SEA BRIGHT: FEMA TAKING THE LONG VIEW

The long-term revitalization of the downtown is expected to be among the topics addressed by FEMA-organized teams. (Click to enlarge)

By WIL FULTON

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is about to make its presence known in a big way to Sea Bright, officials said Thursday night.

Through a Community Recovery Assistance program being launched in the storm-battered beachside borough, FEMA plans to inject trained professionals to help locals guide their own long-term recovery.

Two representatives from the program were present at Thursday night’s mayor and council workshop meeting – Linda Weber, a professional planner, and T.W. Theodore, Recovery Task Force Lead – to lay out some of their plans for Sea Bright’s recovery.

“The idea is that we want to help you in any way we can,” Weber said, “to help the community move closer and closer towards your recovery, to take some of the work off your table and put it onto ours.”

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SEA BRIGHT COVETS ANCHORAGE SITE

The Anchorage Apartments were left uninhabitable by Hurricane Sandy, which deposited a utility pole in the living room of one unit, below. (Click to enlarge)

The storm-wracked Anchorage Apartments complex in Sea Bright would become a beach parking lot under a plan being considered by state officials, the Star-Ledger reported Tuesday morning.

Located on Ocean Avenue at the foot of the Route 520 Rumson-Sea Bright Bridge and mere feet from the Shrewsbury River, the single-building complex is seen as a partial solution to a parking shortage that has vexed efforts to open up North Beach oceanfront to visitors.

Razing the property would come at a tradeoff for the town: the loss of a $45,000-a-year tax ratable. But Mayor Dina Long tells the Sledger that’s alright.

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SEA BRIGHT: BEACH VISITS GET SLOW START

Crowds were light on Memorial Day after two days of rainy holiday weekend weather. (Click to enlarge)

By WIL FULTON

With two weekends down, Sea Bright officials are beginning to get an idea of what the first post-Sandy summer on the shore could look like, and it may not be great.

But even though the number of beach visitors is sharply down, Councilman Read Murphy told redbankgreen that he and other borough officials are optimistic things will pick up soon.

“Attendance over Memorial Day weekend was way, way off,” Murphy said. “But I think that was a combination of the poor weather we experienced and the fact that people may not have known what to expect when they came down here.”

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SEA BRIGHT: BOCCE’S BACK

Dave DeScenza, above, and his daughter Nicolette, below, restoring the family bocce court on Memorial Day. (Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

The most recent interval between summers was particularly trying for the DeScenza family of Sea Bright.

Like their neighbors, the DeScenzas saw their North Beach home of 34 years, and an adjoining cottage, flooded and heavily damaged during Hurricane Sandy.

One week later, Dave’s wife, Nancy, a longtime member of the borough school board, succumbed in her 10-year battle with breast cancer.

But on Memorial Day, DeScenza, his daughter Nicolette, and his brother John put in a full day’s work under the sun restoring their regulation bocce court, across Ocean Avenue from his year-round residence.

“The neighbors kept asking when we were going to bring it back,” a cheery DeScenza said. “Sometimes, they asked without words,” he added, miming with a shrug and upturned hands.

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‘YARN BOMBING’ BRIGHTENS SEA BRIGHT LOT

Megan Heath Gilhool, right, with Frances Rooney, whose hot dog stand was given some decorative touches in yarn last week. (Photo by Wil Fulton. Click to enlarge)

By WIL FULTON

Mixed in among the many Memorial Day celebrations and reopenings in recovering Sea Bright over the weekend, a rogue group of vandals struck one of the town’s most beloved landmarks.

During the chilly, rain-soaked early hours of Friday morning, a dozen women swarmed an Ocean Avenue lot with one mission in mind: to leave their mark on the town. They diligently went to work, covering the fence that encloses Frances Rooney’s hot dog stand with their own personal ‘tags.’

After they politely asked her permission, of course.

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SEA BRIGHT: ANOTHER RESTAURANT REOPENS

Yumi restaurant on Ocean Avenue in Sea Bright is now back in business, adding to the growing list of stores coming back on line in the hurricane-battered borough. The eatery features sushi and “neo-Asian” cuisine. (Photo by Wil Fulton. Click to enlarge)

SEA BRIGHT: MAD HATTER FINALLY RE-HATTED

The opening-night crowd at the Mad Hatter last Friday night. (Photo by Wil Fulton. Click to enlarge)

By WIL FULTON

For those with an eye for irony, it may have seemed fitting that the reopening of the hurricane-inundated the Mad Hatter was saluted by periodic of rain showers.

