Gov. Phil Murphy stopped at several small businesses on the Asbury Park Boardwalk May 25 as he touted the proposed $100 million Boardwalk Fund from his Fiscal Year 2024 budget plan.
In addition to falling right before Memorial Day Weekend, the visit to the historic boardwalk also comes as the budget process hits the home stretch before the June 30 deadline to sign a FY 2024 plan into law.
As NJBIZ has reported, the new Boardwalk Fund program is aimed at strengthening boardwalk infrastructure along the shore while investing in overall rehabilitation, resilience and revitalization of attractions that serve as an economic and tourism boon for both the local and state economies.
The fund will utilize American Rescue Plan (ARP) COVID State & Local Fiscal Recovery Funds. The application process will be managed by the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs (DCA) Office of Disaster Recovery and Mitigation, which will issue a Request for Proposals (RFP) to shore municipalities.
“When I imagine a summer in New Jersey, it’s hard to do so without thinking of our beautiful shore towns, especially our boardwalks, in which I can recall many fond memories with my loved ones,” said Murphy. “The Boardwalk Fund will help us ensure that these wooded main streets, which are the backbones of their communities, remain a place for families to continue making memories at the Jersey Shore for generations to come.”
The governor’s office also notes that funding will be prioritized to shore municipalities facing financial distress and for projects that rehabilitate or improve the resilience of existing structures. Projects that add new boardwalks or allied amenities – such as recreation areas, services or retail facilities – will also be eligible for funding.
“By partnering with municipal and county government through the Boardwalk Fund, we are investing in the future of our shore communities and ensuring they remain a vibrant destination for generations to come,” said Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver.
Joining Murphy on the Asbury Park Boardwalk visit were Asbury Park Mayor John Moor and Sen. Vin Gopal, D-11th District.
“As State Senator in a district that has a number of shore towns, I know the importance of a viable and safe boardwalk,” said Gopal. “As we look towards the summer, we know we will see residents coming from across the state to take advantage of the beach and boardwalk, and they will be sustaining and empowering the local businesses. I am excited to see more funding coming to our district through the Boardwalk Fund.”
The tour started at Tony’s Sausage + Cheese Steaks and Asbury Galleria, which are located in re-furbished shipping containers.
“Are you ready for the summer,” Murphy asked Kristina Bannon, owner of Tony’s Sausage + Cheese Steaks.
“I’m ready for the summer,” said Bannon. “Are you?”
“Absolutely,” Murphy responded.
“I’ve waited all winter for the summer,” Bannon added.
At Asbury Galleria, the group spoke with owner Kay Harris, president of the Asbury Park Historical Society, who showed them her merchandise, which features iconic images of Asbury Park. “He [Gopal] and I are working on a $100 million Boardwalk Fund to rehabilitate and update and basically make more resilient all of our incredible boardwalks up and down the shore,” Murphy told Harris.
The governor asked Moor if the Asbury Park Boardwalk was in good shape. Moor responded that 80% is and that the remaining 20% isn’t bad, adding that the city will be applying for the funds.
“That’s about the case in a lot of places,” said Murphy. “Big stretches are in good shape but there are places where it’s not.”
Moor told the governor that he was “looking for it [the fund] to be retroactive because last year, we spent $1.2 million before this.”
The tour moved to The Break Restaurant, the former site of Langosta Lounge that was purchased by Tim McMahon and his partners in BarCo back in February. McMahon said they did a quick three-week remodel and reopened as The Break.
“It’s been fantastic,” McMahon told Murphy when asked how business has been.
The visit ended at the Low Dive, which was also purchased by BarCo, where the group sat at the bar for a glass of water.
“I think we’re bracing for a record summer based on the indications,” said Murphy. “We look at rentals, housing sales, expected travel. A really good summer.”
“It’s feeling like it already,” said McMahon.