Neil Bernstein’s HURRICANE SANDY SEASIDE HEIGHTS PROJECT And it matters!
Why does it matter? Why does it matter after Hurricane Sandy? After all of the destruction and misery caused by Hurricane Sandy? After the lost of life and the destruction of homes? And businesses destroyed? It would be easy to say it doesn’t matter. The boardwalk can be rebuilt. And it will be. The boardwalk at Seaside Height will be rebuilt, and people will claim that it will be bigger and better than ever. But will it ever be same?
A lot people have memories of Seaside Heights and the boardwalk. I’ve read many of the stories on the Internet. Many of them are memories of people when they were children. Many of them spent their summers there. Others went for a week or a month. In the 30s and 40s people went by train and did many of the same things people did before Sandy hit in 2012.
Kids and adults remember enjoying carousels and reaching for the gold ring. Many people who loved it as a child did so as an adult. And took their children and grandchildren there. They remember enjoying the aromas and food. Jersey pizza. Duncan’s pastry. And the Chatterbox bar. They remember riding the Giant Web Wheel between Funtown Pier & Casino Pier. The Funtown rides and the train at the casino pier. And how scary some of the rides were. And don’t forget the laughing lady and tunnels with funny face characters. And it didn’t matter who you were you could spend the last of your money on the Jet Star roller coaster, or playing rooftop miniature golf or riding the Sky Ride. Or playing Skee-ball with your dad. Or how about the giant statue of Alfred E. Newman? Or the haunted house? And don’t forget the beach!
As a teenager Neil Bernstein spent all of his summers at Seaside Heights and building Mopar Musle-Cars. It is a connection he will bring to his “HURRICANE SANDY SEASIDE HEIGHTS PROJECT. “ It was a connection he brought to his “THE BOTTOM OF THE NINTH WARD-HURRICANE KATRINA WRECKAGE” project. The Hurricane Katrina exhibit featured huge paintings of Mopar Musle-cars.
Neil’s obsession with cars, motorcycles and speed continues to this day. He has also given 30 years of his life creating art that has placed him on the forefront of the major events and tragedies of our time: the holocaust, 9/11, Katrina, our troubled southern border, and now Sandy … art that has resonated around the world. And now Sandy, and only Bernstein would tackle it and pull it off.
Only Neil would go back and forth, again and again to Atlantic City and Seaside Heights in his 2012 Dodge Charger-the Mopar Musle-Car, “usually on trips from Seaside Heights, with six or seven feet of steel sign-post sticking out of the bungied down trunk lid, and a back and passenger seat loaded to the roof with boardwalk, sand, signage and whatever other interesting materials that he could haul that will become museum art.” Only Neil would fill (with permission) a forty-ton tractor-trailer to the brim with the actual boardwalk and debris from the hurricane. Only Neil would take the risks involved.
And what does Neil want to do? He not only “wants to help millions of Americans who were affected by Hurricane Sandy”, but also hopes to articulate their stories through art by building an enormous temple that would in a sense “shelter them from the affects and effects of this storm.” He wants to give people an opportunity to “have a meaningful metaphysical and spiritual experience.”
Originally, he was going to build this project in New Jersey near Seaside Heights and secure the wrecked roller coaster as a lasting monument. But like all works of art during the creative process, his ideas evolved, as they will continue to evolve. Now Neil has found a home for the work on a 145-acre organic farm in Washington’s Crossing, Pennsylvania, near where he grew up. There he will somehow integrate with the piece cattle, horses, chickens on the farm (and Goodnoe’s ice cream, his favorite as a boy) and fresh fruits and vegetable and lots of salvage from Seaside Heights. Neil and the owner of the property also plan to make the most of a Harley, a World War II Jeep, ponds and a 1690’s stone barn that they hope to convert into a museum and restaurant. The home Neil found for all of this is known as Thorpe Farms.
Dale Thorpe owns Thorpe Farms. This organic farmer not only “took immediate delivery of the boardwalk and Seaside Heights debris” but has also agreed to help Neil with his project. Neil says that Dale Thorpe “has ideas so big that he makes my head spin, and nobody does that!” I can’t wait to see how it all evolves.