inspector to four full-time and eight
“The face of Union Beach has been
changed forever,” laments councilman
Ortley Beach, too, underwent a
facelift. The area’s signature vacation
cottages always stood cheek by jowl,
but a simple fence could assure privacy.
Now the elevated houses rise above the
fences, and neighbors can stare from
their high perches into each other’s
bedrooms and outdoor showers.
Statistics are hard to come by for
Ortley Beach, an unincorporated area
within the township of Toms River.
Throughout Toms River, permits for
$326.5 million in construction have
been issued in Sandy-affected areas.
The permits include 1,465 for new
homes and 711 to raise homes. The
state wants another 44 homes it deems
Township tax records indicate that
440 Ortley Beach homes (out of 2,500
total homes) remain vacant, and 506
lots where homes once stood are empty;
many are just a block from the beach.
According to a document obtained
from township officials, the situation
would have been much worse if not for
the state grant program that pumped
$137 million into Toms River to raise
homes above flood level. The document
acknowledges issues with the quality
of the work performed by private contractors and delays from the state. Still,
Trevor Newman, the township’s Sandy
coordinator, credits the grant program
with providing funds to residents
“who, without it, would no doubt have
Eugene Cassidy, 71, who has owned
a home in Ortley Beach for 40 years, is
ineligible for those grants because he
is not a year-round resident. He lives
in Edison and spends his summers in
Ortley with his wife, Alyce.
“If I was 20 years younger, I would
spend the money to raise the house,” he
says. Raising the house would run an
estimated $50,000—twice what he paid
for it. But Cassidy might have no choice.
He claims he received a letter from
Toms River officials stating that they
could withhold construction permits if
he did not elevate the home.
ELIZE VOLANTE DRIVES THROUGH
Union Beach now and then to see what
progress has been made.
“Everyone has garages now, and some
people have balconies,” she says of her
former neighbors who have restored
or rebuilt. “A lot of the local businesses
don’t look like they’ve come back.”
Volante’s children, ages 5 to 9, still
ask when they can go home again.
Although it breaks her heart, she has
to tell them they won’t be returning to
Union Beach. ■
Matthew McGrath is a freelance writer and
editor and publisher of the Keyport Anchor,
a website serving the Bayshore area.
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