Saturday, March 30, 2013

Five Months Later


Took a ride on the bike down Route 35 from Bay Head to Seaside today and was reminded just how far we are from being done with our work to restore the Shore. You get a whole different perspective of the damage from a motorcycle. In a car, you’re in your own little pre-fabricated environment, even with the windows down. On the bike, there is nothing but space between you and the destruction – no window to distort the view or filter out the smell.

The extent of the damage, even five months after the storm cleared out is staggering. Some lots have been cleared, while some houses stand defiantly as half-destroyed shells. Even knowing the area as well as I do, I was still left to wonder which houses were carried away by the storm or by the clean-up crews.

In Mantoloking, an older woman raked the sand in her backyard just feet from the hulking shell of half a home with its interior clearly visible from the road. Continuing evidence that some of us were spared while just feet away our neighbors had their lives turned upside down.

In Seaside, the sidewalk on Ocean Avenue has replaced the boardwalk, and the Easter weekend crowds were out in force walking the strip as vendors and game booths filled every available space between the sidewalk and street. The boardwalk may not be ready yet, but the spirit of Seaside hasn’t been lost: The irony of a vendor hawking knock-off “Restore the Shore” sweatshirts in front of the damaged home where the cretins from The Jersey Shore used to live was actually reassuring.
Seeing the destruction without being shielded from it by a four-wheeled cage was a sobering reminder of how the area I call my home has been forever changed, but I was also reminded that there is no quit in the real Jersey Shore.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Rolling With the Flow: Because the Job Isn't Finished

When I started this particular blog in January, my goal was to tell the stories of the Jersey Shore in the post-Sandy recovery period. I figured I'd throw in a little history, some details and facts, and some news stories. Things perked along nicely until I got a call from an old friend who explained his idea to do a charity motorcycle run in May to benefit people affected by Hurricane Sandy (I live in New Jersey, I refuse to use the word 'victims').

The idea was still just an idea and I had no idea back then that this event would become an important part of the recovery process.

It has also become the main focus of every part of my non-earning-a-living day. Hence the complete lack of new material for this blog. Since this page was set up to be a long-term project with the aim to tell the stories that will soon drop off the front page and lede blocks of the nightly news, dropping it is not an option–refocusing it temporarily is: For the next eight weeks I’m going to concentrate on the Roar to Restore the Shore motorcycle run and my writing is going to necessarily reflect that. I hope it’s interesting to follow the idea from its genesis to its fruition, but if it’s not, please just come back from time-to-time to check out what’s happening here.

The ride has gone from an initial idea at a meeting of three people in a bar in Jackson to a ride that may potentially involve over a thousand motorcycles. We started as team of five “civilians” and a core group of members of VFW Post 8867 in Brick and without the help and expertise of the VFW this event would not be possible. VFW Post 8867 played an integral role in the months immediately after Sandy as a staging area for relief workers and contractors in the barrier island communities destroyed by the storm, and to be able to work with the members of this Post on a charity event that is growing daily is truly an honor.

So, forgive my indulgences. I started doing relief and charity work on the Tuesday following the storm and continued it through the middle of January, at which time I glibly told anyone who would listen that I was exhausted and out of the recovery business. The truth of the matter is, none of us will be out of the recovery business for years; we all just have to learn to roll with the flow and go where the tides take us.

There is a lot of work to be done in the next eight weeks, but I am looking at being able to help raise an additional $25,000 for Sandy relief, and that is truly where my focus and interest lies at this point in time. I’ll still do the occasional story about the Shore and thanks to Debbie Miks who has stepped up to help out, we’ll still do our weekly restaurant feature, but I hope to be able to share this event so that we can all be a part of helping the Jersey Shore recover and prosper.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Klee's Bar and Grille

Klee’s has been a Seaside staple since 1931. With the repeal of prohibition in 1933, the business became Klee’s Bar & Grille. Over the years Klee’s has adapted to the growing popularity of Seaside as a vacation destination by reintroducing an even larger restaurant, along with an additional upstairs room for private parties.

During Hurricane Sandy, the building sustained very little damage, but was unable to open due to the closing of the barrier island and power outages. When they reopened on December 28, their main customers were the police and emergency personnel who were rebuilding the infrastructure of the barrier island. Over the next few weeks business was a steady stream of people looking for a warm meal and a friendly smile. Regulars began to return in January and the pace of business has remained steady.

