Open the Gates

I recently spent a quiet lunch with your publication and had the opportunity to read the story about the arrests at Crossgates Mall of a father and son wearing peace T-shirts.

The traditional location for public protests was either in front of public buildings or along Main Street USA. With the advent of malls and shopping centers we have witnessed, for the most part, the demise of Main Street as it used to be. As a result, the number of locations available for individuals to make their point has diminished and the new Main Street — the malls and shopping centers that replaced them — are viewed as taking their place. Operators and tenants can't really complain; it was their efforts that helped create the industry and at the same time foster the impression that malls and shopping centers are the places where people congregate in large numbers.

Pyramid's efforts to curtail speech really backfired, didn't they? Instead of one quiet protester they got 100 more-aggressive ones. Instead of letting Stephen Downs do his thing while shopping, they got national attention.

Wal-Mart is now trying that argument following union protests at several of its locations. (In March, Wal-Mart won a court injunction to keep union organizers out of its 3,200 U.S. stores.) Wal-Mart should remember that not only are these people their employees, but they are also more importantly their customers.
Karl Seidenwurm
New York

Greetings…From Asbury Park!

A friend forwarded a copy of David Sokol's January story titled “New Life for a Legendary Seaside City.” While I am pleased that our little “City by the Sea” has garnered so much attention, I am displeased at the cookie-cutter characterization of another “revitalization” project. Communities such as ours resent projects cynically called “urban renewal” and “urban redevelopment.”

Mind you, it is the plan presented by Oceanfront Acquisitions LLC that we (a community advocacy group) reject, not redevelopment in general, and the way it was handled. All our historic properties along the boardwalk were sold or will be sold to the Fishman group, which includes the venerable and recently renovated Paramount Theatre and the Convention Hall, and the legendary Stone Pony.

And not that many jobs will be added. It is mostly residential space being built and it's not, as the developers label it, “middle-class” housing. How many middle-class people can afford to pay $100,000 cash for a second home or income property? How many middle-class people can afford a loft for $275,000?

The redevelopment project should be the centerpiece of an economic development plan in Asbury Park. To date there is no economic development plan for the city. A redevelopment plan should jump-start our economy. This won't. Former city historian Werner Baumgartner has pointed out that the 1991 plan was an actual redevelopment and mixed-use plan, with residential, commercial, entertainment, conference and planning and retail space — providing long-term employment not just construction jobs.

And the worst part is that if this project fails, Asbury Partners will still own our boardwalk and historic properties. It will essentially have the keys to the city.
Thomas Sawyer
Site Coordinator
M-PACT Inc. Community of Shalom
Asbury Park, N.J.