By Dennis “DJ’ Mikolay
Everybody who lives in New Jersey is familiar with the story of Asbury Park, its illustrious history, disheartening decline, and slow but steady rebirth. The small city by the sea’s long-awaited rejuvenation has been front-page news for over a decade as public officials have fought to revive the town.
Last year, Amy Quinn and John Moor, who ran as part of the One Asbury ticket, were elected to the City Council with the highest vote totals of any candidates running. It was a rough campaign, but the weeks following Election Day were arguably just as tumultuous, with high profile ballot challenges and much publicized disputes within City Hall, attempts to prevent the newly elected Councilwoman and Councilman from taking office. Yet, despite their opponent’s best efforts, when the smoke finally cleared, the electorate’s will prevailed and Quinn and Moore both retained their seats. The duo campaigned on fiscal responsibility, open government, and crime prevention—all of which resonated with voters—and fought for these ideas while in office.
“We did hundreds of hours of door-to-door,” she said. “The interesting thing we learned from that was a lot of people have the same issues. Whether you lived on Deal Lake Drive or Cookman Avenue, Southwest or Southeast, you were worried about crime, the budget, redevelopment, and literally all similar issues.”
It has been a challenge, but with the next election right around the corner, the two incumbents are already looking towards Asbury Park’s future. Thus, in preparation for the upcoming campaign season, Moor and Quinn recently announced not only their own re-election efforts, but also plans to form a ticket of like-minded activists who are willing to seek public office to help advance these goals.
“There are a number of things John [Moor] and I have not yet gotten accomplished but want to continue getting accomplished over the next couple of years,” said Quinn, who noted that, due to the city’s charter study, her first term will only total to a little over a year. “We’re looking to put together an entire slate, similar to last time, that we think accurately reflects Asbury Park.”
The decision to launch another candidacy came after a great deal of encouragement from members of the community. Indeed, there is demand within Asbury Park for officials like Moor and Quinn, something they both learned firsthand while canvassing door to door last election cycle, and many have come to respect their voice on the Council.
“I think we want to focus on some of the issues we focused on before,” Councilwoman Quinn said. “Continuing the fiscal responsibility of the city [and] finding places that we can save money. Crime is another major issue; we want to continue working with the police department, but also find more innovative ways than only putting more cops out on the street.”
Quinn believes Asbury Park should examine crime prevention: “programs that have been proven to work in other cities with similar issues as ours. Crime is definitely one of the big ones that we want the opportunity to spend quite a bit of time looking at and figuring out what works, what isn’t working, and how we can improve it.”
Obviously, however, anyone running for office in Asbury Park is going to have to voice their opinions regarding the redevelopment of the city’s waterfront and other neighborhoods. The small City by the Sea was once among the Jersey Shore’s prime destinations, until the lethal combination of race riots, the construction of the Garden State Parkway, the legalization of gambling in Atlantic City, and a failed 1980s redevelopment plan killed the tourist trade. The once bustling oceanfront tourist area sat vacant for over a decade before experiencing something of a rebirth in the early 2000s.
“There is always this kind of balance between bringing in development and ensuring it is the right kind of development for Asbury Park,” she said. “People are pro-development, it’s a question of what kind of development.”
The question of how to keep up the momentum of Asbury Park’s rebirth without losing the unique character of the town has become an issue of debate and intense criticism over the years. To that end, Councilwoman Quinn recently voted against (an incredibly controversial) proposal by mega-developer K. Hovnanian, believing that new development needs to be done with an eye towards the needs of residents while retaining the overall aura of the city.
“People want to see redevelopment of the waterfront,” Councilwoman Quinn said. “That a big thing: bring people into town, bring ratables into town, and develop some of these blocks of land that have remained kind of dilapidated. Then you have people who don’t want to see cookie cutter condominiums, so it’s a really delicate balance. Obviously, we want to see redevelopment all throughout the city, not just in the waterfront, but you want to make sure that its not just addressing the needs of the people who live in the city, but that it is also going to bring ratables online and be an asset to Asbury Park.”
Away from the waterfront, the team hopes to continue their crusade for open, accountable government. They believe the City Council should be more easily accessible to their constituents, whether it is by the internet, snail mail, or in person meetings.
“I am interesting in the way the city communicates with people,” she said, noting: “There are huge improvements that could be made. There are different ways to communicate with people and a big priority for me, and John Moor as well, is that we absolutely think that communication can be better in the city. We can communicate better with the residents about what exactly is going on, what programs we have, what we are doing about issues like redevelopment, or how we are helping businesses.”
To that end, Councilwoman Quinn believes Asbury Park could benefit from technology like Nixle, which alerts residents to road closings and other emergencies.
This year’s election will also be exceptionally interesting. Like many New Jersey cities, Asbury Park holds non-partisan elections where all candidates appear on a single ballot without a stated party preference. Until last year, these elections were held in May, as they are in most locales; however, voters recently decided to move them to November, a decision Quinn hopes will bolster turnout.
“I’m hoping it brings the turnout a little higher,” she said. “It should get a few more people out to the polls because there are other offices that are up for re-election. I am also hoping that because of the charter study, which was in the papers for a quite a period of time, that people know there is another City Council election coming up.”