I titled this site ‘Asbury Insider’ because I want to reveal Asbury Park from the perspective of someone who lives here and knows it well, an insider. I’ve been in this town for just over 10 years, although there are many others who arrived here long before me. I left briefly in 2007 when I transferred to another office, but I left that company not long after and came back to Asbury Park. The place that I loved, the place that I missed, and the place that I felt so connected to, so drawn to, as if it were pulling me in from the moment I arrived. Asbury Park will do that to you. It happens to a lot of people. I know because I talk to the people who live here and they all say the same thing, “they felt drawn to Asbury Park and fell in love with it once they got here.” Being in real estate, among other things, I’ve met many people over the years that came here to buy a summer home. They would tell me that after being here for just one year, they put their ‘other’ house on the market and moved here full time because they loved it that much.
What’s my connection? The history; like many of the empty nesters, (50 is the new 40 somethings), I remember being here as a kid. My father loved Asbury Park’s beach. He loved it because he said it had the biggest waves. He wasn’t a surfer, but my Dad loved the water and he loved to have fun. Every weekend he would pack the big (red on one side, blue on the other) raft into the car, bring us to Asbury Park and teach us how to ride the waves. My family has lots of great memories from this town. He died in June of 2005, the same year I arrived in Asbury Park. Being here reminded me of him, it still does. It was a time when I was beginning a new life and a new career. I came to work in Asbury Park because I wanted to sell real estate and this is where it was all happening. Well, things didn’t turn out exactly as I planned. I did sell some real estate but that was right before the big crash. As a matter of fact, I got my license in the summer of that year and by September people had just stopped buying. Within a few short years, the whole country was feeling it and our economy came to a screeching halt. But I don’t need to tell anyone what that was like because we all remember it.
Right about that time Madison Marquette rolled into town. It was 2007 and developer Gary Mottola decided it was time to help re-ignite the mired renaissance of Asbury Park. Not only was he willing to take on a project that many before him walked away from. He chose to do it in the most horrific economic downturn the country had seen in over half a century. It was a gutsy move, but it paid off! I was fortunate enough to be part of the team that represented the failed Kushner project that Madison Marquette purchased and brought back to life; Wesley Grove Condominiums and Townhomes. Asbury Park was still a little scary back then for most people. We would have meetings in a beautiful sales center looking out the window at boarded up, abandon buildings trying to sell half-a-million dollar townhomes. Eventually, the economy began to turn around and it got done! If you pick up the newspaper today, you will probably read something about Jay Sugarman, CEO of iStar or Brian Cheripka, iStars Vice President of Land and Development. iStar might be ‘The Star’ of the show now, but anyone who’s been here a while knows that Gary Mottola, President of Madison Marquette is the one who got this party started. And he came for the same reason many people do; the history. He was one of those baby boomers with memories from Asbury Park. He did it for the money of course, an entrepreneurial venture, but also for his love of Asbury Park. He had to; why else would he take such a gamble? And when I say he got the party started, I mean that literally. Madison Marquette, in an effort to make the Asbury Park boardwalk the place to be, would hold fireworks on the beach every Wednesday night all summer long. And each summer the crowds on the boardwalk would get bigger and bigger. It was exciting to watch. They even paid for the town to have police patrol the streets on horseback. It might have been a few years too early, but it paid homage to the towns allure, just one more thing that made Asbury Park special.
iStar Financial may not have an emotional attachment and be strictly about profits and dividends, but that’s okay because they are definitely “all in.” They have been unloading millions of dollars into this town starting from the bottom up by rebuilding the infrastructure, which was badly needed. Our streets were a mess! We are now getting; new sewer systems, newly paved streets, new sidewalks, landscaping and new street lighting, among other things. And it doesn’t look like it’s slowing down anytime soon. The most recent residential development project by Hovnanian sold out in two days and there are more to come. If you have been reading the newspaper then you probably know about the article that ran in the New York Times last summer labeling Asbury Park as, “long neglected,” and “showing signs of rejuvenation.” To the person who wrote that article I want to say, “Where the heck have you been?” You need to check your facts because obviously you haven’t been here in a while. Asbury Park isn’t starting to show signs of coming back, Asbury Park IS BACK. Most locals will agree there are a few things wrong with that article from July 2015, and not just the title. The article reads like Jay Sugarman and his cohorts rode into town as knights on white horses to save Asbury Park and is now ‘finally’ showing signs of rejuvenation. A bit of an exaggeration. The article portrays Asbury Park as it was 20 years ago. It also fails to mention that the “boardwalk that was taken over by another company, Madison Marquette,” got here several years earlier, (like many real estate developers) who took a shot in poor economic times and…”rebuilt the pavilions, brought in restaurants and shops, and operate the Stone Pony and the Wonder Bar,” all of which contribute to making Asbury Park what it is today.
My first version of this article was titled after Madonna’s hit song “like a virgin ;)” because it was my very first blog post, and because I guess you could say Asbury Park is like a virgin, a born-again virgin. A place where the beach and boardwalk lie dormant and desolate for decades and are now vibrant, thriving and full of life!