SEA BRIGHT: BAIN’S IS BACK IN THE PAINT

Frank Bain working the phone and the computer in the freshly restored paint section of his hardware store. (Photos by Wil Fulton. Click to enlarge)

By WIL FULTON

The rebuilding process in Sea Bright took a big step forward this week when Ocean Avenue mainstay Bain’s Hardware reopened its doors to the public for the first time since Hurricane Sandy hit.

“We opened at noon on 12/12/12 – why go to some concert when you could come down here, right?” owner Frank Bain told redbankgreen Thursday in his newly renovated shop.

Less than seven weeks ago, Bain’s store and every piece of inventory inside of it was destroyed. Now, the half of the store that is currently open looks as though it was never touched by the storm.

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SECOND ‘MOUNTAIN’ PILES UP MEMORIES

A passerby eyes debris in the Anchorage Beach parking lot, above, while a mountain of it dominates the former Peninsula House lot, below. (Photo by Wil Fulton. Click to enlarge)

By WIL FULTON

Mount Sandy, meet Mount Refuse.

Though smaller in stature, the mountain of debris occupying in Sea Bright’s old Peninsula House parking lot on Ocean Avenue is just as scene-stealing and ominous as its sand counterpart, located just a stone’s throw away. This ever-growing pile, however, won’t have onlookers climbing it or posing for closeups anytime soon.

The refuse is the accumulated result of curbside trash pickups in this Hurricane Sandy-smashed town, where residents and business owners are early on in a restoration effort.

It stands, however briefly, as a jarring, visceral reminder of the storm’s reach over porches, through doors and windows, and into rooms and closets.

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SEA BRIGHT: AMID TEARS, GUARD ROLLS OUT

Sea Bright’s tent city was largely dismantled by Friday afternoon. Below, Governor Chris Christie speaking with National Guardsmen at the site on November 9. (Photo by Wil Fulton. Click to enlarge)

By WIL FULTON

After six weeks of assisting displaced residents and first responders with everything from hot meals to extra clothes, Sea Bright’s tent city – created by the US National Guard – is leaving town.

Following a final community meal on Thursday,  National Guardsmen made their move out of the municipal parking lot around 10:30 a.m. Friday, according to Onofrio Moscato, head chef at neighboring restaurant, Woody’s Ocean Grille, Emotions were running high for the Guard as well as volunteers and residents, he said.

“The National Guard was escorted out by the Sea Bright firemen,” Moscato told redbankgreen. “They were hanging out of the windows and waving. It was a special send-off for them. Before they left, they all stood in line and made a final salute, kind of a sign that their mission here was over.”

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HOT DOG CART AND CHIC EATERY BACK IN BIZ

Hot dog seller Frances Rooney poses for a photo with admirers, including Councilwoman Peggy Bills, at right above. Below, Pat Trama in his restored restaurant. (Photo by Wil Fulton. Click to enlarge)

By WIL FULTON

One of Sea Bright’s oldest food businesses reopened this week, and one of its newest was scheduled to do so Friday night, two signs that the storm-battered town is cooking up a recovery.

Frances Rooney, affectionately known as “Grandma Hot Dog,”  fired up the gas on her cart this week and was soon attracting lines of hungry and loyal customers.

“My son was the one who really encouraged me to come back out here and start serving people again – sooner rather than later,” she told redbankgreen, “He thought it would be a comforting sight for everyone to see me back in business, up on my feet.”

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SEA BRIGHT: BAIN’S PAINTS ITS OWN FUTURE

Frank Bain outside his Ocean Avenue hardware store, where all the inventory was destroyed in Hurricane Sandy. (Photo by Wil Fulton. Click to enlarge)

By WIL FULTON

“This isn’t a competition,” said a stone-faced Frank Bain, when asked if his would be the first business to reopen in Sea Bright after Hurricane Sandy.

But checking in on recent activity at Bain’s Hardware, a visitor might conclude that not only was Bain in a race, but one that his life depended on winning.

One late afternoon last week, the Ocean Avenue storefront was a swarm of dust-encrusted laborers, some installing new subflooring even as others continued with interior demolition work. At one point, an impromptu crew, Bain included, picked up and hustled the pieces of a shattered street lamp from the sidewalk out front to the side of the building.

