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SPF Residents React to Union Catholic Assault

You've read the story, now hear what your neighbors have to say about the UCHS baseball player who was assaulted by a Dutch Lane resident.

Patch brought you by a Scotch Plains resident when he went to retrive a foul ball that had landed at the tree line bordering the assaulter's Dutch Lane property.

Scotch Plains Police Captain Brian Donnelly stated that Michael Bennett was charged with simple assault for this crime after he grabbed the victim by the neck and wrist, leaving scratch marks on the victim while shouting "get off my property."

Nearly 60 readers have commented on Patch's story, debating this issue. In this video, you will have the opportunity to hear what residents, councilman, and local employees around town have to say about the Union Catholic assault and what the school's neigbors have been dealing with for several years.

What do you think? Continue the discussion and add your comment here. 

FormerFanwoodian May 18, 2012 at 05:27 PM
The problems with neighbors and foul balls would have not existed if the UC request had been handled correctly by the SP govt, if UC had included/involved the adjacent neighbors in the initial planning (UC had been built in a residential zone) and not tried to, and in some cases, succeeded in positioning structures in places not permitted figuring it would not be required to removed those structures. Where were the balls going to go if hit fould? Mr Reagan as UC's 'point person', acted with arrogant impunity rather than Christian ideals toward the neighbors. After all the problems between the UC and the neighbors, did UC have written permission to retrieve the balls beyond the property lines?
The Cynic May 18, 2012 at 08:57 PM
OK.....enough is enough. Everybody agrees that Bennett did wrong...no doubt. Yes, UCC was there long before the houses, but that does not provide them with any rights to adjouring properties which is not theirs. Maybe Bennett should have more carefully evaluated the location of his house before he bought the house. The fact of the matter is that UCC appears to have known for some time that they are infringing other peoples' property rights so some fault lies in their hands too. There are two issues here: 1) Bennett's actions and 2) UCC's actions. Each needs to be addressed individually. As for a net...what an eyesore. I don't know what the solution is. But watch what will happen when someone is "beaned" and injured in their own backyard by a stray foul ball. The Patch will go into overload if that happens. And the lawyers will have plenty of proof that UCC knowingly continued this dangeous activity. Cynical view.....certainly.
grace86 May 18, 2012 at 10:52 PM
You are making it about what UC should have or shouldn't have done. This isn't about that, it's about an assault on a child which should NEVER be justified. In this case, this student acted more the man than Bennett; a grown man. Until you've taken the time to go through all the research and investigation that it requires to be informed of the situation involving the dispute between UC and the neighbors, you can't speak to the facts so please don't. You're obviously not up to date on the latest events. Enough is enough.......as Donna Summers would say....RIP...
SPF Resident May 19, 2012 at 12:09 AM
YES grace86 - enough is enough. hopefully after this mess, UC will make sure no one trespasses on their neighbor's properties - no matter how many foul balls go into them. There is no excuse - it is quite obvious that baseball players, coaches, spectators - trespassers - are not permitted. As for Mr. Bennett - innocent until proven guilty - what happened to that? Maybe we could all practice some civility and actually wait until all the facts are known...
FormerFanwoodian May 19, 2012 at 12:25 AM
"Until you've taken the time to go through all the research and investigation that it requires to be informed of the situation involving the dispute between UC and the neighbors, you can't speak to the facts so please don't." What are the facts grace86? What facts posted have been misstated? I don't condone Mr Bennett's behavior, but don't make such pompous 'grown man attacks "child"' statements' until you have been in Mr Bennett's shoes. Having had to put up with "adult" neighbors using our front lawn as a toilet for their dogs, neighborhood children bouncing baseballs off our house and some of the same kicking our leashed cat in our fenced backyard, I understand where Mr Bennett was coming from. The dog owners who continued their behavior after being asked not to didn't like the output of their pooch handed to them...or dumped on the door sill. The neighbor kids wanted their baseballs back. The cat-kicking kids did not like being escorted home; the parents didn't want to pay the vet bill. What has to happen for UC and 'Coach' Reagan to respect their neighbor's property? Some of my neighbors changed their behavor when asked, others didn't. Some children walked to the park on the next block to hit baseballs, some didn't. The parents of the cat-kicking children paid the vet bill.
twogirls84 May 19, 2012 at 12:39 AM
