SEA BRIGHT: SERVICE STATION WON’T RETURN

Dunkin’ Donuts is back in business, at right, but the adjoining Sea Bright Service Station won’t be coming back to town, its owner says. (Photo by Wil Fulton. Click to enlarge)

By WIL FULTON

Amid optimistic declarations that storm-battered Sea Bright will rise from the wreckage of Hurricane Sandy, one of its more visible businesses has quietly thrown in the towel – or the grease rag, in this case.

Sea Bright Service Station owner Rick Hennessey, who’s been operating in recent weeks out of temporary quarters in Atlantic Highlands, has decided not to return to town, he tells redbankgreen.

“The owner of the building doesn’t really want any gas sales there anymore, which is the first problem,” Hennessey said. “We also have the issues of rebuilding after the storm and this looming bridge construction.” Read More »

SEA BRIGHT ON THE RISE, HEIGHTWISE

Ed Wheeler’s house on Ocean Avenue is the first to have been raised since the hurricane. Many more are expected to be lifted under pending changes. (Click to enlarge)

By WIL FULTON

Sea Bright homeowners will have some wiggle room under new building codes hashed out at back-to-back council and planning board meetings Tuesday night.

The pending changes, expected to be adopted by the council February 5, are aimed at eliminating red tape for property owners whose houses might exceed overall height restrictions after they’ve been lifted to comply with the Federal Emergency Management Administration’s advisory base flood elevation levels, town officials said.

Read More »

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.

Read More »

RED BANK: BAR’S OPEN AT THE OYSTER POINT

The Pearl Restaurant and Lounge reopened late last week for the first time since Hurricane Sandy knocked the hotel out of commission. (Photo by Wil Fulton. Click to enlarge)

By WIL FULTON

The last time redbankgreen visited Red Bank’s Oyster Point Hotel, a handwritten sign was taped to the front doors telling would-be visitors that the hotel and restaurant/bar would reopen “when it is safe to do so.”

Nearly three months later, the Oyster Point took a step forward in its rebuilding plan with the reopening of its posh Pearl Restaurant and Lounge – much to the delight of regulars and new customers alike.

Read More »

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.”

Read More »

RUMSON CHARGES TEENS IN SANDY BURGLARY

Five local teens have been charged for a brazen burglary of a Rumson home during the Hurricane Sandy-induced power outage, borough police reported Thursday.

The arrests of two juveniles and three adults, all from Rumson and Fair Haven, is the latest development in a case that had vexed local officials because it sparked an unfounded rumor of post-storm looting,  police Chief Scott Paterson tells redbankgreen.

“There was just this one incident, but it made it problematic for us,” he said.

Read More »

BOAT CLUB RECOVERING FROM SANDY

Monmouth Boat Club was inundated by the Navesink River hours before Hurricane Sandy made landfall in New Jersey, and the river rose several feet after this photo was taken. (Photo by Peter Lindner. Click to enlarge)

By WIL FULTON

The home of the Monmouth Boat Club, a Red Bank building that has stood for more than 100 years, is tackling rebuilding post-Hurricane Sandy with a little help from the men who built the place.

“This pine flooring here is the original flooring,” Commodore Leigh ‘Skip’ Bugbee told redbankgreen during a tour of  storied Navesink River clubhouse, which was built in 1895 and is on the National Register of Historic Places. “What’s amazing is that, because there’s no subflooring to it, it can basically withstand any amount of water and let it freely flow back out to the river.”

Even the buckling that was caused will be set back to normal once the heat is turned back on, he said.

“The guys who put it in here really knew what they were doing,” Bugbee said. “We owe them a big thank you.”

Read More »

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.

Read More »

JERSEY OFFICIALS BLAST SANDY FUND CUTOFF

Sea Bright Mayor Dina Long with Governor Chris Christie in Sea Bright on November 9. Both have joined in on bipartisan condemnation of inaction by the GOP-controlled House. (Click to enlarge)

State and local officials, including Republicans, are expressing outrage Wednesday over Congressional inaction, attributed to the GOP majority, on a $60.4 billion aid package for communities devastated by Hurricane Sandy.

From the Star-Ledger’s NJ.com:

Gov. Chris Christie ripped into House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) today for delaying a vote on billions in federal aid for recovery from Hurricane Sandy.

“There’s only one group to blame for the continued suffering of these innocent victims: The House majority and their speaker, John Boehner,” said Christie at a press conference this afternoon.

Christie, who gave the keynote address at the Republican National Convention last summer, said Congress traditionally puts politics aside for disaster relief but that House Republican leadership had put politics “before our oaths to serve our citizens.”

Read More »

STORM CHARITY DIGS IN FOR THE LONG HAUL

RebuildRecover co-founder Mike Hernandez surrounded by donated materiel in the organization’s initial home: his Sounds to Go DJ office on East Front Street in Red Bank. (Click to enlarge)

By WIL FULTON

Eight weeks after the hurricane, a grassroots effort to provide necessities to residents of neighborhoods damaged by Sandy is still going strong, and plans to morph into a permanent relief operation, its founders say.

Created by six twentysomething friends who wanted to provide aid on their own terms, Red Bank-based RebuildRecover quickly became one of the Shore area’s most visible and influential nonprofit charities, attracting the attention of The Daily Show host Jon Stewart, who lives in town, and hundreds of lesser-known donors.

“After three days of working with another, really well-known charity organization that will not be named, my co-founders and I decided to take matters in our own hands,” said vice president David Cruse. The idea, he said, was to “create an organization that would provide those in need with direct, immediate help.”

Read More »

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)

SEA BRIGHT: HARRY’S CLAWS ITS WAY BACK

Lou Jacoubs in the restaurant’s dining room Tuesday. (Photo by Wil Fulton. Click to enlarge)

By WIL FULTON

Another Sea Bright staple gets back in action when Harry’s Lobster House reopens Wednesday night, the first restaurant in the downtown district to do so since Hurricane Sandy.

Owner Lou Jacoubs took redbankgreen inside his newly restored and renovated restaurant, located in the heart the Ocean Avenue strip, for a sneak peek at what loyal customers and curious newcomers can expect from the “new and improved” Harry’s.

Read More »

JON STEWART AND BRIAN WILLIAMS SLING IT

News anchor Brian Williams, left, and comedian Jon Stewart traded barbs on the stage of the Count Basie Theatre in a fundraiser for Hurricane Sandy relief. (Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

Long on sarcasm, feigned eye-rolling and Jersey love, the hosts of the nation’s top-rated television shows in their respective categories traded zingers in a conversation about the media, politics and growing up in the Garden State before a packed Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank Sunday night.

In a sparring mood that might have been a continuation of their pre-show dinner at the nearby Broadway Diner, The Daily Show host Jon Stewart and NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams traded insights into their jobs and flashing wit for two hours and 20 minutes, including a Q&A session with the audience.

“Thank you for dropping the F bomb 41 seconds into this,” Williams said to Stewart, who sniped that Williams’ job entailed his being removed from a “vegetable crisper” just in time for each night’s news broadcast.

Read More »

SHREWSBURY SHINES SPOTLIGHT ON JCP&L

By: REBECCA DESFOSSE

In case it wasn’t already getting the message, JCP&L will now hear it from the Borough of Shrewsbury: get your act together.

At Monday night’s town council meeting, a resolution that resulted from a recent “Snow Summit” of Monmouth County town officials  won approval. It includes 10 recommendations aimed at getting the power utility to improve communications in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.

One council member voted against the measure.

Read More »

RED BANK: CHEATING, FOR A GOOD CAUSE

Christine Zilinski of Salon Concrete styles the hair of Maritza Soler of Port Monmouth last week. (Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

Done2In the days after Hurricane Sandy hit, Red Bank hair stylist Christine Zilinski jumped in as a volunteer to help residents of Union Beach cope with the aftermath.

It didn’t seem like enough, though. Zilinski said she wanted to do more. She wanted to use her strongest skills.

