,” said Deputy Mayor Kevin Settembrino, who lives in the River Plaza section and has two young children, after a resident voiced his concern with the location at a Township Committee meeting last week.

“There are a lot of parents who are upset,” said Mark Stocker of River Plaza. 

The township has no authority to control who can live in an Oxford House—its occupants are considered a family and facilities managers aren’t obligated to notify officials or neighbors when members move in.

State law says municipalities are to treat recovery homes just like single family residences, said Township Administrator Anthony Mercantante, meaning the township can regulate and enforce the amount of people living there.

“Beyond that we don’t have any authority,” he said. “They don’t need our permission to do anything. They’re simply occupying the structure as any other homeowner would.”

George Kent, who manages Oxford House’s New Jersey operations, said by phone that—while he can understand the concerns of those living nearby—he doesn’t believe the house will bring any problems to the area.

“I think we’re an asset more than a liability,” he said.

Oxford House—aside from the incident in Rumson—has operated in New Jersey without problems, Kent said, including at another Middletown location on Center Avenue.

“I would go by our long, great history,” he said. “The fact that a lot of people are staying clean says a lot about Oxford House.”

Committee member Gerard Scharfenberger said that the township may have no legal recourse in regulating addiction recovery homes, but “we don’t have to like” the law.

“I’ll speak for myself—I think it’s outrageous that [locals] who work, represent and live here have no say in where these facilities go,” he said. “It’s very frustrating to have to sit here and take these mandates and have zero say in it.”

Settembrino said it is important for the township and residents to gather the correct information and take steps from there.

“We’re going to do everything we can do with property we own, or the Board of Education owns, to make sure children are safe on properties that the government controls,” he said. “Those discussions have begun, in terms of strengthening the perimeter of the property, making certain there are administrative measures in place to keep the children safe.”

Mercantante already has met with Board of Education members, River Plaza’s principal and the school’s PTO to discuss safety. He plans to meet with Kent soon to learn more about the new facility and how it operates.

Kent doesn’t anticipate meeting with the community to discuss the home, though he said he would have no issue doing so. He pledged to keep an open line of communication with the township.

