A fence erected on Monday enclosed a car belonging to Kenny Schwartz behind his art gallery. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)
By JOHN T. WARD
In another context, it could be seen as an artistic commentary on modern existence: a car stuck between two buildings and a chain-link fence, with no way out.
But for Red Bank art collector Kenny Schwartz, it’s not an ironic statement. His car will need “wings” to escape his backyard porch after a “heavy” move involving a few real estate powerhouses, he said on Monday.
The fence (red line) made Schwartz’s yard (starred) inaccessible to vehicles and blocked a key escape route in the event of a fire, he claims. Below, Kenny Schwartz in 2016. (Google Images; photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)
The issue is a half-acre parking lot between Broad and Clay streets that Denholtz Properties is buying from Schiff Real Property of West Long Branch, a deal redbankgreen reported in January.
The lot adjoins the Detour Gallery, built in 2016 by art collector and former car dealer Schwartz in a former warehouse to display his vast collection of contemporary works. He lives in an apartment within the gallery.
On Monday, a three-foot-tall chain-link fence was erected across the opening between his apartment building and that which houses the Pure Barre studio at 127 Broad Street, enclosing Schwartz’s Mini Cooper.
The car is now stuck unless it “gets wings,” Schwartz said redbankgreen by e-mail Monday evening.
Schwartz largely blames Denholtz and its CEO, Steve Denholtz, for driving his company into an unprecedented buying spree in recent years.
But Denholtz said redbankgreen his company has yet to complete the deal, and the fence was erected by Schiff at the request of a title insurance company.
Seller’s representative Dan Schiff is “trying to prove that Kenny has no right” to access his backyard through the Schiff lot, Denholtz said. “It escalated, and maybe things happened that shouldn’t have happened, but I’m sure it will resolve.”
Schiff did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday.
The dispute had been brewing for two weeks, since Schwartz learned that a fence permit had been issued by the borough. Schwartz said he reached out to community planning director Shawna Ebanks and the mayor and council to oppose it.
Schwartz claimed that the fence would prevent anyone in his gallery or the Pure Barre studio from escaping through the rear exits in the event of a fire.
“The fact that we sometimes have 200 children and adults at openings and other events scares me if God forbid there is a fire in front of my building, because there would be no way out,” Schwartz said. “How can they allow a fence that will prevent anyone from getting out and away from a fire” except through the front doors?
According to borough building codes, “you get a violation if you put an electrical outlet in the wrong place, but is that OK?”
Acting Borough Administrator Darren McConnell did not respond to an inquiry Tuesday.
The fence also prohibits Detour from using its rear loading dock to move large sculptures and paintings, Schwartz said. And not having access to the Schiff lot would prevent any repairs that might be needed to the large “Men on a Beam” sculpture on Detour’s roof, he said.
Schwartz acknowledges that he “never asked or received permission to drive my van or car to my back driveway” and “has nothing in writing” that allows him access to his backyard via the car park. “But nobody ever told me anything about it until now,” he said.
Schwartz said the fence was erected 90 minutes after notice of his installation was delivered to the gallery on Monday morning. He was away and the gallery manager didn’t have the car key to move it, he said.
Although the manager explained the situation to the fence installers, they “said their boss told them to put up a fence no matter what,” Schwartz said.
Denholtz told Ebanks via email on March 17 that he and Schiff were “trying to cooperate with Ken, but so far it hasn’t worked out.”
Denholtz is “okay,” he said, “to allow pedestrian access through the parking lot to alleviate his fear of being ‘trapped’ in the event of a fire. But that apparently doesn’t satisfy Ken , who thinks he also has the right to drive a truck through the property so he can unload his art into the building. That’s where the problem lies. It has nothing to do with human safety. Only Ken’s desire to obtain legal rights to create access for trucks on Dan’s property when he has none.
“The emotional claim of safety has nothing to do with what is happening,” he wrote.
Denholtz said redbankgreen he is ready to close the deal as soon as the legal issues are resolved. Meanwhile, Denholtz said his company is “getting closer” to a site development plan.
As for the barricaded car optic, Denholtz said Schwartz “did it on purpose to make these optics. What can you do? I’m handing it to Kenny. He’s a good street fighter.
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