A short documentary created by Monmouth University student London Jones examines the possibility that economic pressures caused by factors such as sea level rise and increased coastal flooding could one day push minorities from Asbury Park’s West Side community through a process known as climate gentrification.
The film includes interviews with Monmouth University professors Melissa Alvaré, who discussed climate gentrification’s impacts around the country, and Walter Greason, who provided historical context on how “redlining” once shaped the West Side and left it particularly vulnerable today. According to Greason, the now illegal practice of redlining began in the 1930s and involved lenders grading neighborhoods based on racial composition, thereby depressing property values and investment in places like the West Side. However, Jones notes that as climate change makes today’s more affluent beachfront areas less desirable, residents could retreat inland and displace residents in areas like the West Side.
“Today, the West Side still houses the majority of Asbury Park’s minority communities and is characterized as a lower-income community compared to the east,” Jones observed in the film. “This financial reality disproportionately burdens its members when disasters occur, or in this case, climate change-induced sea level rise. While the West Side’s current residents — some whose families have resided there for the past 100 years — may not be concerned with sea level rise ruining their legacies and livelihoods, they might be when it washes away any hope of passing that part of town down to their future generations.”
The video, “Keep the Culture, Change the Fate: Responding to the Threat of Climate Gentrification to Asbury Park’s West Side,” was produced as an honors credit project in Jones’ Climate Change and the Voiceless course, taught by Rechnitz Family/Urban Coast Institute (UCI) Endowed Chair in Marine and Environmental Law and Policy Randall Abate. The project builds on her UCI-supported summer research work examining discriminatory barriers to beach access in Asbury Park and other New Jersey municipalities.