By Lauren Wanko
Hurricane Sandy destroyed Belmar’s entire boardwalk. Contractors drove the very first boardwalk piling into the sand this morning. Gov. Chris Christie called it one of great first moments in the rebuilding of the state and the Jersey Shore.
“We’re ready to turn the corner now to restoring it and that’s an extraordinary, extraordinary job that was done by your mayor and council and the people here. Belmar is leading the way to recovery,” Christie said.
“Belmar’s had a boardwalk since 1875 so it’s part of the character of the town, and to see that it got decimated, destroyed had a real negative impact emotionally on a lot of our residents,” said Belmar Mayor Matthew Doherty.
“It’s so emotional,” said Belmar resident Linda Minnella. “It’s hard to even describe it in words. This is about peace in people’s lives.”
Epic Construction is completing the $6.6 million project that stretches 1.3 miles. Officials say the boardwalk to be ready by Memorial Day weekend. Contractors have incentive to finish early. The company will be awarded a $100,000 bonus if the job’s done by April 30. On the flip side, if the work isn’t finished by the deadline, Epic Construction will be fined $7,500 a day until it’s complete.
“We’re building up to 2012, or 2013 standards which includes 25-foot pilings, hurricane straps and a much more solid build to modern construction codes that actually would have withstood the storm surge from Hurricane Sandy,” Doherty said.
Christie told the enthusiastic crowd the state isn’t going to fully recover without Washington’s federal aid package.
“As you can tell in my normal, subtle, understated way, I’m trying to make sure Washington understands something very clearly. We will not be shortchanged. We will not accept anything less then what we have done for states like Louisiana and Alabama and Mississippi and all these other places in America. New Jersey deserves no less and will accept no less,” Christie said.
Christie called Belmar a jewel not only for the state but for the rest of the country, insisting American citizens should step up and help New Jersey rebuild.
“When they’re restoring this and helping to pay to restore, some people will say, ‘Why should you do it?’ My answer is because this is the heartbeat of our state. This is the place where we come to work and play and rest and where we restore ourselves,” Christie said. “It’s part of what it means to be an American.”
Christie promised the crowd he would be back in Belmar on Memorial Day to kick off the summer and welcome people back to the Jersey Shore.