The first of thousands of 25 foot pilings were driven into the sand Wednesday as part of the project to replace Belmar's boardwalk.
Governor Chris Christie and Mayor Matt Doherty watched with a crowd of hundreds, calling this a critical moment in the effort to restore the shore.
"Belmar's had a boardwalk since 1875. It's part of our character, but equally important, it's vital to the economic interest of our small business owners," Doherty said.
Those owners do 70% of their annual business during the summer.
Belmar's 1.3 mile boardwalk was destroyed by Sandy's wind and waves, washing away what people here call the heartbeat of their community.
"And to think three months later we're actually driving pilings and it's not a matter of if we're going to have a boardwalk, we will have our boardwalk by Memorial Day weekend, it's just mind blowing," restaurant owner Nick Fuccilli said.
The governor said he'll be working the phones this week to help ensure passage of more storm relief money from Congress.
FEMA is expected to cover at least 75% of the $6.6-million cost to rebuild Belmar's boardwalk.
"For the next year, our mission as a people has got to be to rebuild the shore, rebuild our state, get people back in their houses and their businesses and restore this place to whatever the new normal is going to be," Governor Christie said.
The new boardwalk will be made of composite material and fortified with heavy structural supports and hurricane straps.
"The idea is so the boardwalk can't be ripped up again. They go on girders to joints," project manager John Robbins said.
"After the way this town came together after that storm, I'm convinced we can do anything," Belmar resident Rosemarie Papa said.
The reconstruction of the boardwalk is set to be finished by the end of May.
If it's done ahead of schedule the contractor gets a $100,000 bonus.
If it's late, they'll have to pay the borough a penalty for every day it's behind schedule.