Fakery McBakery January 31, 2014 at 02:32 PM
I care about people using inflammatory remarks to promote some political agenda. You should heed your own advice, Jennifer. You have yet to make any convincing case that there is a threat to children's safety other than writing a list of your own fears with no evidence to support them.
Fakery McBakery January 31, 2014 at 02:47 PM
Also, why is it when I do address children's safety in RP in general (i.e., rampant delinquency, graffiti, etc), you don't respond? I drove through Rp the other day, and a young driver cut off the person in front of me, gave them the finger, and gassed it up the road. That's not a safety concern? Seems your "concern" is misplaced at best. You have your eyes set only on recovering addicts; not those who actually pose the biggest threat to your community. To me, that's disturbingly misguided and misses the "topic at hand" by a wide margin.
Jennifer January 31, 2014 at 02:49 PM
Fakery, I listed 15. You are closed minded and ignorant to this topic.
Fakery McBakery January 31, 2014 at 02:59 PM
Lol, i don't think you even know what those words mean. Your list of 15 concerns was more like 4 that you insanely extrapolated into 15. I actually mentioned that yesterday... the first 5 or 6 on your list were ALL DUI's. Yet, when I mention that DUI's happen quite frequently, and none of them by Oxford House residents, you remain silent. I think the ignorance you sense is your own, bc you have a glaring inability to even remotely address any other safety concerns. I think my sentiments are actually the opposite of "closed minded (sic)" since I am of the opinion that RECOVERING addicts should not be deemed a threat to children. But if deflection makes you feel better, go for it. You will lose in court, and I am glad there are laws that protect fellow citizens from uninformed, hyperbolic opinions.
Jennifer January 31, 2014 at 03:06 PM
My last comment here will be, to those of you that say there is no danger, give me your GUARANTEE not 1 child will be in harm's way from 10 people and the revolving door of new residents and people associated with them during the recovery process at Oxford House in River Plaza.
Fakery McBakery January 31, 2014 at 03:11 PM
Jennifer, no one can even guarantee you don't get wasted tonight and run over a kid on your way to yell at the facade of the Oxford House. Your fear mongering isn't working. Best of luck to you.
Nikki Tierney January 31, 2014 at 04:11 PM
Maverick, this is not about you accepting anybody else's "inadequacies." Placing all emotion and facts aside for a moment...let's make this as simple as possible. River Plaza is in America. In America, if you have money, you can purchase property. Oxford House had money. Oxford House purchased the property. The end.
Nikki Tierney January 31, 2014 at 04:17 PM
Jennifer, as I explained above, as a mom, I completely understand your concerns, even though they do not seem logical or founded to me. KD, you acknowledge that you have already had to pay extra attention to your children bc of issues involving drugs in River Plaza. As I suggested above, be vigilant. Assume every person in Oxford will relapse, deal drugs, anything you want. Protect your children. That is what parents do. However, as part of protecting our children, we cannot violate the constitution. In addition, I would respectfully suggest that being judgmental, condescending and uninformed does not serve as positive example to children.
KD January 31, 2014 at 04:25 PM
Don't see how I was being condescending, judgmental or uninformed but you have the right to your opinion Nikki. And how can I be vigilant when I'm sending my kids to school? I'm not with them. That's my point.
Nikki Tierney January 31, 2014 at 04:46 PM
KD, I was not referring to you at all. And again, as a mother I understand your concerns. I feel terrible that patents have to live in fear and anxiety. I am trying to respectfully help by suggesting ways to possibly allay your fears.
sunshinestar January 31, 2014 at 05:00 PM
When you bring your children to River Plaza they are not wandering around the property of the school unsupervised. When they arrive at school and are taken off a bus, they are brought into the school. In the afternoon they are taken out of school and put on a bus. When a parent walks their child or drives their child, they wait outside the school until the child is inside. When the children are in the playground, i do believe there is a fence around the property of the school. They are not left outside unsupervised. If you are a parent that allows their children to walk, unsupervised, then perhaps you need to bring them to school if you are concerned about their welfare as they walk along Navesink River Road, or Hubbard.
KD January 31, 2014 at 05:02 PM
I think that's the problem. Nothing anyone says will allay my fears. It is what it is at this point. But the decision the property owner made to open an Oxford House there was a poor one. I honestly think the location, aside from being next to the school, defeats the purpose of trying to be in a neighborhood environment. Oh well. It is what is is.
Nikki Tierney January 31, 2014 at 05:38 PM
I understand, KD. I am praying for all.
sunshinestar January 31, 2014 at 05:45 PM
I understand that too KD.
Marguerite Stocker February 01, 2014 at 02:55 PM
sunshinestar: there is no fence around the property which is part of the parents' concerns.
John February 02, 2014 at 05:38 PM
As usual if it is something that is good for Middletown the officials don't want it. Just like they did not want affordable housing and fought it until they were forced by the courts to accept it. Middletown would send the money for affordable housing to towns like Asbury Park. Recently I was displaced by Sandy. I found an apartment that would accept my dog and two cats and it was in Long Branch. A few houses up their was a house called Philip House. Not knowing what it was I googled it and found out that it is a drug rehab facility. I can say that in my six months of living right up the street from it and seeing some people outside of the facility while walking my dog that not one person there caused any problems for anyone. You would have thought it was a normal every day residence. The place was kept up and the people doing the rehab kept the landscaping up as well as the side walks cleaned.
