By JOANNE L. PAPAIANNI
More than 2500 area residents are upset over the current project to narrow the Asbury Park boardwalk at the north end to create a new walkway.
A petition posted on Change.org has gathered more than 2500 signatures in an effort to stop the construction.
A large crowd is expected at tonight’s (Nov. 8) City Council meeting where the project will be discussed.
The work, being done by beachfront developer iStar, was approved long ago in the 2002 and 2004 redevelopers agreements. The developer owns the property.
It includes narrowing the boardwalk in the area from Sixth Avenue to Fisherman’s Parking Lot to 15 feet and creating a meandering walkway, which is said to be more resilient.
It also includes adding vegetation and dunes as well as the repaving and relining of the parking lot.
Brian Cheripka, iStar’s Vice President for Land Management, will address the issue at the council’s work session tonight beginning at 6 p.m.
According to City Manager Michael Capabianco, the work currently being done is a meandering boardwalk which was approved in the 2002 and 2004 Redevelopers Agreement. Sections of the current boardwalk have already been removed.
He also said the project has nothing to do with the proposed future private and public beach clubs which were also approved in the 2002 agreement for the north end of the beach.
“They are all separate projects,” Capabianco said.
Capabianco said iStar has received the required Coastal Area Facility Review Act, or CAFRA permits along with Department of Environmental Protection, or DEP, permits.
He said the 2002 agreement calls for the north end of the beachfront to “be quieter and more residential” in nature.
Plans for any private and public beach clubs will have to come before the council because they will require financial approvals as they are being constructed on private parcels.
An anonymous letter has been circulating on social media sites which condemns the work.
The letter states, “I feel the community should understand and have immediate communication of this drastic change of the removal of three city blocks of boardwalk to make room for a private beach and three story club for the Ocean Club as well as talks of constructing additional condominiums where the current Fisherman’s Beach is.”
The Change.org petition declares the situation to be “urgent” and makes a plea to “save Asbury’s waterfront.”
Petitioners say they want to foster appropriate development in the area that would maximize social inclusion and access for all; recognize current development guidelines and practices; be sensitive to endangered species and the environment and have transparency from public officials during all phases of the project.
At a meeting last month with Capabianco iStar outlined its plans for the area from Sixth Avenue to Fisherman’s Parking lot.
The plans included fully paving and striping the lot along with adding 19 new street lights; 111 parking spots and six handicapped spots; storm drainage to be collected and filtered to the latest DEP standards which are up from 50 percent to 80 percent total suspended solids before flowing into Deal Lake. The change, according to the NJDEP will improve water quality.
Changes to the boardwalk include composite decking with a 10 year commercial warranty; about 80,000 square feet of protective sand dunes equalling 1.83 acres; a new meandering boardwalk, 15 feet wide, at a grade with the new dunes; 19,000 native Cape American beach grasses will be planted plus 2200 native grasses, shrubs and flowers.
All existing sidewalks to the boardwalk entrances will be reconstructed and a new access point will be added on the southern side of Seventh Avenue.
The existing playground on the beach will be relocated about 200 feet north.
The improvements are scheduled to be completed about May 1.
Plans are for the private beach club to be built by the summer of 2020 with new restroom facilities included in the plans.
The pubic beach club would be constructed 10 months after the private beach club, Capabianco said.