By John Burton
Mary Brooks was waiting in the long line on Monday in Rumson to take the bus that would allow her to inspect her home for the first time since Super Storm Sandy swept into the area and wrecked havoc, especially to Sea Bright.
“We don’t know and that’s the hard part,” what to really expect, having been away for the better part of a week, she said. The small borough bus, used for SCAT senior transportation, pulled up to take people across the Shrewsbury River to allow them a few minutes to survey the damage and collect some valuables before they would have to again depart, for who knows how long.
Brooks, who was joined by her brother, Jim Bastan, has only been living in Sea Bright since April, when she got married and moved into her husband’s home. “We saw some preliminary pictures,” someone had taken of her Ocean Avenue condo complex. “It looked like flooding on the lower level,” she said.
As Brooks departed the bus and walked toward her unit in the Grand Pointe complex, “I’m shaking,” she said, approaching the front door. But, “I’m being a little optimistic,” too, she confided.
When she and Bastan entered her unit, they found the garage, located on the lower level, wrecked from the tidal surge, with stored items destroyed and pieces strewn about. But as she walked through the unit, she reached down and checked the carpet – which was dry –and the upper floors, which appeared miraculously spared.
“If this is the worst of it, I’m lucky,” she said.
“Believe me, this isn’t bad,” said Bastan, who said he has been doing rescue work elsewhere and had seen much worse than his sister experienced.
“We’re one of the lucky ones,” she acknowledged.
John Mazzacco and Bob LoPresti, who both live in Grand Pointe, considered themselves equally lucky, having been spared the damage seen elsewhere in the borough.
“We’re rock stars,” a happy Mazzacco said, upon reviewing the damage, which was limited to his garage as well. “Basically we did very well compared to everyone else,” he said.
LoPresti said he lost his boat, which had been docked at the Chanel Club. But his prized 2002 Dodge Viper, which had been stored in the garage, came away unscathed, other than wet carpets. “I was a nervous wreck about it,” he said. It started right up and he pulled it out of the garage. “I’m going to try and drive it out of here,” he said, looking at Ocean Ave, with the traffic at this point consisting of emergency vehicles and heavy construction equipment, moving sand and the remnants of fallen structures. “What are they going to do? Tell me to turn around?” LoPresti questioned.
LoPresti, who is the condo association president, has been staying with his daughter in Lyndhurst, in Bergen County. As he surveyed the damage around the community he said he had served in the Vietnam War more than 40 years ago. “And I haven’t seen this since Vietnam,” meaning the destruction.
“It’s going to be a while before we’re back here,” he said. “To see it like this it gets you right in the pit of your stomach.”
Andrew Dietz, Chester, faired much worse with this rental property, 754 Ocean Avenue. The unit was completely destroyed. “It looked like it was three feet of water in here,” he estimated, well beyond what he saw with Hurricane Irene last year.
“We’ve had hurricanes before,” said Dietz, who said he has been coming to Sea Bright every summer since he was born in 1951. “But this is probably the highest surge we’ve ever had.”
He also owns the unit next door and the damage there was not as severe, and Dietz said he would probably rebuild it, which could cost several hundreds of thousands of dollars (he had no flood insurance). But for the 754 location, with its water-sodden wooden floors and walls, and demolished furniture, the prospect was less certain.
“I might bulldoze it and let it stay fallow a little bit,” until he can decide what to do, he said.
Just north of Dietz’s properties Deborah Shelton is an Orange resident, working with IEW Construction, one of the firms brought in to clear the area. Standing beside a mountain of wet sand, in her orange hardhat and reflector vest, leaning on her shovel, she said, “I was complaining about not having electricity. But at least I have a home to go to.
“It’s enough to bring tears to your eyes,” she said, looking around, “if you live here or not.”
Borough Councilman C. Read Murphy was driving around the area, taking residents back across the bridge, helping them with their belongings. He said it would take more than a year, probably, for the community to get back on its feet. In the interim, properties will have to be revaluated, with loss of tax revenue for the town, compounding a difficult time. “It’s a bitter pill,” he admitted. “But I think in the end it’ll be OK.
“We’ll rebuild,” he said.
Sea Bright officials were allowing residents to venture back for short periods, with those living in the northern part of the borough going on Monday and those in the southern part going the next day.