Parts of New Jersey are still struggling to recover after Hurricane Sandy tore through six months ago and, as a result, some marine businesses continue to take a hit. After scrambling to get things back up and running, boat businesses are facing a new challenge.
After hearing about all the debris littering New Jersey waterways, boat dealers and marina owners are reporting that customers are too worried to boat this season. So members of the Marine Trades Association of New Jersey decided to address the issue firsthand.
The group decided to prove waterways were once again navigable by shooting videos while boating on waterways around the state.
Click play to watch.
“We pretty much spent all winter getting our facilities up and running so we could be ready for the spring,” Don Ditzel, of Comstock Yacht Sales and Marina in Brick, N.J., and vice president of the MTA/NJ, told Trade Only Today. “We do not want to sit here saying everything was fine if it wasn’t, so the only way to prove it was fine was to go boating and freeze.”
Gov. Chris Christie, known and often respected for his outspokenness, had emphasized the debris during some public meetings, Ditzel told Trade Only.
“I don’t know if they were scare tactics, but it almost put boating in New Jersey as a wash this season,” Ditzel said. “We wanted to say kind of the opposite. We’ve been boating since early March and we’ve encountered no issues. I personally think these facts were coming out to push for more federal aid to our area, which is fine. It’s just that it would negatively affect my business, as well as many others in the area, by people either boating or not boating.”
Small businesses, including those focused on the marine industry, are still struggling in many parts of the state, said MTA/NJ executive director Melissa Danko.
“It’s been a hard six months for everyone here and it’s still hard, so we just wanted to have something positive to show people,” Danko told Trade Only. “A lot of people lost homes entirely. It’s still very raw here, especially along the coast. Our members were getting more and more calls from customers asking, ‘What’s in the waterways? Are they safe?’ ”
Danko says the group has been working closely with state departments and knew the work was being done, but the word wasn’t getting out to boaters.
“We gave information at boat shows, but I don’t think any of us felt like it was enough,” Danko said. “We all just realized we needed to do something more, get out on waterways ourselves, get someone to take video and it all sort of evolved from there.”
Some channels are cleaner now than they were before the storm.
“Even things that have been in the water for years are getting cleaned up,” Danko said. “That’s a message we’ve been trying to publicize.”
Hopefully, there is aid on the way for some of the affected businesses, Danko said.
“We’re still fighting really hard to get businesses money,” Danko said Monday afternoon. “The federal government just released $50,000 in business grants and low-interest loans. That’s really good. We just have not seen a lot of money for businesses yet.”
— Reagan Haynes