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Seaside Heights Boardwalk Ready To Go, But Seaside Park Still Struggles After Fire

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SEASIDE PARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — The Jersey Shore is ready for the summer season for the most part, but it is a tale of two cities in Ocean County.

As CBS 2’s Christine Sloan reported Friday, Seaside Heights has been able to bounce back from a devastating fire last September, but neighboring Seaside Park has not.

It was a dreary, overcast day on Friday, but the fun and games were back on the boardwalk down the Jersey Shore.

“It’s exciting to see it back,” one girl said.

“I like to, like, play games, mess around, go to the beach,” added another girl, Sophia Papoutsakis of Seaside Heights.

In Seaside Heights, the beach – even though it was not full – looked pristine on Friday. Recent testing showed the beach has optimum water quality, and the boardwalk is ready for visitors despite the massive fire.

“We’re temporarily back,” said business owner Eric Faranda. “These are temporary buildings constructed in three weeks, and today is our first day open, and we’ll be able to keep these here until Labor Day.”

Visitors were pleased with the resilience.

“I think it’s really impressive they were able to bounce back so quickly,” said Christine Carty of Wayne.

But in Seaside Park, it is a different story. The Seaside Park boardwalk, which connects the Seaside heights boardwalk, remained under construction as Memorial Day weekend approached.

The fire also damaged businesses — including the Funtown Pier, which collapsed to the ground as flames consumed it. They are still not open.

“As you can see, we’re waking past and you see this,” said Tom Gaccione of Seaside Park, referring to continuing construction. “And Seaside (Heights) is ready to go, so I mean, it’s a little discouraging.”

In a sit-down interview with Gov. Chris Christie, CBS 2’s Sloan asked him why Seaside Park is still in such bad shape.

“The problem there is that it’s private business owners that own it, so they had insurance claims they had to settle, and then they had to come to an agreement with the town about the width of the new boardwalk,” Christie said. “The good news is they now have come to an agreement.”

The governor said Seaside Park businesses will bounce back by the summertime. But he is not sure what will happen with Funtown Pier.

The fire broke out on Sept. 12, and burned more than four blocks of boardwalk in both Seaside Heights and Seaside Park. An investigation determined the fire started in wiring under the boardwalk in Seaside Park that had been damaged by exposure to storm water during Superstorm Sandy.

The blaze started under a Kohr’s frozen custard stand and the Biscayne Candies shop and raged for eight hours, destroying about 50 businesses over several blocks.

Among the other iconic venues that were damaged or destroyed in the fire were the Carousel Arcade, Jack & Bill’s, and Maruca’s Pizza.

Christie said the State of New Jersey has launched an ad campaign aimed at attracting tourists to the shore. Christie himself will not appear in the ads, as he did with the “Stronger than the Storm” campaign following Sandy.
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