Make no mistake about it: Bain is in a major hurry. With no flood insurance and every item in his 65,000-SKU shop destroyed, his economic life hangs in the balance, he’s the first to admit. “Getting that register ringing again is paramount,” he told redbankgreen.

But he’s driven just as much, he said, by the importance of his store to other businesses and homeowners who themselves are faced with rebuilding challenges. “We are out here working so that we can get back on our feet and help this town as soon as humanly possible,” he said.

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RED BANK: HOTEL AIMS FOR JANUARY RETURN

The surging Navesink River poured six feet of water into the hotel’s basement, knocking out electricity and other systems. (Photo by Wil Fulton. Click to enlarge)

By WIL FULTON

Almost a month after Hurricane Sandy slammed into the Jersey Shore, Red Bank’s Oyster Point Hotel remains locked and dark, a handwritten note taped to its front door telling visitors it will reopen “when it is safe to do so.”

The riverside hotel’s basement, the operational heart of the facility, was inundated with more than six feet of water in the storm. Even though flood gates were in place, the water levels exceeded them and entered the basement, destroying the electrical and communication equipment, said Kevin Barry, the hotel’s operating manager.

“We have flood gates that were set by the standards of the ’92 storm, but obviously the damage by Sandy was exponentially worse,” he said.

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SEA BRIGHT MOVES MEETING TO THE BASIE

The mayor and council of Sea Bright took to the stage of the Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank Monday night to accommodate a crowd that would not have fit into the town’s borough hall. (Photo by Wil Fulton. Click to enlarge)

By WIL FULTON

It was anything but business as usual for Sea Bright residents as they gathered for their borough council’s bimonthly  meeting Monday night.

Stoked by concerns that their homes and businesses might not be rebuilt in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy’s extensive damage, dozens filled seats near the stage at Red Bank’s Count Basie Theatre to pepper elected officials with questions about everything from stray transformers to the fate of their town.

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SEA BRIGHT: MERCHANTS PLAN NEW STARTS

Cono Trezza in his newly built pizzeria last February, and as it appeared five days after the storm, below. (Photo below by Peter Lindner. Click to enlarge)

By WIL FULTON

For owners of Sea Bright businesses damaged by Hurricane Sandy, the rebuilding process has just begun. As they assess the damages and take steps toward the recovery of their livelihoods, each has his or her own distinct post-Sandy tale to tell. redbankgreen spoke to four of them this week about their plans in the aftermath of the cataclysmic events that ravaged through their beach community. Here are their stories.

Sea Bright Pizza:
Cono Trezza faces an uphill battle, like most property owners in Sea Bright, though he is meeting it with spirit and vigor that some might find surprising, given the state of his business.

“I want to get back as soon as possible,” Trezza said. “If my ovens were working right now I’d start cooking pizzas for everyone that’s out here.”

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SEA BRIGHT: MOVING ‘MOUNT SANDY’

Bulldozers redistributing sand recovered from the streets of Sea Bright on the borough beach Wednesday morning. Below, contractor Mike Stavola with Governor Chris Christie last week. (Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

It’s been dubbed ‘Mount Sandy,’ and in its enormity, it looms as one of many reminders of the woes inflicted on Sea Bright by Hurricane Sandy on October 29.

We’re talking about a pile of sand so wide and tall – upwards of 60 feet, says the contractor who built it – that it blocks the view of the ocean from nearly any spot in the municipal beach parking lot.

But the sandpile also stands as a gritty reminder of the rapid progress being made in restoring out the town, while prompting questions about the future of the beaches.

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RUMSON: MARINA RESURFACING AFTER STORM

Life was returning to normal at the Rumson marina on Tuesday, though a new $3 million Viking that was swept from the lot remained half-sunk on the Middletown side of the Navesink, below. (Photo above by Wil Fulton. Click to enlarge)

By WIL FULTON

More than two weeks after Hurricane Sandy, Oceanic Marina owner Pete Pawlikowski is still trying to restore his ravaged Rumson business. redbankgreen was on the scene day the morning after the storm hit, and returned on Tuesday to check in on the rebuilding process.

“Its mind-boggling, really,” said Pawlikowski, sitting in his once-again operational office and store, which was submerged in over four and half feet of water just two weeks ago. “I’ve never seen so much devastation.”

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CHRISTIE SHINES A SPOTLIGHT ON SEA BRIGHT

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.”

