Sandy - A Reckoning

‘Soaring Into Summer’

The Beachcomber
By NEAL J. ROBERTS | Sep 01, 2013
Photo by: Ryan Morrill ONE MORE LOOK BACK: In November 2012, a New Jersey National Guard truck passes misplaced sand dunes cleared from Long Beach Boulevard.

The Superstorm Sandy disaster and recovery on Long Beach Island, as was chronicled for seven months by the staff of The SandPaper. Part 10.


As April’s alternately warm and chilly weather reached the last weekend of the month, LaSpiaggia’s owners in Ship Bottom announced “we’re back and ready to serve you” beginning April 25. Carmen’s, rebuilt on Bay Avenue in Beach Haven, and The Beach House in Beach Haven Terrace, reopened for weekend dining beginning April 26.

Ship Bottom Volunteer Fire Co. received a donation of a 26-year-old fire truck in late April from the Terry Farrell Firefighters Fund, a charity started in memory of a firefighter killed on 9/11 at the World Trade Center. SBVFC Assistant Chief Rick Traut said it will replace one of the two fire trucks lost because of Sandy. Next year, the company expects delivery of a $430,000 new truck, which the company and its recently renewed ladies auxiliary is funding entirely with donations saved from events such as the July 6 Summer Sizzle event.

More than 100 people gathered on the Harvey Cedars beach April 26 to get in a final scene shot for “Landfall: The Eyes of Sandy” documentary centered on LBI and Stafford Township. Directed by Andrew Pearson and produced by Surf City resident Corinne Gray Ruff, the film was scheduled to be part of upcoming fundraisers for the new Sandy relief charity, Jetty Rock Foundation.

On the last day of April, Gov. Christie returned to LBI. The St. Francis Center in Brant Beach hosted the governor and a capacity audience to hear Christie outline how New Jersey will allocate $1.8 billion in federal disaster aid for those still hurting at the coast. Taking questions from the audience, Christie also pledged special attention for Bob and Lucille Ascolillo, who moved to Surf City after Bob, a 9-11 responder to the World Trade Center attack, was diagnosed with cancer; Lucille told the governor that “FEMA has been impossible to deal with” since the Ascolillos “lost everything” in their home to Sandy.

May arrived with a “Pop’s Back!” announcement from Joe Pop’s Shore Bar in Ship Bottom, promoting a grand reopening May 4, “Quatro de Mayo Party” featuring The Benjamins. The historic Surf City Hotel, which was already open for lodging in mid April, announced the pub and restaurant would begin the 2013 season on May 2; the hotel’s roots, under successive names at Eighth Street and the Boulevard, dates to 1884. Barry’s Do Me a Flavor announced that its restored restaurant on Centre Street in Beach Haven would open its 27th season on May 3. Also May 3, Bistro 14 in Beach Haven, Stefano’s in North Beach Haven and Howard’s in Beach Haven Gardens – on LBI since 1950 – reopened for weekend dining. Café Aletta and The Claw Restaurant on the Boulevard in Surf City announced their season opening for the Mother’s Day weekend, as did Sandbox Café in Ship Bottom, Holiday Snack Bar in Beach Haven and The Maine Course seafood restaurant, now relocated off the Boulevard to higher elevation at Schooner’s Wharf in Beach Haven. Pearl Street Market in Beach Haven rejoined the list of recovered businesses on May 9. The Windmill, “offering the best Belgian waffles on LBI since 1968,” announced its May 11 reopening with a published thank-you list of everyone who helped restore their Bay Village shop in Beach Haven.

Ship Bottom resident Rick McDonough wrote a public appeal for Island property owners to offer a special welcome – including a place to stay for the June 14-16 LBI Thank You Fest – to non-Islanders or displaced residents who donated countless volunteer hours during the first days and weeks after Sandy. “Many of those who came to help could simply never afford a typical LBI family vacation. Some had never even been to the beach nor seen the Atlantic Ocean. Yet they came so readily to our aid… While most folks were away from LBI, many gave tremendous amounts of their own time for our communities, and left their own families behind. Let’s lend a hand and say thanks, and show these families some true LBI hospitality.”