Upstairs at Klee's
When you visit Klee’s Bar and Grill, you are greeted with a warm smile by the hostess. The dining room is large and the d├ęcor reminiscent of an Irish pub, with warm wood and green fabrics. The fully stocked bar has plenty of seats, along with televisions tuned to the games of the day. For those who fancy a bite to eat, the menu has a wide variety of options, from small plates to full dinners. In addition to the traditional Irish fare, there are plenty of American favorites. Some notables include the “Basket of Fire,” a platter of buffalo battered chicken and shrimp fried to a golden brown and served with a delightful bleu cheese and Cajun remoulade.  Or you can try the Irish Potato Skins, Idaho potato skins topped with diced bacon and smothered with cheddar cheese. Delicious! There is a wide assortment of salads and sandwiches ($7 - $10), in addition to the famous “Klee’s Pub Burger’, a ½ lb. lean juicy sirloin grilled to perfection and served with a choice of sweet potato fries or onion rings. And what Irish grill wouldn’t be complete without a Reuben? “Klee’s Famous Ruben” rivals the best–juicy corned beef piled high with sauerkraut, melted Swiss cheese and Russian dressing. Entrees ($13 - $22) include steaks, ribs, chicken, and seafood. Some creative dishes include the “Chicken Prestige,” with broccoli and artichoke hearts, and the “Chicken Savoy,” with spinach and roasted garlic, each served over pasta. No matter what you order, you can count on it being served promptly and with a smile.

If you go: Reservations are not required, first come, first served. The dress code is casual; however they do ask that you “Please behave as if your Mother was watching you.” Parking is available on the nearby side streets, or in some of the larger lots near the boardwalk. In season, be sure to bring plenty of quarters for the meters as they do not take bills or credit cards. - Debbie Miks

Restaurant Review: Klee’s Bar and Grille101 Boulevard, Seaside Heights, NJ. 732.830.1996

Friday, March 15, 2013

Hurricane Sandy Assessed Damaged Maps for the Jersey Shore

Two new interactive maps were released today illustrating the extent of damage to communities in New Jersey from Hurricane Sandy. To zoom in or out or without the overlay, please click on the link to the original site.

Interactive Map: Sandy's Monetary Damages (via NJSpotlight)
By Colleen O'Dea Average Amount of Damage Assessed None Less than $700 $700 - $1,200 $1,200 - $2,500 $2,500 - $10,000 More than $10,000 The average damage per home from Superstorm Sandy as assessed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency in processing claims for housing assistance. Click on a ZIP…

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Martell's Tikibar


A visit to Point Pleasant Beach would not be complete without going to Martell’s Tiki Bar. The Tiki, as it is known to locals, has been around longer than most people can remember, offering food and drink in an oceanfront tropical atmosphere. Amenities include a full service restaurant, eight bars both inside and outside, and a private beach with a pier that extends to the ocean. During the day visitors can enjoy a cocktail on the beach while listening to live bands such as Dr. Cheeko and at night enjoy fine dining and more live music as the pier turns into an outdoor nightclub. Check the calendar for featured musicians such as Southside Johnny and others.
Rebuilding the pier. Courtesy of Martell's.
During Hurricane Sandy, most of the outdoor pier was ripped away by the violence of the waves but the oceanfront restaurant remained intact. Click here to view a video of Martell's during Hurricane Sandy from SharkeyImages.

The main building was not damaged so Martell’s was able to reopen as soon as the power was restored. During this time the Martell’s staff provided warm meals to the Bayhead Fire Department, National Guard, and local residents. For Thanksgiving, they provided over 500 dinners to those in need. They have hosted several charity events to raise funds including ‘Shore Up our Schools” in conjunction with the Restore the Shore organization. The establishment continues to work with fundraising organizations. 

The full pier is expected to reopen Friday, March 29, and will be exactly like the old pier. You can keep track of progress by checking out Martell's live webcam. Up to the minute information on what is happening at the Tikibar can be found on Martell's Facebook page or via Twitter (@MartellsTikiBar). Be sure to check the website calendar for the upcoming “Beer on the Boards.”
 

The only problem with dining at Martell's is choosing what to have! Start your day early with some fresh shrimp, clams, or oysters at the raw bar, accompanied by fresh squeezed orange juice and your choice of premium vodka. Enjoy your snack at the raw bar or bring it back to your spot on the beach! For the brave of heart, the Raw Bar Shooters are a must have–a freshly shucked cold water oyster, clam, or shrimp served in a shooter with cocktail sauce and Absolut Peppar vodka. Absolut-ly delicious!

