Villapiano will run for Senate in 11th District

John VillapianoJohn Villapiano ASBURY PARK – A familiar hat was tossed in the ring Friday when John A. Villapiano announced he will run for election to the state Senate from the 11th District.

Villapiano, a Democrat and former state Assemblyman, county freeholder and Ocean Township councilman, will seek the seat being vacated by state Sen. Joseph Palaia (R-11), who is retiring.

Among the issues Villapiano addressed in announcing his re-entry into politics were eminent domain, property taxes, school funding and the redevelopment of Fort Monmouth.

“I’m getting back into politics,” Villapiano said before addressing a small crowd of family, friends and local politicians at the Wonderbar in Asbury Park last Friday. “I felt my career was cut short in 1991.”

Villapiano served for three years in the Assembly before losing his bid for re-election. In November, he will be up against Assemblyman Sean Kean (R-11) who has announced his intention to run for the Senate.

In wide-ranging remarks, he identified the reuse of the Fort Monmouth property as an area of concern.

“I see the Fort Monmouth redevelopment as a big issue,” he said in an interview. “The fort is going to be closing by 2011, and the economic impact on the area will be severe.”

The Ocean Township resident said he wants input in the process undertaken by the state-sanctioned Fort Monmouth Economic Revitalization and Planning Authority.

“We must start paying attention to what’s going to happen to Fort Monmouth. I propose turning it into New Jersey State University, to stem the tide of high school seniors leaving the state.”

Villapiano, managing partner of Seashore Day Camp and School in Long Branch, chose to announce his candidacy at the Wonderbar, an Asbury Park landmark threatened by the redevelopment under way in that city.

The renovated club “exemplifies so many of the issues that are important to the people of the 11th District today,” he said.

“A lot of time and effort is being spent on redevelopment plans for towns like Long Branch, Asbury Park, Neptune, Allenhurst,” he said.

A Long Branch health club owned by Villapiano lies in one of the city’s beachfront redevelopment zones and was slated to be taken by the city. Although he has spoken publicly in support of the city’s redevelopment, he said Friday he is opposed to the forcible taking of private property for private redevelopment projects as is being done in the city’s MTOTSA neighborhood.

“It’s important to work together with local government,” he said. “Before it gets to the point of redevelopment, local government and the people have to be on the same wave length. The right to own private property is one of the pillars of the U.S.”

“I’m going to put the interests of the people in the 11th District first. I will serve the people to ensure that no one tries to take advantage of any part of the 11th District or Shore.”

Villapiano served as a member of the Ocean Township Council from 1979 to 1987; as a member of the Board of Chosen Freeholders from 1987-1989; and as a state Assemblyman from the 11th District from 1988- 1991. In the Assembly, he was vice chairman of the Appropriations Committee.