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A Day in the Life of the Post-Sandy Barrier Island

Hard work, long hours leads to significant progress

It's about 11:30 a.m. There's some traffic in Mantoloking, heading south to Brick's neighborhoods on the Barnegat Peninsula.

Nobody is heading to the beach.

There aren't a lot of cars on the island; only emergency personnel, and cleanup and construction crews are allowed over the Mantoloking Bridge. The small bottleneck entering the island isn't caused by volume, just circumstance.

There's no heading to Route 35 and making a right. There isn't much about the transition from Mantoloking Road in Brick to Herbert Street in Mantoloking that many people would recognize, for that matter. Getting onto the island these days involves a breathtaking, unobstructed view of the Atlantic Ocean from the top of the bridge, then a quick right turn onto Bay Avenue in Mantoloking, out to Downer Avenue, then up to Route 35.

It isn't Route 35 South or Route 35 North. Here, it's both. There's a double yellow line down the middle of what was once Route 35 South, and traffic moves in both directions.

There are a few checkpoints manned by National Guard soldiers. They give a friendly wave to an authorized vehicle. There's a fire burning near the checkpoint where the soldiers keep warm.

On this day, residents of the Curtis Point section are seeing their homes and assessing any damage caused by Hurricane Sandy. Curtis Point, Mayor Stephen Acropolis said, wasn't unscathed, but wasn't hit catastrophically either. Police officers patrol the streets, making sure everyone obeys the township's re-entry rules, but also making sure residents who need help - from carrying something heavy, to tracking down a plumber - receive it.

By noon, it's lunch time at the police substation - or, as it's now called, the forward operating base - near the Pioneer Hose fire station, just south of Used to Be's bar.

Public works employees trickle in, a couple at a time. On today's menu, it's sandwiches and hot tomato soup from the Brickhouse Bar and Grille.

It's been a nonstop grind for the Public Works crew. They've been working shifts, 12 hours on, 12 hours off, since the storm hit. Lunch is a good time to recharge, but most members of the crew seem to want to get back to work for their town.

"Just had that new floor put in," said one of the DPW workers, speaking of his own flooding troubles at home.

For all of what seemed like its helplessness during the storm, Brick's barrier island portion is ironically a small, self-sufficient zone today. There's a medical tent set up near the fire company to tend to potential injuries, a mechanic's workshop where vehicles were being serviced, and even an office in the substation that acts as the nerve center of it all.

Thanks to the Public Works crews' hard work, heavy lifting and round-the-clock dedication, the island is looking more like an island and less like a war zone. Debris isn't strewn about randomly as it once was. It is, for the most part, out of the road and piled into small mountains in various open spaces, waiting to be hauled away.

Utility poles have been replaced. Route 35 has been shored up, with fresh pavement and new guardrails just north of Bayview Park. Crews in Normandy Beach continue to clear debris, and at D&R Boat World marina, vessels are starting to be properly placed on blocks or trailers, as they usually are in November.

In the parking lot of St. Padre Pio Church, Brick's oft-forgotten fouth Roman Catholic place of worship, what seems like hundreds of electrical transformers sit in rows, waiting to be installed so the lights can come back on.

Progress over the past three weeks has been immense, if not downright triumphant.

But Hurricane Sandy has made a few marks that will be permanent.

Oceanfront homes on Sunset Boulevard are off their foundations. An overturned Jeep Wrangler sits on someone's front lawn. Closer to Route 35 near the Camp Osborn neighborhood, another Wrangler is buried in the sand underneath a house. How it slipped in there is a secret between the once-off-road vehicle and the ocean.

Then there's Camp Osborn. The neighborhood whose name was barely known even to a majority of Brick residents is now known across the world thanks to shocking Air National Guard videos from the day after the storm hit. There's nothing left of it. Some of the homes are burnt into charred sticks, while others are half-burnt, with a fresh coat of blue paint or a recently-installed Pella window visible where the flames didn't hit.

Much of the neighborhood doesn't even show much in the way of evidence of the raging gas fire that burnt it to the ground. It's just beach sand.

How the area will be rebuilt is a long-term question. One of the township's oldest neighborhoods, the previous lots would probably never conform to modern zoning codes.

But a resurgence of the island is evidenced in the parking lot of Brick Beach III. There, a truck powers a massive cylindrical hopper that separates debris out of beach sand before it's hauled back onto the beach. A berm has been created along the entire township's oceanfront to protect against future winter storms.

Over the municipal border in Mantoloking, natural gas pipes are placed along the roadway waiting to be installed.

Though there's no traffic light, no paved road and certainly no lanes, the intersection of what was Route 35 North and Herbert Street - which led to the Mantoloking Bridge - looks about ready for blacktop to be poured. The new inlet that formed during Sandy has been plugged up, and a metal wall protects it from the ocean for now.

Brick's barrier island neighborhoods are sometimes thought of locally as summer colonies, but the reality is that they are home to many year-round residents, Brick school buses cross the bridge on a daily basis taking kids back and forth, and they are home to more than 1,000 homes and 63 businesses.

Thanks to the grueling work of some of Brick's hardest working residents - its public works, parks and police employees - those who live there will be able to call it home again, sooner rather than later.