Long Beach Township adopted its 2013 municipal budget with barely a bump in a tax increase. While the town had received $340,000 in federal disaster aid to date, it was still awaiting a near $8 million request. “So, FEMA owes us a few dollars. We don’t have any good idea when that’s coming,” Commissioner Joseph Lattanzi reported at the May 3 commission meeting. Mayor Joseph Mancini also gave an update on beachfill easements needed from oceanfront holdouts: only 15 in the entire township south of Ship Bottom, plus 12 in North Beach and 30 in Loveladies. Also on the agenda: the acceptance of two used school buses from the Southern Regional district. Mancini said the town will seek a grant to equip the buses for use in the next emergency evacuation of the Island.

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“This has been a little bit of a struggle but I’m happy to report that it has finally gotten done.” Those words came from Beach Haven Councilman Charles Maschal on May 13 after the town secured the last oceanfront property easement to allow beachfill work on the dunes. The Oceanus Condominium property was the last easement needed, and obtaining it was complicated because of the multiple owners, and their attorney, Kenneth Porro, who wanted 14 stipulations as condition for signing the easement. He got half. “I can state that Beach Haven was responsive to my clients’ concerns and the ultimate resolution, although some may say is not perfect, does satisfy my party’s primary concerns and is thereby a fair agreement of an extremely complicated issue,” said Porro. Maschal held hope that the Army Corps of Engineers, once completed its post-Sandy restorations this summer of prior projects in Surf City, Harvey Cedars and Brant Beach, would get started this autumn on a beachfill that will likely cover the borough together with the neighboring Holgate section of Long Beach Township.

Fred Callahan of Beach Haven Crest authored a letter in the May 22 SandPaper to explain why he and his wife have refused to sign a beachfill easement: “It would leave us with virtually no rights to the land other than perhaps being able to walk over a defined strip of it, while leaving us the privilege of paying taxes on it and accepting liability for it.” He said their oceanfront lot had been owned by his wife’s family since 1939, and they have maintained the dune themselves – even allowing it to grow to an estimated 20 feet high and obscure their first-floor view of the ocean – and their private dune protected their house from Sandy. He doubted that the government, in the long term, can be counted on to maintain the dune better than his family has done, but he also worried that the government could someday impose its authority to raise the dune to 30 feet. “We would be forced to raise our home, not for the view, but to keep it from being engulfed by the dune.” Callahan said there is no provision, under the requested easement, for the government to compensate oceanfront owners for personal expense they might incur as result of a beachfill project on their land.

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Since March, a group of Beach Haven residents had raised $16,000 to purchase and plant bayberry, beach plum, rugosa rose, goldenrod and dune grass to stabilize artificial dunes bulldozed from the lower beach since Sandy. Borough Councilwoman Nancy Davis announced a June 8 fundraiser at the home of Dr. Belen Flores with the goal to raise another $20,000 to finish the planting project for all 36 blocks in town. Volunteers are requested for the work that resumes in October.

Shellfish harvesters Mike McCarthy of Beach Haven and Dale Parsons of Tuckerton were interviewed before the Memorial Day holiday weekend to relate that despite Sandy, the local shellfish industry was fully recovered, with product tested and safe for public consumption. “The bay appears to be healthy, clams are growing, oysters are growing, we have the typical spring life coming back into the water. I think we’re off to a good start for a good summer,” said Parsons, a fifth-generation member of the Parsons’ shellfish trade. McCarthy has for years been the exclusive supplier of middlenecks for Buckalew’s in Beach Haven: “They’re sweet and tender; you can’t beat local clams,” was the reaction in May from a table of local customers.

