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Archive for the ‘Ocean Grove controversies’ Category

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We have written about this Airbnb subject before, but this “long time resident” contacted Blogfinger on April 7 because he is “totally disgusted by the abuse of certain homeowners who are turning their homes into one night or two night stand hotels” which he calls “hometels.”

He sent a letter of complaint about this to the Neptune Township Code Enforcement Department and cc’d Blogfinger.   Here is an edited version:

1. “These overnight hometels are in arms distance of my home and growing at an alarming rate.”

2. “They are destroying Ocean Grove as a community and a place to raise children.”

3. “They are creating a nightmare with parking, and come summer, it will once again become unbearable to live in this mayhem.”

4.  Mr. Totally Disgusted asks the Township to fine and raise the taxes of those landlords who are engaged in “rental abuse” and causing a “downward spiral” in town.

He ends his letter with “Let’s keep this town residential and not a one-night-stand-stopoff.”

Here is a link to Airbnb rentals in Ocean Grove.  One example offers a one bedroom apartment, 2.5 blocks to beach, from $200/night

www.airbnb.com/s/Ocean-Grove–NJ/homes?type=apartment&listing_types%5B%5D=1&s_tag=1IQMRFvI&allow_override%5B%5D=&refinement_paths%5B%5D=%2Fhomes

Here is a Blogfinger post regarding airbnb:

Airbnb Blogfinger post summer 2017

 

EDITOR’S NOTE:   Is this a growing problem?   Do these rentals really impact our quality of life in the Grove?  Does the Township actually enforce a new Certificate of Inspection  (CI)  with each rental?  Does the township need to legislate this or just follow their existing rules?  —-PG

 

ELVIS:

 

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This lucky bug sits contentedly in a rare OG driveway. Don't be rude and block his egress, or his people will be very mad. Paul Goldfinger photo. Undated. ©

This lucky bug, Mr. Blue,  sits contentedly in a rare OG driveway. Don’t be rude and block his egress, or his people will be very mad.  His theme song, by the Fleetwoods,, is below  Paul Goldfinger photo. Undated. ©

By Paul Goldfinger, Editor@Blogfinger.net

 

This conversation was begun in the context of storm news, as a snow storm hit Ocean Grove on January 27, 2015.  Comments are posted  chronologically here instead of the usual location.   Editing might be required for clarity, grammar, spelling, and sanity.

Mr. Right   Jan. 27, 2015 —–“Something needs to be said about parking etiquette. If one neighbor spends 30 minutes digging his car out only for his **#$@% neighbor to pull into that spot as soon as he leaves, that is wrong! In the past, diggers have placed garbage cans, etc. to hold their spot, and as far as I am concerned, that is perfectly ethical to do, even though the police will not back you up if someone removes the can and parks there anyhow.”

Marie Coppinger. Jan. 27, 2015—-   “May I comment on “parking etiquette”? I have been in O.G. for many years and this comes up every year. These are public streets. You cannot “hold” a parking space just because you shoveled it out. How would I know who shoveled any given space? And if I do park in my neighbor’s spot, it is because some one has parked in the space I recently shoveled. Let’s be reasonable.” 

Blogfinger.  Marie is correct that this topic has appeared before, but some subjects are worth rehashing.  Here is a link to July 2013 when there were many comments about this subject.   holding spaces link

Plump Mike.  Jan 28.   “I guess Mary took her neighbor’s parking spot. If each homeowner took the time to dig out one space near their home, making it easy to enter and exit, then this wouldn’t be as much an issue. It’s  a shame that OG taxpayers don’t have a space reserved for each home like they have in many north Jersey towns. If you could dig out your space, it would be there for you when you get home from the grocery store.  Taxpayers should get a break from the town on the parking situation, especially in the winter where it can be a hardship to walk four blocks in the cold.” 

Pam.  Jan 28.  “It is a shame that as tax payers we aren’t entitled to one parking spot. Nevertheless my husband and I try to show courtesy to our neighbors even in the summer and other seasons. We try very hard to park in the same spots every time thus leaving spots free for our neighbors to park in front of their houses.

“I wish something could be done for our OG elderly who should be able to park in their spot. It’s hard for them to have to carry groceries or maneuver in the snow if their car is a ways from their houses; and they shouldn’t have to search for a parking spot during the height of the summer. If only a little civility could be shown to our neighbors and the elderly. Then we could get busy figuring out a way to provide parking for tourists and for those owning commercial trucks so they don’t take our spots away.”

