NJ lawmakers tour Sandy-ravaged shore communities

November 29, 2012

It was enough to bring Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver to tears.

"You look at the economic loss, families who have lost their quality of life," she said.

"I think the most important thing is to come here and talk to the mayors," said Assemblyman Louis Greenwald of Voorhees, "find out what worked what didn't work, figure out where they need help."

"I want these lawmakers to see it, because these are the people that are going to give up funding for my town," Seaside Heights Police Chief Tom Boyd told Action News. "And you've got to see it in person, the devastation."

The group visited the shredded Casino Pier in Seaside Heights where the remains of the submerged Jet Star roller coaster have become the iconic image of Sandy's wrath.

Eventually the hulking structure will be pulled from the surf. Seaside Heights Mayor Bill Akers told lawmakers rebuilding is a must.

"75 percent of our budget is tourism, 25 percent is based on property taxes," he said. "That's our formula for balancing the budget. Without us being open, we're out of business."

Lawmakers also visited the burned out remains of what used to be Camp Osborn in Brick, a tiny beach community that burned to the ground in a fire fed by broken gas lines.

They weren't big fancy houses that burned here, they were tiny two- and three-room bungalows that belong to middle-class families. They evacuated for the storm thinking they'd be back in a couple of days, but now there's nothing left.

"As many as 109 homes are now gone," said Brick Mayor Steve Acropolis. "Burned, unrecognizable, so you don't even get a chance to kind of say goodbye. And it's really just heart-wrenching."

And remember in Mantoloking how two- and three-story waves broke through the peninsula, washing away homes and creating a new channel?

Well under the direction of the Army Corps of Engineers, a retaining wall has been built and the breach sealed up, though at least one house is still sitting in the bay.

It was an eye-opener for lawmakers, who have promised a thoughtful bipartisan response to what one called the Tragedy at the Shore.

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