Vice President Biden Tours NJ Shore [VIDEO]
Vice President Joseph Biden toured storm damage in New Jersey on Sunday, stopping at a volunteer firehouse in Seaside Heights and the flooded PATH station in Hoboken.
Biden arrived at the Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst and was greeted by Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno, U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez (D) , Congressman Jon Runyan(R), and others from FEMA.
Biden then flew by a Blackhawk helicopter low over the coast starting in Belmar, then heading south towards Seaside Heights and saw the now-familiar sights of Sandy's destruction: missing boardwalks such as in Spring Lake, toppled and tipping-over houses in Bay Head and Mantoloking, a house still upright but in the water in Barnegat Bay, block after block where streets remain covered in sand and shredded amusement piers in Seaside Heights.
After landing at Island Beach State Park not far from the official Shore home of Governor Christie, the Vice President rode via motorcade to the volunteer firehouse in Seaside Heights.
He shook hands with a number of the volunteers & first responders, asking one State Trooper, "If I say anything you dont like, let me know." He then gave him a punch on the arm.
He also asked further down the line: "How many of you guys are out of your homes right now?" Most of those nearby raised their hands. Also on hand at the firehouse: Ocean County Freeholder John C. Bartlett Jr. (R) and Seaside Park Mayor Robert Matthies.
After looking at maps showing damaged areas of Seaside Heights, Guadagno told the Vice President. "If we don't get Seaside Heights back up, we're going to lose our entire economy."
Biden agreed with Guadagno and said the importance of the ocean to New Jersey is hard to understand "if you're not an easterner" and compared it to the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone.
"This is a national responsibility," he said of restoring the Shore. "this is not a local responsibility."
NEXT STOP: HOBOKEN
Biden then headed north to tour the Hoboken Terminal, traveling by helicopter to Newark Airport and then by motorcade. He was joined by Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer and Senator Frank Lautenberg for this portion of the trip.
The terminal was heavily damaged by Hurricane Sandy, but is still partially operational. "We're not going anywhere and you've got a homeboy in the deal who gets it," he told those he met there.
Biden also visited the flooded PATH station in Hoboken, hosted by Wilfredo Guzman, the superintendent of the PATH's capital program. Guzman showed Biden pictures of the PATH and NJ Transit flooding to which Biden remarked, "Holy mackerel."
Biden said the superstorm brought with the devastation an opportunity to rebuild public transit infrastructure that's strong enough to withstand the challenges of the next century. "I am absolutely confident with the grit of the people of this state, we're going to come back better," he said." But it's going to be tough in the meantime," he said at the Hoboken PATH station, which remains out of service since the storm flooded it.
Then the vice president made two unscheduled stops, at Benny Tudino's pizzeria on Washington Street and at Hudson Tavern, which is owned by Tom Brennan, the brother of Obama's national security adviser, John Brennan. There, he met and greeted patrons at the establishment -- closed for 12 days after the storm because of flooding -- but didn't eat or drink.
Tavern manager Robin Pino told reporters water rose about 6 feet high in the lower level and the ground floor main bar area took on a few inches of water. The Tavern was closed for 12 days after the hurricane and reopened on Nov. 10
Biden's visit caused a traffic backup on Route 37 eastbound in Toms River, stopping traffic headed to Seaside Heights and the barrier islands. The bridge was closed without warning during his visit and many were angry at not being able to cross. Later Biden's appearance in Hoboken held up PATH trains and flights at Newark Airport as well as New Jersey Turnpike traffic.
Biden is the latest representative of the Obama administration to visit the area since Hurricane Sandy ravaged much of the coastline nearly 3 weeks ago. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan, and accompanied by Middletown Mayor Anthony Fiore and US Senators Frank Lautenberg (D) & Robert Menendez visited the FEMA center in Middletown on Friday according to the Asbury Park Press.
President Obama, who has already visited New Jersey, met with Staten Island resident on Thursday.
Napolitano reported 210,000 New Jersey residents applying for FEMA aide and $186,000million being given out according to the Asbury Park Press.