And what could make a day on Martell's Beach even better? Food and beverage service on the beach! Enjoy a delightfully frosty Pina Colada or a Tiki Tea (Sweet Carolina iced tea flavored vodka served with pink lemonade) brought directly to your beach chair! Buckets of your favorite beers are also available! For a quick snack, try the pretzel sticks– Bavarian pretzels quickly fried then tossed in salt, and served with either Martell’s specialty mustard sauce and their creamy craft beer-cheese dipping sauce. It’s the perfect size for a quick bite to eat.

Martell's in summer.
© Debbie Miks
The beach level bar is also a full service restaurant; day or night you can enjoy everything from a light appetizer to a full dinner. Prices are reasonable and there is a ‘little skippers’ menu for children. Lunch offerings include creative Tiki Salads, and a wide variety of wraps and grilled selections. The Chipotle Turkey Wrap (Boar’s Head Turkey, pepper jack cheese, lettuce and tomato combined in a fresh chipotle tortilla wrap, and served with chips) is sure to delight. Freshly made with Blueclaw crab meat, sealegs, breadcrumbs and parsley, Martell’s homemade crab cakes are an iconic favorite.
Outdoor dining can be found at the beach bar or on the main pier dining tables. Inside, there are four full service bars and a full indoor dining room. You can also fill your craving for shrimp, shrimp, and more shrimp at the ‘Shrimp Bar.’ The sushi bar offers a wide variety of favorite sushi selections.

For a more romantic indoor setting, dining is available in the main dining room overlooking the ocean. From there you can enjoy views of the pier and the beach bar, so you won’t miss a thing. The menu features steaks, seafood, chicken, and some vegetarian entries–there is something for the whole family.
During the year, the main dining room and the beach bar are available to rent for private parties, special events, or that dream wedding on the beach. The staff at Martells can cater both small and large crowds.

If you go: Reservations are not required, however in the summer be prepared to wait as service is first come, first served. The beach rents chairs and does require a seasonal beach badge or a daily fee. Swimming is permitted while lifeguards are on duty, and the beach is closed after dusk. The dress code is casual, shirts and cover ups are required for going from the beach to the pier or restaurant dining areas. In keeping with the family atmosphere, no thongs are allowed. There are no changing facilities, however there are public changing rooms on the boardwalk.

Parking is found on the side streets or the main parking lot. Machines accept any form of payment. Be sure to park within the white painted box or the police will surely ticket you. - Debbie Miks


Martells Tikibar
Boardwalk - Point Pleasant Beach, NJ 08742
Tel: 732-892-0131

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Welcoming Our New Contributor

When I started this blog in January, I had an idea of how much content there is to write about and I went into knowing there was a lot of work to do. Turns out I was wrong, there is really a lot of work to do. Luckily I've been helped by a volunteer who has taken on the sometimes fun, often difficult, job of handling restaurants and nightlife for Inlets and Outlets.

My thanks to everyone who has supported this blog, and keep an eye out for some changes, improvements and big news in the coming weeks. I would also like to thank Debbie Miks for offering her time and talent to help spread the word that the Jersey Shore is open for business.

Here's a little bit about our new contributor:
Back in 1923, the house I grew up in was being built by my great grandparents. Their home near Mantoloking on the barrier island had been washed away by a storm and they, being practical people, moved inland to the Adamston section of Brick. Watermen by trade, their living was clamming the bay and ocean fishing. My first summer job was at Point Pleasant boardwalk, in the Holiday Arcade, flipping burgers at Pyott’s Restaurant. I’ve lived in Brick nearly all of my life and can trace our family back to 1804, when the Hulse family “migrated” all the way from Freehold, NJ. It’s been said that we have salt water in our veins and I can’t imagine living anywhere else.
Debbie holds a Masters Degree in Technical and Professional Communications from NJIT and specializes in on-line communications as a Content Strategist and User Experience Designer.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

A Tale of Three Charities: Robin Hood, the Red Cross and Mary Pat Christie's Hurricane Sandy Relief Fund

The Asbury Park Press published a story this week about the lack of fund disbursement from New Jersey First Lady Mary Pat Christie's Hurricane Sandy Relief Fund. Rightfully so, the newspaper is unhappy about the fact that the charity has so far not disbursed a single dollar of the $32,000,000 it has raised. In light of a recent story about another, similarly named charity that was proven to be basically a scam, the optics on this report are bad.

Bruce Springsteen, Jon Bon Jovi and former Senator Bill Bradley are all members of the board–political cronies of Christies they are not. While on the surface the story indeed looks bad, there is more to a charity than collecting money and handing it out. In spite of political hack stories from the likes of the Huffington Post, charities of this size are actually acting responsibly when they deliberate carefully before releasing funds.

