Ready or not, it’s showtime for shore towns as we approach Memorial Day weekend. Asbury Park was already working to restore itself before Hurricane Sandy struck. But the town is “raring to go” and ready to receive visitors, according to Mayor Ed Johnson. He told NJ Today Managing Editor Mike Schneider that this summer will be one of the best summers ever at the shore.
Although Asbury Park took a hit, it didn’t suffer as much damage as neighboring communities, but work still needed to done to repair hurricane damage, said Johnson.
“We’ve been working over the past several weeks and months to prepare for the summer and we are probably at 98 percent, pushing 100 percent this weekend,” according to Johnson.
Johnson said that he’s been working with FEMA, the Small Business Administration (SBA), and private insurers on behalf of local businesses directly affected by Sandy.
“We have a whole business community that closed for 8 to 14 days,” he said. “We’re not talking about Macy’s or Walmart, we’re talking about mom and pop business owners that put their mortgages and cashed in their pensions to open up their businesses.”
In addition to business owners, Johnson said employees were out of work for 2 to 4 weeks, with many still out of work.
“So there’s been a lot of issues with regard to business interruption insurance which people faithfully paid for over the past couple of years and also just general damage insurance; and we’re hearing a lot of ‘no’s’ from insurance companies which is very disheartening,” Johnson said.
Since the storm, Johnson said his administration has been working closely with the various levels of government — county, state, and governor’s office — in trying get assistance.
“We’re working very closely on this issue to try to get our businesses back up and running. Number one is to get the doors of our businesses open. Number two is to get our employees connected back to jobs,” he said. ‘The Asbury Park boardwalk usually employs close to 1500, 1700 seasonal employees per year. This year, we’re looking probably close to half that so far, bringing on some more, but we really have a long ways to go in terms of making sure people are getting back to work.”