By Anthony Collincini
It’s our differences that make us similar. This sentiment embodies the often overlooked relationship between Asbury Park and Newark: the city by the sea and the transportation hub of New Jersey.
Asbury Park is a thriving urban area on the Jersey Shore, a resort town which prospered in the early 20th century. Newark is the vibrant business and transportation hub of the Garden State.
While at first glance, the two may appear vastly different, they do share some uncanny similarities that are hard to ignore. As a longtime resident of Asbury Park and a frequent visitor of Newark, I believe it’s time for the rest of New Jersey to take heed.
During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, both cities played a pivotal role in the development and prowess of New Jersey as a leader in business, innovation, tourism, and creativity. Prior to social unrest, these cities were destinations unto themselves. Tourists would flock to Asbury Park in the summer to enjoy the unique amenities that only a city set on the beach could provide. Business men, politicians, and lawyers, on the other hand, were constantly drawn to Newark, due to its bountiful travel options and central location. Each city had much to offer in terms of history, culture and commerce. However, despite both flourishing at the time, there were deep-seated divisions beneath the surface coming to a head. These two communities both suffered through redlining, white flight, and a lack of investment in the mid and late 20th century.
While the Newark “riots” of 1967, or the “rebellion” as many currently refer to it, is well known, less attention has been paid to the racial unrest which also took place in Asbury Park a mere three years later, in 1970. Much like Newark, the riots in Asbury were precipitated by racial inequality. Asbury Park, being the destination that it was at the time, relied heavily on the hospitality industry. Rather than hiring local African American residents for the desirable jobs in hotels and restaurants, White folks from the surrounding suburbs were filling those positions. The riots in Asbury Park lasted for six days and caused much the same reaction as was experienced by Newark in 1967. People failed to recognize the underlying causes, fled the violence and unrest, and largely neglected the once thriving city.
These tragic events connected the two cities by more than just the North Jersey Coastline. Over the next 50 years, both would endure a similar struggle of trying to regain a positive connotation in the eyes of New Jersey suburbanites who neglected the communities and perpetuated a self fulfilling “KEEP OUT” mentality. Continued efforts to rebuild over the next several decades seemed genuine at the time, but in reality, it would be a much longer path for either to recapture their past glory.
Only now are the efforts of the past 50 years and the virtues of both places as New Jersey standard bearers, becoming once again evident across the state, and are gaining serious momentum. For the first time in a long time, it’s starting to feel like the Brick City and the Dark City have really turned a corner. Both have experienced an aggressive revitalization movement over the past decade and a half, and only recently are tourists and residents really starting to embrace the changes. Something special is happening in Jersey. It’s palpable in both cities, and the rest of the country is starting to take notice.
The VMA’s have been hosted at the Prudential Center in Newark, twice. There have been performances in Asbury Park as part of that celebration. The New Jersey Devils, who play their home games in Newark, had their most recent draft party in Asbury. Bruce Springsteen, whose debut album, “Greetings from Asbury Park”, is legendary on the boardwalk, and set to tear down the house in Newark on April 23rd.
I’ve spent many days and nights in the city of Newark. Business has brought me to this metropolis consistently. I find myself breaking up the day with a burger at Krug’s, or, if the situation calls for it, a more formal lunch at Chateau of Spain—on the 2nd floor for business. When the sun dips, I’m more likely to be found having a few adult beverages in traditional watering holes like McGovern’s and Kilkenny’s. Even more recently, I might be seen enjoying a fresh pint at newly founded Newark Local Beer. From the Prudential Center to the Ironbound and beyond, the food and entertainment options in Newark seem to be endless. Adding in the ease of access for travel (which I do often by train direct to and from Asbury, and via EWR) it becomes “THE” transportation hub, and a cultural inflection point for the entire state.
Asbury Park, where I reside, has also seen a drastic transformation since the turn of the century, with no signs of slowing in sight. Admittedly much smaller in size than Newark, the culinary and entertainment options in this small city are nothing to sneeze at, and the arts are absolutely thriving. When it comes to restaurants and drinking establishments, you won’t be disappointed. From newcomers like Black Swan, a dimly lit English pub, to staples like Brandos, where reservations are vital, to Asbury Ale House, where one can catch a game, a brew, and great pub fare, the possibilities are at your fingertips. You can walk the boardwalk during the day while enjoying the beach, then stroll down the eclectic Cookman Avenue at night to experience that city feel. With such a plethora of diverse restaurants, art studios, vintage shops, and the ocean water at your doorstep, it’s no mystery as to why this city by the sea is starting to turn heads again. There’s no other place quite like it, but it’s definitely “Jersey” in every sense of the word, just like Newark.
These blustering cities are extremely unique in their own right, but at the same time, share a sense of Jersey authenticity. Both atmospheres are artistic in nature and attract a diverse crowd. Neither of them suffocate residents and visitors with big chain restaurants that sacrifice quality for quantity. Both take great pride in their local establishments and homegrown businesses. They cater to the creative types, people with more than one passion, and those who enjoy a sense of community. They’re home to many, and a well deserved escape for many more.
I am by no means saying that either of these cities has officially reached its potential. I am just suggesting that we, as residents of this great state, acknowledge and appreciate both of these beloved and pivotal places for what they’ve been through and how far they’ve come. Let’s celebrate their tenacity and look forward to their continued resurgence and relationship over the coming years. Cheers to Newark, and cheers to Asbury Park, for drawing the blueprints on how to support local business owners and rebuild thriving communities, all without losing their unique character.
I’ll toast to that!
Anthony Collincini grew up in Freehold, New Jersey and currently resides in Asbury Park. He started in the Insurance industry in 2008, after attending Rutgers University. He graduated in 2007 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications and Journalism. Anthony is currently one of the top voluntary brokers in the State of New Jersey, and, as of 2018, he has begun building his portfolio of residential and commercial real estate properties, both in and out of the state. He is a broker and entrepreneur, with experience in insurance, employee benefits, finance, consulting, business planning and real estate.