Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Redevelopment: Love it or Leave it.

Today’s Asbury Park Press had an article covering the agreement between the city and the developer down at Pier Village.

Clearly, both the Schneider and Unger teams have their confederates out commenting their little politically active hearts out on the website for the article. Unfortunately, the recent sideshow events regarding Councilman Unger’s alleged lies and coverup has dragged public discourse from the serious to the ridiculous--where we expect it will remain through the election next May.

So, since the commentators on seem interested in only attacking the primary actors in our little play and not addressing the serious topics in our little city, the LBA thought perhaps we would take our first foray into the topic of the article, redevelopment.

It is our position that the area flanking the Ocean Place Conference Center was, in fact, blighted before construction began on any phase of redevelopment, and was blighted for at least fifteen years prior. The “Great Pier Fire” of 1987 destroyed one of only two components of legitimate commerce on the entire oceanfront (can you name one other than the Sea Loft?) and even that was honky-tonk. The other area businesses were all related to the pier in one way or another. Immediately outside of the pier vicinity, the housing stock was more or less sub-par, new development was virtually non-existent and it was NOT an area anyone with any legitimate purposes would want to frequent either alone or after dark—and certainly not off-season.

As such, the use of eminent domain was not only justified, it was an appropriate use of the power given the condition of the blighted area.

We do not like seeing people’s property taken anymore than you do, but it was a blighted area in need of redevelopment. To think otherwise requires a revisionist approach to the historical realities of the city.

The city attempted to deal with this near-death blow on several occasions. Credit is due to then-Mayor Phil Huhn and his administration for not only landing the Ocean Place development but also laying the groundwork for a master plan for the beachfront. The recession of the late 1980’s and early 1990’s really brought the fruition of the master plan to a screeching halt but the Ocean Place complex was completed and opened in late 1990. Between 1990 and 1997, very little actual development took place, but much was happening behind the scenes as Mayor Schneider and his administration launched a serious and professional master approach to the beachfront area.

The rest, as they say, is history. The recession ended, the housing market exploded, times were good and people were happy.

Now that the first phases of redevelopment are complete and Pier Village and Beachfront North are now here, along with a new recession and a slumping housing market, the real estate market (not eminent domain) should dictate what properties are sold for and whether they are on the market in the first place. If redevelopment was successful then the area is no longer blighted and no longer in need of city-sponsored redevelopment.

Already, you are seeing signs that the market is driving even the city-sponsored redevelopment off course. The Broadway “arts” district seems to be off schedule, the Beachfront South district is remarkably off schedule and sales of the housing stock in Pier Village are sagging—despite the construction underway on Pier Village Phase II.

In any event, the partisans who are not contributing to the progress of the city and only to the progress of their candidate of choice are fighting on the

You, however, have come to the one independent voice for honest discussion of the life and times of the City of Long Branch—the Long Branch Advocate!
One question from the article though: What money is being spent on the rest of town? Roads, sidewalks, improvements, anything? Let us hope the powers that be do not forget that most of us do not live in the redevelopment area. . . and we toughed it out during the dark days of the city. How about a little something for the dedication?


Anonymous said...

Fair comment in general. I believe the area was a complete crap hole even when the pier and boardwalk was up and running. I don't accept ED being used north of what was cooper ave or south of morris ave. In between, yes apporiate use of ED and lower Bway also.

Anonymous said...

This comment evinces a fundamental misunderstanding of economics. Condemnation for redevelopment is a distortion of the market. Individual properties are seized from unwilling owners at individual valuations; the properties are aggregated into a larger parcel that os worth more than the sum of condemnation payments; the excess value is gifted to the developer. The developer profits not by creating value, but by receiving it: (1) the enhanced value derived from aggregation; (2) tax abatements; (3) subsidies from the municipality -- like the $500,000 paid to the developer here; (4) re-zoning for higher densities.

If a project were economically productive, it would occur without condemnation and taxpayer financing.

Long Branch Advocate said...

We are not qualified to get into the economic feasibility of the use of Eminent Domain. But since it is a legally viable option that has been upheld by courts with valid jurisdiction, we will continue to maintain that it was an appropriate use of the function.

Anonymous said...

Respectfully, the "advocate" may deem himself/herself "unqualified" to engage in economic and legal analysis -- but that is precisely what we need. Without listing my professional and educational qualifications, I deem myself qualified to offer opinions on these topics.

That which is "legal" is not always "right." It is "legal," right now, for any home in Long Branch to be seized in condemnation. Is it right?

We must not abdicate our rights or our future to "experts." If the "experts" say you should be run out of town, your home seized and destroyed, and that you and your family should be replaced by a "better class of people," would you agree? Must you agree, because they are "experts"?

Our Mayor and Council are not philosopher-kings. We are not ignorant serfs. It's not that the "advocate" (or anyone else) is "not qualified." In a democracy, everyone is qualified to speak their mind -- and to have their opinions tested by reasoned and decorous discourse. (Note to Mayor and Council: "decorous.")

If my prior post concerning inherent economic distortion be incorrect, tell me why. It's OK -- you need not be an "expert."

guy on the bike said...

good one kev

Anonymous said...

Who is "kev"? Not I.

Anonymous said...

Your blog reads ". . .sales of the housing stock in Pier Village are sagging despite the construction underway on Pier Village Phase II." Pier Village has no housing stock. True, the housing market may be sagging, but because of that, the rental market is booming, which is exactly why Pier Village Phase II is being pursued.