Mary Lou.  Jan 28.  “We are all pretty respectful of each others “parking territory” on my street. I like to park in the usual space nearest to my front door because I leave for work at 6 am in the morning. On a dark, icy winter morning, I appreciate the fact that I have a short distance to get to my car. During the summer, I don’t care if I’m parked at a distance.”

Doubting Thomas.  Jan 28.  This reminds me of internet etiquette, which is still evolving.  Rules of politeness  must be written down and acknowledged by most civilized citizens if they are to be honored, but such rules don’t exist for Grovers with snow drifts.  So we must rely on the instincts of residents who perhaps have certain values in their DNA, or, at, least in their subconscious where common themes exist based on our culture.  Having said that, do unto others as you would have them do unto you, because the NTPD won’t get in the middle of this unless there is blood on the snow.

Embury Resident.   Jan. 29.     This is intended for the parking etiquette conversation. I have a driveway and only come down on weekends. I try to be a good neighbor and pay someone to clean my (empty) driveway & sidewalk after a snow fall. I did this yesterday. He cleaned everything, only to call me today to let me know that one of my “neighbors” threw all the snow he shoveled from his property onto my driveway. Not very neighborly.

Paul Devine.  Jan. 30.  I am not in OG many weekends in the winter. Without reserved spots neighbors are able to use the spot which eases parking for our wonderful neighbors. I do agree that something should be done with cars that are warehoused on the street and not used.

Jo Ann Marino. Jan 30.   Homeowners in Lavallette who do not have a driveway pay an annual fee to the town for a designated parking space on the street near or outside their home. A win win situation.

Paul Goldfinger.  Jan 30.  Jo Ann—There are a number of constituencies in Ocean Grove including tourists, homeowners, renters, merchants and others.  The group that is ignored in this conversation are the homeowners who live here year round or part time. They have been ignored as far as the parking situation is concerned.  I totally agree that we too should receive a reserved space in front of our homes. This is a common solution around the state of New Jersey.

Wisher. Feb. 1—I am bothered that few people shovel. Now ice and snow have solidified around cars, and cannot be removed. So instead of winter in New England, the scene looks more like Arctic Station Ocean Grove.  There are many able-bodied hipsters renting in my Asbury Ave. neighborhood with nice cars and no shovel. Out of the whole two blocks around me, it was just me and another older guy shoveling our spaces. Then we pull out, and someone is there in the space when we get back.

It is a shame because it is great exercise and a way to meet people through simple acts of kindness.

 

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Sackman Enterprises created 98 rental units near the beach in A. Park.  They own other properties in AP including a new condo project and the restored Steinbach building.  They also  own #60 Main Avenue in OG.   (the brick pizza building with high rentals)   Internet photo.

By Paul Goldfinger, Editor @Blogfinger.

Here is a link to a post we published last July regarding the relationship between OG and A. Park. It raises some important issues.

OG AP connection

In Ocean Grove the pressure on “our” parking will continue to increase due to the Asbury parkers. And this is on top of other parking concerns such as the Camp Meeting Association’s plans to increase its year round programming, and the ambitious new activities at the Jersey Shore Arts Center which has new year-round events that have made life intermittently difficult over in that west end Grovarian neighborhood, and the JSAC has even more ambitious plans for the future.

And then there is the pressure  (as with the Warrington site) to create multi-unit condominium or hotel units without offering off-street parking. Added to the mixed bag is the  continued large-scale extravaganzas by the Chamber of Commerce which shuts down our streets and crams thousands of tourists for their big events.  They, the Township, and the CMA have done nothing to help residents with the parking situation during these grid-lock megalomaniac events.

Real estate in Asbury Park continues to be hot as millennials*  come into town to be close to the Asburian action. A side effect of that is the growing AP housing demand resulting in real estate spillover to Ocean Grove—–be close to the action while paying less for housing here.  But then we will see rising price pressure in OG.

If you go to any fine restaurant in A. Park you will find well-healed young people enjoying expensive dinners.  This trend will increase, and a large new high-rise building near the ocean will have condominiums, a hotel, stores and offices.

