SEASIDE HEIGHTS — Vice President Joe Biden visited storm-wrecked parts of New Jersey on Sunday and reassured residents that the federal government won’t abandon them after the spotlight fades from Hurricane Sandy.
Biden, a Scranton, Pa., native who spent summers at the Jersey Shore as a boy and still visits family who own homes there, stopped on the boardwalk in Seaside Heights to say he’s “a homeboy” who understands the need to rebuild the shore. Later, at the Hoboken Terminal, Biden said the storm brought an opportunity to rebuild public transit infrastructure that’s stronger and more modern for the next century.
“We’re not going anywhere,” he said. “This is a national responsibility, not a local responsibility. I promise you, President (Barack) Obama and I are committed to helping.”
Later, in remarks at the Hoboken PATH station, which remains out of service since the storm flooded it, he spoke of New Jersey residents’ resilience.
“I am absolutely confident with the grit of the people of this state, we’re going to come back better,” he said. “But it’s going to be tough in the meantime.”
Biden, who flew along the coastline surveying damages from Belmar to Island Beach State Park, then walked the beach and visited a firehouse in Seaside Heights, is the latest White House official to tour the storm wreckage. Obama was in Atlantic City the week of the storm and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano made her second visit to the state Friday.
“If you’re not an easterner, it’s hard to understand that the ocean is like the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone Park and everything else combined,” he said. “It’s a gigantic part of not only our economy but who we are.”
Republican Gov. Chris Christie has not yet given a preliminary damage assessment, but Biden warned that the rebuilding will be expensive and time-consuming. He said he had “a long conversation” with Christie while planning the trip.
“It’s about convincing the other members of Congress of the severity of this and what really needs to be done,” said Republican Rep. Jon Runyan, one of several officials traveling with Biden on Sunday. Others included Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno and Democratic Sens. Frank Lautenberg and Bob Menendez.
In Hoboken, Biden saw blown-up photographs of the flooded rail terminal and walked along a platform as officials explained what’s required to get the station humming again.
Then the vice president made two unscheduled stops, at Benny Tudino’s pizzeria on Washington Street and at Hudson Tavern, which is owned by Tom Brennan, the brother of Obama’s national security adviser, John Brennan. There, he met and greeted patrons at the establishment — closed for 12 days after the storm because of flooding — but didn’t eat or drink.