Prompted by a request from Mayor Dina Long and Councilman Read Murphy to keep Ocean Avenue closed to through traffic, Governor Chris Christie summons his transportation secretary during a visit to the borough Friday. Below, Christie tours a National Guard galley set up as part of a relief camp. (Click to enlarge)
By JOHN T. WARD
On the first day since Hurricane Sandy that building contractors were allowed into town, Governor Christie Christie visited Sea Bright Friday to call attention to the lingering devastation along New Jersey’s coastline as the rest of the state staggers back toward normalcy.
Touring an encampment of National Guard tents erected in the municipal parking lot to serve emergency volunteers, utility contractors and, soon, residents, Christie said there’s a lot of work to do at the Shore, and no one should expect it all to be completed by Memorial Day.
“By Monday, I think, things are going to be, for most people in the state, back to normal,” he told borough Engineer Jaclyn Flor in an impromptu chat. But for hard-hit places like Sea Bright, “first we have to sit down and talk about what we want normal to be, and what you want it to look like, and then we have to go to the federal government and say to them we need some money to get it that way.”
“Our smile might be toothless the first year,” interjected Mayor Dina Long.
“That’s exactly right,” Christie said, “but it’ll still be there.”
Christie chatted casually with town and county officials, shook hands with firefighters and other volunteers, and took a quick tour of the campground, built in the last few days to offer food and rest areas for workers laboring to clear streets of sand and restore utilities.
The campground is expected to serve residents once they are allowed back into the borough, which is now allowing them and their building contractors in between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. only. All must leave town each evening until the borough Office of Emergency Management director Dan Drogin lifts a mandatory evacuation order, Long said.
Christie made no public remarks on his 30-minute stop, which he told redbankgreen was intended “to put a spotlight on all these towns up and down our northern coast. Our state needs to know what these folks are up against.
“I want the state to see this, to see the destruction that’s happened here, but also to see the amazing volunteers,” he said.
Christie said he would be meeting afterward with officials from the state’s two largest electrical utilities, JCP&L and PSE&, who together have about 17,000 wire workers in the field up from their usual 4,000.
“Utility workers have never been more loved than they are right now,” Christie told Rumson Mayor John Ekdahl.