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The Ocean Club, 1101 Ocean Avenue in A. Park. Opening soon. Blogfinger photo 12/4/18.

By Paul Goldfinger, Editor Blogfinger.net

The Asbury Park Press referred to this iStar project as “The Changing Face of Asbury Park.”  There are 17 stories, 130 condominiums— most over $1 million, and a hotel with 54 rooms.  There will be parking within and a beach club.  The skyline has already been dramatically altered, and that can be the subject of appreciation or scorn as seen from Ocean Grove.

It will certainly signal a fundamental change in what the future will hold in that town.  Most of the structures along the boardwalk in A. Park are one or two stories.  But now, will iStar get greedy and plan to demolish those buildings and put up more view-blocking and congestion-creating buildings along the ocean?   The lure of great wealth might result in Asbury Park’s becoming Long Branch.

This is the architectural profile currently seen at the Boardwalk of A. Park;  and the rest of the town is mostly low slung as well.  In fact much of the development so far has tried to keep that look—until now.    Blogfinger photo 12/18

And will some of those commercial smoke signals be read in the Grove where the future North End  design is currently being plotted by money driven developers and politicians, some of whom are Ocean Grovers.

DUM DUM GIRLS  “Are You Okay?”

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4th Avenue. A.Park Paul Goldfinger photograph. ©

4th Avenue. A.Park Paul Goldfinger photograph. ©  Click to enlarge

 

KEN PEPLOWSKI (clarinet) AND FRIENDS:     “All the Things You Are.”  By Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II.

 

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Asbury Park. July 29, 2002. Paul Goldfinger photo ©

Asbury Park. July 29, 2002. Paul Goldfinger photo ©. Click to make the crowd bigger. Blogfinger.net

We were in A. Park when Bruce Springsteen launched his album  The Rising on July 29, 2002.  It was about his feelings regarding 9-11.

It was like a scene from Brigadoon.  Ordinarily no one was on the beach in AP, even in the summer. It was like a ghost town.  But this day, the beach was mobbed, and there was live music.  Celebrities were there, bright lights illuminated where the Today Show was being filmed at the water’s edge, with Katie Couric getting wet up to her knees.  Danny DeVito was to be interviewed on the beach. It was all very festive. On the boardwalk there were dancers and all sorts of characters looking on.

Danny DeVito on the beach. He was born in Neptune and raised in Asbury Park. Paul Goldfinger photo ©

Danny DeVito on the beach in AP. He was born in Neptune and raised in Asbury Park. Paul Goldfinger photo ©  He’s wearing his hat from his production company “Jersey Films.”  Blogfinger.net

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BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN  from the album The Rising. “My City of Ruins” was dedicated to Asbury Park. It was first performed in Convention Hall in 2000.

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Wesley Lake seen from Ocean Grove.  November, 2013.  By Paul Goldfinger ©

Wesley Lake seen from Ocean Grove. November, 2013. By Paul Goldfinger © Click left to see more

WILLIE NELSON.  “The Night Life”

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Northeast  portion of Convention Hall. Asbury Park Sun photo.

Northeast portion of Convention Hall. Asbury Park Sun photo.

We learned about this event on Sunday from the Ocean County Signal and then today we have a link below from the Asbury Park Sun (courtesy of Tom Constantino of Ocean Grove).  Convention Hall is a decrepit structure, but there are walkways on both sides overlooking the beach and the ocean.  This past Sunday at about 11:30 am., a 4 inch slab of concrete shattered on the northeast side, right where a baby shower was to take place about one hour later. There were no injuries. See the link below for the latest story.

Falling cement roof at Convention Hall

Ironically, I was taking a walk on the AP boardwalk at 7:30 a.m, Sunday morning.  I was taking pictures for a photo essay when I arrived at Convention Hall.  I was attracted to that open walkway on the southeast side.  I took one photo (below)  and then walked down to the end.   No one was there, so I enjoyed the view and left.  A minute later, as I walked past Convention Hall, I looked back at the northeast walkway.   About four hours later, the roof came down at that location.

Thank goodness that the baby shower was not going on when the roof fell.  It reminds me of the line from “When You Wish Upon a Star” which says,

“Like a bolt out of the blue, fate steps in and sees you through..”

