Critics, supporters argue over cross-shaped New Jersey pier

Critics, supporters argue over cross-shaped New Jersey pier

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People are getting cross on the Jersey Shore.

An Ocean Grove beach pier destroyed during Superstorm Sandy is being rebuilt, but the proposed design is shaped too much like a religious cross, LGBTQ and secular residents charge.

Presbyterian Pastor Douglas Grote, who has lobbied state and local officials for divine intervention, likened the rebuild underwritten by the powerful Methodist Ministry Camp Meeting Association to “Christian bullying.”

“I fear that my faith’s lovely cross may soon become as toxic as a Trojan horse for Ocean Grove, Asbury Park, and all of New Jersey,” Grote wrote in a guest column for NJ.com on Aug. 23.

Jersey Shore
Some members of the LGBTQ community object to the new design.
Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association

The group broke ground on the proposed $1.3 million, 500-foot-long, T-shaped pier on July 30.

The group’s COO, Jamie Jackson told News12, “We make no apology for that — we love the fact that it looks like a cross. This is a religious town founded as such in Ocean Grove and most people are excited, we will be able to have this pier shaped this way for these purposes.”

Michael Badger, president of the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association, told The Post, “Our hope continues to be that people of varying points of view will enjoy the peace of a stroll out over the Atlantic on the new pier.”

The seaside community of 3,100 — located just south of Asbury Park — was founded in 1869 as a Methodist summer camp. The Camp Meeting Association owns all the land in Ocean Grove, including the beach, boardwalk and the area where the pier will be built. No government funding is required to rebuild the pier.

The pier will be open to the public. There is no entry fee and visitors do not have to purchase a beach tag to go on the pier, Badger said.

Badger said the CMA did not receive complaints about the design during the public comment period, and noted that the plan has been available online for three years.

“The Christian interpretation of the cross is that it is a symbol of God’s love and forgiveness.  It is disappointing that anyone would seek to block a sacred symbol on private property from public view regardless of whether you interpret the shape as a pier, a plus sign, or cross,” he said.

Said longtime Ocean Grove residents Harriet Bernstein and Luisa Paster: “Ocean Grove is a diverse community including LGBTQ residents and people of various religious affiliations, who are never asked for input about the OGCMA projects that impact all of us. … The problem is not solely the pier in the shape of the cross, but the total lack of regard for their tenants.”

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