The Slow, but Triumphant, Return of Sandy Hook, New Jersey

Just in time for the warm weather, I’ve learned some great news from home: Some portions of my beloved Sandy Hook, New Jersey beach and its recreation area will be available to the public again! The tireless rebuilding after Hurricane Sandy has paid off enough to merit a reopening ceremony on May 1st, and although I won’t be present for it, I couldn’t be happier.

Both federal employees and local volunteers have been digging out beach centers, parking lots and sand dunes, pumping out flooded buildings, and removing debris from the area. They also worked hard on rebuilding the roads that accessed the beach.

Thanks to these efforts — more efforts than the deteriorated historic buildings have received in years— the area is slowly returning to its old, idyllic look. The attention-grabbing lighthouse remains in good condition, and three beaches so far — Beach B, Gunnison, and North—will be open to the public.

The Marine Academy of Science and Technology, which had to switch locations after their campus at Fort Hancock flooded, will be able to hold their graduation ceremony there. The search for scattered unexploded artillery from Fort Hancock led to one discovery, which has since been removed.

There is still a ton of work to be done, and these openings are only a tentative start to a full recovery. Reports of most buildings haven’t delved much deeper than confirming that all water has been pumped out. The sewage systems are still suffering, so beachgoers will have to deal with Porta-Potties, and other services —such as electric and water systems — are up, but still undergoing serious work. Some visitors’ centers are still closed as well.

Despite the toil that still lies ahead of us, it’s inspiring to see how far we’ve come. Just a few months ago, the battle-weathered porches in Officers’ Row suffered their first defeat because of the hurricane. I was engrossed with the thought of them recovering and being able to withstand the pressure of curious feet once more. While browsing the pictures of our slow restoration, I found the beginnings of what I knew would happen all along.

9 comments

  • Gordon Davidescu

    Good to see that it will be up and running again soon. Are they now better prepared for future Super Storms?

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    • I believe so. Before the storm, we were already having trouble with maintenance of Fort Hancock, which is why it was so dilapidated and parts of it were used much less than they were capable of. This was kind of a wake-up call to Parks Services and although our updates so far are still brief, they have taken a much bigger part in rebuilding– specifically foundations of buildings. A lot of the buildings’ major damage was only in their weak foundations, which couldn’t withstand damage.

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  • This is a wonderful update, Emily, thanks!

    There’s been a lot of reporting on the news lately that the NY beaches want to reopen, but in order to do that, they have to remove all the FEMA trailers and people who have been camping out on the beaches for the last six months so they can clean everything up for tourist season.

    Those living on the beaches still have no homes. They live in tents. The people are upset that the “beachgoers” are getting preferential treatment to their plight.

    What’s your take on the situation? Should entertainment and tourist money trump the “homeless squatters” who are still waiting for FEMA to help rebuild their lives or not?

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    • Of course not. It’s nice to cater to tourists and bring in big revenue for the city or town– which I suspect is why these places are getting treated in this way– but at the end of the day, beachgoers have a place to go home to, and these people do not.

      Where would these “squatters” go? I can’t seem to find an answer to that online… will they simply be expected to find a willing friend or family member to take them in? Or will they be shuffled into temporary housing in a complex somewhere? Both prospects are depressing, although no more so than camping on a beach.

      It’s terrible that some people are still waiting on so much help. A family friend lives on Staten Island and his house was quite damaged by the storm, and he still has no power… he shares a generator with his neighbor.

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      • I agree! There are others who have been put in hotels who are now told “time’s up!” and they have to move — where to… nobody is saying or seeming to care.

        I guess FEMA thinks six months is enough time to find alternate housing, and if you haven’t done it by now, then you’re out and on your own. It’s pretty disgusting.

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        • That is disgusting. I was really hoping that there was more to this plan and that my Googling skills were simply failing me. How can they be so callous to displace these people a second time?

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  • Great to hear that things are moving – and the seeds of recovery are being sown.

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