Trade group leader reflects on Sandy anniversary

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Melissa Danko was relieved to see an end to Tuesday’s workday.

The one-year anniversary of Hurricane Sandy brought with it a flurry of phone calls and emails from news outlets anxious to recap the year after the storm that devastated the marine industry. As executive director of the Marine Trades Association of New Jersey, Danko was an obvious source for reporters looking to see where the industry is a year after the storm, which caused $650 million in damage to boats and sank 1,400.

“I am definitely personally looking forward to getting past it,” Danko told Trade Only Today on Tuesday. “It’s just very emotional.”

Danko has been neck-deep in helping the marine industry recover in New Jersey since the storm struck a year ago Tuesday.

She has talked to state and federal agencies on behalf of destroyed boat dealerships and marinas, tried to help expedite the permitting process for those needing to rebuild and shot videos during chilly March weather to ease boaters’ minds about debris in waterways.

The challenges are ongoing.

“I fought long and hard with the [Economic Development Authority] because [the Department of Housing and Urban Development] found a loophole preventing giving money to marinas, so we lobbied pretty hard to fix that and they did,” Danko said of her most recent ongoing challenge.

“We’re still going through that now. I think I know of two marinas that have been given grants and there are 80 applicants. One marina is still being asked for information by the [Small Business Administration] and it’s been almost a year. Those are the parts of the storm recovery that get challenging.”

Danko says putting the one-year anniversary behind her will allow her to focus on the future instead of the past.

“For me and other people I know, we just want to move on and move forward,” Danko said. “There are daily reminders of Hurricane Sandy everywhere, whether it be through work or on a personal level. It has dwindled a little over the past few months, and it would be nice to get to the point where we’re not all dealing with a piece of Hurricane Sandy.”

“We’ve seen some amazing things over the year,” Danko added. “So many people have rebuilt, and it’s hard because you want to look at the successes of those who have overcome the storm, but you also don’t want to overlook those who are still having a hard time.”

— Reagan Haynes

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