Some condos in AP have doubled  (or more) in value in just a few years,  and resales can bring up to $1 million.  There are quite a few smaller condominium conversions as well as large units all over Asbury-town, especially at their north end.    Of course they have parking problems that keep increasing.   A recent condo project recently took over a parking lot near Wesley Lake.  All of this development impacts Ocean Grove to some extent.  Woe is us!.

And how about the street water runoff into Wesley Lake?  Jack and I visited the Monroe  work site  a few months ago  (below)  and all we saw regarding the Lake’s ecology were a few ironic storm drains along the lake with a carving of a fish on them.

Where is the DEP?   We hear that the DEP plans to get involved in shore lake management, but so far, no news on that front.

Storm sewer on the Asbury side of Wesley Lake. Blogfinger photo. Click to see the ironic fish.

This is the newly built  Monroe which faces Wesley Lake on the AP side. Internet photo.

In addition, Bradley Beach has become hot with higher prices for homes that sold for a lot less not long ago.  This is the Asbury Park effect to the south of OG. And you can buy alcoholic beverages in BB.

It’s interesting that back in the day, when AP  had roaring honky tonk going on, people from BB, Avon and other southern destinations  would walk through OG, heading north on the boards, admire the scenery and the peacefulness of our town, and then proceed as fast as they could to reach the promised land of Asburian hot-times before some Grover calls them sinners.   Now the Asbury Park two-step is back again, and developers want to turn OG into AP South.com.

Some buyers are seeking houses in OG and BB as sources of income for Air B& B and more long range rentals.  From the point of view of OG residents, this is not good news.  This kind of activity can change Ocean Grove significantly.

*Millennials often are highly educated and have good jobs. Now they have saved some money and they are looking for housing around here.  Some condos in AP have doubled their valuations  (and along with it their property taxes.)

The  Pew Research Center will use 1996 as the last birth year for Millennials.    Anyone born between 1981 and 1996 (ages 22-37 in 2018) will be considered a Millennial, and anyone born from 1997 onward will be part of a new generation.

This is an explosive  time for the staid Victorian town of Ocean Grove.  Anyone who lives here, full time or part time or as a vacation destination should be aware.

LIANNE LA HAVAS     from the movie Loving Vincent—-“Starry, Starry Night”

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The Blogfinger cow is covering the Committee meetings and any undder events where he/she can report on fake news.

 

And support the Blofinger cow. Our milk is organic, and contains no methane gas.

 

From the Neptune Township Committee meeting  minutes on January 8.  Only 3 committeemen were present.

REGARDING PERMIT PARKING:  (excerpts of the minutes)

“DR BRANTLEY  stated that he could support moving forward with the permit parking proposal. Parking is a free commodity and the Committee needs to find a way to better manage this commodity. He suggested working with Asbury Park on this issue.”

“COMMITTEEMAN LANE commended Ms. Rizzo for the proposal. He stated that he could not move forward with permits at this time. He is concerned with all the residents. Permits will not decrease the number of people parking in Ocean Grove and then walking to Asbury Park. The Committee will be talking to Asbury Park on this issue.”

“MAYOR WILLIAMS stated that he was a member of the Parking Task Force. There are still unanswered questions about permit parking. There were good comments received on December 21st but there are a lot of questions including eligibility of Neptune Township residents who do not reside in Ocean Grove, how would the permits be handled at Town Hall, and how much staff would be needed.   He recommended not to move forward with the permit parking plan.”

PUBLIC COMMENTS:

“JOAN VENEZIA, 107  Mt. Hermon Way, stated that the parking decision should have been postponed until Ms. Rizzo is present. She asked the Committee how the Township will manage parking and what are the reasons why permit parking will not move forward. The Committee indicated that they would discuss the matter with Asbury Park.”

“Mr. Lane stated that permits would be a hardship to tourism and most do not want permits. Mayor Williams mentioned legal liability and the outstanding issue whether everyone in Neptune Township would be eligible for a permit.”

“BARBARA BURNS, 4 Ocean Avenue, stated that in regards to permit parking, the Committee  provided statements without evidence and no discussion. The Committee needs to get answers to any questions they have and it is not acceptable to give up. Parking is not free, there is a cost in lost time and opportunity. Unanswered questions are not a reason to not go forward. The Mayor stated that the proposal on December 18th was totally different from the proposal that they had for months.”