A beloved shore bar and restaurant located in the heart of downtown Sea Bright, the Hatter has faced its fair share of hurdles on the journey back to life after being blown out by Hurricane Sandy. But finally, after a delayed fire permit held it one step short of the finish line on Thursday – its originally scheduled grand reopening – the Mad Hatter’s improvised Tiki Hut and back bar officially opened for the 2013 summer season Friday, just in time for Memorial Day weekend.

 While the rain came in spurts, the Hatter’s loyal customer base seemed to show up in droves.

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SEA BRIGHT, RISING, KICKS OFF SUMMER 2013

Beneath a cloudless sky, Sea Bright snapped back to life as a beach destination Monday, Memorial Day, seven months after Hurricane Sandy all but obliterated its downtown and oceanfront beach clubs.

One, Chapel Beach Club, above, boasted its restoration was “Done,” while work continued at the Valkryrie Squash Club. Elsewhere, beachgoers happily made due with less than full amenities. 

redbankgreen covered much of the town on foot Monday to see how things were going. We’ve got a dozen more photos after the jump… (Click to enlarge)

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SEA BRIGHT: A PARTIAL START TO SUMMER

Contractors swarming Chapel Beach Club in Sea Bright on Thursday. Below, a lifeguard boat at the ready at Surfider Beach Club. (Photos by Wil Fulton. Click to enlarge)

By WIL FULTON

Seven months after Hurricane Sandy slammed ashore, Sea Bright enters the summer of 2013 far from fully recovered, with many buildings and storefronts still boarded up or demolished.

But there is ample evidence of rebuilding, and hope in the air, as the weather warms and more and more people begin to show up at the shore community.

“For all our losses, we managed to keep our customers,” said Frank Bain, owner of Bain’s Hardware, one of the first businesses on Ocean Avenue to reopen after the hurricane. “Business has been steady since we opened our doors. It’s safe to say the shop is back to normal. We’re here, and we’re ready for the upcoming season.”

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SEA BRIGHT: TENTS AND TRAILERS

Look Back Antiques is seeking permission to do business on the town’s tiny boardwalk on weekends this summer. (Click to enlarge)

By WIL FULTON

Sea Bright business owners struggling to reopen their stores damaged by Hurricane Sandy will be allowed to operate from mobile trailers under a measure approved by the borough council this week.

And one merchant is angling for permission to sell her wares from a tent on the town’s tiny boardwalk on weekends this summer.

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SEA BRIGHT MAN CHARGED IN SANDY FRAUD

By JOHN T. WARD

A Sea Bright man was arrested Wednesday and charged with ripping off the Federal Emergency Management Administration by racking up hotel charges he didn’t deserve, authorities announced.

Bill Nagle, 51, of Center Street, was charged with defrauding FEMA of more than $12,000 under a Transitional Shelter Assistance program, according to a press release by Acting Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher Gramiccioni.

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SEA BRIGHT: PARTY OUT BACK

The Mad Hatter in better days, above. The owners plan to revive the tiki bar out back next week. (Photo by Wil Fulton. Click to enlarge)

By WIL FULTON

The people who run the Mad Hatter – a sports bar/restaurant that’s practically synonymous with downtown Sea Bright – knew they had to do something to get open.

With the borough’s first post-Sandy summer quickly approaching and their oceanside establishment still unusable, they knew that they couldn’t risk going an entire season without opening their doors for loyal locals and Shore visitors.

So they decided to improvise. Twice.

Now, after a stalled attempt to reopen under a tent on the municipal parking lot, owner Scott Kelly and his brother Michael have a plan they say will allow the Mad Hatter to come back in time for Memorial Day.

“What we’ve done is effectively turned the back of the building into the front, in a way,” Michael Kelly, the manager, told redbankgreen,

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SEA BRIGHT: MAD HATTER TO REOPEN MAY 23

The Mad Hatter has given up on a proposal to operate out of a tent and plans to reopen a portion of its storm-damaged building. Below, beer bottles seen through the restaurant window last month.  (Click to enlarge)

By WIL FULTON

Dropping a controversial proposal to operate out of a large tent for the summer, Sea Bright’s Mad Hatter plans to reopen this month in its original, storm-whacked location, according to an announcement Wednesday afternoon.

