By Paul Goldfinger, Editor @Blogfinger
In a letter to Blogfinger on April 11, J. Cortese vented regarding what he sees as a deterioration in our town’s efforts to maintain historical preservation, and he sees the situation worsening over the last 10 years .
If you haven’t read his piece, here is a link:
Blogfinger’s writers and commenters agree with J., as do others in town, but is he correct to fear the eventual fatal decline of Ocean Grove as a very special historic place?
We agree that our election to the Federal and State Historic Registers would be endangered if the deterioration that J. describes continues, consider this:
When we moved to Ocean Grove in 1998, the town was still in a pretty raggedy condition. Most streets had historic houses that were in serious states of decline. But you could see signs of life—indications that homeowners coming into town wanted to help bring these properties back to life.
We saw tremendous progress after that. Homeowners were putting up large sums of money to resurrect those irreplaceable Victorian buildings. This effort showed results over the next 10 years where every street had multiple examples where beautiful and accurate historic work had been done.
Derelict houses, while still existing, were no longer the main theme of our town’s architecture. Instead, most of our streets were uniquely lovely.
This investment and commitment by homeowners is the main reason Ocean Grove looks so wonderful today as a Victorian-style community. And Blogfinger and its supporters are correct in criticizing Township officials, the CMA, and developers who are willing to exploit the town for financial reasons and to play fast and loose with zoning and land use regulations.
This network of exploiters produces results that yield less parking, less historic beauty, and more congestion. They are a force pushing us in a different direction. To add to the problem we have a Homeowners Association which has lost its way and a Historical Society which is barely visible in terms of preservation. The HPC is currently hiding in the shadows, and the Chamber of Commerce has no interest in the issue. If all that continues, the town will, as J. predicts, lose what makes it so special as an authentic historic community.
We have interviewed many newcomers, and they all say, “We fell in love with this town,” and for good reason.
I don’t have to tell you about the lifestyle of Ocean Grove now, an element that is apart from the architectual. It is the organic component which adds a thrilling dimension to living here. We have many children, young families, Wiffle ball games in the park, beautiful beaches, a vibrant porch culture, artistic events, etc. We are a walking and talking town with smart, friendly citizens, and much of that stems from historic preservation.
However, not everyone in town agrees with the vision of people like J. Cortese, Kevin Chambers, Jack Bredin, Ted Bell, Blogfinger, HPC and others. And if those forces, including citizens, elected officials, and organizations, which should be supportive, continue to turn away, the town will become something other than a Historic District.
As J. points out, many residents are just looking for a wonderful shore town to enjoy and to share with friends and family, and this one is very special and thus very popular. And our proximity to the new Asbury Park will contribute to the popularity of OG.
Judging from the newcomers that I have met, they all want our town to continue being a place to love, but there are those who are not interested in our 19th century Victorian theme. So, although some of them will concern themselves with historic preservation, we don’t currently know how many will actually care.
We believe that most Grovers would hate to see the historic vision decline further, and hopefully most of us will stay involved and help to hammer out an aggressive plan for Ocean Grove’s Victorian survival . But will the dream be too much for too many?
REV. GARY DAVIS from the album Harlem Street Singer