When the editor’s seat opened at the Long Beach Herald in 2008, I jumped from that same position at the Oceanside/Island Park paper to fill it. What was I thinking?
During my teen and 20-something years living in nearby Oceanside, I frequented the city’s boardwalk and beach and often trekked with friends to the bar-studded West End. I knew of other parts of the city but not much. Once I became editor, though, I recognized that, in some ways, Long Beach was a microcosm of New York City.
I discovered that Long Beach had several distinct neighborhoods and a diversity of people that made it fertile ground for a reporter. There was the 10-block streetless Walks, the minority-[dominant] North Park, the President Streets with its sandcastle-style homes, the Canals that featured four waterways and three arched bridges, and the Red Brick District dotted with historic homes. Come summer, the neighborhoods were abuzz with pedestrians, cyclists, and people walking their dogs.
Sure, as a beachtown, it had many surfers and volleyball enthusiasts. It also had everyone from blue-collar natives living in West End bungalows to well-off Manhattanites with summer pads in the beachfront high rises. It was home to reform to orthodox synagogues, Catholic to Baptist churches, and even a Hindu temple. Whites, blacks, Latinos, Irish, Jamaicans, Columbians, Italians, Asians are all melted into a pot nicknamed “the city by the sea.” And I’d be remiss if I failed to mention its many multifaceted artists, activists of various stripes and otherwise colorful characters who provided more material than an enterprising journalist had time to write about.
My reporter, Ariella Monti, and I covered Long Beach during a time of nationwide economic collapse, uncovered Ponzi schemes, and foreclosure-riddled real estate markets that [took no] mercy on Long Beach either. Some of the memorable news we covered during our two-year stints at the paper involved a road rage incident that left a motorist mowed down on the street, Justin Bieber’s performance at the high school, the (partial) opening of the Allegria Hotel, an air traffic controller’s exclusive on his role [helping to land] a plane on the Hudson River, a string of youth heroin overdoses, a fire that ripped through a strip of stores on East Park Avenue, a resident’s battle with city hall over several political signs he nailed to his home, a city-owned SUV that ran over a beach sunbather, and Hurricane Bill.
As I covered goings-on around the city — not to mention Long Beach’s notorious political shenanigans — I grew interested in learning and writing about its rich history. The Long Beach Historical Society, especially Past President Roberta Fiore, was instrumental in providing information and introducing me to people with ties to the city’s past. This assistance enabled me to write stories on the origins of each neighborhood and the men and women who helped shape their course, and to get to know and better understand their present-day residents.
Why did I take the Long Beach editor’s job? The pay was better and I knew the city would feed me unending stories to write about, from controversial government policies and changing faces on the city council, to annual events such as Irish Day and Polar Bear Splash. But what struck me was just how eventful, vibrant and interesting was the city’s past and how it played a role in the present, especially the many residents who were so passionate about their beachtown.
Long before I vacated my editor’s seat, I was convinced Long Beach was the most exciting area a community journalist could cover on Long Island. I’m grateful the Herald provided me with the opportunity to have that outstanding experience.
* This is a slighted edited version of a column that appeared in the 25th anniversary issue of the Long Beach Herald in July 2015.