By Lauren Wanko
While construction is underway on the portion of the Seaside Height’s boardwalk destroyed by the September fire, Seaside Park is at a standstill.
“Oh it’s frustrating. It’s frustrating because I think we’re at a time now were we can move forward,” said Seaside Park Borough Administrator Robert Martucci.
But Seaside Park hasn’t been able to move forward. The borough maintains the boardwalk easement, but roughly 500 feet of boardwalk is privately-owned property. About 30 businesses rent space on the boards, and many have 99-year leases. Here’s the hurdle: the private owners don’t just want to rebuild the damaged section; they want to widen the original boardwalk, triple its size from its current 18 feet to between 55 and 60 feet in width, says Martucci. So that means the stores and shops on the boardwalk would have to move.
“The 99-year leaseholders, their metes and bounds were at the side of our boardwalk, our easement but would be standing right in the middle of the new boardwalk. These people would have to relocate to sides of the boardwalk,” Martucci said.
Martucci says the boardwalk property owners and leaseholders are in the process of negotiating. Only a couple businesses are holding out. On Friday, Gov. Christie had a message for those slowing down the boardwalk rebuild.
“Anyone in the publicor private sector who is slowing us down from getting this project done will have to talk to me and feel one-on-one my powers of gentle persuasion,” Christie said.
“I really believe what the governor is saying is, ‘Come on, time is of the essence now because it’s the season, because if you hold out too much, what do you gain if you lose the season?’” Martucci relayed.
Nothing, insist some business owners. Charlroy Motel general manager says enough is enough. It’s time to rebuild the boardwalk.
“It is seriously hurting my business. I am worse than last year, which amazes me. I understand they need their frontage and they’re trying to save themselves, but they’re killing the rest of us. A lot of us won’t make it without the boardwalk here,” said Cheryl Raley.
One of the boardwalk property owners declined NJTV’s request for an interview. Another was unreachable. So — for now — there’s no boardwalk to connect Seaside Heights to Seaside Park.
“It’s vital that the pedestrian traffic, that tourism traffic come into Seaside Park from Seaside Heights and back,” said Martucci.
Martucci says there is a chance the boardwalk could be rebuilt Memorial Day.
Seaside Park is holding a Planning Board meeting tonight to review the construction plans for the boardwalk and buildings. Martuccci says that could be approved, but the only thing standing in the way of the construction is the business owners who don’t want to relocate.