NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) – It’s beginning to feel a bit more like summer this Memorial Day Weekend.
Following a cold, dreary day Saturday, the sun made an appearance this Sunday, along with some slightly warmer temperatures.
After a long, hard winter, the beach is now open in Manasquan, N.J. The sand dunes that washed away in the early hours of Sandy are still gone and there are signs everywhere of the storm’s wrath.
There are damaged homes that are still untouched and empty lots where rebuilding has yet to begin.
There is a newly paved macadam boardwalk and it was filled with people on Sunday now that the weather has improved. Some businesses remain shuttered and residents all over town can be seen working on homes, porches and lots months after the storm.
Continuing his summer kick-off tour, Gov. Chris Christie was on hand for a walk along the Asbury Park Boardwalk. Later in the day Sunday, he was scheduled to visit the Keansburg Amusement Park.
Gov. Christie has been on hand for boardwalk openings all along the Jersey Shore to show locals and visitors that the shore is open for the summer.
And on Tuesday, President Barack Obama will return to the Jersey Shore for the first time since the days after superstorm Sandy hit. He and Gov. Christie will hold an event followed by a speech from the President in Asbury Park in the early afternoon.
As CBS 2’s Cindy Hsu reported, with the sun making its appearance this Sunday, shop owners are hoping to hear the sounds of cash registers ringing once again up and down the Jersey Shore.
Businesses devastated by superstorm Sandy were hoping for recovery with the clearing skies.
“Hopefully, the sun will come out today and the rest of the weekend and we’ll make some money,” said shop owner Vinny Scuzzese.
Many people showed support for the shore on Saturday despite the raw and rainy weather.
“It’s the Jersey Shore. We had to come see how they did. It’s amazing,” said one woman.
“It doesn’t matter what weather it is, you just come here and see everyone,” added another beachgoer.
Business was brisk on saturday but shop owners are hoping for a lot more on Sunday.
“I would have liked a nicer patch of weather for the weekend but I think just one look around shows that people are going to come here no matter what,” store manager Charles Draper said.
Some shop owners said Memorial Day Weekend accounts for about seven percent of their yearly sales.
On Coney Island, the cold, rainy conditions put a damper on the summer kick-off. But residents, tourists and merchants alike were hopeful that Sunday would bring a more lively atmosphere.
“They’re losing now but they’re going to make it back up because this is Coney Island, this is where everybody comes,” Gabe Hernandez told CBS 2’s Dave Carlin.
After a cleanup effort that cost tens of millions of dollars, visitors from the Rockaways to the Hamptons will be able to enjoy miles of seashores that have been groomed and cleaned up by volunteers and work crews.
In some places, two-story-tall sand dunes have been washed away. In other places, miles-long stretches of boardwalk still need to be replaced. In still others, sunbathers may have to squeeze their towels a little closer on beaches shrunken in some places by half its normal size by the effects of erosion.
“People are going to rewrite the formula for the beach,” says Andrew Field, co-owner of the popular Rockaway Taco restaurant near Queens’ Rockaway Beach, a 7-mile stretch of sand off the Atlantic Ocean that was perhaps the city’s hardest-hit beachfront. Repairs at Rockaway Beach have so far cost about $140 million.
“They’re going to stand in front of the beach, look to the left and look to the right, and say, ‘Where do we go?”’
At Rockaway Beach, about half of the 5.5 miles of boardwalk was destroyed by the storm. The city plans on replacing the stretch of boardwalk. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will work all summer to restore 3.6 million cubic yards of sand in a stretch of beach where, at high tide, what last summer was prime real estate for sunbathing is now part of the ocean.
The work to restore a 100-foot-wide beach from the boardwalk will occur periodically throughout the summer, prompting partial beach closures in work areas.
“It’ll totally be different,” says Field, whose beachside concession stand won’t open until July, though his main taco spot blocks from the beach opened this month despite severe damage from the late-October storm. “It’s going to take time, but people are just looking for some normalcy.”
Still, after spending more than $270 million in repair costs, all 14 miles of New York City’s beaches will be open for the Memorial Day weekend, including Coney Island, Brighton and Manhattan Beaches in Brooklyn; Orchard Beach in the Bronx; Midland, Wolfe’s Pond, Cedar Grove and South Beaches in Staten Island; and, of course, Rockaway Beach in Queens.
Farther east at Long Beach on Long Island, officials hope a new $44 million boardwalk will be 20 percent constructed by mid-July, though the remainder of the beachfront appears intact, with dozens of volleyball nets arrayed down the beach and lifeguard stands placed high above sand piles.
Jason Schatzberg, owner of the eatery Paninis and Bikinis, says the key to this beach season will be patience.
“It’s coming back. Everything takes time and I don’t think people understand that,” says Schatzberg, whose shop just blocks from the shore was submerged in 4 feet of water and won’t be open until a couple of weeks after Memorial Day. “You can’t expect a major devastation and all of a sudden everything’s normal again.”
But, he says, “the beach is beautiful, amazing.”
Caitlin O’Connor, a waitress at The Saloon, a popular bar along a strip of nightspots in Long Beach, lost two cars and the downstairs of her house to Sandy. She was also out of work for seven months but recently returned to prepare for a grand reopening this weekend.
“Everyone’s really excited. It’s summertime. Everyone’s ready to party, especially after such a long winter,” she says. “The beach looks great. It’s just the boardwalk. Everyone’s still a little bummed out, but they’re starting to rebuild it.”
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