rteri0216 February 02, 2014 at 07:25 PM
This is crazy.... I'm a mother of an addict and though he has been clean 2 years he will always be an addict. The don't wake up one morning and say hey I wanna become a addict. Its a disease and even clean they battle this every day of their lives. My child was a good kid, good grades played sports and so on. Got hurt on a job and the dr put him on Roxicodone for six months and did not wean him down from them. So did my son make a bad choice?? Don't judge till you know their stories. As parents we try to protect out children correct? Well how do teachers whom have sex with students get into the schools? You can't control it only try to bring awareness to our children about drugs and hope it sinks in. The sad thing is as parents we never think our child would do drugs or are doing drugs. Well good grades, go to work every day all seemed normal but guess what it wasn't. Parents wake up and like it or not we enable our children and make life so easy for them. Any parent that say's they will never enable their kids, let me say this you are a LIER.... Today after rehab, recovery house my son holds a full time job as a foreman, has 3 beautiful children, attends NA meetings 5 times a week, gives to the community, attends church every Sunday and is a wonderful person. Would you want him living next door to you because he is still an addict yet in recovery like these other folks.
MaverickMom February 02, 2014 at 10:12 PM
a disease? No doubt it's difficult for a parent or anyone dealing with it but let's not get carried away with calling it a disease. Life is about choices, the good, the bad and all in between. Those choices are conscious decisions and calling it a disease is an absolute joke and demeans those that have real diseases that disrupt and potentially rob people of their lives. As for you son, he sounds like he's straightened himself out and I applaud him for that!
Krystal Woolston February 02, 2014 at 10:17 PM
Actually, maverick, you are once again just showing how uneducated you are. Addiction is considered a disease, both medically and classified in the DSM as a mental illness. Please spew your "bad choices" rhetoric elsewhere. If you plan to consistently make comments, at least educate yourself first.
sunshinestar February 03, 2014 at 10:12 AM
Your comment Maverick is insulting, and disturbing.
MaverickMom February 03, 2014 at 11:36 AM
no, what is insulting is calling a self inflicted condition a disease. The problem with you people is that your objectivity is lacking because you have experiences with addiction. As I said, it's more about bad choices, bad parenting, not being involved and the like than being a disease
sunshinestar February 03, 2014 at 12:27 PM
Bad choices??? Bad Parenting?? not being involved???? You are really very very misinformed, very uneducated on the subject, and i believe just looking to incite people. I feel sorry for you, and your intolerance of others. I really hope no one you love ever succumbs to this disease.
Nikki Tierney February 03, 2014 at 03:10 PM
While I was just going to try to explain the disease concept of addiction/alcoholism to Maverick, I realized it is most likely worthless. I would note, however, that under his theory, the young man slightly overweight who has a heart attack should not be viewed with compassion or offered help, but with judgment and condemnation...he made a choice to eat too much. What about the elderly woman with lung cancer?? Or the skydiver whose parachute does not open...she engaged in risky behavior, do not hold the door for her as she is struggling with her wheelchair, right Maverick?? As we have seen from many people making comments who have had experience with addiction, it is an extremely complicated disease, in AA we call it cunning, baffling and powerful. The parents, friends and neighbors of addicts and alcoholics have not at all lost their objectivity...they have gained insight, which you are lacking. I was sick LONG before I ever took a drink or drug. Once I took the drink/drug, it became a means to cope to self medicate. My alcoholism and drug addiction are not the underlying probelm, only a symptom. When I dealt with my underlying issues and problems, the need to abuse drugs and alcohol slowly went away. As rteri0216, Krystal, sunshinestar and many others have tried to explain, I only have a daily reprieve from my addiction, I must maintain my mental, emotional, physical and spiritual health everyday to navigate and avoid my addiction. As John explained, the addicts living next to him were good people, just like others. Again, I challenge you Maverick, lose some of your objectivity and go to Oxford House and meet one of the residents. Read about addiction and its prevalence in America and New Jersey. And finally, understand that addicts are not bad people getting better, we are sick people getting well!
MaverickMom February 05, 2014 at 08:47 AM
Nikki, it's not a disease and you validated what I said unless you missed that. I have no doubt many are good people struggling with bad choices however, that's not really my concern as much as having this place adjacent to a school where by the house's own stats, 4k people relapse a year and we ALL KNOW ADDICTS CAN DO SOME PRETTY $HITTY THINGS WHEN RELAPSING. The problem with many here is that because some were addicts, you lose your objectivity with having the discussion on whether it's appropriate or safe near a school. You guys beat your addiction, great for you but take your issues away from the schools
Jesse February 05, 2014 at 05:52 PM
Maverick, I agree with everything you said. Keep it away from the schools!
Jesse February 08, 2014 at 07:55 PM
Just drove past on Hubbard Ave and saw big bright lights back there that I never saw lit at night before. Looked like parking lot lights. Don't know if it's the school's doing or Oxford's. Hmmmm.
KD February 08, 2014 at 07:58 PM
I've seen those lights on at night. The school has nothing to do with them. It's on the property. It must get really dark there at night bc they don't get lighting from the street.
Jesse February 08, 2014 at 08:00 PM
Thanks KD.
Jennifer March 19, 2014 at 06:16 PM
I wonder why 2 police cars were at the Oxford House today???
Marguerite Stocker March 20, 2014 at 09:44 AM
I noticed that too, Jennifer.

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