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Jersey Shore Still Recovering As 3rd Post-Sandy Summer Nears

TOMS RIVER, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) -- In the months after Superstorm Sandy devastated the Jersey shore, Gov. Chris Christie warned residents the damage would not be quickly undone.

Things would only look moderately better in the first summer after the storm, he said, and would be closer to normal in the second one.

But with the third summer after Sandy nearly here, the Jersey shore is still recovering despite the substantial progress that has been made in the 2 1/2 years since the October 2012 storm. Beaches have been restored, roads rebuilt, infrastructure hardened and many homes have been repaired.

But thousands of others still have not, and only now is the state getting to the last of thousands of applicants who had been on a waiting list for New Jersey's main rebuilding grant program. The federal government has awarded New Jersey $4.1 billion in Community Development Block Grant funds for disaster recovery; $1.64 billion has been given to homeowners so far. The state says it is handing out money as fast as it can while guarding against theft or fraud.

"I want to go home, I want my kids to go home, and everybody else to go back home,'' said Joe Karcz, whose home in Stafford Township had to be demolished. "Two and a half years later, my home is still a dirt lot. I've moved 12 times since the storm. The home I'm in now just got sold, and I'll be moving a 13th time. It's a travesty.''

Jean Turnbridge, of Point Pleasant Beach, has moved five times since the storm. Her home needs to be raised in order to avoid devastatingly high flood insurance premiums as a result of Sandy, but she has not yet been able to afford it.

"I can't move again, except to move home,'' she said. "Everything you try to do, something blocks you.''

Christie spokesman Kevin Roberts said the administration had expected the final phase of recovery to be the most difficult.

"New Jersey continues to see remarkable progress in recovering from the worst natural disaster in our state's history,'' he said. "We know there is still more work to be done, which is why our administration remains focused on ensuring every tool and resource remains available to get families back in their homes, communities fully restored, and to ensure our beaches, boardwalks and businesses are ready for another successful summer tourism season at the shore.''

Wendy Joan, of Brick, still does not have heat in her home, which was flooded by a nearby creek.

"I've been crying since Sandy hit,'' she said. "I really, really thought we were going to come out of this great. I had insurance. Every single day, my kids are asking me, 'When are we going to go home?' My husband lost his job; we're wiped out.''

Beach replenishment projects have widened beaches in many parts of the state's 127-mile coastline, but some vulnerable spots remain, largely because oceanfront homeowners still refuse to sign easements allowing the work to take place. Northern Ocean County in particular remains exposed, including some of the towns hardest hit by Sandy. Christie has vowed to use eminent domain to acquire the narrow strips of land needed for the project but still hasn't done so.

"I rebuilt my home, and I did it because Gov. Christie promised us dunes,'' said Kathy Barisciano, who lives in the Ortley Beach section of Toms River. "It's three years later, and I'm scared. All it takes is one nor'easter. We still have no protection.''

Christie Said He Won't Lose Focus On Getting People Back In Their Homes

Meanwhile, the governor said despite his busy schedule, he hasn't turned his back on people still affected by Sandy and will get them help.

"Our big concern now is getting even more people back in their homes, and I'm not going to lose my focus on that," Christie told 1010 WINS' Glenn Schuck.

As he continues to criss-cross the country considering a run for president, Christie said he'll make time for the Jersey shore.

"My family will be down there for at least part of the time this weekend, and we'll be down there a lot over the summer," he said. "We love going to the Jersey shore. I've gone there my whole life. So if people are watching closely on the Point Pleasant boardwalk or the Seaside Heights boardwalk, they'll see me and Mary Pat and our kids this summer."

He expects big business this year following up on record numbers last year.

"I think the businesses will be really good this year," Christie said. "We had a record year last summer, and I think we'll build off that this summer because the businesses will be back even further."

Christie is encouraging people to visit the Jersey shore this Memorial Day.

"You've loved the Jersey shore your whole lives, and you're going to love it even more now that you've seen it rebuilt and resilient," Christie said.

Jersey Shore Is Ready For Summer

DEP Commissioner Bob Martin said the state expects a great summer at the Jersey shore.

"The mayors are ready, the towns are ready, the beaches are beautiful," Martin said.

In Monmouth, Ocean and Cape May counties major shore protection projects are underway to make wider beaches, dunes and berms in those areas, but overall the beaches are in great shape and the water quality is excellent, Martin said.

Jersey Shore Water Quality Scores Well

"I want to tell you that the State of the New Jersey Shore is outstanding," Martin said. "We're looking forward to another fabulous summer in 2015."

Meanwhile, a report card says the water quality along the Jersey shore's beaches are in very good condition, WCBS 880's Levon Putney reported.

A big reason why the water quality matters, said state Environmental Protection Commissioner Bob Martin said, "half of the tourism industry in the state of New Jersey is generated at the shore."

(TM and © Copyright 2015 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2015 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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