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Fans Try To Save Asbury Park Music Shrine 13 January 2002


If there's a future for Asbury Park,, music fans want to make sure the Stone Pony is part of it.

The famed rock club where Bruce Springsteen, Southside Johnny, and Jon Bon Jovi played is one of the question marks in a new redevelopment plan that could rescue the crumbling seaside resort from its 10-year litigation limbo.

The rock club is not officially slated for the wrecking ball. But fans fear it's on the agenda.

A planning-consultant group, Duany Plater-Zyberk & Co., hired by Asbury Park, will begin assessing the new development plans Tuesday; Stone Pony boosters want to make sure the consultants are aware that music fans worldwide regard the club as a shrine.

"We don't want to see the musical and entertainment legacy of Asbury Park bulldozed to accommodate a bunch of condominiums and residential units," said Don Stine, spokesman for Save the Stone Pony, a grass-roots organization that held a news conference Thursday at the club.

A rally by organizers of Save the Stone Pony is planned outside the club at 9 a.m. Jan. 19 , the same day that a community review meeting will be held at the Berkeley Carteret Hotel. At the meeting, plans for the redevelopment will be made public.

"People come from all over the world to be here," said Vini "Mad Dog" Lopez, Springsteen's original drummer and a longtime veteran of the Pony's stage. "People just want to breathe the air in here."

Condominiums, luxury homes, and a 450,000-square-foot "entertainment center" at the southern end of the boardwalk are among the proposals made by Ocean Front Acquisitions, a Lakewood-based development firm created by New York financier M.D. Sass.

In August, Sass broke a 10-year stalemate by paying $6.5 million in back taxes to the city, and $7.4 million in redevelopment rights to Joseph F. Carabetta, the bankrupt Connecticut developer whose failed 1986 redevelopment scheme left the town in a shambles.

The few pieces of the old Asbury that remain -- the Pony, the Casino, the Palace Amusements building, Convention Hall -- have a special significance not only to sentimental locals, but also to music fans worldwide, since many are mentioned in Springsteen's songs. The future of these buildings -- some of which have spawned their own grass-roots preservation groups -- won't be known until the final plans are approved.


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