— U.S. President Barack Obama says New Jersey’s coastal areas are “back in business” seven months after the eastern state was devastated by Hurricane Sandy.
Touring parts of the shoreline on Tuesday with the state’s Republican governor Chris Christie, the president visited several newly rebuilt seaside resort towns and played carnival games as he highlighted the recovery that has taken place with the help of the federal government.
The summer tourist season began last week in the Garden State, where tourism is estimated to be a $40 billion a year industry. The state has launched a $25 million marketing campaign to lure visitors to its beaches.
On the boardwalk in Asbury Park, Obama recognized the progress that made it possible for the shops, arcades and food stands to reopen.
U.S. President Barack Obama hands off a teddy bear that was won at an arcade game he played alongside New Jersey Governor Chris Christie on the boardwalk, Point Pleasant, New Jersey, May 28, 2013.
U.S. President Barack Obama and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie walk along the boardwalk, Point Pleasant, New Jersey, May 28, 2013.
U.S. President Barack Obama, accompanied by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, plays the 'Touch Down Fever' game on the boardwalk, Point Pleasant, New Jersey, May 28, 2013.
U.S. President Barack Obama meets greeters upon his arrival at McGuire Air Force base in New Jersey, May 28, 2013.
U.S. President Barack Obama hugs a guest on the tarmac after stepping off Air Force One at McGuire Air Force Base, New Jersey, May 28, 2013.
“And I saw what thousands of Americans saw over Memorial Day weekend: You are stronger than the storm," he said. "After all you have dealt with, after all you have been through, the Jersey Shore is back, and it is open for business.”
The storm caused $38 billion in damage in New Jersey, and a substantial amount in nearby New York. Many more homes and businesses have yet to be rebuilt, and the president pledged that more help is coming from Washington.
“We do not want them to think that somehow we checked a box and we moved on," he said. "That is part of the reason I came back: To let people know we are going to keep on going until we finish. But if anybody wondered whether the Shore could be alright again, you got your answer this weekend.”
Governor Christie, a Republican in a largely Democratic state, was criticized within his own party last year for expressing gratitude to Obama for the federal response to the storm. Christie Tuesday said that kind of bipartisan cooperation is driving the resurgence of the Jersey Shore.
“Everybody came together — Republicans, Democrats, independents. We all came together because New Jersey is more important, and our citizens’ lives are more important than any kind of politics at all.”
With Congress on recess, Obama’s visit focused attention on the often-praised Federal Emergency Management Agency, and away from controversies at the Internal Revenue Service and the Justice Department.
Christie is frequently mentioned as a possible GOP presidential candidate in 2016, despite the criticism from more conservative members of the party.