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Bronx Restaurant Tony’s Pier Victim of Sandy-Fueled Fire

Bronx Restaurant Tony’s Pier Victim of Sandy-Fueled Fire

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The popular restaurant plans to rebuild

Beloved by seafood enthusiasts in an area of the Bronx known for its aquatic offerings, Tony’s Pier Restaurant on City Island fell prey to a fire that leveled the building at 1 City Island Avenue. The fire ignited around 8 p.m., encouraged by massive gusts that blew flames sideways.

One hundred-forty firefighters responded to the scene and were able to keep the blaze at bay. No injuries were reported.

The restaurant, long a destination for its fried shrimp baskets, fried clams, and calamari, has maintained a fighting spirit. In a message on their Facebook page, Tony’s Pier Restaurant said they planned to reopen in a new location.

Citing a downed telephone line as the culprit, they wrote, "Our restaurant will be back stronger and better than ever. Brand-new building, same great family, and same great food. We are looking to re-open in the Spring of 2013. Thank you for all of your support. We look forward to seeing you soon."

The 5 Best Waterfront Restaurants & Bars In New York

Finally, the warm weather has arrived. Here are a few excellent venues to both wet your whistle and wile away the hours as you watch the setting sun and celebrate the season. But remember, folks: outdoor seating at such establishments is premium and always depends on the weather.
-By Kevin Byrne

Foursquare Favorite: Brooklyn Crab
24 Reed St
Brooklyn, NY 11231
(718) 643-2722
Read all the tips on Foursquare

The scenic views, complimentary mini golf and summertime ferry rides are the trump cards at this Red Hook eatery that lures Brooklynites and Manhattan locals alike for the twinkly lights and transporting waterfront atmosphere (click here for more of New York’s Best Places for Water Views). The food itself gets mixed reviews, however the lobster roll, fish and chips and oysters secure top billing. But other fans note that revelers don’t come for the food &mdash it’s the sunset panoramas that steal the show.

Head to Foursquare to sort reviews by these tastes:

Enjoying an afternoon drink at Pier i Cafe (credit:

Pier i Café

Pier I at 70th St. & Hudson River
New York, NY

Set on the esplanade along the Hudson in Riverside Park South, Pier i Café (yes, the lowercase is deliberate) might at first seem concealed from the crazy rush of everyday city business. Yet it&rsquos surprisingly close and easily accessible to anybody seeking shade, a soft summer breeze and a beautiful waterline vista (just descend the staircase at 68th Street and walk under the West Side Highway). There&rsquos an outdoor bar & grill with two-dozen shaded tables (plus lounge chairs), the drinks are inexpensive (beer, sangria wine only) and the water is FREE and ICE COLD. Also, if you&rsquore up for affordable noshes (all entrees under $20), try the La Frieda burger and fries, both of which are out of this world.

Looking throught the big glass doors of the Chelsea Brewing Co. (credit:

Chelsea Brewing Company

Located just off the marina at Chelsea Piers, this sprawling 12,000 square foot microbrewery is a tony two-story treat with almost as much sparkle as the seafront. Boasting beautiful, broad mahogany bars, a cigar lounge and a great selection of gourmet cuisine, CBC is bright, airy and popular with summertime crowds and equally ideal as an indoor meeting space when the temps cool down or when the weather is bad. As for its assortment of homebrewed ales (over 30 on site), daylight hour drinkers won&rsquot go wrong hailing the Checker Cab Blonde, which is as full-bodied as the real thing. Or, when the sun starts to sink, try their sweet-tasting Sunset Red. Lunch and dinner are served seven days a week, and catering is available.

The evening can get wild out on the Frying Pan (credit:

Frying Pan

Hudson River Park at W. 26th St. (by Pier 66)
New York, NY
Reviews & More Info

Only in a maritime-based metropolis like Manhattan would someone have the creativity and ingenuity to take a sunken 1929 lightship and turn it into a dive bar. Perhaps that&rsquos why The Frying Pan has become one of the city&rsquos biggest summertime hot spots, in every sense of the term. Rustic, gritty and ever so slightly steampunk (its exposed engine room is a sight to see), The Pan once spent three years at the bottom of the Chesapeake before it was salvaged and turned into this half-sunny, half-moody industrial ode to old school ocean travel. Seating is first come, first served and it crowds up fast so, if you&rsquore with a large group, get there early. And, fair-weather warning to all booze-loving landlubbers, the tables on this temporary tidewater sometimes wobble with the waves, so if you&rsquore the sort who&rsquos easily seasick, you&rsquore better off staying on terra firma.

