Point Beach Boardwalk Damage Makes Old Concerns More Emergent
The few sections that seem OK may be unstable
What Tropical Storm Irene didn't destroy, Tropical Storm Sandy ripped to shreds.
There are few stretches of the Point Beach boardwalk that were not ravaged by Sandy, which changed status from "hurricane" to "tropical storm" when it hit the Atlantic City area at about 8 p.m. Monday. Irene's status had been similarly downgraded when it made landfall in August 2011.
The town had already been grappling with how to repair and maintain the famed boardwalk, which was deteriorating and had been partially fixed and patched in bits and pieces long before Sandy ever made its destructive visit. Now local officials have to figure out how and when to go about replacing a much greater percentage of the entire stretch.
And even those few stretches that do not immediately appear as significantly damaged may not be stable and no one should be walking there, said Mayor Vincent Barrella on Thursday afternoon.
"No one should be on the boardwalk now unless they're workers or they really have to be," Barrella said. "It may not be safe."
Early Thursday morning, the curious began walking on the beach and boardwalk in Point Beach, the first full day the town was opened up east of the NJ Transit train tracks.
Much of the boardwalk was badly damaged or completely destroyed. On the south end, the new boardwalk was either destroyed, thrown around like a piece of thin cardboard, or pushed into oceanfront homes.
Oddly, there are a few short stretches here and there, such as from Kohr's custard to Joey Tomatoes and heading north, just north of the police substation on the boardwalk and Arnold Avenue, that folks can still walk on.
But a question remains about how stable the less damaged sections of boardwalk may be, considering that many business owners and local officials had felt the boardwalk needed considerable renovation long before Sandy tore through much of it like tissue paper.
Barrella has said for months, long before Sandy ever came to town, that truly repairing the boardwalk the right way would cost about $3 million, a price tag he said the town could not afford.
Now the town stands to recoup at least a significant portion of that cost through FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Association). However, the town would still have to borrow to pay for the massive amount of renovation the boardwalk would need and then apply for FEMA reimbursement, which is likely to not arrive anywhere from 10 to 12 months later, based on municipalities' past experience.
And it could take a lot longer considering that FEMA is already getting flooded with phone calls and claims from multiple states impacted by Sandy.
The southern section of boardwalk, which had been destroyed by Tropical Storm Irene and replaced early this summer, was destroyed again by Sandy. Sections of it lie in New Jersey Avenue, including a few pieces across the street on Ocean Avenue.
Just a bit north, the miniature golf area and building in front of it are destroyed.
The pier from Martell's Tiki Bar is gone.
The boardwalk in front of Lucky's Arcade was also badly damaged, which isn't surprising considering it had already been damaged by Irene. The town recently received bids for repair work, which would have been reimbursed in part by FEMA.
Barrella, whose house on Niblick Street was one of many flooded in the Sandy-ravaged resort town, said he hopes that government officials on every level will work with Point Beach to get the boardwalk rebuilt by Memorial Day.
As devastating as Sandy was, it actually left a few bits and pieces of boardwalk and wooden railing untouched.
Inside the Risden's building on the south end, which was rented this summer by Surf Taco for the first time, Sandy ripped off the building's facade, knocked over a refrigerator, started ripping at one of the counter stools, and wrecked nearly everything else that had been on the floor. And yet paper lanterns still hang by clothespins to a cord strung from one wall to the other and the menu board still hangs on the wall.
Early Thursday morning, police had barricades up at the end of Broadway, preventing motorists from driving onto Inlet Drive. From Broadway, one can see the Shrimp Box, clearly still standing, but there is no information yet on how much water damage was sustained by that restaurant or other businesses on the popular strip along the Manasquan Inlet.
Barrella and the Point Beach council are scheduled to meet at 9 a.m. Tuesday at Borough Hall on New Jersey Avenue.