Asbury Park

Jesse Fried • Oct 07, 2019

Some personal memories:

In college, after a day at the beach, in a different shore town, going to Asbury Park to walk on the boardwalk and have Korean Tacos for dinner. On the boardwalk you could hear live rock music from the Stone Pony. Everyone in New Jersey was there, relaxed, proud of their embattled but beautiful resort. This was a time of my life when my horizons were expanding, but experiences like these convinced me that maybe I didn't need to go too far and wide to find what I wanted and needed from the world.

More recently, coming down on the train on a hot day to have dinner with friends in an overpriced restaurant (good steak though). I got there a bit early, so I walked to the beach and took a sunset swim before dinner. Had to change between cars in a parking lot after, but it was worth it.

When I was little and staying with family friends in neighboring Ocean Grove, we went to Asbury Park and peered through boarded up doors at the carousel. I wondered why it was abandoned. I still don't fully understand.

My Family

My mom used to vacation in Asbury Park with her family as a girl. She fondly remembers being given some money and allowed to wander the boardwalk by herself.

I am a bit hazy on the details here, but I believe my great grandma lived out the end of her days in an apartment building in Asbury Park as an elderly widow. I heard my grandpa blame "bad blacks" for her demise.

More generic information

Brief, brief summary: Before air travel and the advent of resorts in Florida, Mexico, Aruba, etc., Asbury Park was a big deal for beach resort tourism. Apparently the resort economy (here and in neighboring towns like Long Branch) supported a small but very well-organized black community that was generally doing fairly well at fighting discrimination and breaking their way in to increasingly middle-class educational and employment opportunities.

The decline of the resort plus institutional neglect and disinvestment left the town high and dry, and very isolated. The 70's and 80's were a generally bad time to live there or visit there, as with many larger cities around the state and the nation. Now, Asbury Park is nice again though, and attracts people from all over the state, New York City and beyond. It's an interesting combination of city, resort, and Jersey Shore.

Source: Suburban Erasure by Walter Greason. A professor of History at Monmouth University, Greason is incredible at using local history to tell larger stories about "uneven" metropolitan development and strange hierarchical, racially determined social order we have created.