Throught the archway at the scenic Boat Basin Cafe (credit:

Boat Basin Café

W. 79th St. and the Hudson River/Riverside Park
New York, NY
Reviews & More Info

One of the city&rsquos most picturesque and popular outdoor gathering spots come summer, a visit to the 79th Street Boat Basin is one big loud, friendly barbecue for both tourists and hoity-toity folks who like to play at being hoi-polloi. Dozens of makeshift tables with checkerboard cloths are parked right beside open grills, where the staff serves decent burgers and dogs in perpetuity. Speaking of dogs, the site is pet-friendly, but patrons who own noisy pooches with impulse control issues (especially around human food) should probably keep Fido at home. Drinks are standard, running $6-$8 for a beer or mixer (they serve a very strong margarita). And of course, the Basin wouldn&rsquot be half the attraction it is without that one enviable attribute that annually draws city denizens like fireflies: THE VIEW. And what a view it is, especially on a clear night, when the gorgeous afterglow of a sunset beyond the Palisades seems to go on forever.

Beekman Beer Garden
89 South St (Pier 17)
New York, NY 10038
(212) 896-4600

You don’t hit this beer garden up for its massive selection of brews (it’s only got a handful), but rather for the unparalleled harbor and East River views. Located below South Street Seaport, this sand-covered stretch of Pier 17 features surprisingly comfy plastic sofas and bench seating, above-ground fire “pits” and plenty of opportunities to gaze across the water at the Brooklyn Bridge. Grab a Blue Point or Ommegaang beer, or a cocktail from the full bar and find a place to sit with a special someone or a group of friends. It can get packed here, particularly right after work and on weekends, but if you catch it on the right evening, you might believe you’ve been transported to a serene stretch of the Hamptons or Cape Cod coastline. You know, with a cityscape.

Sheriff's Deputy Lifts Car To Free Pinned VA Woman: Video

A Gloucester County Sheriff's deputy was able to physically lift a vehicle far enough for the driver to maneuver her head out to safety.

/>Mark Hand , Patch Staff />

Across America, US | 9h

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Charles Simmons, Who Loved His Family, Harlem and Boxing, Dies of Coronavirus

He may have moved to Brooklyn, but there’s no doubt that Charles Simmons’ heart belonged to Harlem. His daughter, Fatimah, calls him one of the neighborhood’s “unsung legends.”

“He was kind of like an unheard-of legend in the Harlem community,” his daughter said. “The things he was involved with, the people he knew in Harlem, it was his go-to. He traveled through Harlem and people recognized him.”

Randazzo’s Sandwich Spot, with Italian offerings, opens in Sheepshead Bay

A tiny hero haven has opened up on Brooklyn's Sheepshead Bay Road.

Randazzo's Sandwich Spot, run by the same family that owns the neighborhood's famous Randazzo's Clam Bar, is serving up a variety of Italian speciality sandwiches, wraps and salads, all for $7 each.

Joseph Randazzo, 27, son of Clam Bar owner Paul Randazzo, started the shop after sensing a need for an Italian-style deli in the area.

"On days when I need some capicola or prosciutto, I'd have to go to Bensonhurst or Bay Ridge," says Randazzo.

His small storefront is simple, with only a handful of chairs and a countertop for seating. Customers order sandwiches, bagels or homemade macaroni salad from the counter.

It's a far cry from the well-known fried seafood and pier-side location of the original Randazzo's, but die-hard fans can request a hearty helping of the restaurant's original red sauce on any sandwich.

Another topping that makes it onto the Sandwich Spot's menu is the vodka sauce, which appears in number 23, the chicken alla vodka hero.

The vodka concoction, a top-secret family recipe, has never been in a sandwich before, says Randazzo.

Other popular menu choices are the Californian, with mesquite turkey, avocado, lettuce, tomato and homemade champagne dressing, and the Soprano, piled high with hot capicola, prosciutto, fresh mozzarella, chopped fresh basil and tomatoes.

In total, the eatery offers 26 specialty sandwiches along with a "build your own" option.

"They make nice healthy sandwiches here," says diner Tim Dawkins, 34, from East New York. "They also add more substance."

Randazzo is especially proud of his homemade sauces and freshly baked bread.

"You go to Subway and order the $5 foot-long, then come here and you know why we charge $2 more," he says. "And we put love in every one of our sandwiches. It's Brooklyn at its best."

Randazzo's Sandwich Spot is the young entrepreneur's first foray into owning a business. Luckily, he had the help and blessing of his dad.

"You know how a father is with his son, like when you learn how to ride a bike, they want you to go by yourself but they don't want you to fall," says Randazzo. "So he was skeptical at first, but he is very proud."

One important lesson Randazzo learned from his father is to keep a sense of community. Almost immediately after his store opened, Randazzo's prices skyrocketed, but after negative feedback, he brought them back down.

Baldy’s Forced to Cut Bait After 73 Years : Fishing: A favorite hangout for story-swapping anglers, the Newport Pier tackle shop closes Sunday.

Even now, 79-year-old Tony Scarich remembers that moonlit night in the ‘40s when he and his brother caught more than 100 spiny sculpin off Newport Pier and hauled them home by wheelbarrow--so many that the boys at Baldy’s Tackle wondered if they weren’t just hearing another Big Fish Story.

