Seven months after Superstorm Sandy ravaged the New Jersey coastline, President Obama returned to the area on Tuesday to laud the ongoing recovery efforts there, and to give a little boost to the local economy by touting its "special character" and the potential "good times" in store.
During his visit, Mr. Obama toured the coastline and patronized some local businesses - including a visit to an arcade, where Gov. Chris Christie, R-N.J., won the president a teddy bear wearing a Chicago Bears shirt in a game called Touchdown Fever. (
In remarks at Asbury Park afterward, Mr. Obama urged Americans to "bring your family and friends, spend a little money on the Jersey Shore."
"You'll find some of the friendliest folks on earth," he said, quipping that he could have seen himself "having some fun" on the Jersey Shore in his "younger" days. "Let's have some good times on the New Jersey Shore this summer."
"The Jersey Shore is back, and it is open for business, and they want all Americans to know that they're ready to welcome you here," he said.
Mr. Obama lauded the state's recovery efforts in the wake of Sandy, which ravaged the tri-state area last October, wreaking havoc on the state's coastal regions and forcing thousands of New York and New Jersey residents out of their homes.
"You are stronger than the storm after all you've dealt with," he said. "You came together as citizens to rebuild and we're not done yet. And I want to make sure that everybody understands that... We're going to keep on going until we finish."
In the weeks following the storm last fall, Mr. Obama worked with Govs. Christie; Andrew Cuomo, D-N.Y.; and Daniel Malloy, D-Conn., to secure federal emergency funds aimed at facilitating the recovery, and Mr. Obama made multiple appearances with New Jersey's Republican governor as the two met with victims and assessed the damage of the storm. At the time, Republicans lambasted Christie's multiple photo ops with and kind words for Mr. Obama just days before a tightly contested presidential election.
Today, the two leaders reiterated their willingness to work together as they visited with families and business owners impacted by the storm, and surveyed the ongoing rebuilding efforts.
"We all came together because New Jersey is more important and our citizens' lives are more important than any kind of politics at all," Christie said in remarks introducing the president.
In the aftermath of last year's storm, Congress approved nearly $50 billion worth of recovery aid toward rebuilding the areas hit hardest by Sandy, and both Cuomo and Christie traveled to Washington late last year to help secure the funds.
Still, seven months after the disaster struck, tens of thousands of people remain homeless in New Jersey and New York, according to the Huffington Post. Meanwhile, the Associated Press reports that more than a third of the $303 million raised by the Red Cross in the wake of the storm remains unspent.