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The remodeled and re-equipped Murphy’s Market in Beach Haven held an in-house dedication, complete with a blessing given by Fr. Steve Kluge of St. Francis of Assisi Parish, on May 14, the eve of the store’s first opening since Oct. 29. Flood damage throughout the store prompted the owners to completely modernize the Island’s landmark supermarket at the corner of Bay and Engleside avenues. Meanwhile, Terrace Tavern Crab Shack in Beach Haven Terrace also got back in business with a “new look inside, same great food!” Fred’s Beach Haven Diner was ready for the coming Memorial Day weekend; “We’re back!” announced Marlin Restaurant and Bar in Beach Haven; and so was the Ketch Club in Beach Haven, Calabria in North Beach Haven and Wally Mitchell’s Restaurant in Surf City. Port Hole Café, first opened for Memorial Day weekend in 1936, cleaned up major flood damage from Sandy and was now ready for its 77th season at 17th Street in Ship Bottom, with thanks to many volunteers and contractors “who all helped put us back together better than ever.” Beach Haven Fishery bought its first, full-page menu advertisement for its landmark take-out business in North Beach Haven: “You came to the Jersey Shore to eat seafood, not pond food! At Beach Haven Fishery we offer only wild fish and seafood in our restaurant and market. Nothing farm raised!”

The Dutchman’s on Cedar Bonnet Island next to Ship Bottom, operating since November, waited until Friday night, May 24 to relight its new “Dutchman’s” sign after Sandy toppled the former. Its bold, red letters underscored LBI is alive.

The weather didn’t cooperate for the holiday until Monday, which was flat-out gorgeous for the Memorial Day parade and town remembrances, and also drew out beach crowds that had been chilled by Saturday’s stiff wind and merely teased by Sunday’s so-so warmth. The ocean was a frigid 49 degrees on Saturday, but we all knew warming was around the corner.


Thousands of us suffered immensely from the flood; many still do, despite our grateful welcome to a new summer season. For the local mainland communities on the bayfront in Stafford, Little Egg Harbor and Tuckerton, it was as bad as it could get for nearly 10,000 homes: “The storm cost an amazing amount of money,” Tuckerton Mayor Buck Evans said on Feb. 4. “It’s estimated we lost $93 million in ratables, the worst per square mile in the state of New Jersey.” Richard Kitrick, the attorney for Little Egg Harbor Township, warned in February that the flood-damaged neighborhoods of his town could be rendered unrecoverable – “blighted” – by the new FEMA flood hazard zone designation that forced this choice on every homeowner: get in a long line to contract a very expensive house raising with hurricane-strength reinforcement; or face unaffordable insurance increases, perhaps five times the current rates.

In June, FEMA retracted much of the expanded V-zone it had mapped for New Jersey prior to Sandy. The revision, urged by Island and mainland mayors, provides relief from the most costly flood insurance rating and reconstruction rules.

Countywide, an estimated $10 billion in property value was lost due to the storm, Ocean County Freeholder Gerry P. Little said in Ship Bottom on May 18. “But our communities are coming back.” The former Surf City councilman also shared a proclamation from the freeholders, which said in part: “We recognize the dedication of so many volunteers, business owners and our citizens, as we all work in concert toward this day, moving our recovery from Superstorm Sandy forward. And may God continue to bless Ocean County and Long Beach Island.”

An honest comparison of Long Beach Island to the oceanfront elsewhere, as far away as Long Beach, N.Y. to as near as Seaside Heights and Mantoloking, a mere 20 miles north of here, reveals that Long Beach Island was not by any measure the bull’s eye in Superstorm  Sandy’s path. Could it have been worse here?

See for yourself what befell beach towns north of here. (And check the 1962 record more closely, too.)

Can it someday be worse here?

Like the National Hurricane Center had always warned the Mid-Atlantic seaboard every hurricane season: it’s not a matter of if; it’s a matter of when.

No doubt that tired, annual warning now has a few more believers from this present generation that had no concept of what “The March Storm” had wrought in 1962.

With reporting from the staff of The SandPaper and contributions from our loyal readers. Read the complete series at under the Columns tab.

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