“Dr. Brantley stated that the Committee will not abandon the idea of looking for solutions. We will talk to Asbury Park and use their expertise”

“RAY DEFARIA, 12  New York Avenue stated the Parking Task Force did a very extensive review. Ocean Grove was founded on inviting people to come, not to keep people out.  The Ocean Grove Homeowners Association, who is supporting permits, has about 200 members but 3100 people live year round in Ocean Grove. The Committee made a hard decision, but a good decision.”

 

Editor’s note: The mayor refers to “eligibility of Neptune Township residents  who do not reside in Ocean Grove.”   This suggests that the Mayor is out of touch with the reason for a permit plan.

And,the opinions put out by Committeeman Lane  that “a permit plan would be a hardship to tourism and most do not want permits” are two unsubstantiated fake news remarks unworthy of a high Township official.

COW MUSIC:

LEWIS LYMON AND THE TEENCHORDS:   “TRA LA LA LA LA”

 

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Which way is the wind blowing regarding historic preservation in Ocean Grove? Paul Goldfinger photo © 2003.

By Paul Goldfinger, Editor @Blogfinger.

On January 24, local historian and advocate Kevin Chambers made a provocative comment while discussing the Aurora.  He said,

“Does the Aurora have any real history to it than the style in which it was built? No, it doesn’t, and since there are many other houses of the same style in OG, the loss of the Aurora would not effect the community than if it was truly unique to OG.”

Surely some of you saw his comment and would like him to explain it.  It seems to me that he is saying that we have two standards of “historic” regarding OG architecture: a truly historic structure and  an old building  that “doesn’t have any real history to it.”  The subtext is that it would even be OK to demolish the Aurora.

I can recall attending the 2013 hearing for demolition of the 134 year old Whitfield Hotel when a strong case was made that the old building was of no significance in terms of its architecture or its history in the Grove. Historians and other experts spoke and concluded that it had  “no style” and was a “useless mess.”  Citizens present agreed as did the HPC, so that old building was torn down to give way to four “reproductions” on crowded undersized lots .

Historical significance of the old Whitfield Hotel

Although we can’t exactly compare the Aurora to the Whitfield, clearly there are times when old structures should not be saved.

So is Kevin correct about the Aurora?  Should the new owner be permitted to demolish it and put up condominiums?  We already have heard about the idea of remodeling the Aurora and converting the building to 4 modern, luxury condo’s. And then there is the idea to demolish and put up single family homes. 

Wouldn’t it be great if one of those public servants who are on the Historic Preservation Commission had the courage to comment here and help educate the public about this subject, but don’t hold your breath.

So maybe some of you Grovers who are knowledgeable about historic preservation in our town would comment.

Jack Bredin did in 2016 when he wrote a letter to BF and said,   “A few months ago, at the public portion of a Committee Meeting, an attorney advised the Committee that ‘A historic district is a detriment to development.’ ”

 

BOB DYLAN   “The answer is blowin’ in the wind.”

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A legal fence in historic Ocean Grove. Blogfinger.net photo ©

By Paul Goldfinger, Editor and Jack Bredin, reporter and researcher.

At the November 1 meeting of the Board of Adjustment, a homeowner made a formal request to replace a preexisting 4 foot fence with a 6 foot fence. He based his request for a bulk variance on the need for more privacy.   The homeowner appeared without an attorney or expert witness.   Asking for more privacy is not a valid consideration in providing a variance for this homeowner’s request.

The Neptune Township zoning limits rear fences to five feet. Many historic fences are 4 feet.  Robert Frost said, “Good fences make good neighbors.”  But in OG, they may not be too tall or your good neighbors may lodge a complaint at the Mother Ship.

The Chairwoman of the Historic Preservation Commission, Deb Osepchuk,  was present. She testified that the homeowner sought approval from the HPC, but that request was denied as not being compatible with HPC Architectural Design Guidelines   (see below)

“Rear yard fence height. Fences located in a rear yard area or on lot lines abutting a rear yard area shall not exceed a height of five (5) feet. The height of any decorative elements, articulated corners, gateways and posts shall be included in the fence height measurement.”

Why would a neighbor object to this homeowner’s request? After all, we all understand the need for privacy.

The meeting was poorly attended by those who live within 200 feet of the property who had received letters notifying them of the meeting.  Two neighbors appeared to oppose approval. But the approval  or disapproval of neighbors is not required for the Board’s decision.