Even now, salty old-timers swear by the wiggle of the store’s mint-green Baldy Jig, a lure so irresistible to fish that fishermen still mourn the loss of the original mold in a fire in the ‘60s. Nowadays, small boys with no fish smarts but plenty of moxie still drop by Baldy’s to hoist their big catch by the gill--maybe a 2-pound bonita--and lay claim to the day’s bragging rights.

But Baldy’s, the oldest tackle shop in Orange County, isn’t the hot spot that it once was--these days, a sushi bar packs in crowds at the end of the pier, and locals peruse a boardwalk shop that sells sterling silver toe rings. Baldy’s, a victim of changing times and competition, closes for good on Sunday after 73 years at the foot of a pier that was originally built as a fishing port.

“It’s an end of an era,” said John Horst, 84, a man with a sun-freckled face who got his first pole at Baldy’s at age 12 and still fishes off the pier every week. “The town is going modern, I guess, away from the old times. They don’t want us fishermen around anymore.”

Others contend that the city is long past its fishing village days, when steam whistles summoned workers to the canneries for mackerel slicing duty, when fishermen plopped on their bellies and dropped a line with a hook and a weight through holes in the planks of the pier. (Good luck in pulling a big fish through the small opening.)

“The fishermen at the end of the pier don’t maintain the pier,” said Assistant City Manager Ken Delino, who suggested that a nice restaurant or art gallery would be a good replacement for Baldy’s. “For years, we’ve been dealing with their trash, their fish guts. It’s filthy out there. . . . It is sad that it is a passing of an era, but the era is long gone, at least on Newport Beach Pier.”

Earlier this year, the City Council delayed a decision on a plan to limit pier fishing after residents complained that fishermen left behind a smelly mess and sometimes hooked people while casting.

Pier fishermen, who are still smarting from the city’s rebuff, say the closing of Baldy’s is just another reminder that they no longer fit in. They say it’s not just that they won’t be able to buy fresh blood worms and razor clams anymore. (Pier fishermen mostly use live bait). Or that they won’t be able to sprint down from their spot on the pier to Baldy’s for emergency gear or drop by to check whether the spotfin croakers are biting on innkeeper worms.

They know their heydays are over.

“It’s a slow progression from what Newport Beach used to be,” said Bill Vas, 54, who dropped by Baldy’s recently for a last look at the place. “It was a water town--now it’s a glitz town.”

Fishing associations do not keep statistics on pier fishing, which does not require a state-issued license. But all types of fishing are down, according to the American Sportfishing Assn. in Virginia. According to the association’s latest study, 61 million people nationwide fished at least one day in 1992, down 11% from the previous year.

At Baldy’s, owner Patrick Kennedy, 44, said business has been flagging since he took over in 1973. Kennedy, a longtime fisherman, bought the store from the original owners, the Racker family, who opened Baldy’s in 1922.

Kennedy had planned to stick with the fishing business. This summer, he said he worked with the Racker family on new terms for his expiring 15-year lease. He was waiting to hear back from the owners on final terms when he got a lease termination notice three weeks ago, asking him to vacate the store by Nov. 1.

But Betty O’Connor, whose father, Walter “Baldy” Racker, opened the original store, said Kennedy was told the new terms of the lease were not negotiable. She said Kennedy simply chose not to renew his lease when the rent was more than doubled to $3,500 a month.

O’Connor said the family does not yet have a replacement tenant. The family would love to get another fishing tackle store in the 1,500-square-foot space, she said.

But others said a fishing store would not be able to survive in a high-rent area that caters to restaurant-goers, tourists and young people who surf, bike or skate.

“You’d have to sell a lot of hooks and sinkers and bait to exist on that kind of waterfront property,” said J.D. Doughty, owner of J.D’s Big Game Tackle on Balboa Island.

This week, Kennedy bid farewell to longtime customers in a near-empty store, stripped down after close-out sales. He’s not sure whether he’ll open another tackle store in cheaper quarters.

At Baldy’s, sunlight streamed through the floor-to-ceiling front windows, which offered a spectacular view of the ocean and swaying palm trees the smell of saltwater rode a westerly breeze through the open door. Usually, Kennedy monitors a short-wave radio so he can track the action on fishing boats, but this week he wasn’t in the mood.

The store still looks much the way it used to, with scruffy linoleum floors and the original 60-drawer oak hardware counter with bins full of spinners, plastic ball floats and a few old-fashioned goods--like the “picks” or big hooks used on reel-less rods in the ‘40s to snare huge tuna.

On the walls are stuffed fish such as an 81-pound big-eyed tuna, the trophy catch of a local. And, on the bulletin board are photos of fishermen lugging prize catches such as the 48-pound white sea bass caught near Catalina Island. A chalkboard lists high and low tides, and handwritten signs announce prices for fresh ghost shrimp, razor clams, mussels and blood worms (Pier fishermen will now have to go to Seal Beach or Dana Point for live bait).