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SEA BRIGHT SHAKES OFF NORTHEASTER

U.S. Army soldiers setting up mess tents in Sea Bright next to the firehouse Thursday to serve work crews and, starting next week, returning residents.  (Photo by Chris Wood. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

Sea Bright experienced nothing more than “typical street flooding” from the Shrewsbury River during Wednesday night’s northeaster, Mayor Dina Long tells redbankgreen.

“It was a quiet night in Sea Bright” with no additional damage to homes and businesses in the hurricane-shattered town, Long said Thursday. Heavy-duty work on streets and utilities aimed at bringing the sandbar municipality back to life has resumed, she said.

That work is now expected to be advanced enough to allow residents to return to their homes next Monday – assuming that Governor Chris Christie first lifts the mandatory evacuation order he issued in advance of Hurricane Sandy, Long said.

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MIXED AFTERMATH AMONG SEA BRIGHT HOMES

Wine lover Kevin Corbett recovered all his wine, as well as his golf clubs, from his riverside house, which is slated for demolition. Two doors away, the year-old home of Beatrix and Paul Patton saw little damage.  Click to enlarge)

By WIL FULTON

With a backhoe in his front yard and an orange “5” spray-painted across the face of his house, Kevin Corbett hustled out from his rear deck, a bottle of ’82 Petrus in hand, attempting to use the little time he had to save the things he values most: wine, golf clubs and clothes.

As the backhoe’s claw yanked at a wire strung from what’s left of his Ocean Avenue house, Corbett seemed surprisingly unfazed about entering a precarious structure Monday afternoon.

“It’s beat up out front,” he said with a laugh, “but it’s fine in the back.”

Hundreds of Sea Bright Residents made a brief return home on Monday afternoon to find varying levels of damage inflicted on their households. In some instances, houses that made it out of the storm relatively unscathed were juxtaposed against a neighbor’s residence lying in ruins.

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SEA BRIGHT RESIDENTS TO GET ACCESS TODAY

For the second time in four days, Sea Bright residents gathered in a stadium, this time in West Long Branch, to get updates on the storm cleanup Sunday. Below, Mayor Dina Long and Councilman James LoBiondo. (Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

Sea Bright residents were to begin getting greater access to their homes Monday morning, town officials told them at another packed-grandstand meeting Sunday.

Though a massive cleanup and repair of public works infrastructure is proceeding more quickly than initially anticipated, “Sea Bright is not ready to be reoccupied,” Mayor Dina Long said at a townwide meeting held at Shore Regional High’s football field in West Long Branch.

Still, officials hope to allow unimpeded access to residents as early as Friday, said Councilman James LoBiondo, who has headed up the effort to cap leaking natural gas lines and remove hundreds of tons of sand from roadways.

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POST-SANDY, A BRIGHTER SEA BRIGHT

After wading waist-deep into churning water on Ocean Avenue during the storm on Monday, photographer Peter Lindner returned to Sea Bright on Saturday, along with redbankgreen‘s John T. Ward, to document the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Here are 150 of Lindner’s shots. Some of Ward’s pix on are redbankgreen‘s Facebook page.

Lindner and Ward were permitted into town by local officials, who were in their second day of ferrying Sea Bright residents into town, by dumptruck, to give them just a few minutes to collect pets, medicines, clothing and other personal items from their homes.

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SEA BRIGHT: A WALK THROUGH THE WRECKAGE

A compilation of photos assembled into a video by someone identified on YouTube as ‘Chris M” documents a walk north into Sea Bright on Tuesday, the day after Hurricane Sandy caused widespread damage in the coastal town. (Click to enlarge)

GHOST TOURS ADD DEATHLY CHILL TO STROLL


Tour guide Bill Normyle tells a group about the Dublin House’s infamous Mrs. Patterson, a ghost known for locking doors to make her presence known. (Photo by Stacie Fanelli. Click to enlarge.)

By STACIE FANELLI

Red Bank sees businesses change hands often. Ghosts don’t like change.

At least that’s what Jersey Shore Ghost Tours guide Bill Normyle says when his group stops in front of the vacant storefront on Monmouth Street most recently home to Stokaboka.

It’s also a former borough hall, and Normyle suggests it is filled with the spirits of “a lot of disgruntled people who felt they had a lot of unfinished business — politicians and taxpayers alike.”

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REBRANDED RED BANK TOUTS ITS COOL

RiverCenter unveiled its new marketing campaign Thursday night at the Count Basie Theatre; below, branded squishy balls. (Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

Not that there ever was, literally, but there’s no longer “only one Red Bank.”