In a Facebook post, owners Scott and Amy Kelly said the popular sports bar is scheduled to reopen May 23, operating out of the Ocean Avenue structure’s back room and tiki bar, supplemented for the summer by a mobile kitchen.

The earlier proposal, made to borough officials just last month, called for a 400-person tent to be erected at the edge of the municipal parking two blocks away, and faced an array of red tape involving state and local agencies. Some other downtown merchants opposed the plan, which they said would eat up too much public parking.

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SEA BRIGHT: STORM-TOSSED TREASURES

Frank Torock scanning the beach in Sea Bright for hidden metal last month. (Photos by Dan Natale. Click to enlarge)

By DAN NATALE

The beaches of Sea Bright have been given a makeover in more ways than one since Hurricane Sandy. The shift in landscape has attracted a fresh raft of hobbyists.

They’re hard to miss: walking slowly, heads down, sweeping metal detectors over the sand in the hopes of finding some storm-churned treasure.

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SEA BRIGHT: SHAKING OFF SANDY

Six months after it was all but obliterated by Hurricane Sandy, Sea Bright is gradually getting back on its feet, as evident in the extensive repair and rebuilding underway.

redbankgreen photographers Peter Lindner and John T. Ward teamed up to create this slideshow of images of the town before, during – Lindner gets the credit for all of those – and after the historic October 29, 2012, storm, with the final shot in each grouping taken over the weekend of April 27 and 28, 2013.

BOONDOCKS LOBSTER SHACK WILL BE BACK

Hundreds of food lovers turned out at the Oyster Point Hotel in Red Bank Thursday night for a fundraiser to help Kelly Ryan rebuild her Hurricane Sandy-damaged restaurant, Boondocks Fishery. The Navesink Business Group organized the event, with participation by restaurants under the Red Bank Flavour umbrella.

Ryan, who had already raised $8,000 toward her $30,000 goal on indiegogo, told redbankgreen that sheetrock went up in her lobster shack – located on the Navesink River adjacent to Marine Park –  earlier Thursday, and she’s shooting to reopen May 14.

The Oyster Point, too, was knocked out by the October 29 storm, returning to normal operations in February. (Click to enlarge)

SEA BRIGHT: BEACH RESTORATION SLATED

A remnant of the old Route 36 Highlands-Sea Bright Bridge found on the Sea Bright municipal beach, where erosion from recent storms is evident, below. (Photo by Wil Fulton. Click to enlarge)

By WIL FULTON

After an eventful, landscape-shifting offseason, sand will again be on the move this summer in Sea Bright.

The federal government is expected to give the borough and neighboring shore communities a helping hand by fully funding a project to replenish storm-scoured beaches, town officials said. And a private contracting firm will use its  resources to move the massive “Mount Sandy” now occupying a municipal parking lots back onto the beaches and into sand dunes by May.

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SEA BRIGHT: DCA’S NUMBERS COME UP SHORT

A Sea Bright home as seen from the sea wall five days after Hurricane Sandy. Borough officials contend the number of severely damaged homes is being underestimated by a state agency. (Click to enlarge)

By WIL FULTON

Six months after Hurricane Sandy walloped the region, Sea Bright officials find themselves in a disagreement with a state agency over the financial impact of the storm.

The dispute, centered on newly released New Jersey Department of Community Affairs (DCA)’s data on the extent of storm destruction in town, was one of a handful of post-Sandy issues that dominated Tuesday night’s council meeting.

“The DCA released some numbers that gave statistics from Sea Bright,” Mayor Dina Long told the audience, “and they said there were 574 homes with damage. Of those homes, 32 had major damage – damage between $8,000 and $28,000; and 63 homes suffered severe damage – over $28,000 worth of damage.

“Based on where I live, and what it cost to fix even my own house, I really feel like these numbers are not reflecting an on-the-ground truth,” she said.

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LITTLE SILVER BOOSTS ELEVATION LAW

A home on Town Creek, as seen from Paag Circle Monday. (Click to enlarge)

By WIL FULTON

Like Rumson and Sea Bright before it, Little Silver adopted new federal elevation standards for homes in flood zones Monday night, only this time with a recommendation that homeowners go higher.

By a unanimous vote, the borough council adopted an ordinance amendment that would require all new homes, and existing homes that suffered substantial water damage during Hurricane Sandy, to follow the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s new ABFE advisory base flood elevation guidelines, plus a foot for extra protection.

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SEA BRIGHT: FEMA TOUTS UPLIFTING STORY

A new video on the FEMA website features a two-family townhouse on Ocean Avenue in Sea Bright that emerged from Hurricane Sandy will almost no damage. (Click to enlarge)

What saves homes from destructive hurricane flooding? The builder of a Sea Bright two-family that came through Sandy with barely a scratch credits building above code standards, according to a new video produced by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

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BEACH CLUBS TARGET SUMMER REOPENINGS

Sands Beach Club, above, and Ship Ahoy, in the distance, were wiped out by Hurricane Sandy, but Sands will come back this summer, its owner said. Edgewater, below, is shooting to be fully operational by Memorial Day. (Photo below by Wil Fulton. Click to enlarge)

By WIL FULTON

The seven beach clubs that run along Sea Bright’s Ocean Avenue – Driftwood, Edgewater, Chapel, Seabright, Sands, Surfrider and Ship Ahoy – not only own a large portion of the borough’s beachfront property, but also represent the backbone of its summer economy.

None were spared by Hurricane Sandy, which inflicted major damage to some and obliterated others.

But the owners and managers of three clubs redbankgreen spoke to this week are gearing up for the fast-approaching summer season, as well as making plans for the future.

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SEA BRIGHT: OPERATION SHEETROCK TRIMMED

The rebuilding of a public access stairway over the sea wall is among the projects in the scaled-back volunteer outreach, says coordinator Frank Lawrence, below. (Photo below by Wil Fulton. Click to enlarge)

By WIL FULTON

Last month, Sea Bright Mayor Dina Long offered college students an altruistic alternative to the traditional debauchery-laden spring break: come help residents hang wallboard and make other repairs to their storm-battered homes.

Operation Sheetrock,” she dubbed it.

But with spring break now underway or rapidly approaching, few residences are ready for wallboard hanging, and won’t be for at least a few more weeks, according to borough volunteer coordinator Frank Lawrence.

“So many homes don’t have heat or electricity yet,” Lawrence said, “so a lot of the walls inside these houses are holding moisture. If we hang sheetrock over the walls right now, the moisture will be trapped inside, and when the weather warms up, mold will inevitably grow inside the walls. It’s the perfect environment”

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CHARITIES GET BOUNCE FROM PUB CRAWL

A cold rain didn’t throw a damper on Red Bank RiverCenter‘s first-ever Bar Bounce, held Saturday afternoon at 12 borough taverns, including Taste, above, and Jamian’s, at right. The event drew 440 participants and raised $11,589, to be divided among three charities created to help victims of Hurricane Sandy, officials said. Photographer Peter Lindner was there for redbankgreen. See more of his photos on our Flickr page. (Photos by Peter Lindner. Click to enlarge)

SEA BRIGHT: KNITTING AS SANDY THERAPY

Megan Heath Gilhool first picked up her needles in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, when she was in “full panic mode,” she said. (Photo by Wil Fulton. Click to enlarge)

By WIL FULTON

Move over, yarn spinning and yarn bombing. A new knitting-based activity has entered the region’s post-Sandy lexicon: Yarn Therapy

“I think the whole activity of knitting in itself is extremely therapeutic,” said Megan Heath Gilhool, an artist and prime force behind the newly instated weekly knitting sessions taking place inside Sea Bright’s community center Thursday nights.

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RED BANK: REFLOATING A LOBSTER SHACK

Kelly Ryan at her storm-damaged Red Bank restaurant on Tuesday. (Photo by Wil Fulton. Click to enlarge)

By WIL FULTON

“When people think of Sandy’s impact on Red Bank, most will say that the town didn’t get it so bad,” says Kelly Ryan, owner of the Boondocks Fishery, a summer-only, open-air eatery that’s been serving lobsters and scallops adjacent to the Navesink River and Marine Park for the past four years. “But I guess they haven’t seen this place.”

“We came back here the day after the storm, and my first reaction was ‘Oh my God, the building is still standing,'” she said. “But once we looked inside, we understood that even though the structure was still up, the insides were completely devastated.”

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