GREETINGS FROM ASBURY PARK
Homes and businesses face the wrecking ball as developers move forward with a plan to revitalize Asbury Park, NJ
Airs Friday, 1/8 at 10:00 p.m. on CPTV
Angie, 91, lived through three decades of rust, riot and ruin in Asbury Park, the one-time postcard paradise of the Jersey Shore. Now the tiny bungalow that she has called home, for half her life, will be seized by eminent domain. Nationwide, eminent domain, once reserved for public projects such as roads, hospitals and schools, is increasingly employed for private gain. In a heartbreaking twist of fate, Angie’s home and neighboring homes, apartments and local businesses, are boarded up, ready for the wrecking ball. 29 city blocks, 56 acres of waterfront property and historic boardwalk attractions now belong to a private developer and will be razed to make way for 3,100 luxury condominiums.
Angie is wholly confused by this strange twist of fate. She appeals to the Mayor, to the City Council. Her voice quivering with sadness, her pleas ring out across a vast emptiness. Her neighbors lived here. Where did they go? she wonders.
But this is welcome progress, and terrific tax revenues, say city officials. The revitalized Asbury Park will be a thrilling combination of SoHo and South Beach. Dana Berliner, a senior attorney for the Institute for Justice recounts a national trend toward the abuse of eminent domain. Scholars, historians and experts on community development point out that this plan indeed exacerbates the tension and division of race and class and threatens the very identity of this little shore resort. We visit numerous families – a Pakistani couple who run a motel, a widow living with her six grandchildren in her childhood home, the owner of a beachfront restaurant. They are devastated by their impending loss.
Meanwhile, the bulldozers are in Angie’s backyard, and Angie’s attorney breaks the news to her. A court case challenge is difficult and costly. This could be the last summer her beloved garden will be in bloom. “I came to the United States a displaced person, and I will be again a displaced person,” she says sadly.