Garden Pier can't catch a break.
When it opened 100 years ago, the pier was one of old Atlantic City's jewels. It extended 1,500 feet over the Atlantic Ocean and was famous for its elaborate floral displays. The gardens led to a ballroom and to B.F. Keith's Theater, where strolling vacationers came to see vaudeville acts and plays. In 1921, the pier hosted the first Miss America pageant.
Like a lot of Atlantic City, the pier fell on hard times. In 1944, the year the city acquired the pier, the Great Atlantic Hurricane tore off part of the structure. In 1981, much of the pier was destroyed by a fire.
After each disaster, the pier was rebuilt. But time, neglect and the Atlantic Ocean continued to eat away at the pier. At various times it was so decrepit that it was on a list of resort eyesores. The city has tried to sell it and to give it away.
But last year the pier reopened once again, restored in a $3.3 million project funded by the city, the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority and the state. The Atlantic City Art Center and the Atlantic City Historical Museum on the pier also got makeovers. A new deck created a beautiful spot for sightseeing and concerts or other events. Then, a month later, Hurricane Sandy hit the Jersey shore and tore off part of the arts center and museum roofs.
The pier has been closed since then, cut off from visitors as a dispute between the city and its insurance carrier drags on.
We don't know exactly what the problem is - in part because Mayor Lorenzo Langford and other city officials did not return calls about the pier. Atlantic City Public Library Director Maureen Frank, who is in charge of the historical museum, told Press staff writer Jennifer Bogdan that the city is doing all it can to get the issues settled and the pier reopened.
This is a frustrating situation - as ironic as it is sad. The city's stakeholders all seem to agree that Atlantic City needs nongaming attractions to become a true destination resort. Tourism studies point to the value museums can have in attracting visitors to a city. Garden Pier has both a museum and an arts center, but they sit shuttered.
As other New Jersey towns recovered from Hurricane Sandy, we saw an unprecedented urgency that allowed entire boardwalks to be rebuilt in time for the summer season. There's no reason Garden Pier should still be in lockdown 10 months after the storm.