Saturday, June 23, 2007

Long Branch, New Jersey

Bike shop that I bought my Langster in is located in Long Branch, New Jersey. When I picked up the Langster I scheduled service on my Trek Mountain bike. Today was the day I planned on picking it up since I had to get my SUV serviced and I would be in the area. I had an 8 AM appointment at the car dealer and I figured that it would take 2 hours to complete the service. I ended up being done by 9:15 Am and The Peddler did not open until 10 AM.

I got to the bike shop early so I park my car and walked around the neighborhood. The Peddler is located on the main road that runs parallel to the Atlantic. At some point it is labelled RT 36 but I think it changes names a block or two before it gets to the Peddler's location. The shop is only a couple hundred yards from the boardwalk/beach area.

Long Branch has gone through a lot of changes in the past couple of years. It used to be a rough Jersey Shore town that kind of had a bad reputation. When I first moved to New Jersey I lived in Atlantic Highlands and I used to drive to Long Branch, park on the north end of the boardwalk and walk south to the end and back. While it was a nice walk it was obvious that the area had seen better days. All that was really left was an abandoned water park, some tourist/beach shops and a couple of dive bars.

All of this has changed. The borough has used Eminent Domain laws to condemn property so that developers can create retail, condo and rental space along the water front. While I am not really familiar with all the details I do have mixed views on this. While I have seen the improvements first hand and feel that the community has benefited from the changes. However, I am not sure that I can support the idea of government taking houses and land from residents at below market value and letting developers sell the same location at a premium.

The neighborhood that The Peddler is located in is the last holdout. These residents have banded together and are not willing to sell out. So what you have is massive development on either side of the neighborhood. If you watched the last episode of the Sopranos this neighborhood is the location of the safe house that Tony and Carmella were holding up in.

I am not sure how much longer these people will be able to hold out but I do admire their willingness to "Stick it to the Man!". Now that the real estate market has cooled off there may be less pressure. While this neighborhood is not nearly has shiny as the new development that has edged up against it; it is not blighted either. It has some real charm that the new development is definitely missing. However, when you are located only 1/2 a block from the beach there is going to be pressure to maximize the area. Especially when it is only a 60 minute train ride into New York city.

When my wife and I were walking along the boardwalk in the late 80s we could see the changes coming. A new hotel was being built and at the end of the street that is protesting the Eminent Domain laws two sets of condos were being built. At the time they condos were out of place in the neighborhood but now it feels like the neighborhood is now out of place. In the end I guess that is progress.

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