Stronger Than the Storm New Jersey's Shore Towns Prepare to Rebuild

 The feel of the sand and the sun; the smell of sunscreen, and the view from the  boardwalk carry a huge importance for New Jerseyans and the Garden State's  economy. Last year's Superstorm Sandy almost completely destroyed many of the  seaside towns, demolishing boardwalks and amusement parks, flooding homes and  businesses. The damage was historic, and many feared that over a century of  summer traditions would not be back for the following summer. Thanks to federal  assistance and rebuilding efforts, those fears have not been realized. All in  all, The Jersey Shore has rebounded from the destruction, and New Jerseyans are  appreciating the beaches this year more than they likely have in years.  

 Rebirth for The Shore

 Memorial Day marked the official reopening of The Shore after the devastation it  experienced post Superstorm Sandy—an estimated $37 billion. The Shore boardwalks and the rides, restaurants and  shops that make them world-famous were totaled, destroying a tourist attraction  that rakes in roughly $24 billion a year. The Shore, while not completely back  at full force (Gov. Chris Christie says 80 percent has been restored), is ready  to entertain millions this summer.  

 The state of New Jersey saw a tremendous amount of rebuilding take place over  the last six months, the vast majority of it from federal aid. While several  federal agencies have poured millions of dollars into repairing roads, and  other crucial infrastructure, federal assistance to private homeowners and  businesses also played a large role in recovery. So far, as of late June, the  Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has awarded more than $556 million  in recovery funds to shore towns. FEMA recently awarded more than $10 million  in Public Assistance grants to Seaside Heights and Spring Lake municipalities  to go toward boardwalk repairs. And to the relief of Shore business owners,  FEMA announced on June 26th that it will cover 90 percent of recovery and  rebuilding costs.  

 But federal dollars are not the only source for the New Jersey coast's  reconstruction. In order to put the Shore back on the map, New Jersey Transit  added express summer rail service to The Shore on June 2 in an effort to make  the commute to the shore towns easier. Four weekend express trains are now  running between New York Penn Station and Long Branch.  

 A great deal of federal relief went to large public projects like the boardwalk,  but relief efforts to rebuild the residential side of The Shore and the rest of  New Jersey have also been substantial. As of June 14, $400.5 million in FEMA  grants were approved for individuals and households. The National Flood  Insurance Program made $3.5 billion in payments on claims as of June 17. Nearly  262,000 people contacted FEMA for help.  

 About $600 million in federal funding has been allocated, according to the New  Jersey Department of Community Affairs (DCA) to help eligible primary  homeowners rebuild their Superstorm Sandy-impacted homes. The Rehabilitation,  Reconstruction, Elevation & Mitigation (RREM) program provides funding to help Superstorm Sandy-affected  owners repair, elevate or reconstruct their homes. RREM will provide grants to  eligible homeowners for up to $150,000 and is intended to provide extra  financial assistance to those still in need after receiving aid.  

 In addition to financial assistance, RREM provides extra resources such as  repair specifications and highly qualified builders to ensure all work  completed is of high quality and sustainability. The program is open to  single-family primary residences and owner-occupied units in multi-unit  properties such as townhomes, duplexes, condos and co-ops.  

 New Jerseyans from all different backgrounds are banding together to rebuild  homes for the storm survivors. More than 60 realtors from across the state have  come together to reconstruct homes as a part of the New Jersey Association of  Realtors’ Housing Opportunity Foundation, an organization that partners with Habitat for  Humanity to build homes for those in need. NJARHOF’s latest project entailed partnering up with Cape May County Habitat for  Humanity to renovate a Whitesboro-based family’s home. Along with donating $40,000 towards the project, NJARHOF provided  hundreds of volunteer hours to help with the home’s renovation.  

 History of the Shore

 For years, the Jersey Shore held more regional relevance. Southern New Jerseyans  and residents of the Philadelphia metropolitan area, as well as Northern New  Jerseyans flocked to the expansive beaches. The New Jersey Shore was the top  vacation destination for East Coasters, above even Cape Cod and the Hamptons.  

