By DONALD WITTKOWSKI
It was not the response that Michael Queen was hoping for from Sea Isle City.
Queen, a summer homeowner in Sea Isle, has been urging the city to consider building a massive, 750-foot-long oceanside fishing pier that he believes would be a “jewel” for the resort town.
However, a top city official responded to Queen’s proposal by saying Sea Isle has other projects that it considers more important and probably will not include a fishing pier in its upcoming five-year capital plan.
“Given the current priorities and the level of funding required to accomplish these projects, it is unlikely that a fishing pier will be incorporated into the upcoming capital plan,” City Business Administrator George Savastano said in an email to Queen on Nov. 21.
City officials plan to unveil Sea Isle’s capital plan in December. Prepared annually, the capital plan is a sweeping blueprint for construction projects that the city hopes to build over the next five years.
Savastano told Queen that the capital plan is expected to focus on the city’s proposed community recreation center, construction of handicap-accessible ramps to the Promenade, major flood-mitigation projects and road and utility improvements.
Although Queen was hoping for a more receptive response from city officials, he wasn’t completely discouraged by Savastano’s email. He wrote back to Savastano asking how a fishing pier “might be made a priority” and whether it could be incorporated into either the city’s upcoming or a subsequent capital plan.
“In your writing I was encouraged by your use of the word ‘unlikely’ as opposed to ‘impossible’ that a pier proposal would be incorporated into the upcoming capital plan given the current priorities and the level of funding required,” Queen said in his follow-up email to Savastano.
Queen originally proposed the idea of Sea Isle building a fishing pier in October, after hearing that the city has applied for money from the state’s nearly created $100 million Boardwalk Preservation Fund for improvements to the oceanfront Promenade.
Mayor Leonard Desiderio said he hopes the city will win state approval for about $12 million to $16 million to pay for decorative lighting, additional handicap-accessible ramps and the resurfacing of the entire 1.5-mile Promenade.
Queen originally sent emails to the mayor and members of City Council in late October to pitch his fishing pier idea. Pier Project Pitched for Sea Isle | Sea Isle News
He estimates that a 750-foot-long fishing pier would cost in the neighborhood of $3.5 million to build using money from the Boardwalk Preservation Fund.
In his October email, Queen said he believes a fishing pier extending off the Promenade at John F. Kennedy Boulevard “would have a tremendously positive impact on the family-friendly nature of Sea Isle City.”
“Situated in town, a pier would be an added jewel alongside Excursion Park. This is not to mention the potential source of revenue, if desired, with funds going to the city, to veterans’ groups and/or to children’s causes,” he wrote.
Queen believes the project would enhance Sea Isle in the same way that the massive fishing pier in Ocean City at 14th Street and the Boardwalk benefits that town. The Ocean City Fishing Club, the pier’s private owner, spent $500,000 to extend the structure by 113 feet in 2021.
In his email to Queen, Savastano emphasized that the Ocean City fishing pier is a privately owned structure that was built and is maintained with no taxpayer funding.
Savastano also noted that a fishing pier is not the type of project that would be eligible for financing from the state’s Boardwalk Preservation Fund. The fund was created this year for the renovation and repair of boardwalks and promenades in New Jersey’s shore town.
Queen, who lives in Belmont, North Carolina, has a vacation home in Sea Isle on 40th Street and formerly owned a summer place at the Four Winds Condominiums beginning in the 1980s with his late wife, Donna.
He is a structural engineer and owned an engineering firm for 40 years before retiring. Queen said his engineering experience gives him insight into the challenges of building the type of pier he envisions for Sea Isle.
“It’s not really as bad, though, as it sounds,” he said in an interview, referring to some of the concerns raised by Sea Isle officials. “The worst part is the time it would take.”
Mayor Desiderio and City Council President J.B. Feeley reacted cautiously to Queen’s proposal. Although they didn’t rule it out entirely, they cited a series of likely challenges with financing, permitting and construction that they believe would make such a project improbable.
Fishing piers are not unprecedented in Sea Isle. In 2021, the city built a nearly $1 million fishing pier and kayak launch site on the bayfront near 60th Street behind the Dealy Field recreation complex. The bayfront fishing pier extends 132 feet out into the water.
In the early 1900s, the elaborate Ocean Pier was built. It was used for fishing and sightseeing and also included the Madeline Theatre. At one point, the Ocean Pier even boasted a ballroom for music and dancing.
However, the Madeline Theatre and the pier itself were destroyed by the colossal “Ash Wednesday” coastal storm that pummeled the Jersey Shore in March 1962.