Of course, the answer to what that might mean was right there in her mirror. And it came with a sexy catchphrase: “Cheat on your hairdresser.”

Read More »

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.

Read More »

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.”

Read More »

FAIR HAVEN RATES STORM COMMUNICATIONS

A hard hat signed by Alabama Power line workers was donated to Fair Haven as thanks for the town’s hospitality at Tuesday night’s council meeting. (Photo by Wil Fulton. Click to enlarge)

By WIL FULTON

In a meeting predictably dominated by issues related to Hurricane Sandy, Fair Haven’s borough council and a concerned public agreed on Monday night: though the local government did well, better communication is needed.

Council members and residents said the town’s officials did a good job of damage control and post-storm recovery efforts, but a lack of effective communications from the borough was the one lingering negative at the governing body’s bimonthly meeting.

“I think the main thing is we need to do a better job communicating,” said borough AdministratorTheresa Casagrande.

Read More »

RED BANK: PRIMARY SCHOOL STILL UP IN AIR

A dumpster loaded with discarded carpeting and other material sits outside the Red Bank Primary School, which remained closed Monday. (Photo by Wil Fulton. Click to enlarge)

By WIL FULTON

After two weeks, Red Bank Primary School students were able to finally make their return to school Monday – just not their own school.

Displaced students attended a morning session at the middle school, before the middle school students arrived for an afternoon session.

The primary school, adjoining the Swimming River, was built on marshland, and suffered major flood damage as a result of Superstorm Sandy two weeks ago. According to Superintendent Laura Morana, over two-thirds of the school’s flooring and carpeting were rendered unusable in Sandy’s wake.

“The school has been in existence for over 40 years,” Morana told redbankgreen, “and this by far the worst damage we’ve faced as a result of weather.”

Read More »

ABOUT THAT ‘NO ACCUMULATION’ FORECAST…

Uh-oh: It has a name – ‘Athena’ – and contrary to National Weather Service forecasts earlier Wednesday, she has already dumped more than an inch of slushy snow on the tri-state region. Above, a snowplow gassed up at the Exxon station on Newman Springs Road in Red Bank. At right, a fender-bender involving a Cluck U Chicken delivery guy and a second driver opposite the Armory Ice Complex on Chestnut Street, also in Red Bank.

The Weather Channel says we’re in for a couple of inches overnight. (Click to enlarge)

NORTHEASTER MOVES INTO REGION

A cold, wet storm quaintly referred to in some quarters as a ‘nor’easter’ moved into the hurricane-battered tri-state region Wednesday afternoon, though this bicyclist on Bridge Avenue in Red Bank appeared undaunted by the rain and snow. The National Weather Service forecasts the mix will continue into early morning Thursday. (Click to enlarge)

SEA BRIGHT BRACES FOR MORE, ONLY LESS

A comfort tent has been set up for personnel manning the blockade on the Rumson side of the Rumson-Sea Bright Bridge. (Photo by Wil Fulton. Click to enlarge)

By WIL FULTON

It looked like Sandy Redux on the west side of the Rumson-Sea Bright Bridge in Rumson early Wednesday afternoon, as police and National Guard blockaded the already battered ocean community of Sea Bright with a mixture of snow and sleet already falling steadily.

Though the power of an approaching northeaster isn’t expected to carry anything near the destructive force of Hurricane Sandy, the resulting damage could be worse than usual because of its proximity to last weeks’ superstorm, particularly in ravaged communities like Sea Bright trying to pick up the pieces, officials there worry.

Read More »

RED BANK POWER RESTORATION CONTINUES

A map issued by the Red Bank Office of Emergency Management late Tuesday afternoon shows, in yellow, areas of town that have been restored to full electrical service.

At right, Verizon workers replace one of two fallen utility pole on Washington Street that have inhibited the return of electrical service to Red Bank’s East Side, officials said. At 4 p.m., a Verizon worker said the second pole would be up and ready for JCP&L to do its thing within the hour. (Photo at right by Rebecca Desfosse. Click to enlarge)