For novices, Kennedy gave impromptu lessons on how to tie a hook or cast off the pier or get the feel of a spinning reel. Kennedy said those services usually are not offered at the chain sporting goods stores that stole much of his business.

“It’s just sad to see a legacy leave,” Kennedy said, outfitting his few remaining poles with tips and grips. “There’s a lot of people that come in here as kids. We teach them how to fish on the pier. They graduate to fishing in the bay, and then they fish on the boats. And the next thing you know, they’re a yacht owner, and they’re coming in and outfitting their boats.”

In the old days, when Baldy ran the store, he hired boys to catch live bait. He paid 10 cents a dozen for soft shell sand crabs that kids scooped off the beach with wire nets, or 10 cents a pound for razor clams that they found in the breathing holes of the Back Bay’s mud flats.

Back then, there was no need for fancy-schmanzy depth finders or computer-generated fish finders or $200 fiberglass poles, said Ralph Irwin, 76, who hung out at Baldy’s as a boy. Boys just bought a clunky bamboo pole at the store and then hit the surf. Or they’d go back to the store to watch old men file down their whalebone-carved jigs and then tell the story about the one that got away, thanks to some sorry shark that stole the biggest halibut you ever saw--right off the hook.

Fishermen still tell stories at Baldy’s, the last stop on the boardwalk before the pier begins. Baldy’s was the last-chance stop for fishermen to arm themselves before that long walk down the pier to do battle at the edge of the sea.

“The pier’s old--like 100 years old,” said Jeff Erickson, 19, on a recent afternoon at the pier, squinting into the sunlight at his fishing rig. “Baldy’s was a part of it, and they’ve always been there. Now, it’s like a part of it dies.”

Bicycling to lunch and dinner

In the 1890s old wayside inns and roadhouses removed the horse troughs and replaced them with bicycle stands. A new day was dawning!

For years, ever since railroads had reduced horse-and-carriage traffic on the old colonial turnpikes, roadside eating and drinking places outside cities had been in serious decline. After the Civil War they were visited mostly by farmers and marketmen taking their produce to the city by horse and wagon. But, due to the popularity of bicycling beginning in the late-1880s, city people became the favored customers, both because they came in larger numbers and because they spent more.

Bicycling was fast becoming the favorite leisure-time activity of the American public. They couldn’t wait to take a spin in their free time, often on a route with wayside inns and roadhouses. The oldest inns were in the East, mostly found in states such as Massachusetts and Pennsylvania. The Red Lion inn at Torresdale PA, for example, was built in 1730.

For those preferring shorter rides, city parks were attractive, perhaps none so much as Philadelphia’s Fairmount Park. It was well supplied with places to stop for a bite [such as The Dairy, shown here]. New Yorkers liked to tour the good roads on Staten Island or pedal out to Long Island and Coney Island, often making a stop at the beach. Bicyclists in Oregon were drawn to a rose farm outside Portland, site of the Ah Ben roadhouse where chicken dinners were served.

There were also eating places set up in homes along the wayside, and homemade refreshment stands in fields. Often these eating and drinking places were dubbed “Wheelman’s Rest.” One in Malden MA was offering light snacks in 1896, but apparently no beer or liquor, an activity that landed many proprietors who had no liquor licenses in jail.

Californians boasted that bicycling was possible year round in “the land of sunshine.” Country trips might be planned around visits to old missions. Pictured above are members of San Diego’s Crown City club, wearing white suits and sombreros on a tour in 1896.

Bicycling was popular across the country with men and women, both white and Black. Black cyclists, however, were banned from some local clubs and, after 1894, from membership in the national League of American Wheelmen. That did not stop them from cycling, but I can’t help but wonder whether they were welcome at most inns and roadhouses.

White women, however, were welcome, despite those who criticized them for showing their ankles or adopting non-ladylike postures. For years feminists had tried and failed to reform constricting women’s clothing. Almost overnight, opposition faded as bicycling women began wearing split skirts and bloomers. Beyond clothing, it seemed as though the new past time had a freeing effect. A journalist visiting a Bronx beer garden one evening wrote: “The bicycle has made ‘new women’ of them. They lean their elbows on the table and call for beer, or, leaning back, cross their legs man fashion and sip from the foaming mug.”

Bike paths were crowded from April through October, especially on Sundays, the most popular day of the week for cycling. Christian ministers were horrified, particularly if stopping at roadhouses was involved. As one wrote in 1897, this inevitably led to “blunting the moral sense, dulling the moral perceptions, and tainting the purity of the moral character . . .”

Ministers disliked Sunday bicycling no matter where riders stopped along the way. More conventional “wheelwomen” might prefer tea-roomy places serving nothing alcoholic where menus included milk, root beer, and lemonade, along with sandwiches, cheese and crackers, and cakes. Servers there were women who, according to one account, were ready to repair a sagging hem, brush dirt off a costume, or attend to a minor wound. The short-lived Greenwich Tea Room in Connecticut, operated by two young society women, offered dainty sandwiches of tongue, ham, chicken, or lettuce, plus home-made cake and ice cream. Drinks included café frappe and café mousse, both 10 cents.

