LINCROFT, N.J. – When Superstorm Sandy subsided after battering the Borough of Sea Bright, the Jersey Shore community responded with the strong determination people associate with Sea Brighters. Their resolve in recovery efforts has resulted in two realizations – one, recovery is a long-term process; and two, the small community of nearly 2,000 residents will never be exactly the same.
Ten months after the storm, the community is actively engaged in creating a vision for a brighter future – a vision that leaders call Sea Bright 2020. On Wednesday, Aug. 21, about 160 residents gathered at Holy Cross Catholic School in nearby Rumson to identify key projects and strategies that will help move them beyond recovery.
It’s part of a proven long-term planning process guided and supported by FEMA’s Federal Disaster Recovery Coordination (FDRC) office. The recovery coordination office works with state and federal partners to help streamline access to federal funding, decrease gaps in assistance, and establish recovery goals in terms of outcomes, milestones and budget. The FDRC can also provide an array of skills,
such as civil engineering, architecture, land-use planning, economic development, environmental science and disabilities integration.
This meeting was Sea Bright’s first, and its intent was to form committees to address priorities.
Mayor Dina Long explained the importance of focusing long-term while many residents, herself included, still are not able to return to their homes: “What good is it to have our homes back
if we have no town?”
Frank Lawrence, co-chair of the Sea Bright 2020 steering committee, said that completing the community-driven process now increases Sea Bright’s chance of securing available grant funds. He encouraged people to study the posters around the edge of the room and sign up to work on one of the committees over the next six weeks.
By the end of the evening, people had written suggestions on yellow sticky notes and placed them on the posters that addressed the priorities previously identified: Community Facilities; Economic Recovery; Housing and Neighborhoods; and Waterfront Restoration.
Suggestions on one poster listed a roundabout for the bridge that connects Sea Bright and Rumson, a solar parking canopy and boardwalk, public restrooms and a municipal library.
Questions on the posters helped residents focus on ways to improve their future: What kind of facilities or activities would help build on Sea Bright’s strong sense of community? How can vehicles, bicycles and pedestrian movement be improved in Sea Bright?
Answers to “What amenities would you like to have on the shore?” included: kite festival; public showers and bath; arcade; boardwalk; and bandstand.
The question “How can we improve public access to our waterways?” inspired: kayak access; open side streets to the river for everyone; floating docks; riverwalk; and parking.
One question generated answers that express the pain of disaster survivors. “How did Sandy change the character of your neighborhood?”
- It is now a ghost town.
- People are displaced.
- I am displaced.
- It looks as if I live in a war zone.
When invited to describe the character of Sea Bright they would like to see in 10 years, people posted hopeful comments:
- Affordable 55+ housing;
- Diverse and middle class;
- Charming seaside town, e.g., Cape Cod;
- Sea Bright should be a destination, not a drive through;
- Diversity not gentrification;
- A self-sustaining town – not all restaurants and clubs; and
- The same, only better.
The committees will present final recommendations at a community meeting Oct. 9. Participation is open to all Sea Bright residents. Interested individuals can email SeaBright2020@gmail.com.
FEMA's mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards.