The boardwalk reopens in Lavallette, N.J.

May 20, 2013 3:31:11 PM PDT
When Sandy hit, almost the entire boardwalk in Lavallette was destroyed.

But the borough made a concerted effort to get it repaired by Memorial Day and Governor Chris Christie came to get a firsthand look at the finished product.

"Thanks for coming to town," he said. "I told you I'd be back. I'm like a bad relative, you know?"

Christie shook hands and joked with locals as he walked down Lavallette's new $1.3 million boardwalk.

His visit will help get the word out that come Memorial Day, all of the borough's beaches will be open, as well as 95% of its businesses.

"This is the first symbol for us of making sure this week that everybody across the state, across the region and across America knows that the Jersey shore is open for the summer and ready to receive our customers," Christie said, to a big round of applause.

Christie spoke before a welcoming crowd of several hundred, including local school children, who came to watch as the final nails were driven into the boardwalk.

75% of the construction will be paid for by FEMA. To help defray costs, the borough is offering a "Buy a Board" program, where for $250 you can have a name or message carved into one of the boards.

1400 people bought a board, generating $350,000.

"I've been coming down here all my life," said Walter Jacobsen, "and I just think it's the greatest place to be in New Jersey, and I just l just love it!"

"Everyone's very excited that it's all come together and everything's opening up, all the businesses coming back," said Dana Magno.

The Music Man Singing Ice Cream Shoppe on Grand Central Avenue is one of them.

"We had 4 feet of water in our place alone so we had to completely renovate," said Jeremy Sickles, who works there. "We have a whole new layout."

Displaced Brick resident Tricia McAvoy was holding a sign that simply read "hope."

"We need hope because we've come back so far, but there's stil a lot of work to be done," she said.

Lavallette is right next door to Ortley Beach, which was devastated in the storm.

"There were a lot of people who were reluctant to come here because of the images they see on their way in to Lavallette," said the borough's mayor, Walter Lacicero. "So it's been a struggle to convince people we're open for business and ready to go here."

Officials here hope people will see that large parts of the shore are indeed ready for business and that they'll come back this year, just as they have every other summer.