Shore dinners also attracted bicyclists. In 1899 a cyclist traveling along the shore from New York City to Boston stopped at Hammonasset Point in Madison CT for a dinner that included clam chowder, bluefish, steamed clams, boiled lobster, potatoes, corn, tomatoes, cucumbers, pudding, ice cream, coffee, and milk – all for 50 cents. And an abandoned church turned restaurant and bowling alley in Undercliff NJ [pictured] did a brisk summer business in clam chowder with cyclists traveling along the Hudson River cliffs.

In the early years of the 1900s, the fad began to slow somewhat. Bicycling on roads became more dangerous as the number of cars multiplied. Through the years bicycling organizations had lobbied ceaselessly for improvement of the nation’s roads, most of which were unpaved. But they did not reap full benefit. As roads were improved, cars soon took over and bicycling accidents, often fatal, increased. However, automobile drivers continued the Sunday habit of heading out to country inns, tea rooms, and roadhouses that bicyclists had begun.

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On the Boardwalk

IT is late morning down the Jersey Shore. The sun has burned through the clouds and hangs low over the Atlantic Ocean, which stretches like a slate blanket beyond the boardwalk, a lonely, nearly mile-long strip of warped and splintered wood that long ago had the life drained from it.

On this day, Sal Marino and Richard Handschuch are among a small clutch of people strolling on the boards, as has become their habit. Since the men, both in their 60's, retired from teaching several years ago, they have turned their love of the seashore and quest for fitness into a second career of sorts as boardwalk chroniclers. They are the authors of ''The Beach Bum's Guide to the Boardwalks of New Jersey'' (Beach Bum Press), which offers tidbits about the state's 41 boardwalks, 28 of which follow the shore in a broken line from Sea Bright in the north to Cape May in the south.

Strung -- or, perhaps, hammered -- end to end, the oceanfront boardwalks would total 32 miles. Most are still made of wood, but some are of other materials like recycled wood and plastic board, brick pavers, concrete, macadam or some combination of them.

Oceanside boardwalks, which date from the 1800's, are the foot-friendly main streets of the beach communities, a place for people to gather at land's end, where the air is salty and cars and traffic do not intrude. Whether they are lined with rides, games and fast-food stands or simply offer uncluttered views of the ocean, boardwalks are -- befitting New Jersey's tradition of home rule -- as different as the communities themselves. Having known better and worse times, they also hold secrets to their towns' pasts and, in some cases, a key to their futures.

Some boardwalks, like the one in Atlantic City -- considered the granddaddy of them all at 4 1/8 miles-- grew from a simple walkway to a tourist attraction and, despite some modern touches and updates, are content to remain so.

''Our boardwalk is really a boulevard,'' said Vicki Gold Levi, an Atlantic City historian and the author, with Lee Eisenberg, of 'ɺtlantic City: 125 Years of Ocean Madness.'' ''The others are just paths.''

Other towns along the 127-mile-long Jersey coast might take issue with that characterization. For instance, the boardwalks in Seaside Heights, Ocean City, Point Pleasant Beach as well as Wildwood and its sister city, North Wildwood, are also dedicated to the proposition that between Memorial Day and Labor Day people should venture to the Jersey Shore to play skeeball and ride a Ferris wheel.

On others, like the 1.8-mile stretch in Spring Lake, no commercial amusements ever stood or likely ever will. Still other boardwalks, such as those in Long Branch and Asbury Park, like the towns themselves, are struggling to make a comeback.

In Long Branch, there are plans to turn the 2.2-mile-long boardwalk into a year-round destination by luring tourists with boutiques and restaurants. In Asbury Park, a town mired in a seemingly endless renovation, there are hopes to transform the moribund boardwalk, slightly less than a mile, into a modern version of the entertainment center that it was in its heyday.

Mr. Marino, his curly hair stuffed under a cap, said he felt a bit sad when he and Mr. Handschuch walked the boards in Asbury Park. For them, the ghosts of a more glorious day entertain their minds and their own youthful memories claim their hearts.

The men say that when they were teenagers in the 1950's, the boardwalk was the place to take dates after a movie -- a place to walk under the stars, let the sea breezes kiss their faces, hear the waves pound the shore and become swept up in the romance of it all.

That romance is gone today, as are most of the amusements and fast-food stands. As a nod to its Spartan look, there is a sign stuck in the corner of a shop window that reads: Alarm Calls Police.

''Show me the baby carriages, the young people,'' Mr. Handschuch said as he extended his arms and turned his lanky frame from side to side. ''It is not the same. But it has to come back, the boardwalk and the city. You can't have one without the other.''