Some neighbors didn’t care and didn’t attend. Others could have objected on the grounds of equal justice under the law, because they believe that no one should be exempted from the rules.  Also, there are those who would object because of “light, air, and open space issues.”  And others might be concerned with neighborhood aesthetics.

But the most compelling reason for denial is “precedence.”  If this applicant were approved, then the next person who comes along asking for a 6 foot fence would have to be treated the same way.  Then, all around town, we get 6 foot fences, and then the town no longer looks as it did before—-it will be contrary to what the town is all about.

In this regard, the people of Ocean Grove who want to have a successful historic town, need to keep an eye on such applications.  Neptuners don’t have the same sensitivity to historic appearances as we do.   Luckily, the Chairman of the Board of Adjustment is an Ocean Grover—Paul Dunlap, while Deb Osepchuk  (HPC) also lives in the Grove. They understand why these issues are important.

ELLA FITZGERALD AND THE BUDDY BREGMAN ORCHESTRA

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Are the Ocean Grove beach and boardwalk private property? Paul Goldfinger photograph 2008 ©

By Paul Goldfinger, Editor  @blogfinger

In a recent communication by the Camp Meeting Association, we were told that they own all the land.

A woman was walking her dog on our grassy strip. The dog proceeded to defile the strip. Eileen asked the woman to please not allow that on our property.  The woman turned and said, “It’s not your land!”

When the CMA wanted FEMA to pay for the Sandy-damaged boardwalk, the CMA argued that it was practically-speaking  public land because the public uses it all the time as if it were public land; as if it were just like Bradley Beach.  The CMA eventually won that argument, but it was a hard sell. Blogfinger supported that theory.

And that pseudo-public land theory is true since most of the CMA property including parks and pavilions and pathways and grassy areas which they own are totally open to the public without restriction, except, for example, bike riding on the boards at certain times, but those rules are for everyone.

You can even walk around the little trails that intertwine the Tent Village. That feels private, but it is not.  I often go there and take pictures.

If the doors to the Great Auditorium are open, you can wander in, sit down, and listen to Gordon Turk do his magic on the Hope-Jones organ. Open to the public.

And a homeowner can enjoy the privilege of leasing the land which sits under his house, as long as the homeowner pays the land tax and the ground rent.

So there is a commitment to allow public access to CMA land in most places around town, and that is wonderful.  And sometimes that gives the CMA a tax benefit, such as the Green Acres funding which the Boardwalk Pavilion enjoyed until the 2007 brouhaha when the CMA lost that privilege.

But here’s the problem.  We have public municipal ordinances that involve the CMA land  (such as mandatory snow shoveling of your walk), and whenever the Township wants to initiate such a rule, it must run it by the CMA.

This becomes a fine kettle of fish when public policy must affect all of us in town, but one segment of the town, the CMA, has more influence over policy than others.  Do any of you know a comparable situation elsewhere where there is this peculiar private/public arrangement?

Which brings me to the Dog Park Principle. A petition was presented to the OGCMA to use a small public access grassy area by the tennis courts as a dog park. It seemed perfect, but then it wasn’t when the CMA exerted its private property prerogative.  It said that it was their land, and a dog park would violate their “mission.”

So, there it is…..the “mission,” which is influenced by religion, and religion is supposed to be separate from governance. Yet they rejected the dog park even though the Township was sympathetic to the dog owners on this one.

So private is public until such time that private is private.  This is the Dog Park Principle.

This is confusing.  And there is money at stake such as ownership of land that someone else is required to pay taxes on, and there is the collection of ground rent on that private land that someone else is paying taxes on.

Shouldn’t the courts challenge the Dog Park Principle again, as a public service to help the citizens of this town  (a town that is a section of a municipality—another screwy arrangement) understand what’s public and what’s private?   I say “again” because somewhere in OG’s history are court cases that failed to settle all this.

But I am a doctor, so what do I know?  I know that Ted Kennedy once complained that drug companies were giving free pens to doctors—OMG Congress was mucking around in my free pens.  Why don’t State officials muck around  in our town where there may be Constitutional issues at stake regarding the public/private distinctions being made here over, for example,  a dog park.

CAT POWER  “The Greatest.”

“Secure the grounds
For the later parade.”

