Sandy was without a doubt the most destructive storm to hit New Jersey in modern times, causing dozens of deaths, damaging or destroying nearly 350,000 buildings, and leaving 2.7 million residents in the dark. Official estimates put statewide losses at around $37 billion, but one recent study speculated that once factors like loss of economic activity and tourism dollars, borrowing costs, infrastructure repairs, and storm mitigation are taken into account, the cost could rise billions or even tens of billions higher.
New Jersey’s 127 miles of coastline contain billions of dollars of real estate, and they’re the source of tens of thousands of seasonal jobs and a $19 billion tourism industry, so rebuilding the shore as quickly as possible was seen as an imperative by many residents and business owners. On the one hand, the Christie administration has done all it can to expedite that endeavor, waiving standard permitting processes and minimizing interference from Trenton. It has also opted to leave important rebuilding decisions up to local municipalities, despite complaints and warnings from environmentalists and planners who call for more regional-based, long-term planning that takes future storms into account. On the other hand, even with the hurry-up-and-build approach, the Jersey Shore still has a long way to go to get back to normal.