By MICHAEL MONTALTO
New Jersey’s shore towns were already crowded with people months before the summer. They didn’t come with beach chairs and blankets; they came with tools and lumber to repair New Jersey’s boardwalks to make a summer at the shore possible for visitors and locals alike.
After much of the state’s shore towns suffered extensive flooding and wind damage during Hurricane Sandy, it was initially unclear if the hoards of visitors the beach and boardwalk attracts each year would have a place to visit.
Resident of Point Pleasant and an employee at Jenkinson’s Amusement Park for the last five years, John Krajewski, 24, said his town is ready for the summer.
“Most of the repairs to the boardwalk were finished in late April, early May.” Krajewski said. “The amusement park is open and the rides are running. We are set for summer.”
Most New Jersey shore towns will have repairs to their boardwalks completed before Memorial Day weekend. Memorial Day falls on the May 27 this year and is always the last Monday in May.
Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc on New Jersey’s coast, hitting landfall in Atlantic City on Oct. 29. During the storm, many coastal areas experienced substantial flooding and severe wind damage. There were also extended power outages in most of the state.
Almost a month after the storm, Gov. Chris Christie announced that New Jersey had suffered $36.9 billion in damages.
As the summer approaches, New Jersey’s shore towns are finishing repairs to boardwalks and beaches and preparing to welcome usual summer crowds.
Located in Monmouth County with a population of 30,751, Long Branch will have its beachfront open to the public by Memorial Day.
The town and Pier Village, a rental and retail complex managed to hold up fairly well during the storm due to proper planning and preparation.
Pier Village is a stone’s throw away from the beach, but when it was opened in 2005, the developer, Ironstate Development Co. designed it to hold in hurricane like conditions according to their website.
The structure did just that, and just days after the storm, Pier Village’s shops and restaurants were open again.
Long time Long Branch Resident Dylan White, 22, explained how much Pier Village means to the area.
“It’s a beautiful, newer structure and has a lot of shore shops and restaurants that attract visitors to our beach,” he said. “When it withstood the storm so well, it gave us hope.”
A one mile strip of boardwalk between Melrose Terrace and Brighton Avenue will not be repaired in time for summer.
This year, Long Branch hosted the annual Polar Bear Plunge on Feb. 23, 2013 near Pier Village.
The plunge raises money for Special Olympics athletes to provide free training and competition in 24 events. Participants pledge to donate a minimum of $25 and take a swim in the ice-cold ocean.
The event is usually hosted in Seaside Heights but the town was not prepared in February to host the event.
Located on the Barnegat Peninsula in Ocean County, Seaside Heights suffered extensive flooding and wind damage during Hurricane Sandy is now being repaired and should be open in time for the summer.
The town has a population of roughly 3,000 residents. During the summer months yearly visitors and tourists boost the amount of people in Seaside to nearly 60,000.
Seaside Heights is home to MTV’s Jersey Shore house. Jersey Shore became tremendously popular, setting record ratings for MTV. It has become the network’s most viewed telecast series.
On Nov. 17, MTV aired Restore the Shore a live fundraiser to help victims of Hurricane Sandy. According to a report on examiner.com, the telethon raised over $1 million to help rebuild Seaside.
Hurricane Sandy severely damaged Seaside’s beach and boardwalk, but recovery efforts are in full swing.
Much of the boardwalk was destroyed during the storm and the iconic roller coaster at Casino Pier still sits in the Atlantic Ocean.
The town has authorized a contract to rebuild the boardwalk at a cost of $3.6 million. The project’s deadline is May 10, giving plenty of time to have the boardwalk up and running by Memorial Day weekend.
Despite the destruction, visitors will still be able to enjoy the beach and boardwalk and rent houses in Seaside Heights this summer.
James Morris, 20, of Matawan, New Jersey said he is glad that his family can keep their summer tradition of renting a house in Seaside.
“Every year we used to rent out a house in Seaside. Our whole family would come down and takes turns staying there over the summer,” Morris said.
While many Seaside vacationers may be able to rent summer homes, visitors of Point Pleasant may have a much tougher time finding available rentals.
Point Pleasant also in Ocean County, suffered severe flooding, up to five feet in some areas, and significant wind damage. The town has a population of 18,481 and is home to Jenkinson’s Boardwalk, a popular tourist destination for it’s food, rides, games, aquarium, and nightclub.
Homeowners were hit the hardest in Point Pleasant and many are still waiting to claim reconstruction checks from their insurance.
“My family got very lucky. There was minimal water damage to our house and we were able to make repairs pretty quickly,” Krajewski said.
Beach house rentals in Point Pleasant will likely be in fewer numbers than in previous years, as many of these houses were destroyed during the storm.
The homeowners of these rental houses lost not only the physical building, but also a source of income.
On the bright side, repairs to the boardwalk are scheduled for completion by May 22, a week before Memorial Day weekend.
The attractions at Jenkinson’s have regular visitors excited for the summer season. Taylor Henderson, 20, a resident of Matawan said she is glad she can spend summer nights at the boardwalk this summer.
“Going to the Point Pleasant boardwalk is one of my favorite things to do in the summer,” Henderson said. She was excited to hear that Point Pleasant and Jenkinson’s boardwalk would be open this summer.
However, for residents of Point Pleasant, the timely repairs to the boardwalk are only a small step towards rebuilding their town. Some residents feel that the rebuilding of the boardwalk should have been a lesser priority when many homes were destroyed during the storm.
“The situation here with the boardwalk is almost bitter sweet,” Krajewski said. Although the boardwalk is open for summer, Krajewski said that many of the town’s residents still living with the after effects of Hurricane Sandy.
“A lot of homes were destroyed. A lot of those people still don’t have a home,” he said.
Each of these communities expects to have a busy summer season and to keep their traditions alive, as they have in the years past.
Long Branch, Seaside, and Point Pleasant will all have fireworks displays for the Fourth of July. Point Pleasant will host weekly fireworks as they have in years past.
Long Branch will continue its usual summer traditions and host free summer concerts on Thursday nights. There are 11 concerts scheduled between June 13 and Aug. 29, on every Thursday except on July 4.
All Thursday night concerts will start at 7 p.m. at Festival Plaza in Pier Village.
Seaside Heights will also host several free concerts throughout the summer, including five in July. There are currently nine concerts scheduled until the end of August, which will all take place on Seaside Borough Hall’s lawn.
Summer Fest festivities include live music, games, food, and drinks. Last year, over 20,000 people attended Summer Fest according to Jersey Angels Productions’ website.
“Its basically a big block party to kick off the summer,” Krajewski said. “This year will be special because it will be a way to celebrate how far we have come since the storm.”