News Column

Obama, Christie to Reunite on the Jersey Shore

May 24, 2013

Herb Jackson, Melissa Hayes

President Obama and Chris Christie in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.
President Obama and Chris Christie in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.

President Obama will tour the Jersey Shore with Governor Christie on Tuesday, capping an extended Memorial Day weekend that already had the governor opening a new Atlantic City casino and features live network coverage this morning of the reopening of the boardwalk in Seaside Heights.

The White House did not release Obama's itinerary for the visit, but said he would view Sandy recovery efforts and talk about "expanding economic opportunity for families hit by the storm."

Christie and Obama viewed the damage Superstorm Sandy did to the Shore by helicopter on Oct. 31 before visiting an Atlantic City shelter and then walking together through a battered boatyard in Brigantine, where they promised the state would bounce back.

The close relationship and mutual praise expressed by Republican Christie and Democrat Obama came just days before the presidential election, and Christie took heat from his party over perceived damage to presidential challenger Mitt Romney.

Now Christie is seeking reelection, and his schedule is dominated by events meant to demonstrate the state is on the mend.

Christie's Democratic opponent, state Sen. Barbara Buono, plans to attend several Memorial Day parades on Saturday, including Bergenfield's. She also is expected to attend a street fair along Cedar Lane in Teaneck.

NBC's "Today" show is planning a live broadcast from Seaside Heights this morning as Christie cuts a ribbon to open the boardwalk, a ribbon that could break the Guinness World Record for the longest.

The event follows his visit to the opening of Margaritaville at Resorts Casino in Atlantic City on Thursday.

"I am thrilled that we're here on Memorial Day weekend ready to see this new, great era open here in Atlantic City," said Christie, who attended the project's groundbreaking last July with Margaritaville founder and musician Jimmy Buffett.

Christie has spent the last seven months touring the storm damage and putting a spotlight on the recovery to encourage tourists to return this summer, but he has been invested in Atlantic City's rebirth since taking office more than three years ago.

Christie said he will continue to stand by his five-year commitment to reinvigorate a city that has done so much for the state in terms of revenue and tourism.

Margaritaville hired 600 people and officially opens today.

The redesign includes a 14,000-square-foot Margaritaville bar and restaurant; the 8,000-square-foot LandShark Bar & Grill, which will be the only boardwalk restaurant open year-round; the 5 O'Clock Somewhere Bar on the casino floor with "flair bartenders" who perform as they pour drinks; the first-ever Margaritaville Coffee Shop; and 160 slot machines and 12 Margaritaville-themed table games.

New beginning

The governor said Sandy, which destroyed homes and businesses, carried stretches of boardwalk out to sea and left thousands homeless, presented the state with an opportunity to "hit the reset button" in some places. Although the casinos were not severely damaged, Christie said the rebuilding of the Shore presents an opportunity for a new beginning for Atlantic City.

"Atlantic City can help to contribute to the image of New Jersey being stronger and tougher, but at the same time fun and enjoyable as well," he said.

The state has seen large declines in casino revenue in recent years because of the recession, but also because of gaming establishments opening in New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Delaware.

At the ribbon-cutting, officials from Resorts and the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority, which assumed management of the casino last fall, said the addition of Margaritaville will serve as a catalyst to rejuvenate the city.

Resorts first brought gaming to Atlantic City 35 years ago and invested $70 million to renovate its facility, including the $35 million spent branding it as Margaritaville.

"This is going to be a spectacular success," Resorts Casino Hotel owner Morris Bailey said. "It's going to bring new people here and it's going to create, I hope, the momentum to reconvert Atlantic City to the fun, to the boardwalk, to the beach -- to a casual, fun place to be. I think that's going to happen, it's happening now."

The state's effort to recover from Sandy is getting a huge boost from the federal government. Obama signed a $60 billion disaster aid package that Christie and members of Congress in the region from both parties lobbied hard for in January.

In addition to refilling disaster and flood insurance funds that would not have had enough money to pay victims the kind of aid the federal government provides for every major disaster, the bill also provided billions for flexible grants to rebuild New Jersey and New York and strengthen beaches and transportation systems to better withstand storms.

(c) 2013 Record, The; Bergen County, N.J.. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.




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Source: Copyright Record, The; Bergen County, N.J. 2013


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