MARGATE – Residents and visitors to the Amherst Avenue restaurant and marina district will have to walk, bike or Uber to their favorite eatery or dock this summer as the city closed off 25 parking spaces Thursday along the south end of Amherst Avenue.
“The police chief took it upon himself to initially block off the area and it was confirmed by the commissioners at a meeting today,” Administrator Richard Deaney said late Thursday afternoon.
In all, about 25 parking spaces, included two handicapped spots, will be barricaded throughout the summer for safety reasons, he said. The city also recently lost several parking spaces at the north end of the avenue due to reconstruction at two marinas.
“We just found out the city has blocked parking on Amherst due to the ‘failing bulkhead.’ Time to walk, bike, or Uber,,,” restaurant owner Cookie Till posted on the Steve & Cookies By the Bay Facebook page.
Amherst Avenue resident Jeff Selverian, who has lived in the bayfront neighborhood since 2000, said it won’t affect him because he has off-street parking, but the restaurants and marinas will be greatly affected.
“They should have fixed this years ago. It’s been sinking for years. It’s a shame for the boat owners and businesses,” he said.
Steve & Cookies and Lamberti’s are the most affected restaurants, but each has its own parking lot. Residents living along Amherst Avenue and the marinas will also be affected, but access to the docks is available from Lamberti’s.
Deaney said City Engineer Ed Walberg of Remington, Vernick and Walberg and others inspected the bulkhead between Lamberti’s restaurant and Margate Marina on Wednesday and deemed it a potential hazard.
“There’s no doubt people will be inconvenienced, but we’d rather see that than have a catastrophic failure of the bulkhead,” Walberg said. “It’s a public safety issue.”
Over the last several months, the commissioners discussed a temporary fix that would fill in areas behind the bulkhead that have washed away with crushed seashells, but the bulkhead is in such disrepair a permanent fix is needed, he said.
“It’s in really bad shape and beyond temporary repair,” Walberg said. “We are really concerned that the motion of vehicles would cause the pavement to cave in.”
The process of obtaining bids to replace the bulkhead and rebuild parking will take several months and lead time in obtaining materials means the work cannot start until after summer.
Several years ago, the city applied to the NJ Department of Environmental Protection and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for an estimated $3 million grant but the request was denied, Deaney said.
Now, the Board of Commissioners will have to fund the work through an emergency appropriation and issue bonds to pay for it.
Two developers who are rebuilding further down the road are paying to replace their sections of city owned bulkhead at their own cost. Lamberti’s is also considering rebuilding.
“The city today decided to pursue negotiations with Arthur W. Ponzio and Associates who applied for permits to replace the bulkhead at Lamberti’s,” Deaney said.
The city will ask Lamberti to immediate rebuild 230 feet of bulkhead under the restaurant, which is leased from the city.
“Lamberti’s lease states that he is responsible for the bulkhead, so the solicitor will give him notice that the work has to be done,” Deaney said.
The Planning Board has already granted Lamberti’s the approvals to tear down and rebuild the restaurant, Deaney said.
“The commission authorized the purchase of the plans so we can pursue replacing the remaining bulkhead,” he said.
While the city is negotiating, planning, bidding and bonding for the work, residents and visitors are advised to walk, bicycle or take Uber to their dining and fishing destinations.