“Once I wanted to be the greatest
No wind or waterfall could stall me
And then came the rush of the flood
The stars at night turned deep to dust.”

 

 

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By Paul Goldfinger, Editor and Jack Bredin Reporter and Researcher @Blogfinger.net

The meeting hadn’t yet begun, but the Township Committee attendees were greeted outside the Municipal Building by a group of demonstrators with signs complaining about plans to build a bulk-head at the Shark River. Blogfinger has little interest in the subject, but we are impressed that,  for the first time which we are aware, citizen-pickets protested outside.

We need more of that sort of activism when Ocean Grove has demands, and we often do.

Last night the OG Home Groaners planned to pressure the Committee into seriously looking into resident permit parking. They expected citizens to show up and loudly complain (at the microphone) that we need permits.  Even the political arm of Ocean Grove United tried to push the issue on behalf of their allies, the HOA, with a mass email  containing Joyce Klein’s  (HOA Parking Committee Chair) plea to show up.

But since the Home Groaners never publicly revealed their permit plan, how is the public supposed to make up its mind on this controversial issue?  Is this one of those “vote for it first and then find out what’s in it” moments?

As it turns out, an estimated 15 people spoke up, but about half were opposed and the other half were in favor; a somewhat similar result to our BF poll. Since those in favor had no idea what exactly they were in favor of, they basically asked the Committee to “do something.”  And those who were  opposed had no idea exactly what they were opposed to. They basically said “It won’t work.”

And the Committee seemed to cling to its  OG parking strategy which is to squirm in their seats while making believe they care.  This topic offers a no-win situation for them, and they have no courage to address it.   They want it to go away.

And the Home Groaners Ass. once again comes up empty regarding an issue that OG residents do care about.

Two interesting Grovers went to the microphone.  The first was Ted Bell, OG historian and HSOG member.  He said that he was in favor of a permit plan.

The other well known guest was Rev. John DiGiamberardino, COO of the Camp Meeting Association.  He read a prepared statement opposing a permit plan on the grounds that it would not coincide with the group’s “Mission Statement.”    The last time we heard that was when the citizens were rejected for a dog park in the Grove.

He did not hand out copies of his statement.  We will try to get one, since the OGHOA is very influential in town and in their dealings with the Committee.  Also, this must be important to the CMA, because they almost never go public with their views; except when Rev. John sent out a statement in the recent past on ground rents.

But, hang onto your hats, because this was a very long meeting and there was more trash talk to keep the Committee on the edge of their podium seats.

Here’s a song dedicated to the Township Committee from their buddies the OGHOA:

MARILYN MONROE

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Some Grovers are investing huge sums to create authentic Victorian restorations like this gorgeous newly redone Main Avenue showplace, but that alone does not define us.  Paul Goldfinger photo May 2, 2017.

 

Another ambitious Victorian restoration. Note the original siding being brought back to life at great expense . Blogfinger photo © Ocean Grove at  Main Avenue.

Paul Goldfinger, Editor @Blogfinger

In 2017, Ocean Grove is a small town without a clear sense of identity.  It has a local government that treats us like an appendage to be milked, but otherwise there is no love emanating from Neptune Township. We may be part of Neptune officially, but we are clearly NOT part of Neptune in our hearts.  Most towns have a continuous thread of history that has resulted in a strong sense of identity, but not Ocean Grove.

Citizens say that they “love” the town, but the definition of that love remains undefined.   They just like being here.  Is the Grove  just a collection of old houses interspersed in another cozy shore town?   Or  maybe it is the perception of the town as a place with an unusual and special  culture that attracts people to live here?  Many  like the urban feel, the friendly neighborhoods, the comfortable  sidewalks for walking, the porch culture, and the magic of summer evenings on the boards or fun at the beach.  And for some it is the closest nicest shore town to NYC.

Those who say they “love the town”  often have little knowledge of the town’s history as a religious enclave.  They have no interest in it as a historic place recognized by State and Federal historic registries.  So, to what extent is OG an authentic and serious historic district—a very special place for that reason?

A related question is whether this town was conceived as a tourist attraction?  The answer to that is an emphatic no.  Sure, in the late 1800’s, religious tourists came here in droves, mostly by train, and that identity persists to a much lesser extent today,  but it is no longer central to life in Ocean Grove.

