by Paul Ruben
It’s been 10 months since Hurricane Sandy came aground at Brigantine, New Jersey, just north of Atlantic City.
Lives and homes were lost, ships sunk, and many amusement facilities on the shore were damaged, some catastrophically. But park operators are resilient, and quickly began work to repair damage and rebuild.
I toured the Jersey Shore this summer, and found that the losses became more widespread as I travelled from south to north. “We suffered almost no destruction,” admitted Jack Morey of Morey’s Piers. “We lucked out.”
Heading north to Sea Isle City, Gillian’s Funland had four feet (1.2m) of water, and all 13 of Jay Gillian’s rides suffered some water damage.
At Playland’s Castaway Cove in Ocean City, Scott Simpson endured no ride damage, but two housing units for summer help had been flooded. Nearby at Gillian’s Wonderland, they lost seven garage doors, had to replace their roof and repair three rides that had lost their tops. Their maintenance shop also took on about 30 inches (76cm) of water.
The Steel Pier in Atlantic City survived intact, as Tony Catanoso’s crew had removed endangered rides. However, Catanoso had a Funtime Sling Shot (The Rocket) at Funtown Pier in Seaside Heights. It blew over into the Atlantic Ocean. Catanoso has insurance for wind damage, so of course the insurer asserted it suffered water damage. Sounds like this carnage produced an attorneys’ bonanzafest.
From Seaside Heights to Keansburg appear to be Ground Zero for this storm. About 60% of the 350ft-long Funtown Amusement Pier was lost, many of its rides reduced to rubble. It has not opened this year, but owner Billy Major is working towards a reopening in 2014 once the pier is rebuilt.
A short walk north of Funtown Pier, a small portion of Casino Pier is now open for business. Summer had begun and the boardwalk portion of the pier was open but the pier itself remained fenced off with just a handful of rides in place during my visit in June.
The progress at Keansburg Amusement Park was amazing. The park had been washed away by the storm surge. Co-owner Hank Gehlhaus had been urged to abandon the amusement park, but he had worked tirelessly to completely restore his waterpark and now had much of his amusement park up and running again.
So it was business as usual up and down the Jersey Shore, and there’s no place else like it. The sun was shining, as along the boardwalks the arcades were open offering visitors the chance to win “useful gifts” or “valuable prizes.” You want salt water taffy or soft ice cream? Why not both? Beach wear or hermit crabs? They are both available in the same stores. The ubiquitous T-shirt shops were happily selling shirts with “Restore the Shore” emblazoned on them, along with information like “For a face like yours I’ll need a few more beers,” “I hate being bi-polar, it’s awesome,” and “Ride it, Eat it, Vomit.” Culturally insightful? No, just the Jersey Shore getting back to normal.