By Patty Booth O’Neill
Long Branch — New Jersey Governor Chris Christie called a press conference on Tuesday afternoon at Pier Village. He had been visiting towns along the Jersey Shore all day that had been hit by Super Storm Sandy and Long Branch was one of his stops. Photos by Jack Flaherty
“We will never go down, we will never give up, we are going on forever,” Mayor Adam Schneider said as he introduced Christie to the gathering crowd. He was talking about Long Branch
beaches, which did not miss one day of business due to the storm. “We are on our way to a record-breaking season.” He said that it was needed after the winter Long Branch had.
“There hasn’t been a better mayor to work with than the mayor of Long Branch, my good friend Adam Schneider,” Christie said. Joining Christie and Schneider on the platform was Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Robert Martin.
Christie said that people are begging him to stop the Stronger Than The Storm commercial, mainly the song. “You think you have it bad? I can’t get that song out of my head,” he laughed.
But he said that Long Branch would not have had such a great season without the campaign. “That campaign was not for people who are still out of their homes or businesses that are still closed,” he answered one reporter who asked if the campaign did any good getting people back in their homes. “Do you see a board or a nail in that commercial? It was to let people know that the shore is open and to get them here. And it worked.”
He added that he hasn’t forgotten businesses and people still out of their homes and is working with insurance companies every day.
Christie and Martin touted the hard work that went into getting waterways and beaches in New Jersey back to useable condition after Sandy, including rivers, marinas and 230 beaches.
“We’ve been monitoring the beaches with water testing, aeriel surveillance and with the help of local officials,” Martin said. When asked how testing once a month could be effective, he answered, “We test once a week.”
Then he talked about how much debris was cleared out of waterways and that 275 marinas were able to open because of diligence and hard work. “Not one beach in New Jersey was closed because of Sandy,” Martin said.
Christie admitted he was still concerned about coastal towns that still don’t have protective systems in place. He is angry that some people won’t allow dunes to be erected on their beachfront property. “They are worried about their view being blocked at the cost of their neighbor’s safety,” he said. “I told them, you want a view, go to your second floor. What kind of neighbors are they?”
Christie said that not all New Jersey beaches had a season as good as Long Branch. “These beaches are open because of you,” Christie said, pointing to the crowd, “and local officials.”
He said there is no substitute for leadership at the local level and had nothing but respect for Schneider and his support staff. “You all should be very proud, he said”
As Christie left the conference to walk around Pier Village with everyone following, Schneider sat on the edge of the platform talking to reporters and locals walking by.
“So, do you think the Stronger Than The Storm campaign is the reason Long Branch is doing so well this summer?” I asked him.
“I think we’re doing well because our mayor is a great leader and he has a great support staff,” he laughed. “But yes, I do think the campaign helped.”
He said that it’s no secret visitors to Pier Village and its beaches are not local. Those people needed to know we were open, he said. Our success depends on them. Many people complain there’s no parking in Pier Village, but there could be worse things. “To quote Yogi Berra, ‘Nobody goes there because it’s too crowded.’”
Schneider said that Marvin Marshall, Stan Dziuba and Fred Migliaccio did a phenomenal job getting beach access ready after the storm.
“In November we thought it would be impossible to have the beaches ready. We weren’t even sure by May.” He said that they knew they had to get the beaches south of Pier Village open for the locals.
“Everyone has their own little patch of sand they’ve been sitting on for years. That’s what they’re used to and that’s what they wanted,” Adam said. “And as you walk along the beaches those people are in their spots.”