Photo Credit: John Burton
By John Burton
RUMSON – Representatives of the St. Bernard Project and Sea Bright Rising are fundraising to get their joint rebuilding project off the ground.
Members of both organizations met Tuesday night at Salt Creek Grille in Rumson to begin discussing plans to rebuild homes in the Super Storm Sandy-stricken borough.
“If you drive through Sea Bright and get off the main road it’s still a ghost town,” said Zack Rosenburg, director and cofounder of the St. Bernard Project.
“This doesn’t have to be,” he stressed.
To change that, the St. Bernard Project is partnering with Sea Bright Rising “to rebuild, refurbish and raise” more than 100 homes in Sea Bright, Highlands and the West Park section of Rumson, which remain damaged and rendered uninhabitable by Super Storm Sandy.
According to Rosenburg, about 80 percent of homes on Sea Bright’s side streets are still vacant, as property owners continue to struggle to find the resources to repair them.
There are 20 homes in the West Park area still vacant and damaged, said Peter Forlenza, a cofounder of Sea Bright Rising.
Rosenburg joined Sea Bright Rising cofounders Chris Wood and Forlenza Tuesday at Salt Creek Grille, for what they were calling a “soft launch” of the partnership.
The official announcement will be on March 20, Forlenza said. But between now and then, he told those gathered that Sea Bright Rising and its supporters are hoping to raise $100,000 to get the project under way.
“That should not be a hard task” because of the generosity Sea Bright Rising has experienced since its founding, said Wood said.
The $100,000 initial goal is well on its way with a $25,000 donation from an anonymous source. The project will need about $2.5 million to $3 million to undertake, Wood said.
That will likely to take up to two years, Rosenburg said.
“We ask for your help, not just in dollars, but in work,” Rosenburg said, as the project will need volunteers to assist.
St. Bernard Project is working with AmeriCorps, and has hired two professional project managers for the work. The organization plans to recruit corporate sponsorship, as well. The organization has established an office at 8 River St., in space donated by the property owner.
The St. Bernard Project was established in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, said Rosenburg, who, prior to this, had been working as a lawyer in Washington, D.C.
Since it was founded eight years ago, the St. Bernard Project has rebuilt 800 homes. Along with New Orleans, it has been working in Joplin, Mo., where tornadoes devastated the area; and on Staten Island and in Rockaway, N.Y., following Super Storm Sandy.