 It almost goes without saying the the Jersey Shore has won a new place in the  national memory as Snooki’s favorite party spot, but the shore's depiction on MTV is just a sliver of a  rich history that goes back over one hundred years. The Shore experienced its  first tourist boom in the late 19th century after the expansion of railroad  technology, which allowed access to places like Sandy Hook and Red Bank.  Tourism surged in 1916 when North New Jerseyans sought refuge from the deadly  heat wave and polio epidemic that struck the Northeast. Despite a series of  deadly shark attacks that same year, tourism continued to increase steadily. As  the urban centers of New York City, Newark, and Philadelphia continued to  expand with more working class people, scores of families sought to escape the  heat of summer in the city. More commuter roads and bridges. were built to  accommodate the influx of vacationers and beachgoers. The Shore popularity  thrived even throughout the Great Depression, providing a sandy getaway to  hundreds of thousands. Later, the expansion of highways from Philadelphia and  New York to South Jersey made the ease of travel to a summer Shore escape  easier than ever, thus solidifying its spot as the most popular summer retreat  in the Northeast.  

 Must-Visit Shore Towns

 Many New Jerseyans know the Shore is more than just the boardwalks and amusement  parks of Seaside Heights, but some still might be surprised that the Shore  consists of more than 40 communities, spanning 217 miles from Sandy Hook to  Cape May. Each shore town is like a village unto itself, offering something for  everyone.  

 Young adults do flock to Seaside Heights for its bustling restaurants, boardwalk  rides and games—and of course a thriving nightlife of bars and clubs. The Heights attracts up to  65,000 visitors a day. This borough is also known for having a large number of  apartments and shore houses, which many young people rent out during the  hottest months, and fit in as many beds as possible to keep individual rents  down.  

 If that doesn't strike you fancy, which would include most people, Ocean City is  the antithesis of the party-centric Seaside Heights. The shore town, which was  dubbed the “Best Family Beach of 2005” by the Travel Channel, has banned the sale of alcoholic beverages since it was  founded in 1879.  

 Cape May, which is at the southernmost tip of the Cape May Peninsula, has long  been regarded as one of the nation's oldest vacation spots. World-renowned for  its Victorian-inspired architecture and peaceful coastlines, Cape May is the  perfect place to go for a quiet, relaxing getaway.  

 Atlantic City is considered the "Gambling Capital of the East Coast," and is  currently home to 12 casinos, which rake in about $3 billion in annual gaming  revenue.  

 Long Branch was like the Cannes of the United States from the late 19th century  up until the 1920s—an exclusive beach resort for the glamorous and wealthy. President Grant made  the city a popular destination after vacationing there in 1869. Presidents  Hayes, Garfield, Arthur, Harrison, McKinley, and Wilson followed suit. It’s now best known for Pier Village, the epicenter of shopping and dining, and its  two-mile boardwalk.  

 Asbury Park is best known for being a hub of rock music, with musicians like  Bruce Springsteen, Jon Bon Jovi and Patti Smith flocking to it during the 1970s  and 1980s. Aside from its rock roots, the town is also known as having a large  gay community, which began burgeoning the 1950s. It’s home to the Empress Hotel, New Jersey’s only gay-oriented hotel. Asbury Park is also known for its fishing pier,  attributing to the New Jersey Marine Sciences Consortium ranking it as having  the sixth-best beach in New Jersey in 2008.  

 Though the Jersey Shore is not yet totally rebuilt, it will still be an  important summer destination. But, harder questions will have to begin to get  answered about how the communities on the water will cope with an increasing  volume of severe weather caused by climate change. Should houses on the water  continue to get rebuilt over and over again on coast? Should businesses and  infrastructure close to the beach be set back or meet tougher flood standards?  Will the state and coastal towns be able to maintain the beach and adequately  protect against erosion? In the coming years and decades, New Jerseyans will  have to come up with solutions and answers in order to hand off the tradition  of the Shore to future generations.      

 Enjolie Esteve is an editorial assistant at The New Jersey Cooperator. Editorial  Assistant Tom Lisi contributed to this article.  

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  • For a newsletter that's supposed to address New Jersey condos, your coverage of Sandy and its aftermath has been minimal. There are many condo developments at the shore, and many of those condos sustained substantial damage from the storm. These shore condos have some year-round residents (about a third in ours), but many of the units are second homes to the owners. What relief was available to the year-round owners, to the second-home owners, to renters, to the associations? What is the prospect for insurability when the association policies and the HO-6 policies of the individual owners come due? Aren't there representative stories you can report? What is typically being done to repair the damage to infrastructure, to pool areas, to landscaping, to attached marinas? Are storm assessments the rule? Loans? Are the associations proceeding to make repairs prior to receipt of insurance proceeds? What is the prospect for timely settlement of flood and wind claims? I've given you enough questions to fill the next several issues. We at the shore look to your publication to broaden its scope beyond what appears to be a strong bias toward North Jersey bedroom communities.