After superstorm Sandy, Jersey Shore priming for Memorial Day weekend
The Jersey Shore has been rebuilding since Sandy, and on Memorial Day weekend, merchants hope that tourists come for a dash in the surf and a walk along the boardwalk to spend some money.
Seaside Heights, N.J.
Carpenters are installing a railing along a rebuilt boardwalk, intent on getting it ready for the Memorial Day weekend. The smell of fried food hangs in the air as vendors fire up their fryers for funnel cakes and French fries. Almost everywhere, painters are trying to cover rusty spots outside concession stands selling T-shirts and offering games of chance.Skip to next paragraph
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This will be the first Memorial Day weekend since superstorm Sandy ripped up boardwalks, flooded a wide area from Long Island to New Jersey, and uprooted many lives. Now, with the unofficial kickoff to summer, Jersey Shore merchants are hoping that tourists come for a day in the sun, a dash in the surf, and a walk along the boardwalk to spend some money.
It’s key they do: Summer is when the lion’s share of tourism happens here, and tourism is central to the region’s economy.
“Hopefully, people will come down and support us,” says Vinny Scuzzese, who has been running Vinny’s Games in Seaside Heights for the past 21 years. “We’re open.”
But tourists will find uneven progress in the recovery efforts after Sandy. While many repairs have been made, and places like Vinny’s Games are open, visitors will have to overlook the fact that many amusement rides won’t be ready. Restrooms will be in short supply, and lot of fishing piers are still closed. Also, in some areas along the shore, lodging won’t be as plentiful as in past years because Sandy swept some rental homes into the sea.
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According to the state of New Jersey, about $19 billion comes from tourism in the area that stretches from Monmouth County (the closest shore county to New York) to Cape May (the southern tip of the state). But merchants say the combination of a cold, wet spring and the public’s uncertainty over what might be open has already cost them.
“We really need a good summer because our spring business was so far down,” says Mark Tenore, who runs some parking garages in Seaside Heights.
Some merchants in this beachside community were encouraged that Prince Harry toured the area last week. The prince was shown the Casino Pier where the Jet Star, a roller-coaster type of ride, was washed into the sea and became a media symbol of the power of the storm. As Harry and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) watched, a crane worked to remove the debris.
“A visit by royalty was good,” says Mr. Scuzzese, who notes that it resulted in a lot of media attention on the rebuilding process.
A key step is communicating to the public whether a particular area is open for business. For example, on Long Beach Island, the damage was not as severe in the northern area as in the southern area, says Fran Puskas, a real estate agent at Long Beach Island Real Estate.
“There are places on the southern part of the island that are still being repaired; the sand is still being shoveled out,” she says, specifically mentioning Holgate, a beachside community that was badly hit by the storm.