7:48 am,  Sunday August 4, south east side of Convention Hall.  Paul Goldfinger photo

7:48 am, Sunday August 4, south east side of Convention Hall. Paul Goldfinger photo

LEON REDBONE.  “When You Wish Upon a Star.”

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Celebra on Main Street in Asbury Park. All photos by Paul Goldfinger. June, 2013. ©

Celebra on Main Street in Asbury Park. All photos by Paul Goldfinger. June, 2013. ©  Left click to enlarge all photos

By Paul Goldfinger  Re-posted from 2013 but still relevant.  Not much has changed to 2018, but there are signs  that Guadalajara-in-New Jersey boulevard is beginning to change for the better.

Almost every day I have an automobile adventure as I set out for Wegmans. The first part is heading north on Main Street, a  multicultural showpiece in Asbury Park where driving is a challenge.  To begin with, bad driving is a norm there. You must watch for abrupt lane changes, especially by cab drivers;  jay walkers  (it is the Jaywalking Capital of America;)  oblivious drivers who stop cold and block one lane of traffic;  giant pot holes,  and getting caught behind cars trying to make left turns–like the guy who can’t wait to get to “Meat ‘n More ” or the driver who missed the left signal at Asbury Avenue—sort of the Times Square of AP.

Sometimes the fire engines come screaming out of their garage onto Main Street.  I guess the main virtue and  problem along that stretch is the the high volume of cars and people in a relatively small area.

But Main Street is  a moveable visual feast*, so it is better to walk than drive.  Don’t be tempted to sightsee while you drive north on Main Street. It could be dangerous.  Some of the sights are  fascinating such as the hair braiding places like  Sir Jean’s  and  the frequent Mexican restaurants ( “I wonder which one is best,”  you think.)  Or you might be tempted to study the line outside the sneaker store and engage in some cultural analysis.   You spot the Salvation Army thrift shop  (now gone—2018) on the left and you think, “I have an old leg of lamb that I could donate and get a tax deduction”

Johnny Mac's on a Sunday afternoon. Main Street. ©

Johnny Mac’s on a Sunday afternoon. Main Street. ©  Go there if you are interested in speed dating.  Go to OG if you want slow dating.

You also pass the offices of the Coaster, a newspaper that specializes in old news.

There are a variety of restaurants to check out,  but no Starbucks.  “Where can I get Starbucks around here?,”  some might wonder, as they look from side to side. (Only a visitor  who is culturally out of touch would look for Starbucks on Main Street.)

If it’s Saturday in the summer you can stop at the Sunset Avenue Farmer’s Market, but watch out for people crossing with their bags of tomatoes.  Also, be alert for the tourists pulling luggage as they head from the train station to the Grove, or the school kids, or the crossing guards, or the day workers, or the little Mexican moms shepherding a few kids to school,  or the cars turning into the two Dunkin’ Donuts.

If you, like me, enjoy  people watching, Main Street can be of great visual interest, but it’s like texting when driving, don’t take your eyes off the road.  Sometimes I am drawn into beautiful Sunset Park because I see something worth photographing.

You might also be tempted to turn into Frank’s Restaurant where everybody goes for  breakfast including cops, contractors, politicians,  bloggers, realtors, homeboys, wayward Grovers and stylish types from across the border on Cookman Avenue.

And another distraction is the cacophony of loud music emanating from stores and cars and trucks:  Salsa, hip hop and then Beach Boys from the white guys in the Jeeps.

Frank's. Everybody knows this place. ©

Frank’s, closed on Sunday. Everybody knows this place. ©

Ribs, pizza, burgers and fried chicken.

Ribs, pizza, burgers and fried chicken. It’s convenient.

Once  you have survived that leg of the trip, you need to turn left at Sunset Ave by the Dunkin Donuts.  You go one block and you meet the train tracks. I always slow down there because of the “bumpity bump” that threatens my wheels, tires and suspension. I once saw a guy swerve hard to the right to avoid the rattling wheels. One time I tried that, and the driver behind  thought I was turning right, and a moment later he was passing me on the tracks.