In the mid 1800's, the Camden and Atlantic Railroad came to Atlantic City, largely through the efforts of Jonathan Pitney, a physician from Absecon, and Richard Osborne, a civil engineer from Philadelphia. The two men convinced investors to finance 60 miles of tracks from Camden to the sandy hamlet of Atlantic City, which they touted as a health resort where the surf and sea could cure the ills of most urbanites.

By the end of the century, several rail lines snaked along the coast carrying people to the sea. In turn, some sleepy shore towns like Ocean City, Seaside Park and Wildwood blossomed into resorts.

Atlantic City is credited with inventing the raised wooden boardwalk in 1870. It sprang from practicality, a way concocted by a hotel owner, Jacob Keim, and a railroad conductor, Alexander Boardman, to keep sand off floors and furniture in hotel rooms and railroad cars.

Two months after Mr. Keim and and Mr. Boardman petitioned the city for a 'ɿootwork,'' a mile-long street that sat 10 inches above the sand was built at a cost of $5,000. It was designed to be taken apart and packed away for the winter. By the end of the 19th century, a collection of modest boardwalks dotted the Jersey Shore.

In the intervening years, boardwalks grew wider and more substantial, rose higher above the sand and ultimately became permanent. Atlantic City's boardwalk was among the first to have railings, which early accounts say became necessary to keep flirtatious strollers from falling off.

Boardwalks also drew businesses as well as amusements. 'ɺll of a sudden, the real estate on both sides of the boards became important,'' said Nory Hazaveh of SOSH Architects, who has worked on several boardwalk projects over the last 22 years.

One of the state's first amusement piers opened in Atlantic City in 1882 -- Howard's Pier at the end of Kentucky Avenue -- offering vaudeville acts and concerts. Others followed along the Shore, including the famous Steel Pier, also in Atlantic City, where for about 50 years a horse and a rider were featured plunging 40 feet into a pool of water. Amusement rides like the carousel began thrilling summer visitors in the late 1870's.

By the early 1900's, the boardwalk was a fixture in many shore towns. Most were pedestrian paths, but some fronting oceanfront luxury hotels took on the air of high-society promenades. Men and women dressed in their finest strolled the boardwalk, soaking in the sun and watching the main attraction -- the ocean.

Later, boardwalks also held Easter parades, baby contests and other community events. And some towns made amusements and their attendant hurly-burly atmosphere the heart of their boardwalks.

Storms Punished the Boardwalks

Yet over time, the boardwalks began showing their age -- many the victim of nature's fury. The hurricane of 1944 and a northeaster in 1962 are said to have landed the strongest punches, swallowing several walkways. Towns like Stone Harbor, Beach Haven, Margate and Bay Head deemed boardwalks costly and precarious structures and chose not to rebuild them.

For resorts like Long Branch, Atlantic City and Asbury Park, the glitter and glamour of the boardwalk began fading in the 1950's, in some measure because of the Garden State Parkway, which in knifing through the state from north to south provided easy access to nearby states. Air travel put even more far-flung destinations within reach, making the seaside hotels and motels seem a second-rate vacation choice.

Entertainment patterns also changed, notes Helen-Chantal Pike, a New Jersey author, and that put boardwalks in competition with sprawling amusement parks like Disney World in Florida and, closer to home, Great Adventure in Jackson Township.

By the 1970's and 80's, while some resorts withstood the changing tide, others slid into decline and their once lively boardwalks turned seedy. Fires, including those of the intentional variety, ravaged other piers and amusement areas.

Jim Futrell, research director of the Pittsburgh Regional Alliance, an economic development organization, said that in the last 30 years the state lost 7 of its 14 boardwalk amusement areas. Still, Mr. Futrell, who is writing a book on New Jersey amusement parks, said, ''No other state has the level of seashore amusements.''

Of the 14 major amusement attractions in the state, half are on boardwalks, according to the New Jersey Amusement Association, which represents 95 percent of the amusement operators in the state.

Though no figures are available on the effect of boardwalk businesses on the overall state economy, Anthony Catanoso, president of the amusement association and owner of Steel Pier, said, ''The Great Wooden Way could be termed as the Great Green Way as it relates to New Jersey tourism.''

To those who will be backed up at bridges and toll booths this summer, Nancy Byrne, the state director of tourism, said that in 2001, the latest year for which figures are available, 103 million trips were taken to the Jersey Shore and visitors spent $16.6 billion.

In an age of computers and high-tech gadgetry, Mr. Futrell says that what is most surprising is that the appeal of boardwalk amusements remains the same. ''It is the simple pleasure of walking alongside the ocean, of hearing the waves crash,'' he said.

And having so many amusements in one spot, he added, is 'ɾlectric.''

That kind of boardwalk tradition continues in towns like Point Pleasant Beach, Ocean City, Wildwood, Seaside Heights and Seaside Park. Though each has its own distinct atmosphere and has changed with the times, each has managed to remain a prized antique.

