NORTH WILDWOOD — Gov. Chris Christie roamed the Boardwalk, thanking visitors from places such as Brooklyn and Philadelphia for coming to the Wildwoods on Tuesday.
But he acknowledged that despite the state’s “Stronger Than the Storm” advertising campaign, the summer season in the Garden State has not been stellar.
“I always thought it was going to be a two-year process,” Christie told North Wildwood Mayor Bill Henfey, owner of a sightseeing boat business in town.
“We knew this summer wasn’t going to be like the summer of 2012,” Christie said.
Prior to his visit to the resort, Christie’s office issued a news release featuring the phrase “’cause down the shore everything’s all right.”
The lyrics, taken from the song “Jersey Girl,” weren’t intended to mean all remnants of Hurricane Sandy had vanished, Christie said.
“Do you really think what we meant is ‘Everything is all right everywhere?’” he asked in response to a reporter’s question. “We don’t think everything’s all right. It’s a lot better than it was in November, and a lot better than people thought it would be.”
The North Wildwood stop is one of several the Republican governor, who is running for re-election in November against Democratic state Sen. Barbara Buono, is making this week in a pre-Labor Day weekend push to draw attention to the state.
On Tuesday, he focused in part on the cleanup after Hurricane Sandy, noting that 96,000 cubic yards of debris had been cleared from the state’s waterways and some 275 marinas readied since the Oct. 29 storm.
“After Hurricane Sandy, there were lots of people who thought we weren’t going to have a summer at the shore,” Christie said.
But he credited the state and its residents with making significant progress in the last nine months.
“We know that the first key is clean water and clean beaches,” he said.
Christie said that the state still has thousands of people struggling with the aftermath of the storm, which destroyed 365,000 homes, and that work continues.
The hurricane he said, also left the state better prepared to deal with the next storm that should come this way, but significant projects, including the repair and replacement of existing dune systems and the creation of new dunes, are needed to protect the state’s people and property.
North Wildwood, for instance, has received $3.2 million in FEMA funds to replenish its beach and dunes.
Sandy, Christie said, did teach valuable lessons, including the vulnerabilities of the state’s electrical grids, the need to evacuate when officials make that determination and the need to strengthen the dunes.
He said it would take at least two summers to ready the dunes around the state, and he urged the approximately 1,100 homeowners who have not signed easements that would allow for new dunes by the Army Corps of Engineers along the shoreline to allow their construction.
Christie singled out Assemblyman John McKeon, D-Essex, Morris, one of the homeowners yet to sign off on the dunes, calling him selfish.
“If it hurts your view, go to the second floor,” Christie said of opposition to the dunes.
After taking questions from the media, Christie walked down Surfside Pier and several blocks of the Boardwalk taking pictures, shaking hands and answering questions.
Egg Harbor Township resident Ria Pierelli, owner of Route 66 restaurant in Wildwood, asked the governor about any incentives for business owners struggling after Sandy.
She said she knows some business owners are going out of business as a result of Sandy.
Pierelli said the conversation with the governor was positive.
“He took my number and will contact me,” she said.
Christie said that while the state has learned from Sandy he hopes New Jersey will be spared any more major storms.
“I’ve got my fingers crossed that we don’t have anything big between now and October,” Christie said.
Also Tuesday, Christie said he had been reading reports about the hundreds of dolphin deaths reported along the coast this year, but he had not received any special briefings on the topic.
Christie also said the opening of a Scores strip club inside Atlantic City’s Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort would not change efforts to appeal to families.
“I assume most people like me wouldn’t bring their kids,” he said.
Christie said that while he wouldn’t be patronizing the new club, others may want to go.
Contact Trudi Gilfillian: