CHRISTIE, HUD SECRETARY TOUT SANDY AID

HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan, center, with local merchant Frank Bain, left, outside the Sea Bright firehouse Thursday. (Photo by Wil Fulton. Click to enlarge)

By WIL FULTON

Governor Chris Christie made yet another stop in Sea Bright Thursday afternoon, this time joined by federal Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan to tout the first allocation of money from a $60 billion Hurricane Sandy relief package passed by Congress last month.

“Just yesterday, I was able to say to the governor, here is $1.8 billion to help this state, and Sea Bright, start on the road to a full recovery,” Donovan said. “The law said we had to get that money out in 60 days, we did it in one-tenth that time – the fastest we’ve ever made an allocation of that funding.”

Joined at a lectern by Christie and Mayor Dina Long, Donovan said that the first portion of the funds would be targeted to homeowners and local businesses, and could include helping the residents who need to raise their homes with a portion of the elevation costs.

“We’re going to keep working with the state, and though I can’t promise you everything’s going to be fixed tomorrow, it looks a heck of a lot better than it did 90 days ago, and it will look even better 90 days from now,” he said.

Christie said he was optimistic that “we will be able to get tourists back here by the summer, and part of the reason we’ll be able to do that is because the supplemental appropriation President Obama sent to Capitol Hill, that through a little bit of effort got through Congress and signed by the president, and the person the president has put in charge of this effort is Secretary Donovan,” Christie said.

“There will be many bumps in the road, but I know the secretary will be committed to smoothing out as many bumps as he can for us down in Washington,” he added. “And I’m committed to working with him to make sure the president’s vision for what we need to do to help to recover is implemented here, and that the vision I have, and each one of these communities have, will be realized.”

Donovan, a Brooklyn native, repeatedly said that the region is very close to his heart, and that the connection to the area was personal.

“Governor Christie said I married up by marrying a Jersey Girl,” he joked onstage, before turning back to the serious nature of the press conference. “But we will be here, coming back for as long as it takes,” he said. “Please keep up the spirit that you have, keep fighting and keep working. If you keep doing what you have done these past 109 days, if this mayor keeps doing what she’s been doing, if the governor keeps doing what he’s been doing, nothing can stop us from getting Sea Bright back and going.”

“What we heard today was very encouraging,” Sea Bright Council President Brian Kelly told redbankgreen after the press conference. “It’s great to see the focus and commitment to Sea Bright, and the help that will be provided for local homes and businesses will be very impactful, especially the funds for elevation. In a lot of ways, I consider us to be a very lucky town.”

Before he left, Christie made sure to sing the praises of all members of government within the state, calling the work by small-town officials like Long invaluable to the rebuilding process.

“The mayor is always trying to sell Sea Bright,” he joked, “I was over at borough hall before, and she was trying to sell me beach badges for half price. She is truly a tireless salesperson for your town.”

“I’m happy to see everything looks better than it did when I was here last, and I’m sure the next time I come back, it will look even better,” he added.