I agree that Bennett should never have touched the boy, but the boy also should have never stepped foot on PRIVATE property...and the coach should have seen to this as he was well aware of the heightened sensitivity regarding this issue. Residents, the folks at UCC, and most importantly the town gov't, need to stop pointing fingers and arrive at a 'real' solution. Ultimately Scotch Plains will be put in the role of 'Monday Morning Quarterback' ... not taking any measures to truly solve this situation until someone on those properties gets hurt with a baseball. It might not happen this year or next, but it will eventually happen. Then, the story will be about '...would have, could have, should have." What a shame if and when that occurs.
Sean Gaynor May 19, 2012 at 03:47 PM
For everyone talking about "facts," what are your facts proving the kid trespassed, since that is being disputed by Union Catholic and the ball was RIGHT on the property line between the two
FormerFanwoodian May 19, 2012 at 08:06 PM
I wouldn't trust anything Jim Reagan had to say about this incident. From: http://scotchplains.patch.com/articles/union-catholic-neighbors-blindsided-by-lights#photo-357118 1. informational meeting about the $1.3 million renovation project on June 23, 2009 – the day after construction started Jim Reagan, however, “told us, 'Don’t worry, we only got permission to put in the underground wiring,' 2. ” less than four months after construction began – Scotch Plains Zoning Officer Robert LaCosta, himself a member of Union Catholic’s first graduating class of 1966, discovered that Union Catholic had installed five roughly eight-foot-tall stanchions to accommodate three, 60- to 80-foot-tall stadium-style lights and an 18-foot-by-12-foot electronic scoreboard. The stanchions went far beyond the limits of the school’s construction permit, which explicitly restricted construction to the “installation of u/g conduit and pull boxes for future use” – in other words, underground tubes and wires, not steel poles planted in concrete foundations.
FormerFanwoodian May 19, 2012 at 08:07 PM
3. Reagan, the school’s assistant principal, said that he, Hart and Piasecki – the principal and associate principal – fully understood that by installing the stanchions, they would be violating the permit and, by extension, breaking the law. He described the action as an attempt to cut potential future costs. Asked whether he and school officials had decided to simply beg forgiveness instead of ask permission, Reagan replied, “That's customary construction protocol,” adding in a follow-up interview two days later that “the construction company” and “our engineer” had told him “it’s standard procedure.” 4. Long, project manager at The LandTek Group, the construction company, said that he had neither recommended installing the stanchions nor told Union Catholic officials that performing more work than allowed by permit was standard or common procedure 5. LaCosta, replying in a letter dated Oct. 26, reiterated that the permit he had granted prohibited the installation of scoreboard and light stanchions. Union Catholic then appealed LaCosta’s directive to the Construction Board ofAppeals
John Leustek May 19, 2012 at 08:38 PM
While I wouldn't call Mr. Bennett a moron (people do bad things, but that doesn't mean they are bad people) I will say that you bring up a very important point. Baseball season is only a portion of the year, and it can't possibly be THAT much of a problem within that time period. If you live near a school baseball field, you really should expect that there will be some foul balls that land on your property, and students could potentially tresspass. Something about this assault strikes me as having a "NIMBY" mentality behind it, and it's ashame that a child had to get hurt because of it.
grace86 May 20, 2012 at 06:54 PM
Former Fanwodian, you're situation was way too extreme and not comparable to anything regarding UC. It sounds like you’re still carrying a grudge and now taking it out on the UC community for what you experienced. You can't possibly be objective when you've been subjected to such absurd behavior. UC and the neighbors are dealing with the situation and that's between them. Bennett has issues and that's all that concerns me because as a SP resident, it worries me deeply to know we have such a loose cannon in the neighborhood. Today a foul ball provokes grabbing. What will the next foul ball cost a player? I’m more concerned with the actions of this man not what some other more normal acting human being would do if a foul ball comes their way. Most people don't act this way!!!! When are you going to realize this is not NORMAL and there is NO excuse!!
Andy Jacksonian May 20, 2012 at 10:47 PM
That post was sheer idiocy!
Andy Jacksonian May 20, 2012 at 10:48 PM
FormerFanwoodian's post is sheer idiocy!
FormerFanwoodian May 21, 2012 at 12:40 PM
Explain how the truth as presented after investigatioon by the Patch 'is sheer idiocy'?
bubba May 21, 2012 at 06:03 PM
Wow Former Fanwoodian needs to move to an area with no neighbors, or children or animals. Hope the foxes never pooped in his lawn, who would he blame or leaves or branches blew into it. Those branches kill a lot more folks every year than foul balls. Former Fanwoodian should apologize to the wildlife his house displaced, I'm sure they were upset over the placement of brick and frame where open field once existed. So you are so upset over minor things you still troll the town the bulletin board for the town you hated. Yes my neighbors kids balls come into my yard, a hockey puck hit my car, the parents paid for a new window. I've had dog poop in my yard and deer in my bushes, I've had trash blow from an overturned neighbors can and god forbid leaves from my neighbors trees. So far the only person I'm angry at is the one guy whose dog has done it multiple times(oh wait he stopped after I asked what he was doing), and of course the idiot who screams at the neighbor kids for playing outside and critiques us for trees that produce too many leaves. Oh and the guy who comes home angry and drunk several days a week but hes a block away and my kids are in by dark, If you wanted to live in a sterile suburb, there are many fine adult communities that don't allow children, pets, noise or people under 55.
