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Summer After Sandy: Still Struggling In Sea Bright

Work Crews Making Shore Towns 'Tourist Ready' Ahead Of Memorial Day

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SEA BRIGHT, N.J. (CBSNewYork) – WCBS 880 is starting a new weekly series leading to Memorial Day and the summer, focusing on how Jersey Shore towns are working to come back from Hurricane Sandy. It’s called “Summer After Sandy.”

Six months after Sandy, in Sea Bright, the sand has been sifted and replenished, the beach is ready, and the beach clubs are rebuilding and racing to reopen at least partially.

But, for many of the 1,400 residents, it is still a struggle, according to Mayor Dina Long.

“We still have about half of our population are displaced and most of us are struggling with our insurance companies, still, to get fair settlements so that we can begin the rebuilding process on our homes,” she told WCBS 880 reporter Sean Adams.

Long herself is struggling.

“I haven’t made much headway with my insurance, Sean. We have just hired a public adjuster to try to help us get a settlement,” she said.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan, and Sea Bright Mayor Dina Long walk along Ocean Avenue - Feb. 7, 2013 (credit: Tim Larsen / CBSNewYork)

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan, and Sea Bright Mayor Dina Long walk along Ocean Avenue – Feb. 7, 2013 (credit: Tim Larsen / CBSNewYork)

A handful of businesses have reopened, including Woody’s Ocean Grill, which came back in January.

But owner Chris Wood had to dip into savings to do it, but it’s paid off.

Wood says business is better than ever, thanks to caring folks from all over.

“I had a woman come in the other night from Ireland and said she’s been following the progress of Sea Bright online and she was over here visiting her sister and she wanted to come in to see Woody’s and support the businesses in Sea Bright,” Wood said. “If you rebuild, the people will come.”

In Long Branch, half of the town’s two-mile long boardwalk was destroyed by Sandy. Work crews are fighting to build beach access on the southern mile of the walk.

“Our biggest challenge is getting stairways rebuilt to get down to the beach so we can get folks onto the beach for the summer season,” Long Branch City Administrator Howard Woolley told CBS 2’s Weijia Jiang.

Construction crews are working in overdrive to install stairs and bathrooms ahead of Memorial Day.

For some, the outlook was much more optimistic.

“It’s really much better than we anticipated. Yeah, the storm was bad, there’s no question about it, but we are in good condition and open to the public,” said Spring Lake’s Richard Clayton.

After months of rebuilding, residents hope that tourists will return for the summer and provide the revenue boost that many shore towns desperately need.

“We need the people to come for the summer and support our businesses and rent our properties,” Gene Harrigan said.

Meanwhile, back in Sea Bright, the online effort Sea Bright Rising (website | Facebook) has raised $1.25 million and volunteers have logged 38,000 hours helping rebuild.

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