In a press release today, The Robin Hood Foundation announced the release of another $5.2 million dollars in donated funds (see details below) to help residents affected by Sandy get back into their homes. "Robin Hood's Relief Committee is working with all deliberate speed to get every dollar we've raised into the affected communities," said David Saltzman, Robin Hood's executive director. "The Relief Committee has already met 15 times since the storm struck in late October and continues to meet regularly to review and approve grants." Robin Hood expects to grant 95% of the money raised for Sandy Relief – more than $67.5 million – by the end of March.

The Robin Hood Foundation already had an infrastructure in place to handle grant requests whereas the charity founded by Christie was a ground-up operation that was only started in the days after the storm. There is some amount of tolerance we have to have for the time it takes to get a proper infrastructure in place, but Mrs. Christie needs to understand that the patience of those of us working to recover from the storm are thin at best.

In contrast to the Robin Hood Foundation’s veritable speed in releasing funds, the Red Cross had raised $249 million but as of the end of December had only released $110 million. The American Red Cross is in the business of immediate disaster relief, where the Hurricane Sandy Relief Fund was formed to aid in long-term recovery efforts.

I’m not thrilled with the lack of urgency on the charity’s behalf, but I think we all need to keep an eye on perspective and to be careful not let politics enter into our feelings about what has so far proven to be a worthy charity.

* * *
 
A summary of the latest Robin Hood Foundation approved grants (New Jersey only):

United Methodist Church
New Jersey
$600,000
This grant will provide building supplies, construction supervision, and case management services for hundreds of individuals and families throughout New Jersey in coordination with the United Methodist Committee on Relief.

Brick Township
Ocean County
, NJ
$500,000
Funding will provide approximately 500 households with an average of $1,000 in assistance to go toward the rebuilding of homes damaged by Sandy.

Seaside Heights
Ocean County, NJ
$400,000
This grant will go toward assisting needy and distressed renters and homeowners in this community by providing them with gift cards or direct bill payments to help them repair their homes and replace lost items.

Stafford Township
Ocean County, NJ
$300,000
Encompassing the towns of Beach Haven West, Cedar Bonnet Island, and Bayside, nearly 5,000 homes in Stafford Township were devastated by Hurricane Sandy.  Funds will go toward making needed repairs on approximately 250 homes belonging to needy year-round residents and to providing rental assistance and security deposits for displaced residents.

Bergen County Long Term Recovery Committee
Bergen County, NJ
$200,000
This grant will fund the Unmet Needs Roundtable of the Bergen County Long Term Recovery Committee, helping low-income and working class residents with financial assistance to help them return to stable housing.

Coastal Habitat for Humanity
Monmouth County, NJ
$150,000
This grant will help cover the costs to repair 50 homes belonging to low-income and elderly individuals, including funds to purchase insulation, sheetrock, flooring, basic appliances/fixtures, and labor.

Church of the Visitation
Ocean County, NJ
$120,000
Located in Brick, NJ, the Church of the Visitation has been at the heart of the community's relief efforts, providing food, clothing, and cleaning supplies to more than 400 families since the storm struck.  Funds will go toward renovating space to accommodate volunteers who are helping the community rebuild, a delivery truck to continue the flow of building and food supplies, and staff support for intake and volunteer coordination.

Hometown Heroes
Ocean County, NJ
$4,500
This grant will help defray the administrative costs associated with case management for Robin Hood's original grant of $300,000 to provide financial assistance to residents of Ocean Gate.

Catholic Charities, Diocese of Trenton
Trenton, NJ
$325,000
Funding will support five trained disaster case managers for one year to help individuals with a range of services, including financial counseling, housing, and mental and physical health assistance.  The grant will also fund a mental health counselor trained to work with disaster survivors to help them cope.

FoodBank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties
Monmouth & Ocean Counties, NJ
$210,000
This grant will fund staffing and support to enable the FoodBank to provide benefits assistance to at least 2,000 Sandy-affected families.  Services include tax preparation, housing assistance, mental health referrals, and financial counseling.

Parker Family Health Center
Monmouth County
, NJ
$55,000
The Parker Family Health Center is a volunteer clinic providing comprehensive primary health care to the uninsured of Monmouth County, NJ.   Funding will cover costs to expand social work services by an additional 24 hours/week.  The immediate objective will be to help patients still displaced by the storm, counseling and interventions for stress and anxiety, and other needed services.  These expanded services will be continued until the end of the year to address the longer-term needs of vulnerable patients.