By Lauren Wanko
Brick resident Lester Kurylo can’t help but smile today. This morning the Ocean County homeowner made the move back into his waterfront house for the first time since Hurricane Sandy hit more than two months ago.
“God’s been very good to us and then to have this happen, it just hurts,” Kurylo said.
Brick Mayor Stephen Acropolis says Sandy caused $40 million worth of damages to this residential community and getting people back into their homes has been their number one priority.
“For us, that’s the big push because we are a residential community. We don’t have the boardwalk, we don’t have the rides, we don’t have those things. We have people’s homes,” Acropolis said.
There are 1,300 homes on the barrier island section of Brick. One hundred nine of the those homes burned to the ground and another 80 to 100 homes are deemed uninhabitable. The mayor says another 8,500 homes on Brick’s mainland were damaged.
“Brick has more waterfront property then any other town in the state of New Jersey in addition, according to FEMA, we’ve had the highest number of homes that are either going to have to be knocked down or are completely gone already,” Acropolis said.
The beaches are still closed as contractors build man-made dunes. A pedestrian curfew is in effect from 6 p.m. to 5 a.m. daily and there’s a boost in police presence.
“Once we removed the checkpoints and opened the island up to unfettered access if you will, we found it necessary to increase our police presence out there,” said Police Chief Nils Bergquist Jr. “We probably got seven to eight times more police officers out there than we would have on a normal shift.”
Second homeowner Henry West built his beach house in the 1960s. He credits pilings with saving the foundation of his vacation getaway. He’s grateful today to finally begin to rebuild.
“It feels good because everybody down here did their job, stepped up to the plate,” West said.
Deborah Menzel moved back into her Toms River home this morning. “It was just a great feeling to come home and not have to go back to the hotel,” she said. “In fact I said to my husband I think you have to carry me across the threshold because we’re back full time.”
As for Kurylo, he now faces $50,000 worth of damages, but his determination hasn’t wavered.
“We never give up! We keep fighting and we all should remember that,” Kurylo said.