Marine trade associations forming Sandy recovery plan
Nobody expected the level of destruction brought by Hurricane Sandy, but as electricity slowly turns back on, marine trade associations are hard at work trying to accumulate resources for their members.
The super storm, which caused heaviest destruction in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, was above anyone’s expectations, but directors of marine trade associations in those states agree there was nothing they could have done.
“Nobody was prepared for what we woke up to Tuesday morning,” said Melissa Danko, executive director of the Marine Trades Association of New Jersey. “We all worked hard to prepare, but it was something you could not avoid.”
Chris Squeri, executive director of the New York Marine Trades Association, hoped the cooler autumn waters would suppress the tidal surge. However, that was not the case and coastal marinas were wiped out. On Staten Island for example, Squeri said one marina is left standing.
“The tidal surge really got us; you hope this is a once-in-a-lifetime storm,” he said.
For an industry finally showing strength after the recession, the timing was unfortunate.
In Connecticut, for example, the state’s largest boat show takes place in January, and it is an opportunity to take advantage of pent-up demand caused by the recession. Grant Westerson, president of the Connecticut Marine Trades Association, said it would be important to have some normalcy by then to capitalize.
“We need to take care of our customers through the winter. We will lose momentum otherwise,” Westerson said. “The last thing we want to do is give somebody a reason to go golf instead.”
Trade associations agree many will need assistance in their recovery. To begin this effort, a recent conference call with the National Marine Manufacturers Association was held to organize relief efforts.
Westerson said FEMA has begun to mobilize in his state, where five offices have opened since the storm.
In New Jersey, Danko said she has been speaking with state officials and its local Small Business Administration to look for grant funding and long-term loan assistance. She has also updated the trade association’s website (www.mtanj.org) as more information comes in.
In New Jersey, New York and Connecticut, the Department of Environmental Protection has already issued waivers to allow people to start rebuilding their facilities.
Squeri said long-term loans and grant assistance would be necessary for many marina operators to bounce back.
“These marina operators are regular people, you do not see a lot of them as millionaires,” Squeri said. “They are working hard everyday, and this industry in the northeast is going to need a bailout.