Sandy Levels Social Barrier on Jersey Shore

Rich and Poor Towns United in Misery and Determination

Force of Nature: The Jersey shore has long been plagued by divisions between rich and poor towns. Sandy hit them both equally hard.
getty images
Force of Nature: The Jersey shore has long been plagued by divisions between rich and poor towns. Sandy hit them both equally hard.

By Reuters

Published November 04, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Multi Page

Asbury Park and Bay Head are two towns on opposite ends of the Jersey Shore’s socio-economic spectrum - one with many poor people, the other with professionals in lucrative Wall Street careers. Superstorm Sandy has swept away many of the differences between the two.

Asbury Park is a faded dowager seaside resort, still struggling to recover from the race riots in the summer of 1970, white flight, a weakened tax base and, more recently, the great recession. Some storefronts facing the ocean were boarded up as Sandy closed in on the town. Other buildings were boarded up long ago.

Ten miles (16 km) away, Bay Head is a much smaller community where financiers and hedge fund managers own multimillion-dollar vacation homes and make a 70-mile (112 km) commute to Wall Street. A Hollywood studio chief with a Bay Head home captivated his neighbors for many summers with a party attended by celebrities such as Meryl Streep, Oprah Winfrey and Alex Trebek.

Sandy’s destructive winds and epic ocean surge lashed New Jersey indiscriminately, killing 24 people and ripping up shorelines and close-in neighborhoods in hundreds of towns. Neither wealth nor social station protected anyone.

After Sandy, the famed boardwalk in Asbury Park serenaded by favorite son Bruce Springsteen needs major repairs. Its restaurants and arcades - doing well these past few years during a nascent revival - are shut indefinitely.

In Bay Head, many stately Victorian homes overlooking the beach were so smashed that dozens are condemned and cannot be reoccupied. Some just disappeared.

After the storm has come a silver lining. Like residents all over the state, people in Bay Head and Asbury Park were concerned mostly for one another.

“The storm has brought out the goodwill in everyone, an appreciation of the community,” said Ed Johnson, mayor of Asbury Park, which has 16,000 residents. “We’re all working together.”

Alberta Smith, 61, who lives in Asbury Park on Medicaid and food stamps, said she was overjoyed on Saturday to get a hot meal a second day in a row, served at a community center in Asbury Park and prepared by an interfaith organization.

Friday’s meat loaf “melted in your mouth,” she said. The chicken vegetable medley and mashed potatoes served on Saturday were good, too.

Smith appreciated the meals because she had to throw out the perishable food in her refrigerator that spoiled when power failed. Her canned goods, she said, went only so far.

HELPING FAMILY MEMBERS

When Sandy knocked out power, Smith knew her aunt Thelma Wilson would be in trouble because the oxygen machine she uses would not work.

“I went to her house to keep her calm - been sitting with her everyday,” Smith said as she placed a second hot meal in a bag to take to her aunt.

The Reverend Kevin Nunn, a pastor with the interfaith group, went from table to table handing out new socks. He gave Smith two pairs.

“The pastor’s a fine man and this is a fine town,” she said.

Ten miles south in Bay Head, a four-block-wide community of about 900 year-round residents between the Atlantic and Barnegat Bay, there was so much sand covering the town that several people said it looked like a moonscape.

Since Tuesday, dozens of small front-end loaders were busy scraping sand from the streets and piling it into 5-foot-high (1.5 meters) mounds.

Several blocks west of the ocean on Osborne Street, a front yard was covered by 4 feet (1.2 meters) of sand. A tall fence ringed the yard and airborne sand had evidently been trapped by it in the same way snowdrifts are formed.

In Bay Head, as in Asbury Park, ruined carpets, appliances like washing machines and water heaters, clothing and other household belongings were piled high on the sidewalk outside dozens of homes.

Brothers Chris and Mark Watson were walking along Bay Head’s Main Street on Saturday to view a once-in-a-lifetime scene. They had time on their hands - National Guard troops had stopped them at a checkpoint, preventing them from inspecting their family home in Mantoloking, another well-to-do town to the south.

Too much flooding ahead, they were told. They would have to wait several more days.

During the storm, a fire fueled by natural gas and whipped by Sandy had destroyed million-dollar homes in Mantoloking. The wreckage saddened the Watsons.

“These homes have been in families for generations,” Chris Watson said. “I feel sorry for the owners. Everyone feels just so vulnerable.”

But what is physically destroyed can be rebuilt. It is the people that matter, Mark Watson said.

“Our prayers are with everyone facing a redefinition of their lives,” he said.

At the intersection of North Street and East Avenue, the first block off the beach in Bay Head, three of four houses were either destroyed or seemed on the verge of collapse. One house teetered on its piles and another, with half its foundation gone, tilted severely. Gravity, it seemed, would eventually win out.

A six-bedroom home owned by the Green family had a quarter of its first floor blown away and state officials had placed an orange sticker on it, saying it could not be reoccupied until it was repaired and determined to be structurally sound.

DIGGING OUT A SPECIAL BOAT

James Green, 22, a currency risk specialist with the global bank HSBC, stood outside the home on Saturday, confident that the house would survive Sandy as it had two centuries of storms.

“Our house is the oldest in Bay Head,” he said. “It was built in Point Pleasant in the late 18th century and used at one time as a morgue for shipwrecks. It knows bad weather. A previous owner moved it here in 1893. It has seen a lot of storms and is going to outlast this one.”

When Green’s mother had first returned to the house after the storm, it saddened her when she saw the bow of a small sailboat he had built in high school sticking from the sand in the back yard. She thought the boat was in pieces all around the place.

But James Green enlisted the help of five people, who dug around the bow and found the boat was intact in several feet of sand.

“I couldn’t have dug it out alone,” he said.

The boat, which he sailed in local regattas, will be handed down to his children when he has a family - just like he will someday inherit the house on East Avenue and pass it on to the next generation of Greens, he said.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here: http://jd.fo/q4XfI
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.