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Recovering from Hurricane Sandy

November 2, 2012

This past Monday and Tuesday, New Jersey was turned upside down. By now, we’ve had a few days to absorb the

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accounts and images of loss and devastation that are pouring out of the Garden State and its neighbors all along the east coast, but that doesn’t make them any easier to take.

As for historic resources, the storm’s impact will take weeks to catalog, but thus far, is unsurprisingly varied. Cape May escaped largely unscathed, and in Wildwood Crest, landmarks like the Caribbean Motel report only very minor roof damage. On the other end of the spectrum, most everyone is aware by now that Seaside Heights’ historic boardwalk was literally obliterated, and the restored Jersey City Terminal in Liberty State Park was inundated with flood waters and winds that took out windows and destroyed exhibits. And with so many people still without electricity, reports from much of the state are slow in coming.

With the help of the New Jersey Historic Preservation Office, PNJ has compiled a list of helpful resources for anyone dealing with the recovery needs of historic properties. Highlights include the National Trust for Historic Preservation‘s resources for homeowners,  the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation‘s list of Federal-level financial assistance for historic preservation projects, and an array of sources of advice on the physical repair of damaged historic properties.

As the shock of Sandy’s impact wears off, and the reality of recovery begins, we preservationists will have a lot of work to do. It will be up to all of us to remind those impacted and those in charge of recovery efforts that historic properties provide opportunities for retaining a community’s identity “before the storm,” that demolition is rarely cheaper than repair, that federal assistance triggers Section 106 review, and so on.

Here at PNJ, New Jersey’s communities and their heritage are our reason for being– the unique sense of place that allows so many worldwide to identify with the loss we’re experiencing right now is the reason we  do what we do. We believe that the visions people get when someone says “Atlantic City” or “Ellis Island” or “the Jersey shore,” and the completely unique environments and experiences places like these offer, are vital to our society, and must be protected. And while there is no preservation ordinance, no grant program, no amount of advocacy that can prevent disasters such as Hurricane Sandy and the damage they cause, there are countless daily, preventable threats to historic places that we can- and will- continue to address, with your help.

Disasters like what we’ve just experienced will always take away irreplaceable historic resources. We can’t prevent these losses, but we can help to mitigate how much they take, both by getting involved and being proactive preservation advocates in the immediate aftermath, and ensuring the lessons learned translate into implementation of the best possible long-term disaster preparedness plans for our historic places.

PNJ wishes New Jerseyans and everyone affected a speedy recovery from Hurricane Sandy, and stands ready to help however we can. We’re here for you, and the places you care about.

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