Joseph Woolston Brick November 19, 2012 at 01:07 PM
What a difference a few months make. Before the storm, Brick's DPW workers were overpaid, under working union scumbags, this according to town hall and the Mayor. Now they're heroes! Well we people who have had daily contact with the DPW workers already knew they were hard working, dedicated people and knew that the town hall cronies were wrong all along. Could you imagine if the mayor had not been prevented from replacing DPW workers with private haulers what this town would look like right now? I don't even want to think about it. My friends that have Facebook have been telling me the town has been praising the DPW workers on it's Facebook page, now that's different! But Mayor Acropolis being Mayor Acropolis after all is said and done, will probably claim he cleaned up the town himself with a broom and a dustpan, and I'm sure he will revisit the privatization of major parts of the DPW sooner than later (yet again). That people can NEVER happen and Sandy showed us that!
Slippery Slope November 19, 2012 at 01:12 PM
Hey Governor, NOW is the time to consolidate all of the little towns along the ocean front. Combine al the little towns on LBI. Combine all the little towns from Seaside Park to Pt. Pleasant. Sea Girt to Asbury Park and then Alleenhurst, Loch Harbor, Deal, all the way up the coast to Key port...The tax payers cannot afford these little fiefdoms any more.
Brick Jerz Mom November 19, 2012 at 01:40 PM
I guess it true, sometime something like this brings out the worse in people, Stop being Jealous of people that work hard and have more then you ... they probably pay more in property tax the you make in a year and only use " your Town" for 3 or 4 month of of the years ... SO WHAT is its their second home, they pay into the fedl govmt programs ( FEMA) I beat twice as much bcz they do own 2 homes, why should they not get help to rebuild
The Flash November 19, 2012 at 01:58 PM
Right, then throughout the year, those lazy tards get to pay a much higher tax rate than brick residents on the mainland to pay for schools and services for Brick that the barrier residents don't get to use!
Kathy Bottone November 19, 2012 at 04:06 PM
Thank you for this wonderful, insightful look into what is going on on the barrier island. This has been a heartbreaking time for all of us, whether we are full time residents of the barrier islands, summer residents or live on the mainland. We all love this area and to know what has happened on the beaches has been so hard to fathom. Your description of the good things that are happening out there now makes this all a bit more bearable. I am proud of the way Brick is handling this situation and that the town employees and leaders are working together to restore what Sandy ripped away from us. Our reaction to this storm has proven to the world that we are not the clueless party people depicted on Jersey Shore or any of the other caricatures that we have been depicted as by all those Jersey jokes. We are strong, hard working, proud and resilient. I am proud to be from Jersey and even prouder to be from the Jersey Shore.
J.JONES November 19, 2012 at 07:45 PM
Why can't just say thank you to everyone helping getting things cleaned up..There are a lot of different groups working in everyway...Why is always turned into a political B.S...There is a lot damaged home to be fixed or maybe replaced..The Mayor and council member had damage also to deal with and those home owners in bayhead from fla. Or up north will put put people back to work in our area that may have been stuggling to make ends meet..Its a shame such a storm came bring the best out of everyone to help friends and family in thi time of needs...
ACL74 November 19, 2012 at 07:50 PM
What an inconsiderate thing to say. A huge pile of wet furniture and sheetrock is just as depressing and heartbreaking whether it lay in front of a multi-million dollar home 'over the bridge' or in one of the low-lying neighborhoods off Mantoloking Road or Drum Point.
Lauren November 19, 2012 at 09:18 PM
Well said....
Missing Brick November 19, 2012 at 09:48 PM
After spending a couple freezing nights huddled by my space heater I certainly WISH I was fixing my home from Florida. I had to leave and travel back to try and safe what I can piece by piece as I simply could not stand it anymore. Lots of folks are in even worse situations and living with family, neighbors, hotels, friends...certainly wishing they had a home in FL to go to! However, those lucky enough to own a second home in another state, will suffer too as they see their hard work and memories destroyed. I would not downplay this. Anyone who does not have compassion for all those affected by the storm should try surviving what we have in the past three weeks and maybe they'd sing a different song. Taking pot shots from your safe living room at those who are rebuilding their lives is just an emotional looting...entertaining yourself at the expense of other's misery. If schadenfreude is your thing...I hope karma does not catch up with you someday. Maybe you could better serve the human race by picking up some tools and helping rather than antagonizing us who have already lost too much!
. November 19, 2012 at 09:51 PM
Yes, and did you hear Christie on the radio today saying just how sad it was for those people to have lost their million dollar homes by the beach!
JB November 19, 2012 at 10:08 PM
Good point, Joe. I was thinking of the same thing when I was reading the well-written article. How the same people bashing the DPW guys are now praising them.....I just don't understand most people today....I hope they wake up and appreciate what they have and the job done by hard working people! Thank you!
Donna Griffin November 19, 2012 at 11:59 PM
Sourface....what an appropriate name. You are green with envy and unsympathetic. No way to go through life, my friend.
Donna Griffin November 20, 2012 at 12:01 AM
While they're at it, we should consolidate school districts. For our state to maintain the overhead of nearly 600 school districts and the administrators who run them is criminal.
sweet16 November 21, 2012 at 03:28 AM
Why can't anybody just appreciate and respect the work that all dpw did we gave up our lives our familes our time to help we were out in the water fires doing anything and everything we had to we all gave everything and every bit of heart and soul a piece of all of our hearts are left behind on the island
Jerry Van De Walker November 24, 2012 at 12:46 PM
To prevent further catastrophe, all homes still standing must be winterized to protect the plumbing from the effects of freezing. Call your plumber today!
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For some reason with everyone helping I was bared from my property.

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