SEA BRIGHT RISING SAYS ‘MISSION COMPLETE’

Ilene Winters and Chris Wood reviewing requests for  from Sea Bright Rising in January, 2013, three months after Hurricane Sandy devastated the town. On Friday, Winters and Woods announced that the nonprofit organization was dissolved, having completed its mission after giving out $1.6 million in donated funds to 300 families, 20 businesses and the borough itself.

From the announcement: Read More »

SEA BRIGHT: LIFELONG HOME REBUILT

20140617-181947.jpgDesiree Pierce, who lost her lifelong Sea Bright home to Hurricane Sandy, celebrated the completion of its rebuilding by volunteers Tuesday. Pierce, at center above with son Junior, helped Shareefah Taylor of Americorps, one of the volunteer organizations involved in restoring the New Street house, move a cake to the fridge. (Photo by John T. Ward. )

SEA BRIGHT: VOLUNTEERS START HOME REHABS

sb st bernard 1 032614Americorps volunteers painting the framework of Desiree Pierce’s home Wednesday to encapsulate any lingering mold. Below, Pierce and daughter, Gigi Burke, have been displaced from their home since Hurricane Sandy. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

sb gigi desiree 032614People who’ve never been through something like Hurricane Sandy don’t understand, says Gigi Burke.

“They don’t understand losing everything,” the 23-year-old Sea Bright resident said. “And then, they don’t understand the process and steps it takes to get back into your home.”

In the 500-plus days since Burke, her two siblings and their mother lost use of their New Street home to the surging Shrewsbury River and Atlantic Ocean, she’s heard “the question” from people who’ve temporarily put her up more than once.

“It was basically, ‘when are you leaving?’ but in a nice way,” she said Wednesday, amid of a flurry of rebuilding activity finally getting underway at her home.

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SEA BRIGHT RISING TO HELP REBUILD HOMES

sb elevations 4 060513Sea Bright homes being elevated last June. Officials estimate 80 percent of the town’s homes are still vacant. Below, Chris Wood, flanked by Pete Forlenza and Zack Rosenburg, addresses a gathering in Rumson Tuesday night. (Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

sb rising 022514Sixteen months after the churning Atlantic Ocean and the Shrewsbury River met on Sea Bright’s streets in the fury of a hurricane, the borough is still something of a ghost town, said Chris Wood.

Yes, the business district has seen a welcome comeback. “But 80 percent of the homes on the side streets of Sea Bright are still vacant,” said Wood, a co-founder of Sea Bright Rising, a nonprofit that has raised and distributed close to $1.3 million in donated funds to some 300 families and 17 businesses in town since Hurricane Sandy hit.

Now, though, Sea Bright Rising is partnering with another nonprofit born in the aftermath of a hurricane, with the goal of rebuilding as many as 100 homes in Sea Bright, Rumson and Highlands – at no charge to those homeowners.

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SEA BRIGHT: NO BRIDGE WORK ON WEEKENDS

Repairs on the Rumson-Sea Bright Bridge may take up to two weeks longer to complete than previously anticipated, but will allow for traffic flows on weekends. (Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

A compromise to a widely criticized plan to shut down the Rumson-Sea Bright Bridge for three weeks starting this weekend January 28 was reached Tuesday, town officials said.

Under the compromise, repair work on the bridge will be halted on Friday afternoons and resume on Monday mornings, with the Shrewsbury River span remaining open to traffic throughout the weekends.

“It’s a win-win-win,” said an ecstatic Chris Wood, whose restaurant, Woody’s Ocean Grille, is scheduled to reopen for business Wednesday for the first time since Hurricane Sandy slammed into the shore, wiping out every business in town.

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HARD-HIT SEA BRIGHT FACES BRIDGE OUTAGE

News of the planned closure of the Rumson-Sea Bright Bridge had restaurateur Chris Wood lobbying elected officials for a modification Friday. (Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

Business owners in Hurricane Sandy-walloped Sea Bright were reeling Friday afternoon on word that Monmouth County plans to shut down the Rumson-Sea Bright (Route 520) bridge for up to a month starting as early as January 28.

