Jersey Shore's Long Beach Island Fights “Perception Problem”

Realtors on Long Beach Island, a popular vacation spot on the New Jersey Shore, are finding that some repeat visitors are refusing to book summer rentals over fears of damage from the storm.

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Ryan Morrill/The SandPaper
A drive around Long Beach Island, N.J., a popular summer destination for families across the state, reveals few scars from Sandy. Many damaged homes and businesses have been repaired. Streets, once covered with sand and sludge have been cleared. But the rental industry--a key industry on the Jersey Shore--is still feeling the storm's effects.
Ryan Morrill/The SandPaper
Realtors across LBI say they're seeing about 20 percent more vacancies than usual for this time of year. Many chalk it up to a perception problem and argue that some would-be renters, clinging to images of damage from the storm, believe the island is in worse shape than it is.
The images that emerged in the wake of Sandy were certainly breathtaking. Residents and business owners who witnessed the immediate damage from the storm say certain scenes are etched into their memories: roads transformed into rivers, flood waters approaching the ceilings of restaurants, houses toppled over like toys.
LBI is Alive
But in the six and a half months since Sandy, LBI has made an impressive recovery. Joseph Mancini, the mayor of Long Beach, the island's largest township, says that by Memorial Day, 95 percent of LBI businesses will be open and that many already are.
Karen Schwing
Among them is Fred's Beach Haven Diner, which has been gutted and restored after filling with sand and water in the storm.
Karen Schwing
Today, the only signs of Sandy at Fred's are a picture book of the destruction, passed around among patrons, and a line on the diner's receipts that indicates how high the flood waters rose: 28 inches.
Getty Images
Some storm damage is still visible on parts of the island—particularly on the narrow southern end of the island, which buzzes with the sounds of construction. But realtors say that just a small fraction of the estimated 17,000 rental properties in the LBI area had to be de-listed because of Sandy.
Ryan Morrill/The SandPaper
Still, some homeowners, particularly those renting higher-end homes, say they've been receiving fewer inquiries than usual.
Ryan Morrill/The SandPaper
The dip in demand is a concern for both homeowners and local businesses, which depend on a surge of summer income to last them through the slower season. LBI has one and a half times as many rental homes as residents—an indication of just how significant tourism is to the island.
LBI is Alive
Early signs, however, point to optimism. Local shops were busy during the first warm weekends of spring and realtors predict that the summer will inspire a wave of last-minute bookings.
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