It’s been six months since a storm of historic proportions slammed into the Jersey Shore, wiping out entire stretches of the fabled boardwalk, sweeping amusement park rides out to sea and prompting Gov. Chris Christie to lament that the Garden State’s best feature would “never be the same.”
The men and women who earn their living at the beach and on the boardwalk don't dispute the governor's words. But with summer fast approaching, they are making a final push to salvage what they can of the upcoming tourist season. And while some of the boardwalk that inspired Bruce Springsteen is still under construction, locals know the features that matter most are the sun and the surf. They'll do what they can about the rest.
“We’re open. Come on down,” said Vinny Scuzzese, who has set up two game tents in the lot behind his boardwalk food stand and arcade in Seaside Heights. “This business is my only income. I had to do something while we wait for the boardwalk to be finished. We brought the games to the street.”
Scuzzese says that the stretch of boardwalk where his shop lies will be ready by the start of the season and with it, he will be open for business come Memorial Day.
After the storm barreled into and up the shore in late October, images of the Jet Star, twisted and jutting out of the water, illustrated Sandy's devastation to generations of revelers who had sought thrills on the iconic roller coaster. Its owner, Casino Pier, also has a lot of repair work to be done and will likely not be finished by the end of May. Still, officials say rides will be up and running by the end of the month.
“The top pier where we had rides like the roller-coaster and the log flume has been the longest to rebuild,” said Maria Mastoris, spokeswoman for Casino Pier. “At least half the rides will be up by Memorial Day and then we will have to see how it goes throughout the season.”
“We’ve had great progress since six months ago. The pier is being rebuilt as we speak and will soon be walkable. We’re very optimistic about our opening.”
Not so fortunate is Funtown Pier, at the southern end of the boardwalk in Seaside Park. Its proprietors have given up hope for this season, but vow to be back in 2014.
According to a report by the Asbury Park Press, many of the towns along the shore are on track to welcome tourists this summer, even if they aren't what they were before Sandy:
- In Belmar, located in Monmouth County, the boardwalk is scheduled for completion this week and beaches will be reopen by Memorial Day. Vendors and bathrooms will be in mobile facilities for the season and the pavilions that dot the coast of this popular destination will not be reopened until 2014.
- Lavallette, a vacation rental community near Seaside Heights, plans to have beaches on the ocean and the bay open by June 22.
- Rebuilding efforts are still under way in Point Pleasant beach, where boardwalk rebuilding is on schedule.
- Sandy left sections of the boardwalk completely destroyed in Asbury Park, but repairs have already been completed and some businesses have already reopened. However, the famed Convention Hall at the northern end of the boardwalk will be shut down for the season as repairs are currently scheduled for this coming fall.
- Sandy Hook, a National Park and beach area located at the most northern point of the region, will have three public beach areas open by Memorial Day weekend. Ferry service and bike path repairs are also likely to be delayed until later in the season. The park has received more than $5 million in federal aid for repairs thus far.
A recent poll by the Asbury Park Press found 73 percent of the state’s residents are satisfied with recovery efforts. Christie was upbeat on the recovery process on Monday in an interview with MSNBC, proclaiming that President Obama “has kept every promise he’s made,” regarding help for the Garden State.
Perry Chiaramonte is a reporter for FoxNews.com. Follow him on Twitter at @perrych