Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Liberate Cookman Avenue!

Asbury Park Says Be All You Can Be

Cookman Avenue, the old Woolworth's building on the right.

This is what happens when you make an outdoor dining room. The people like it. The merchants like it. And the motorists have to choose among half a dozen alternate routes, all of which will get you to the same place at the same time.

With the arrival of the liberated zone, a certain number of parking spaces have gone away. However, as a number of observers have noted, without restaurants on Cookman Avenue, how much demand for parking would there be?

Asbury Park (born in 1871) is a small city laid out more or less on a grid. Cookman Avenue lies on the south side of the city and runs essentially from the train station in the west to the beach in the east. The three blocks just east of the train station have always been Asbury Park's commercial core. In the old days these three blocks and the immediate area sported Steinbach's department store, Woolworth's, the phone company, the Asbury Park Press, Eidelsberg's shoe store, and a truly spectacular bank building at the intersection of Cookman, Mattison, and Emory. (I mentioned that the layout was more or less a grid - in this case three streets do mash together at some truly odd angles.)

Nowadays the main business of Cookman Avenue is restaurants. There are also quite a few shops selling antiques, clothes, books, you name it. And they've all taken to the new outdoor dining room like fish to water. 

Here's the Asbury Book Cooperative.

Paranormal Books & Curiosities is next door.

You'll see there's a customer not wearing a face mask. He also arrived by riding his bicycle on the sidewalk. I can't say that everything is perfect on Cookman Avenue. But I will tell you this: It's alive.

Here's a display of locally meaningful merchandise from a knick-knack shop. These non-food merchants are definitely bringing something to the street.

Tillie, the smiling face, is Asbury's mascot.

Still, the liberated zone is basically about plein air dining.

The old Steinbach's in background.

Outside the liberated zone, the stream of motor vehicles continues to flow. But - there are islands in the stream. Here's Cardinal Provisions on Bangs Avenue.


And here's Pascal & Sabine on Emory.


Aside from helping these restaurants keep their heads above water, the islands have a perceptible calming effect on traffic. Even the most hardened motorist will have trouble believing he's on an Interstate while he's passing one of these emplacements.

Further afield, there have been other changes. At several locations throughout Asbury Park, neighborhood streets have been turned into Slow Streets, where through traffic is discouraged and recreation is encouraged for people young and old. These streets join other recent innovations, including lower speed limits and a strong and expanding network of bicycle lanes, to send motorists a message that is permeating the whole city: Go slow and expect to share the road.

For more on Asbury Park's ReOPEN program, click here.

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