Long Branch’s path to land is filled with hope, uncertainty, and possibility

With the presidential election next year and the White House within easy striking distance, New Jersey’s northern shore is a battleground area in the 2020 race. Residents and business owners alike have been living through a decades-long battle with rising sea levels and weather disasters.

The Atlantic City Boardwalk might be quaint and inviting, but the weather is anything but in neighboring Long Branch. The Boardwalk is not a popular place for tourists to stay safe during storms and has been prone to flooding. During Hurricane Sandy, the flooding forced residents to move their cars and be rescued by the military.

Not to be discouraged, Long Branch’s growth has led to a turning point for the city. The Jersey Shore now holds 5,500 buildings which is a near ten-fold increase in the past ten years. The city is taking advantage of its increased population with sports stadiums, giant cruise ships, and big box stores.

The next step is to add the full intensity of tourism infrastructure and support building it at Fort Hancock, the result of the World War II-era weapons bases. Since 1676, Fort Hancock has served as the Naval Engineering Headquarters and maintained war fields and seaports from the Revolutionary War up to WWII.

Today the base operates a motor pool, but no other buildings or services exist. According to the post, with 3,500 active military and 5,500 reserves, the final decision on the location of a new power plant has been delayed due to the challenge of building a new power source under the Atlantic Ocean. While the power plant is still in the planning stages, the Army plans to continue to expand their manufacturing capabilities in Manasquan.

“We’re uniquely positioned for high-growth industries and the Mid-Atlantic region is the transportation hub of the country,” said Post Commander Capt. Bruce D. Blankenship. “Our mission is to focus on the education and training of future leaders by helping to cultivate the talent pipeline needed for America’s military, coastguard, maritime and civilian job markets.”

Long Branch is also looking to brand its downtown as a premier destination for tourists. The city plans to rebrand their island as “The Shore and Beyond.”

Shore Airports may also have some competition in the future. A potential merger is being considered between Teterboro Air Terminal and Newark Liberty International Airport. According to employees at the airports, they will create a second airport in the New York area that would include a light-rail station, three commuter-rail lines, and 34,000 parking spaces.

“This puts us up against the bigger players in this market,” explains manager Bert Figliasso. “It’s going to be very difficult for us to compete if we don’t change.”

While traffic at the airports would likely increase, traffic figures at the airports in New Jersey’s southernmost barrier island continue to decline. While some residents would not like to see traffic increase, the owners of shops and restaurants in the area are hoping the more distant airports will not impact their business.

Pilots at the airports are also excited for the proposed merger. There are nine pilot training programs on the East Coast. Adding Teterboro and Newark Liberty to the airline training programs would increase their competition to many years before it would be big enough to save them time and money.

When pilot recruitment is a high priority, instructors will often forgo professional or military pilot certification to spend the time to prep students for flying experience. A cross-network program between Long Branch, the Atlantic City Jetport, and the hubs at Detroit, Las Vegas, and Reno, would allow many college students to fill an aircraft’s seats more quickly.

“It might bring bigger planes and more money to the service area,” reports one pilot.

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