I keep thinking of an old Rolling Stones song from the early 80's called "Shattered" which in my opinion kind of describes Asbury Park, (although it was written about NYC which did pull itself out of the bottom and recovered greatly).
First, the only somewhat safe areas are on the boardwalk and Cookman Avenue. You would need to have your head examined to stroll around Asbury Park on foot at night and if you are a single female, forget about it! If you have any street smarts it is obvious, the type of characters and low lifes that are on many of the streets, and it is very scary.
Yes, the gays have moved in and have attempted to make great strides in turning the community around but you have a Victorian home (redone by gays) next door to a crack house, a few doors down a house with prostiututes and so on and so forth. If you like the idea of being an urban pioneer, go for it, but be careful in the process I would NEVER leave my doors unlocked here and I think an alarm system is mandatory.
When you visit AP now, like I did in the spring months it looks great at first sight with all of the rebuilding , new stores, cafes, etc. (but only the Boardwalk and downtown Cookman Ave. look better). However, I am quite dubious about the future of all of it. The condominiums and rental prices are quickly falling due to the economy and I think it may all fall apart within the next year. There just isn't enough to entice people to want to live here when you can live in beautiful NJ shore communities and not have to be worried about who your neighbor is and be surrounded by a nice class of people.
I totally beleive in diversity , which AP has, however the element that is here now has a large amount of low life trash, alcoholics, drug dependent people, and people you wouldn't want to spend time with except a quick hello and goodbye. Trust me, it's not what it appears to be. Don't believe what you read in the Asbury Park tourist websites and other glossy periodicals, it just is not true.
I hope my observations are incorrect for the sake of the future here, but I think I may be right. It's at least another decade before this town turns around (if at all), so my advice is just to come for the weekend and stay in one of the nicer hotels (The Berkely, or the guesthouse The Tides), and just have fun. But proceed cautiously before planning to move here , and even much more cautiously before buying here as you stand a chance to lose alot of money on your investment as prices have not dropped to the bottom yet.
The locals that have been here a long time, (I have spoken with many), are also dubious about the return of Asbury Park. The gays that have moved in recently and straight couples are alot more optimistic but I really think they are wearing rose colored glasses and will be very disappointed in the next few years when there will be more than likely less positive change happening here as the financial resources are drying up.
Sorry to report this, but I call it like I see it......
Spend time in Bradley Beach, Long Branch, Ocean Grove or Deal if you want to live on the NJ shore. For now, Asbury Park still looks and feels like a ghetto.....Caveat emptor.....
In the short ime we have been there, there have been three or four outstanding restaurants that have opened, an expanding independant film venue, an entire row of new stores on Cookman that were rented before they were done construction and now Adriatic restaurant in North Beach has just been bought by the owner of Langosta lounge. The city also will host two major music fesivals this year and the theater scene continues to thrive. If we did not have to work in Manhattan, we'd sell our 1400 sq. ft Jersey City condo and move to AP in a hearbeat. Our long term plan is to do exacly that.