Thirty years ago, the town was not a tourist place to have a burger, buy a T shirt, take a tour, go to a massive craft show on the Pathway, or close down Main Avenue to sell Thai food or sell shlocky art or display old British cars .   Instead the downtown had a serious grocery/butcher shop, several doctor’s offices, a video store,a flower shop, a cafeteria, a newsstand, a drug store, a barber shop,  a fishing club, a town pool, and a few fire houses.  In other words it was a town that was largely for the residents. So many towns at the shore are not for tourists, for example Atlantic Highlands, Avon-by-the Sea,  Spring Lake, Deal, Avalon, and Allenhurst.

But now Ocean Grove has become  a mish-mash—a combination of all of the above; but for those who actually  live here  (year round or part-time), or want to live here, we need to define our situation more clearly: what is the heart and soul of this town?  Or maybe those attributes don’t even exist.

Elected officials do not really represent the Grove’s citizens.  The Neptunite governing operation is like a secret foreign occupying power that has undercover agents and contacts who live among us, but has underlying agendas based upon self interest.

A local government is supposed to represent the people and try to make their lives better, but our situation  now is the opposite.

The Camp Meeting Association ran the town for over 140 years.  During that time, until 1980, they had reason to believe that the unique religious culture which prevailed till then, as odd as it was in America, would last  forever.  They certainly did not envision the town becoming a historic site.  They had no problem letting many of the early houses deteriorate. And it is unclear if stores during those years sold T shirts, surf boards, jewelry or pizza.

But when OG was handed over to Neptune Township in 1980, and with the CMA giving up governance and most blue laws,  it was like a child who lost his parents and was given to someone for foster care—for money.

The town, which was becoming quite diverse by 1980, was without a clear sense of who or what it was, and today, what is its character and purpose?

The result is a place with a variety of power centers, all self interested,  and largely propelled by an active real-estate market;  and all without the will to find a framework, common identity, and direction for the town as a whole  So the town of Ocean Grove, lacking leadership and a sense of community,  is adrift and thus what goes on here is helter-skelter and out of focus.  That is why no progress is made in solidifying the town as a real place with its own sense of being.  If it weren’t for the homeowners who have brought to life historic homes that had been on life-support, this would be a pretty disheveled and much less desirable place.

The vision of an authentic historic town, defined by its historic designations, is currently fraudulent because most citizens don’t give a rat’s tail about its history. Even the “Historic Preservation Commission” has gone dark and has seemingly slipped into the shadows, never to be trusted again.  It is rare to find a historical event here such as re-enactments, poetry readings, vintage music concerts, classical street musicians, jazz, and educational programs about the town’s history for those who actually live here.  Instead we shut down Main Avenue for car shows and we crowd the town with huge numbers of strangers (ie tourists)  to have giant retail events of no value to the town itself while the residents struggle to find a parking place and to share our streets with the free parkers heading to Asbury.

The Ocean Grove Homeowners Association has no idea what it should be doing, and its leadership has no idea what its mandate is. It is not only essentially worthless in terms of bringing this town together and forward, but it has actually become a force working against the people—a subversive presence.

Jack Bredin is correct that the only workable solution is to become our own town again  (it actually happened for one year in 1925, but the church vs state  dilemma caused it to collapse on itself.) Perhaps it is possible once again, but not in a place where the citizens are apathetic and don’t seem to care about a vision for the town.

So  Ocean Grove, despite some wonderful attributes, is poorly defined, and the citizens are seemingly satisfied to ride the waves, sleep on the beach and enjoy being here, much like so many other Jersey Shore towns, although many of those towns actually have their acts together and know who they are or what they want to be.

Bradley Beach , our neighbor to the south, which lacks the history that we have, knows what it is.   Go there to experience a true Jersey Shore town.  Forget the architecture, just view it as a fine place to enjoy the shore.   Take a deep breath and smell the ocean.  Go on Main Street on a summer night and have some Thai food or terrific Italian delicacies.  Sit outside at a real  coffee shop and watch the young people walking by or heading towards the boardwalk.  Bradley Beach has a heart and soul which goes all the way back to its founding. It knows what is, and that’s a good thing.