The folks who market the borough’s discontinuous business district to shoppers, retailers and developers have scrapped the three-year-old “Only One Red Bank” slogan and replaced it with “a cool little town.”

The fact that there are Red Banks elsewhere – in Tennessee and South Carolina, and even another one in New Jersey – apparently didn’t factor into the decision to make the change. It was just time, said Nancy Adams, executive director of the business-promotion agency Red Bank RiverCenter, which commissioned the new branding.

“We needed a new, fresh reason to get them out there, especially with the economy improving” and competition from the nightlife hotspots of Asbury Park and Long Branch heating up, she told redbankgreen before unveiling the new slogan and associated visuals at the Count Basie Theatre Thursday.

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FAIR HAVEN GEARS UP FOR EARLIER BIKE RACE

A scene from the 2011 edition of the Tour de Fair Haven, above. Below, members of the New Jersey Wheelmen will show-off century-old big-wheel bikes. (Click to enlarge)

By DANIELLE TEPPER

While bicycling is a casual hobby to some and a childhood pastime to others, there are those who hunger for the wind-in-their-hair feeling and the thrill of participating in a high-exertion race.

For the fourth year in a row, Fair Haven is preparing to host dozens of such enthusiasts with this Sunday’s Tour de Fair Haven. Michel Berger – Frenchman, casual cyclist, organizer and head of the Fair Haven Business Association– said a number of changes this year, including a seasonal switch.

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COUNCIL RAISES HEIGHT LIMIT AT HOTEL SITE

Attorney Ron Gasiorowski, with a rendering of the proposed Hampton Inn hotel he opposes, awaits the start of Wednesday’s Red Bank council meeting. (Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

Two months after the Red Bank zoning board ruled that a proposed hotel on the site of a former Exxon station exceeded the height limit for its zone, the town’s governing body boosted the limit Wednesday night.

After a contentious hearing that was widely seen as a prelude to a third lawsuit over zoning changes affecting the site the of the proposed Hampton Inn, the borough council gave unanimous approval to a trio of ordinance amendments, one of which would allow a building 82.4 feet tall, or seven stories, in the zone.

Though characterized by council members and council Attorney Dan O’Hern as an attempt to clarify rules affecting the town’s entire waterfront development zone, the most immediate impact of the change is eliminate the most significant obstacle to the proposed hotel, eyed for the juncture of Route 35 and Rector Place at the foot of Cooper’s Bridge.

“I, too, am of the opinion that we need another hotel here, one that is affordable,” Councilman Mike DuPont said after sparring repeatedly with the attorney representing the hotel’s foremost objector.

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TWINS GET INTO THE SWING OF SUMMER

10:21 a.m. Mark (left) and Michael (right) Montagu of New York City get a tennis lesson at Victory Park in Rumson. The twins are following in their tennis-loving father’s footsteps at the tender age of 4. (Photo by Danielle Tepper. Click to enlarge)

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TAKING IT TO THE RIVER FOR THREE-DAY FEST

A weekend’s serving of cheek-bulging chow and hip-shaking music take up residence in Red Bank’s Marine Park this weekend. (Photos by Dustin Racioppi. Click to enlarge.)

By TOM CHESEK

It was the subject of a behind-the-scenes brouhaha that rivaled the most spirited Battle of the Bands: a “take back the weekend” campaign that pitted some of the mainstays of the Red Bank business community against an established event that many locals believed had both outgrown and turned its back on its host community.

When the calendar flipped to the first weekend in June, 2011, however, the consensus was that Riverfest was a refreshing breath of sweet summertime air off the Navesink — a successful revival of a seasonal signature that Lynda Rose, president of the Eastern Monmouth Area Chamber of Commerce, calls “a perfect fit for the town, the businesses and anyone who enjoys being in Red Bank.”

Beginning Friday and continuing into Sunday evening, Riverfest returns to the sloping lawns and waterfront walkways of Marine Park with a three-day, rain-or-shine, strolling smorgasbord of culinary creations, “local organic” music and family-friendly activities.

Billed as “New Jersey’s Largest Food and Music Festival with Free Admission,” it’s both a throwback to an earlier small-town vision of Red Bank, and a summer-season keynote to a new chapter in the borough’s ever-evolving history.

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