BELMAR, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — They streamed in by carload to hit the sand. Kids played volleyball and wiffle ball. Others just tried to put the long, tough winter in the past.
In another step toward Belmar’s recovery following Superstorm Sandy, beachgoers took advantage of the first nice day of Memorial Day weekend Sunday, WCBS 880’s Jim Smith reported.
“I couldn’t wait to get down here,” one tourist told Smith. “Connecticut was pretty tough. It was a long, long winter.”
“Oh, some warm weather finally,” Barbara said. “Some sun. … Long winter for everybody.”
Some were just strolling along the year-old boardwalk, rebuilt after Sandy. Kevin said it’s hard to tell the place was destroyed a year and a half ago.
“It’s unbelievable, the resilence of the community,” he said. “Really, it’s been amazing.”
“It was devastating at first, and then we just really picked ourselves back up,” another man said.
Some temporary structures are a reminder the rebuilding is not complete, but a lot of normalcy is returning, including traffic and parking tickets for people not feeding the meters.
Among the structures still missing are some of those that housed businesses. But that’s not stopping the Exit 98 clothing boutique, which is operating out of a converted shipping container.
“Now, we have to find our own way,” said Amy Leonard, who was working the register Sunday. “So we decided to come up with this.”
Some food vendors are operating out of trucks parked up against the boardwalk.
Meanwhile, about 18 miles south in Ortley Beach, the ruins from October 2012 still scar the beachfront area, and the ghosts of Sandy sometimes seem stronger than the post-storm public relations campaign.
“You hear the reports that everything’s coming back and the shore’s back and everything’s great, but it’s really not,” said Michael Pesick, or Ortley Beach.
There’s plenty of reconstruction going on in the area, amid the ruins of homes nowhere near being built.
“The state, I guess, really didn’t come through with the grants that they were supposed to,” said Ortley Beach resident John Byrnes.
Byrne said he had to put up some of his own money first in order to rebuild his destroyed home. But Byrnes said the unhabitable home that stands next door is just one of many that stand empty — a fact that is stalling the return of some vacation rentals, hurting local businesses.
“If they don’t start coming back in the next two, three years … (businesses are) actually going to go under,” said Deb Denicola, or Ortley Beach.
The reality is rebuilding after a superstorm takes time.
“New sewers, new water, new utilities, new roads,” said Louis Giammarino, of Ortley Beach. “A lot is going on. Yes, there’s much more to do, which everybody always focuses on. People lose sight of how much is done.”
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