Train tracks at Sunset Avenue and Memorial. PG photo

Train tracks at Sunset Avenue and Memorial. PG photo. June, 2013

So, a few weeks ago, work began on that Sunset Ave section of track. After a couple of weeks of not remembering and then having to make multiple U-turns past a stadium that I never saw before, I found an alternate route, but soon the work was over.

I guess the stadium  is the home of the Asbury Park High School Bishops.  Be the first to tell us why their mascot is a bishop, and you will win a prize.

Now, there is  no more clickity -clack when you drive over the tracks.  It is as smooth as silk.  After that, the trip to Wegmans is very nice—that is until you get to Rt 35  in Ocean—white bread country—where there are other issues, but we’ll leave that for another time.

So take another look at Main Street as a place to visit and to have dinner.  Send us a restaurant review.    It actually is a much more fascinating place than Soho-by-the-sea which is downtown vertically to the east, and a lot less spicy.

* Credit to Ernest Hemingway for the “movable feast” line.

MARIACHI MEXICO DE PEPE VILLA  “Cancion Mixteca”

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Sunday morning, July 8, 200 Cookman Ave., Asbury Park. Photo by Mary Walton

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Photos by Paul Goldfinger.  Place your cursor at the bottom to bring up the controls. You can stop any picture and then go forward or backward.

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By Charles Layton

It looks as though, over the next couple of years, Asbury Park will resume construction of new beachfront townhouses and condominiums. But it will proceed more slowly and carefully this time to avoid the calamities that resulted from its fast-track development plans of the past.

There is a lesson here for Ocean Grove, as negotiations proceed over our own North End hotel/residential redevelopment plan.

Asbury Park had soaring ambitions in 2002 when it set out to revive its beachfront area. It drew up a $1.25 billion redevelopment plan that was to include 3,100 new residential units, mostly condos. But then, in the midst of construction, the housing market crashed. The Esperanza, a high-rise project that was to contain 224 luxury units next to the beachfront, was abandoned by its developer and foreclosed upon by its lender due to lack of sales. Wesley Grove, another condo project just across from Ocean Grove, also fell flat in the market. The developer only completed one of four planned phases, leaving a forest of unsightly wooden stumps in an open field where the rest of the homes would have been.

Last December, the City of Asbury Park took its master developer to court, accusing the developer of defaulting on its obligations. And three weeks ago an arbitrator ruled that the developer was not responsible for most of the delays and failures the city had cited. Instead, he declared, the primary failure was the city’s own fast-track plan, which was at odds with housing market reality.

“The market conditions in the United States, including New Jersey, during this time period were, and continue to be, extremely poor,” the arbitrator, retired federal judge Nicholas Politan, wrote. “Testimony elicited at the hearing supports the fact that there exists a housing market catastrophe. This is particularly true in areas primarily geared to seasonal and second home development.”

(Every realtor in Ocean Grove would probably say “amen” to that.)

And so, rather than allow the city to acquire a new master developer and plunge headlong, as before, Politan prescribed a more modest and prudent course. He ordered the developer to deliver plans this month for a new project – 28 townhouses at Asbury Avenue and Kingsley Street – and to complete those homes within about a year and a half. Once 50 percent of those units are sold, the developer could begin building 168 more units at Munroe and Cookman. Until 50 percent of those are sold, other proposed housing projects in the oceanfront redevelopment area would remain on hold.

How does all this affect Ocean Grove’s North End? Well, in the first place, besides a hotel, the North End plan includes as many as 85 residences, most of them condominiums. In the second place, as Politan says, the catastrophically bad housing market continues. And in the third place, the additional residences likely to come on line in Asbury, right across Wesley Lake from the North End, will be added competition for the North End condos — and in an already glutted market.

Last month, the Ocean Grove Home Owners Association approved a list of  suggestions for Neptune Township to consider as it negotiates a final agreement with the North End developers. One of its suggestions is a timetable somewhat like the one Politan is imposing on the Asbury Park developers. The HOA suggests that each block of condos should be 75 percent sold before the next block is started, “to insure no empty partially constructed structures.”

The wisdom of this suggestion is obvious.

A victim of the housing market, The Esperanza in Asbury was never finished. Photo by Mary Walton

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