Neptune’s mayor is going door to door in Ocean Grove in an effort to gauge residents’ thoughts about the locked gates over two pedestrian bridges between the historic district and Asbury Park.
The gates on the bridges across Wesley Lake are locked every night from midnight to 5 a.m. and have been a controversial issue since they were installed in 1995. At the time Neptune officials believed the gates would deter possible criminals from going back and forth between Ocean Grove and Asbury Park.
Neptune and Asbury Park officials are scheduled to meet July 10 to discuss the issue.
In a prepared statement Neptune Mayor Carol Rizzo said she has been circulating a petition among Ocean Grove residents, especially those living near the two bridges.
“I have opened every dialogue with the same speech… `We have a request from Asbury Park to take down the gates. How do you feel about that?’ I am tracking the responses: pro, con and don’t care,” she said.
The petition reads: “We the residents of Ocean Grove’s North-end whose homes reside between Heck Avenue and Lake Avenue and Ocean and Lawrence Avenues, are imploring the Township Committee to maintain the gates on the footbridges as they are today so we can live in relative tranquility.
“Without the gates as a deterrent to the problems of resident parking and increasing noise and objectionable behavior from returning Asbury Park patrons, the North-end of the Grove will become a less desirable place to live, driving down our quality of life and our property values.
“We implore the Township Committee to leave the gates as they are now and not take down the gates or simply institute resident only parking for the north-end of Ocean Grove!”
Rizzo said she believes it is her responsibility as mayor to gauge public reaction to the gates.
“As is my responsibility as mayor, I have, over the past several days, had dozens of conversations with North End Ocean Grove residents about the gates. I believe it’s important for elected officials to hear from the constituents we represent.
“While I am happy that Asbury Park’s restaurant, bar and music scene has continued to grow in popularity, I will continue to consider this issue from the perspective of the quality of life in our neighborhoods,” she said.
Ocean Grove’s Barbara Muzychka, who lives two short blocks from one of the gates, said that the mayor rang her doorbell at the end of last week and asked if she was aware of the situation regarding the gates.
“She asked how I felt about them and I said I never liked them- and I still don’t like them,” she said.
Muzychka said Rizzo then wrote something on a piece of paper. She said she suggested the mayor also contact her neighbor, who is in support of keeping the gates locked. She later found out that when the mayor realized her neighbor was in support of locking the gates, she was asked to sign the petition about the matter, which her neighbor did.
Muzychka said she is concerned about the message being sent by the mayor carrying a petition.
“The mayor is supposed to represent all residents, not just some selected residents,” Muzychka said. “ I live close to the gates and come home very late at night and I don’t hear any noise at night.”
She called Rizzo’s actions “Trumpish fearmongering.”
The issue has also attracted much attention on various social media sites.
Asbury Park Councilwoman Eileen Chapman attended a Neptune meeting several weeks ago asking Neptune about the status of the locked gates and suggesting a meeting.
“These bridges affect both municipalities and we think a dialogue would be beneficial both communities,” she said.
In 1995, Neptune installed gates at the southern end of the two Wesley Lake bridge crossings between Asbury Park and Ocean Grove. They are locked between midnight and 5 am and were originally installed as a crime-prevention measure. Locking the gates has been a controversial matter ever since they were installed.
Some city and township residents said the issue of the gates being locked may now have more to do with parking than with safety. Those heading into Asbury Park sometimes park in Ocean Grove, which has free parking as opposed to metered parking in Asbury Park.