Asbury Park (My city of ruins)

ASBURY PARK

Asbury Park, in Monmouth County on the New Jersey coast, was developed in Victorian times as a playground for glam metropolitan types, It had been a booming seaside resort since the late 1800s, with about 200 hotels and a carnival-like atmosphere on the boardwalk, stretching from the Casino building at the south end to the Paramount Theater and the convention hall at the north.

But in the post-war decades it declined into a barren landscape of empty streets and boarded-up windows. The city’s fortunes began a slow decline in the late 1960s, a downturn that was exacerbated by a riot fueled by racial tensions in 1970 . Beaten and burned by the 1970 race riots, damned by the recession and battered by Hurricane Sandy, Asbury seemed to face a bleak future.

Fifteen years ago, Bruce Springsteen wrote a sort of dirge (funeral song) about Asbury Park, his adopted musical hometown, called “My City of Ruins” in which he lamented the fate of this forlorn seaside resort. The Boss” has romantically detailed the town’s decline – a place of “stoned-out faces” and hardscrabble lives, where greasers “tramp the streets”.

Now, after decades of false starts, Asbury is finally showing signs of a rejuvenation. The mile-long beach is packed with residents who have restored some of the city’s grand Victorian houses, beachgoers , tourists. The shops on the boardwalk are crowded.

Asbury Park’s revival has much to do with demographic trends and a generational desire to live in more urban areas ( gay men and lesbians have gravitated to Asbury as a less expensive alternative to Fire Island and the Hamptons) . Rail service also makes it easily accessible from New York City and northern New Jersey.

 

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