“It’s cutting off our lifeline as we’re recovering from a massive heart attack,” said Woody’s Ocean Grille owner Chris Wood, who just took delivery of $50,000 worth of liquor and food in preparation for a planned reopening in the desolate downtown next Wednesday.

“We’re just trying to get ourselves back open,” said Frank Bain,  owner of the recently reopened Bain’s Hardware, “and a very large portion of our customer base comes over that bridge.”

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SEA BRIGHT RISING, ONE GIFT CARD AT A TIME

Ilene Winters and Chris Wood reviewing requests for help from Sea Bright Rising in Wood’s office Thursday. Below, a mudline shows the height of the water that inundated homes and businesses in town during Hurricane Sandy. (Photo by Wil Fulton. Click to enlarge)

By WIL FULTON

Nearly 70 days after Hurricane Sandy washed the Atlantic Ocean into his Sea Bright restaurant, Woody’s Ocean Grille owner Chris Wood hunkered down with Ilene Winters in his loft office, sifting through aid requests from residents whose homes were flooded or destroyed in the storm.

The two executives of Sea Bright Rising were prioritizing applications for help with repair and replacement expenses from their neighbors as part of an effort to dole out nearly $500,000 in donations collected in the aftermath of the October 29 storm.

“We need two things from those reaching out to us: specificity and priority,” Wood said. “We don’t give out direct personal checks, cash or Visa cards, but we are more than happy to write checks to contractors, landlords or electricians for a portion –usually around 25 percent, of their bill, for example. We can’t write a check for ‘help’.”

Among the charitable organizations that arose in the wake of Sandy, the one Sea Bright residents have been able to lean on perhaps more than any other is a home-grown effort dedicated to the town’s return from the wreckage.

In terms of community outreach, involvement, and most importantly, results, it’s doing the job, its founders say. And in a period in which many Sandy-related charities are losing steam, Wood and Winters insist theirs is just getting started.

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CHRISTMAS IN SEA BRIGHT

Heartwarming update on Sea Bright’s effort to recover from Hurricane Sandy. The video is  by Montclair State student Noah Smith, who also produced one last month on the challenges faced by business owners in town. (Thanks to Debbie Galant of the New Jersey News Commons for passing this along.) (Click to enlarge)

FOR SEA BRIGHT, A NOT-SO-SECRET SANTA

Jersey Shore barband legend Brian Kirk (above, at the 2001 Oysterfest in Red Bank) and his band of partystarting Jirks come to the Count Basie on December 20 for a sold-out Sea Bright Rising benefit. Below, actress-musician Jill Hennessey is also slated to appear. (Click to enlarge)

By TOM CHESEK

The way Brian Kirk tells it, the slender “city” of Sea Bright has been his home in more ways than one. “It’s where I met my wife, where I spent my youth and is the home base for my cover band, Brian Kirk & the Jirks,” he says.

While the long-running combo continues to gig regularly around the region’s wedding halls, outdoor stages and nitespots, the Red Bank resident’s legacy as an entertainer is entwined with Donovan’s Reef, the landmark beach bar  where the Jirks held down a Sunday night stand that outlived nearly all the original anchors of 60 Minutes.

With Hurricane Sandy having (at least temporarily) consigned Donovan’s Reef to Davy Jones’ Locker, Kirk looks homeward on Thursday, December 20, when he and the Jirks team up with the seagrass-roots organization Sea Bright Rising for a benefit show from which all proceeds will go directly to Sea Bright “residents, businesses and the community as a whole.”

Occurring in the wake of the December 5 concert that brought San Francisco-based band Train to the edge of the battered borough’s tent city, the special Santa for Sea Bright extravaganza – officially sold out as of this posting – takes place at the Count Basie Theatre, the elegant setting for one of the displaced town’s council meetings in recent weeks. Kirk & the Jirks will be joined for the 7:30 p.m. show by a fellow stalwart of the Shore barscape, championship bluesmaster Matt O’Ree, as well as a promised set of “special guests” that includes TV series star (Crossing Jordan, Law & Order) turned singer and songwriter Jill Hennessy.

redbankgreen caught up with a beyond-busy Kirk for a conversation about good times, hard choices, and the big challenges facing the little town that so many of us feel a connection to.

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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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