And here’s a song for the kids in town, especially teen agers who breathe life into our town no longer  known as “Ocean Grave:”

THE CRESTS:

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Neptune goes all out to clean up the Shark River area after Sandy, but they made believe that they had no responsibility to provide help at the OG oceanfront. If they are going to deny services to OG, than how about a tax rebate for us?  Blogfinger photo Nov. 2012. ©

 

OG volunteers clean up after Sandy. No sign of Neptune DPW at the beachfront. They made believe that it wasn’t their job by saying that the land was owned by the CMA. But what about the needs of the people of Ocean Grove?

Paul Goldfinger, Editor @Blogfinger

The relationship between the Township of Neptune and the Town of Ocean Grove has always been unnatural.   Ocean Grove is culturally, historically, demographically, and physically much different than the rest of the Township.    It is a strange and strained partnership, but Neptuners make believe that it is a good fit.

The decision to attach the town of Ocean Grove to Neptune Township was a bizarre  and archaic example of legislative  patronage, but Neptune makes believe that the historic error continues to make sense and they have refused to allow Grovers to seek a path on their own.  Even the wall in East Berlin eventually came down.

We pay property taxes to Neptune Township. They make believe that we are like the rest of the Township in terms of services paid for, but that’s not true.

We have few school-age children that use the schools compared to the rest of Neptune, but  Neptune makes believe that we are the same.

Neptune charges property tax to us for our leased land. They  make believe that we own our land. In reality the CMA claims to own  the land and collects lease charges from us. The Township should bill the CMA for the land tax, or, some arrangement should be made to turn over the land ownership to the homeowners.

Neptune won’t fix our sidewalks because they make believe that the CMA owns the sidewalks. That may be technically true, but the rest of Neptune gets their sidewalks fixed, and the CMA won’t fix our sidewalks. The Township and the CMA make believe that it is our responsibility, but why is that?  We don’t own the sidewalks.  In what towns do property-tax paying citizens fix their own sidewalks?

Neptune makes believe that we own the trees along the streets, but we do not. OG trees are in deplorable condition and pose risks to those who live, drive  and walk nearby. Does the Township allow trees along the streets in other parts of town to become unhealthy, ugly, and dangerous messes?  Neptune makes believe that the citizens should pay for tree maintenance.

Neptune is responsible for  some parks in OG, but they make believe that somebody else should maintain them.  For example, Firemen’s Park is a disgrace. They sure do a nice job with the park by the Shark River.

Neptune makes believe that Ocean Grove has representative government, but the Township Committee clearly has Neptune proper  as its priority.  Neptune makes believe that they are not exploiting our town for money  (ie the so called “cash cow” syndrome) but they are constantly looking for ways to find ratables in the Grove even if their decisions adversely impact our historic preservation and our quality of life.

Neptune makes believe that it supports the Grove’s special designation as a National and State historic site, but they consistently look for ways to defy the Master Plan and zoning ordinances that are supposed to look after the “historic district.” An example is the way that they defy RSIS rules.  Now they are working on a way to water down the HPC guidelines. They make believe that it is about fire safety.

Now they want to turn our North End into a big commercial zone that will hurt the Town of Ocean Grove.  They make believe that the project is good for the Grove.

Neptune makes believe that its first responsibility in OG is to the tax paying citizens who live there, but in reality, they act like we are invisible.  Just visit a Committee meeting to see how our neighbors are treated.  Instead, Neptune’s actual priorities are first the CMA, second developers and merchants, and third the Home Groaners Ass.

Neptune went all out to clean up and rebuild the Shark River area after Sandy, but they made believe that cleaning and fixing the ocean front was somebody else’s job. So an army of volunteers had to do it, and the CMA had to struggle to raise huge funds and to deal with FEMA. Neptune reluctantly participated later by supplying some bonds until FEMA came through.   The Township used  tax money after Sandy to fix other parts of town while denying us services and they make believe that this discrepancy doesn’t exist.

And now, as $800,000 has rolled in from FEMA for phase 3 post Sandy, the Township wants to build an unwanted bulkhead at Shark River instead of using the money to finally re-do the OG Boardwalk north of the Pavilion. They are favoring the marina area while making believe that the remaining OG Boardwalk repairs are unimportant.

So, we have  the Land of  Make Believe in Neptune, and we the people make believe that there is nothing we can do.

HARRY NILSSON  from the Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II music for Showboat.  The song is “Make Believe.”

“Others find peace of mind in pretending,
Couldn’t you? Couldn’t I? Couldn’t we?”

 

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