The boardwalk in Point Pleasant Beach, for instance, stretches for a mile and abounds with family rides, arcades, food concessions, a Victorian-style ice cream parlor and amusements, including one of the only fun houses left on the shore.

Similarly, in Ocean City, a resort founded in 1879 by four Methodist ministers as a Christian retreat, the boardwalk has shops and myriad amusement rides. But there are no games of chance, and the sale of alcohol is prohibited anywhere in town, sparing Ocean City what some say is the fraternity house environment of other shore towns during the summer.

There is a faster pace along the nearly mile-long boardwalk in Seaside Heights, dedicated to arcades and amusements. The northern tip of the boardwalk in neighboring Seaside Park is much the same, but the rest of Seaside Park's 1.7-mile-long boardwalk has only an occasional gazebo and offers unobstructed views of the ocean.

Maria Maruca, executive director of the Seaside Heights Business Improvement District, said that after ''prom weekends,'' when high school seniors flood the boardwalks, families and baby strollers take over, at least during the day. Then after 11 p.m., Ms. Maruca said, seven bars and restaurants draw the young back to the boards.

'ɻuildings may be improved and games may become more sophisticated, but ours is a traditional boardwalk,'' said Ms. Maruca, whose family owns Maruca's Pizza, a boardwalk staple since 1950. ''When grandparents come, we want the boardwalk to feel the same to them as when they were kids.''

Still, some shore communities, and by extension their boardwalks, have reinvented themselves over the last 30 years. Cape May, for instance, returned to its Victorian past, while Atlantic City opened its doors to casinos and all the attendant glitz. Wildwood, seemingly a suburb of South Philadelphia, has nurtured a Doo-Wop theme by highlighting its mid-century American roadside architecture, including about 280 motels built from the late 1940's to the early 1960's.

''While we bottomed out in the early 1990's, people still came to the boardwalk,'' said Patrick Rosenello, director of the Wildwoods Boardwalk Special Improvement Distrist Management Corporation. ''It kept the towns alive."

The Doo-Wop theme is evident on the combined boardwalks, which extend over two miles, with stylized neon signs -- such as a 20-foot-high sign of two French fries that beckons passersby to Curley's Fries -- injecting a bit of Times Square onto the Jersey Shore.

In addition, Mr. Rosenello said, a larger convention center opened on the boardwalk last year to help draw higher-end retail shops and restaurants. Additional housing is also planned above boardwalk retail stores to 'ɻring in more year-round clientele,'' he said.

But the biggestc changes since casinos began rising in Atlantic City more than 25 years ago are those promised in Long Branch and Asbury Park.

On a recent Saturday, the boardwalk in Long Branch teemed with walkers, joggers and clusters of people taking advantage of a group of picnic tables in front of the West End Pavilion at the far southern reaches. Yet despite the activity, the boardwalk is clearly in transition.

It is a far different place than it was in the 1800's, when Long Branch was among the nation's first seashore resorts, as well as in the 1950's through the 1980's, when amusements and rides crowded its pier and extended to an area on the west side of the boardwalk.

In June 1987, a fire destroyed the restaurants and amusements on the pier, leaving a charred skeleton. The amusement area on the west side of the boardwalk closed the following year. Finally, in the 1990's -- with the city on a downward slide and the boardwalk virtually a ghost town -- the pier was razed.

Anthony Giordano, a Long Branch councilman who grew up in the resort town and worked at the amusement area during the summer in high school and college, remembers when the boardwalk was a spot for seasonal family fun. But he said plans for the future would more closely reflect the city's current face as more of a year-round destination, complete with a rebuilt pier for ferries to Manhattan and Atlantic City and an amphitheater at the far end.

By the end of this summer, the Applied Development Company of Hoboken plans to begin construction on two oceanside retail buildings that will resemble structures that stood there in the 1930's and 40's.

The new buildings are part of a larger development that will rise on the site formerly occupied by the amusement area and will include more stores and restaurants as well as 320 rental apartments. Greg Russo, a vice president at Applied, said a central plaza would link the two components, doubling as a space for concerts and plays -- but no rides and arcades.

Then there is Asbury Park, where a renovated section of boardwalk stands out like a tan line next to the rest of the deserted mile-long stretch -- anchored by the Convention Hall/Paramount Theater complex to the north and the Casino building to the south. The two relics from the turn of the last century stand as melancholy symbols to the resort's faded charm.

Still, there are other small signs of change, whether in the smattering of new concessions, a vacant retail pavilion that is being refurbished and a new restaurant.

Work Ahead in Asbury Park

Mayor Kevin Sanders acknowledged the work ahead, but he insisted that the boardwalk he walked as a youth in the 1960's was turning around, 'ɺn egg ready to hatch.''

The hope is that one day the boardwalk will be transformed into an updated version of what it was throughout the last century -- a beachside social and entertainment center, a sort of SoHo meets South Beach -- with a mix of restaurants, nightclubs, boutiques and entertainment.

