After being twice denied funding from FEMA before finally getting $2.4 million on their second appeal, the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association re-opened their boardwalk to the public today with a ceremonial ribbon cutting lead by Governor Chris Christie, Congressman Chris Smith, Senator Jennifer Beck, Assemblywoman Caroline Casagrande, Neptune Township Mayor Dr. Michael Brantley and Dr. Dale C. Whilden, President of the OGCMA.
“Today is truly a great day for Ocean Grove, Neptune Township, Monmouth County, and the Jersey Shore, and a critical step forward in our recovery from Sandy,” said Smith.”This boardwalk is an integral part of Ocean Grove the neighboring Jersey Shore community, a fact we reinforced during our efforts to reverse FEMA’s original decision at the local level—and yet another at the regional level—to deny critical funding.”
“With unrelenting determination and teamwork, we brought the case to critical decision makers in Washington, holding meetings with FEMA in my congressional office. On the second appeal, a skillful oral presentation given to FEMA by Ocean Grove leaders left no doubt as to the boardwalk’s important emergency and public health and safety function—resulting in FEMA’s reversal,”continued Smith.
“Not long after the Storm I visited the boardwalk, and vividly remember the total devastation all around. Dr. Whilden, J.P Gradone, Bill Bailey, Ralph DelCampo and all those with OGCMA deserve great credit for their tenacity and tireless efforts to rebuild and restore the Ocean Grove community and boardwalk.”
FEMA originally deemed OGCMA ineligible for federal assistance as a private, nonprofit entity, despite facts to the contrary. Following the denial, Smith helped lead an effort with OGCMA leadership, Governor Chris Christie’s office, and in particular, NJ “Sandy Czar,” Mark Ferzan, Neptune Township and Ocean Grove’s state legislators—State Senator Jennifer Beck and Assemblywomen Caroline Casagrande and Mary Pat Angelini—to petition the federal agency in Washington to reverse its decision.
“This is a very exciting day for shore residents, the reopening of the Ocean Grove boardwalk is a significant step forward in our recovery from Sandy,”said Beck, “I worked closely with Ocean Grove officials and FEMA representatives through the application process and the numerous appeals. In the end, FEMA did the right thing and awarded Ocean Grove the aid needed to rebuild. Governor Chris Christie must be applauded for his leadership and dedication to Ocean Grove in ensuring the boardwalk was rebuilt. All New Jerseyans are the beneficiaries of this outcome. This boardwalk is truly a landmark and will now again be a beach destination for generations to come. I am proud to join Governor Christie in cutting the ribbon to officially reopen the Ocean Grove boardwalk.”
Whilden said, “This is not Ocean Grove’s boardwalk. This is the Jersey Shore’s boardwalk. And we are celebrating the connectivity and the thoroughfare that goes up and down this beautiful coast, and we’re here today to honor and acknowledge and thank the one that has really been the backbone of this and that is our honorable Governor, Chris Christie.”
“Thank you everybody. Thank you for coming this morning. It’s really, really good to be here and given all that we’ve gone through since October 29th 2012 to be here to officially open the final boardwalk to be reconstructed after Sandy is a great accomplishment for all of you, the people of our state, and especially the people of Ocean Grove thank you for letting me be part of it,” said Christie. ” This was the hardest one. It took the most jumping up and down and the most yelling and screaming, and that’s what they brought me in for, and then they brought in Congressman Smith and Senator Beck for the cool and calm reason that needed to be brought to bear after that, and I mean this was a complete team effort in the federal and state level of the people who represent you. Some things, and all this as we’ve learned painfully, are difficult to get done, and some things are not just going to be handed to us easily. We have to stand up and we have to make our case and we have to stick with each other. And as we begin the Fourth of July weekend, to be able to have this as the start of our Fourth of July weekend is really a cap on another stage—not the completion, but another stage of our recovery from Hurricane Sandy. So we’re going to keep working. We know there are a lot of folks who still need help that we’re still getting help to and we’ll continue to get help to. It will take years as I said back in October of 2012 for us to fully recover, and when we do it won’t be like it used to be. It will be a new normal. But if you look at where we are today in New Jersey compared to the way we felt on October 30th 2012 and the size of the task in front of us together we have all done an extraordinary job and as the people continue to come back to the Jersey Shore by the hundreds of thousands this summer we are going to be really happy that we worked as hard as we did, we worked as united as we did, and we worked as well as we did.”