By Brenda Flanagan
They’re drilling for sheet rock, rebuilding back decks and racing to restore at least a bit of beach. But despite the frantic pace of repairs, the summer rental business in Ortley Beach has slowed to a crawl.
“This summer is not going to be what I would call a normal summer,” said Tim O’Shea whose two rental units — gutted down to the studs — certainly won’t be ready by Memorial Day. He’ll probably lose $3,000 a week in rental income.
“It’s a significant income hit that I’m gonna take,” O’Shea said.
He’s not alone. O’Shea works for Birchler Realty. He figures summer rentals on this beach block alone usually generate $300,000 a season. In fact, summer rentals drive the economic engine at the Jersey Shore. Tourism generates $22 billion dollars a year. O’Shea has a bad feeling about the summer of 2013.
“Rentals are way off. Homeowners still need to put their homes back together, if they’re even gonna put it back together,” O’Shea said.
“This year’s gonna be tough,” said Pat LaRacca. He’s doing his own repair work. Starting from scratch, he’s rebuilt the inside of a duplex that usually brings in $3,200 a week — per side.
“We do have some people that still say they want to come in. We did have some cancellations. That’s understandable. We don’t know what kind of beach we’re gonna have up there,” LaRacca said.
Right now, enormous dump trucks lug tons of sand along Ortley’s shoreline — struggling to build a dune barrier for protection and a beach for the tourists. The trucks roll non-stop during daylight hours.
“If there’s not a big spacious beach, that’s going to be a problem and I think everybody’s gonna take a hit,” O’Shea said.
O’Shea doubts that the popular Surf Club — a summer icon in Ortley — will reopen this season. Another beach block homeowner agrees.
“As you see, the damage is extensive,” said Bob Frangipane whose house sits next to a wreck that’s still waiting to be torn down. “As the water came down, it washed that house away and damaged everything in its path.”
Frangipane is rebuilding and hopes to get his rental unit ready in six months or so. His renters went someplace else — and that’s got a lot of damaged shore towns worried.
“It’s gonna be hard, but we’re hoping people come back to the Jersey Shore. It’s a fun place to be,” LaRacca said.