To some, Gilford Park’s reputation is that of a nice part of town, on the water with its own yacht club and marina. For others, Gilford Park remains stigmatized as an unsafe neighborhood.
Toms River Chief of Police Michael Mastronardy said recent criticism and banter online was sparked by misinformation of a that happened on Gilford Avenue several weeks ago, located in a section of Toms River known as Windsor Park.
Gilford Park is the section of Toms River located south of Route 37, between the borough of Island Heights and bridge to Seaside Heights, according to Toms River’s planning department.
Mastronardy said that incidents of crime occur in Gilford Park, as is true for any other part of town. However, Mastronardy said it is not “in the interest of fairness” to associate Gilford Park with crime.
Mastronardy said that most of the problems that police have in Gilford Park are with rental units.
“There’s certain houses and certain streets...its like anything else,” Mastronardy said.
Recent criticism suggests that Gilford Park is looked down upon by Toms River residents who associate lower income areas with crime and unruliness.
Township Clerk and Toms River Historian Mark Mutter said he cannot comment on the negative commentary.
“Its an outstanding part of town--as are all parts of town,” said Mutter speaking on Gilford Park.
When asked if Gilford Park’s negative reputation is one with which he is familiar, Toms River town planner Jay Lynch said Gilford Park “certainly doesn’t carry that reputation” in his office.
The negative reputation, Lynch said, “doesn’t really reflect the character of the district.”
“It’s not an area, in my mind, that has a positive or negative reputation,” said Lynch.
Toms River Councilman at Large, John Sevastakis said that Gilford Park’s reputation of being unsafe has sparked the recent commentary.
Sevastakis, who has been building homes in Gilford Park since 1995, said the fact that the recent shooting did not actually occur in Gilford park, but that it has sparked controversy about the area, speaks to public opinion about Gilford Park.
“People speaking of it don’t live there,” said Sevastakis, who advocates for Gilford Park.
“I think the consensus is the area is getting a bad rap,” said Sevastakis.
When asked if he thought the recent shooting makes the Gilford Avenue area a particularly dangerous part of town, Sevastakis said, “these things can happen anywhere.”
Sevastakis is proud of the work he has done in Gilford Park and of how the neighborhood has improved over the years.
“I feel the area is changing for the better,” he said.
Many of the older, dilapidated homes have been demolished and replaced by new construction.
A drive through Gilford Park reveals some new construction as well as older, quaint bungalow style homes, many of which have served as the summer home for families two to three generations back.
Sevastakis remarked on the marina and yacht club which he said help to make Gilford Park a nice place to live.
“It's just unfortunate that there are some areas that are not desirable,” he said.
Sevastakis believes the negative feelings about Gilford Park are harboured by owners of newer homes who are concerned for their safety and wellbeing.
As far as crime goes, Sevastakis said Gilford Park is “generally safe.”
Sevastakis would like to see stronger code enforcement on some of the neglected lots throughout Gilford Park.
“People negatively perceive homes that aren’t kept,” said Sevastakis.
“Police should get repeat offenders,” said Sevastakis in reference to residents and landlords who fail to keep homes up to code, by lacking in minor areas such as yard upkeep.
Sevastakis also faults “no show landlords” who fail to properly screen renters.
The lots average about 40 by 100 feet, according to the planning board.
“As a result, the housing stock is small,” said Lynch.
A section of Toms River that started off as seasonal housing, Gilford Park is becoming more of a year round residential neighborhood.
“Most of the area is very much all single homes,” said Lynch.
Any lots that may have two single family homes on them were built before the 1950’s. Lynch said that current zoning regulation does not permit more than one home to be built per lot.
The lots average about 40 by 100 feet, said Lynch.
Gilford Park, to some, has a negative reputation. Others, like Sevastakis, continue to advocate for the area and insist it is an ever improving neighborhood.
“I would live there in a heartbeat,” said Sevastakis.
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