FormerFanwoodian May 21, 2012 at 07:56 PM
Do you understand CONTEXT Bubba? All I did was reply to someone who felt that someone should never react when pushed beyond 'the edge". Living requires cooperation with others. In area like Fanwood/Scotch Plains, perhaps a higher degree of cooperation is needed. I said I didn't condone Mr Bennett's behavior. But I also don't condone UC/Jim Reagan's behavior because it was like 'the good old guys" trying to pull a fast one. By the way, I liked living in Fanwood for 40 years. Met and and am still friends with some GREAT people. Maybe you would have fit in that category, but by the sound of you retort, I guess you probably wouldn't. Opps, I gotta go...the cat has a skink in his mouth.
bubba May 21, 2012 at 08:56 PM
Well I view it as this. its legal to play ball there, they are using their land, yes balls do pop out, but so do neighbors balls, leaves and trash. Mostly though UC was present and is using their land as they have the right too. The neighbor moved in knowing the land belonged to the school and usage could change, just as usage changes in mixed zone areas, and I still hear folks complain. Even though the area was clearly zoned mixed use when they bought the house. Yes, i checked the zoning where i live, I checked the schools and even the cancer rates. While the school did violate code with their construction, however, that is pretty normal in NJ. I can list 6 incidents near me in SP. Most importantly that has nothing to do with an adult attacking what very easily could have been a minor. I doubt he asked are you 18 before he grabbed him.
Willamina Rudd May 21, 2012 at 09:18 PM
Hypothetically, if Mr. Bennett has a wiffle ball game in his backyard over the memorial day weekend and the ball happens to accidentally leave his yard and go on to Union Catholic property, do you think he'll go and get the ball?
Geta Grip May 22, 2012 at 12:01 AM
I just want to know if it is trespassing if there is no "No Trespassing" signs on the property? Does anyone know the actual law about this and not just what they think the law should be. Surely anyone who cuts across your lawn is not guilty of trespassing are they?
C. Stanwick May 22, 2012 at 03:41 PM
bubba - UC is not in a mixed zone. it is a residential zone. has been a residential zone since the school was built in 1962. this was no secret when the school was built. just like it was no secret that houses usually get built in a residential zone. if you look up the zoning laws in a residential zone - you will see that a 100 foot setback is required between a building such as UC and its neighbors. the town and UC ignored this requirement when the field was re-designed. if the 100 foot setback was implemented as per the zoning law - there would be no balls flying into neighbors' yards, no tresspassing and no issues. As much as you and everyone else would like to crucify these people for agreeing to live next to a school - do the math. 3 to 4 foul balls a game, 3 to 4 tresspassers per game; 3 to 4 games per week. double headers in the summer - because as much as everyone would like to think the field is only used in the Spring for baseball - it is not. the American Legion uses it all summer, which is a recent occurence. I know because my son's friends have played for americal legion. passing judgement is fine - but at least be informed when you make your judgements - because i can assure - you are not.
C. Stanwick May 22, 2012 at 03:46 PM
Geta Grip - you don't need a no trespassing sign. a trespass is a trespass is a trespass. it is against the law. you can look it up yourself - just google it. so, yes - anyone who cuts across your lawn is guilty of trespassing. it is the property owner's choice to press charges. UC coaches and personnel should be very well aware of where their property line ends and where the neighbor's starts. i am sure in the future - they will make sure no one "trespasses" anymore - not even to pick up a foul ball. it is apparent that the neighbors don't want it.
C. Stanwick May 22, 2012 at 03:48 PM
Mr. Gaynor - if that is the case - i am sure the truth will come out in court.
Jimmy May 22, 2012 at 04:07 PM
@C. Stanwick you are 100% correct. 100 ft back from the building is required. Hence the buildings at UC are 100 ft back. The discussion here is in regards to a field, which is not a building. There is little point to bring this up since the town and the court system have ruled with the same message.
Jimmy May 22, 2012 at 05:34 PM
@Geta Grip you also bring up a very valid point @C. Stanwick is incorrect when he states that a trespass is a trespass is a trespass. In NJ it clearly is not the case. There are many situations and in this case beyond the basic point that the boy may not have even trespassed since there are no visible property lines differentiating the two pieces of land and that the neighbor has made no effort in identifying his property line or posting no trespassing signs or building a fence the law clearly stands by the boy. Here's a good summary of NJ trespassing law, though it may not be complete: http://www.newjersey-legal-guide.com/New-Jersey-Criminal-Trespass.html
