Hurricane Sandy Update: Lavallette And Ortley Beach

I spoke with Joe Barcellona by phone this week, and he told me that like most, they are waiting for the insurance company red tape to unravel. After months of claim denials, Barcellona is understandably exhausted about talking on the subject. “There is truly not a lot to say about when we’ll be up and running at this point. Honestly, we’re trying to get back into operating mode, but the damage and the waiting have been pretty extensive.”

While he couldn’t really go into detail due to ongoing legal battles with their New Jersey insurance company, he did say that they are doing everything they can to put the pieces back together. “The business has been here for over 40 years, and we obviously would like to continue to serve the community, but right now we’re trying to get our personal living arrangements back in play [the Barcellonas also have a residence that was damaged] as well as cooperating with the township in rebuilding the beach.”

The Barcellona family is one of the few who have demonstrated swift cooperation by being one of the first five (there are 36 requests) to assign their easement rights to the Township of Toms River. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will undertake the dune rebuilding work for that project. There are apparently several holdouts that allegedly have more concern for their property value and ocean view than for preventing a repeat of this type of tragedy.

Unyielding insurance companies seem to be the biggest problem facing business and homeowners in New Jersey, and this should be a concern of everyone, including our governor. Many of those insurance companies are located within the state and are causing great trouble when it comes to giving people the peace of mind that they paid for. Barcellona’s insurance company is alluding to the fact that because his damage was from water and not wind, they are not responsible for payment.

The Surf Club recently held a rally on June 1 to “Save The Surf Club,” an event that was attended by several hundred people of like mind and good intentions. But the fact remains, the Surf Club is still falling into the ocean, and there’s nothing that can be done until the money changers loosen their purse-string grips.

As of this writing, Joey Harrison’s Surf Club remains in the same state it was the day after the storm.

I also spoke with Lavallette native Colie Brice. Brice is an industry veteran that logged time with PolyGram as well as a seat on the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences Preservation Committee before he switched gears and spent time in the pop metal group Phantom’s Opera. He also started his own record company, AERIA Records, with distribution through Universal. The Brice family home was located right on the beach in Lavallette.

Like so many others, the Brice family was deeply affected by Sandy. Brice tells me, “Some local folks may recall that I moved up to Eastport, Maine last summer. Though excited to move into our new home, I had left with a heavy heart. The Jersey Shore had always been my home and even under favorable circumstances, it can be beyond difficult and painful to leave loved ones and favorite places behind.

Anyway, one day after a few months of settling in, I observed the growing storm online and my anxiety grew. I knew my father, uncle, brothers and cousins would stay and ride it out. My family has a seven-generation history of firefighting up and down the Jersey coastline, and I knew they wouldn’t abandon their post. But I could also see that this storm was different and potentially deadly. Still, they could not be convinced to leave.

In classic clamdigger tradition, there was a BBQ and revelry as the storm hit. There was probably a lot of backslapping, beer drinking and less than diplomatic remarks about “Bennies” as the rain and wind pounded the beach. Somehow, the crazy S.O.B.’s survived when the ocean met the bay in my father’s living room. Before the tides receded, 96 Coleman Lane in Lavallette, NJ, had been both oceanfront and bay front all at once. I felt guilty and helpless; my gut instinct was to be at my father’s side.

In any case, I did what I could and organized a modest benefit up in Eastport at the Rose Garden, an original music café owned by folks originally from the Jersey Shore. We raised $1,000, which we sent to the Monmouth County Food Bank. We had wanted to donate it directly to the Lavallette Fire Company, but there was literally no post office to send it to.

I just came back this past week to visit and survey the damage. My throat went dry just looking at 45 years of memories just shattered by the sea. My dad’s house is still decimated, but progress is being made. My great-grandfather built it tough and sturdy, just like my dad. We’ll get through it.

In my heart, I always knew this would happen one day, and my greatest hope is that this event will inspire some genuine humility. Like it or not, we humans do seriously impact the environment. Going forward, I hope we can keep that in mind and try to live more respectfully on this planet—both towards each other and the Earth itself. Absolutely everything is at stake.”

If you have a Hurricane Sandy story, please email me at