By Tommy DeSeno
I dare not fight; but I will wink and hold out mine iron. Shakespeare, Henry V, II:1
The Star Ledger is running a story about the fate of Tillie (I’d add a puke emoji after saying his name if I knew how).
If you can’t get past the paywall, the Star Ledger story is about the non-art cartoon mural of a psycho named Tillie that was once on the outside wall of the old Palace Amusements, knocked down long ago.
Before it was knocked down, a group of outsiders came to Asbury and smugly made demands for us to save the ugly cartoon, because one of them had a childhood memory, or something like that.
A deal was struck to save it between the City, the pretend Master Developer Asbury Partners who owned the Art-Wrecko building and the touristy “Save Tillie” group.
In the background was the locals of Asbury Park, who were happy to see that ugly mug gone from the beach landscape. Offers to let the Save Tillie people erect that smiling weirdo Tillie near their own homes, so they would have to look at it every day, went unanswered.
Actual money was spent to cut Tillie out of the wall and build him a climate-controlled house near the boardwalk. No money was spent on housing for Asbury’s homeless that year but thank goodness cartoon Tillie has a condo overlooking the ocean. Good grief.
The agreement (not that anyone has seen it in writing) apparently says that the Master Developer will incorporate Tillie into a hotel lobby or other venue, so tourists can act as if it’s Michelangelo’s The Pieta and take selfies in front of it, because that’s New Jersey’s equivalent for art. Take that, Rome.
Yet despite that agreement, Tillie sits in what I personally wish was his forever tomb, for nearly two decades.
Make no mistake of my loathing of that half a cartoon. The split was always between outsiders who wanted Tillie saved, and locals who would just as soon pay a transient $50.00 and a paint scraper to whack Tillie. I often sit in church praying for a Noah-level flood to wash him into the Atlantic. I’d sacrifice myself if it meant getting rid of Tillie – my gift to you, Asbury. I’m sure everyone in the city would happily make the trade. Call me.
But alas, there was a deal struck that pardoned Tillie, so we should abide it.Now let’s talk about that deal and the weak-kneed City Council.
When it comes to the Asbury Park City Council and the Waterfront Redevelopment Agreement related contracts, they are a big old mess. Granted the lineage of the deal dates back to the 1980’s and the contractual arrangements as well as the parties have changed, resulting in multiple documents drafted over many years that ultimately make up “the deal” between the City and the developer.
But it is inexcusable that if you ask the City Council to show you all the documents that make up “the deal” they can’t show them to you. They don’t seem to know what agreements exist or where to find them.
Query: How can you enforce an agreement if you can’t even find it to read it? The City should commission a study to have their attorney round up every document that is “the deal” dating back to the 80s and put them on the City’s website, for all people to see. Including agreements developers have made with one another.
Let’s find out who really owns the shoes next to the bed. Then maybe we can make them stop doing what they’ve been doing to us there, or perhaps make them do what they were hired to do there.
Here is a case in point. The Star Ledger article quotes the Master Developer iStar saying that the fate of Tillie is in the hands of beachfront developer Madison Marquette. Really?
When Tillie was sent to his little box jail, Asbury Partners was the owner. Madison Marquette hadn’t arrived yet. Asbury Partners was taken over by iStar. So, when did Tillie become a ward of Madison Marquette? Was there a sale? Is there a contract? If iStar actually still owns Tillie, they already built 2 hotels – The Asbury Hotel and the “Ocean Club Looks Like a Casino Blocks Our View and Casts a Shadow on the Beach” Hotel. Why isn’t that little freak Tillie in one of those lobbies?
More importantly, why isn’t the weak-kneed City Council suing them to abide by the agreement?
This is a much bigger problem for the weak-kneed City Council than just that little scrub Tillie. What about the fate of the rest of the Waterfront Redevelopment Agreement?
For instance, when Madison Marquette bought the Casino, it was 2006. They said they’d be done developing it by 2010. It’s 2021. There were certainly dates and provisions to be met in the agreements with the City and Master Developer.
Why in the world is the weak-kneed City Council not hauling iStar and Madison Marquette into court and forcing them to finish? By my estimates the entire plan is about 20% finished. There are only a few short years left in the contract. Are they going to let the clock run out on a 35-year old agreement? What then? What in the world would stop a City Council from suing these developers? Fear of their size? For goodness sakes stop holding out your iron and fight with it!
Oh, that’s right – in order to sue them on a contract, the City has to remember where they put it.
Tommy De Seno is the editor of The Polite Political Page on Facebook