''It will be an isle in the middle of all the activity,'' said Mr. Hazaveh of SOSH Architects. 'ɻoardwalks die when the life is taken out of them.''

Under the noontime sun, Sal Marino and Richard Handschuch inspect the new section of boardwalk. ''People have to have a reason to come, like they did in the 1870's,'' Mr. Marino said. 'ɺs more people come so will businesses, repeating the cycle.''

As if he had to convince himself, Mr. Handschuch added: ''You have to have hope.''

New Jersey's Oceanfront Boardwalks, All 32 Miles

Of the 41 boardwalks and promenades in New Jersey, 28 dot the Atolantic coast. They total 32 miles and extend from Sea Bright in the north to Cape May in the south. Most boardwalks are still made of wood, though some are of other materials like recycled wood and plastic boards, brick pavers, concrete, macadam or some combination.

SEA BRIGHT -- At 200 feet, it is the shortest of the boardwalks.

LONG BRANCH -- The 2.2-mile-long boardwalk, 8 to 10 feet above the sand, is one of the highest in the state. In the past there were amusements and concession stands, and there are plans to build retail stores and restaurants in a section being renovated. At the northern tip is Seven Presidents County Park, a nod to the seven American presidents who spent their summers there.

ALLENHURST -- The 0.2-mile-long boardwalk is set high above the ocean and lined with benches.

ASBURY PARK -- Most of the commerce that once enlivened this 0.9-mile stretch of boardwalk is gone and it is awaiting substantial renovation. Plans include entertainment areas, clubs and stores.

OCEAN GROVE -- Some of the boards on this 0.7-mile-long boardwalk are wood, and others are made of recycled plastic.

BRADLEY BEACH -- The 0.8-mile-long boardwalk, made of wooden boards and some brick pavers, features a miniature golf course and bandstand.

AVON-BY-THE-SEA -- The boardwalk is a half-mile long.

BELMAR -- Near this 1.3-mile-long boardwalk, some clubs dot the streets, making the town popular with the under-30 crowd.

SPRING LAKE -- The 1.8-mile-long boardwalk is made mostly of recycled plastic, with benches placed every 25 feet providing unobstructed ocean views. There are no amusements.

SEA GIRT -- The boardwalk, which begins near the old Sea Grit Lighthouse, is 0.7 miles long.

MANASQUAN -- The 0.8-mile-long promenade is made of macadam.

POINT PLEASANT BEACH -- The mile-long boardwalk varies in width from 15 feet at its northern and southern ends to 35 feet in the middle, which includes an amusement area.

LAVALLETTE -- This town has a 1.3-mile-long boardwalk.

ORTLEY BEACH -- The 0.4-mile-long boardwalk has a nightclub in the middle.

SEASIDE HEIGHTS -- The 0.8-mile-long boardwalk -- the only one in the state devoted entirely amusements and concessions -- has more than 600,000 nails.

SEASIDE PARK -- Of the 1.7 miles of boardwalk, more than a mile is undeveloped.

BRANT BEACH -- The 330-foot-long boardwalk on Long Beach Island has a 110-foot observation deck.

BRIGANTINE -- The 0.3-mile-long boardwalk is topped with cement. It has a 10-foot-wide bulkhead, with benches along the western edge.

ATLANTIC CITY -- The longest boardwalk in the state at 4 1/8 miles, it is considered the first ''officially proclaimed Boardwalk'' in the nation. It is also said to be home of the first amusement pier and rides, among them a carousel and a revolving tower. It is the only one in the state that is considered a street and spelled with a capital B. Visitors still ride rolling chairs.

VENTNOR CITY -- The two-mile-long board connects with Atlantic City's boardwalk to the north.

OCEAN CITY -- The 2.5-mile-long boardwalk has amusment rides, shops of all kinds and even a bandshell but no games of chance and, like the rest of the city, prohibits alcoholic beverages.

SEA ISLE CITY -- The 1.5-mile-long boardwalk is 15 feet wide and sits 6 to 8 feet above the beach.

AVALON -- The 0.7-mile-long boardwalk, which is only 15 feet wide, has a small amusement area but no rides.

STONE HARBOR -- The 0.2-mile-long boardwalk is really a macadam promenade.

NORTH WILDWOOD -- The boardwalk is 0.6 miles long.

WILDWOOD -- The boardwalk is 1.4 miles long. Taken together, the two miles of boardwalk in the Wildwoods have more rides and amusements than any other in the state. They also feature an aquarium and tram cars that are said to have been used at the 1939 New York World's Fair.

WILWOOD CREST -- The mile-long boardwalk is actually a cement walkway.

CAPE MAY -- The 1.4-mile-long boardwalk is made entirely of macadam. There are two arcades and many shops, but no amusement rides.

Watch the video: Eating Tour of Arthur Avenue, The Bronx, NYC. The REAL Little Italy. (July 2022).


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