grace86 May 22, 2012 at 06:26 PM
Who cares!!! I just had a kid come onto my lawn over the weekend to get a ball, and no I didn't come out screaming and grabbing him!! It happens people without even backing up to a field. All I thought about was how natural it is to see kids playing outside. Remember before video games when kids use to actually play outside? I can go 12 rounds with property law....and it still doesn't matter and will never change the fact Bennett is wrong. I will never fault a kid for not stopping what he was doing to ring the doorbell of this person. Yeah like he would have said sure young man, go get your ball....it's okay....
bubba May 23, 2012 at 01:24 AM
stop trying to justify being hateful and angry, a setback means no building, thats it, not no yard, or baseball field, which was there already. It doesn't mean no fence or shed. it means no "building". Please stop trying to justify an alleged adult being a pile of garbage, I don't try to justify when the guy a block away gets a DUI, and I hate those people who do. Stanwick please tell why you are so desperate to somehow make this CRIME, somehow magically alright because(sniff, sniff) Union Catholic used their property in a legal way. Look I've been pissed at kids, a couple of years ago, I had some girls drunk boyfriend 2 blocks away try to pick a fight with me because I was walking two "fruity" dogs. He even had his varsity jacket on, nice big SPFHS on it, I walked away, and told her parents the next morning that the kids were drinking at their house. I wasn't friends with them before, and after they yelled at me for five minutes I certainly wasn't going to be then. Now I am a big boy, and it hurt my hillybilly self to walk away, but that is what being an adult is all about. I'm not perfect, I'm sure my kids have a list of all my faults, but attacking a kid over a yard or a stream of insults sure ain't one of them, being an adult means taking responsibility, If I'm brawling, it better be worth it.
twogirls84 May 23, 2012 at 12:54 PM
You know...I have been reading these comments since they first appeared. It is rather obvious who has connections to UCC and who does not. Besides living in Scotch Plains I have connections to neither. I do not know Mr. Bennett nor did my children or anyone in my family attend UCC. I agree Mr. Bennett was 100% wrong. What amazes me is that all those supporting UCC never address the issue, nor the question, was UCC being a 'good neighbor' by breaching the terms of their permit??? That is a really big issue as I read this. That issue probably annoyed these neighbors to no end and fueled this argument like no other. As a Scotch Plains resident I am more than curious as to what the ramifications were for UCC going beyond what was approved on the permit. Was UCC fined? They are both in the wrong and shame on the town for letting the situation get to this point.
T Staley May 23, 2012 at 04:13 PM
This isn't just about a couple of foul balls here...UC also has a music and a mega phone playing and announcing each player before their at bat! The music is loud and definitley takes away from the residents right to have peace and quiet even if it's only for a short period of time throughout the year "EVERY YEAR"...I do not live there, nor do I validate Mr. Bennet's aggression towards the ball player, but when this goes on day and night (they have installed lights for night games) I'm pretty sure anyone would have these kinds of emotions. Try putting yourself in the residents shoes and you live there for a weekend during games....
Jimmy May 23, 2012 at 08:10 PM
@T Staley I know nothing about music being played but I have followed this case. I was pretty sure they only had light foundations put in place for possible future permits to build lights but after reading your comment I wanted to check on this. I just drove by on my way home there are no lights in place so you may be thinking about another field possibly for the town but it definitely is not UC's.
grace86 May 23, 2012 at 10:40 PM
Here is what should concern everyone, there is a man that abuts a school that doesn't know how to control himself around a child because of a foul ball that may or may not have come on his property. Bennett should apologize to this boy and his family and for that matter to UC and Plainfield School for his rediculous behavior. I don't care about what's between UC and the neighbors and any perceived violations of a permit. If you really want to go down this road, take a look at your own property and ask yourself if you have obtained a permit on every single improvement you've made to your house/property? Take a look at your own backyard before pointing fingers at others. You would be shocked how many are in violation and some don't even know it until they try to sell and the buyers can't obtain a mortgage because of work that was done without permits. As for connections to UC - I do not hae vested interest in the outcome of what happens and again it doesn't impact me either way. I do care about the thoughtless mother I saw this morning with her son and dog in the car driving while texting past UC weaving in and out almost hitting a young kid that was walking and I certainly care about a man that grabs a kid that's completely unjustified.

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