Jersey Shore Readies for the Official Start of the Season
By Bari Faye Siegel
With Memorial Day, the official start to the opening of the Jersey Shore, only days away, Seaside Heights – minus one iconic roller coaster – is ready for business.
Weeks Marine began dismantling Seaside Heights’ JetStar roller coaster in the early morning hours of May 14. By mid afternoon the following day, the tangled debris – except for a few pieces saved upon request by owner Casino Pier – were hauled off to the company’s yard in Jersey City to be disposed as scrap, according to Weeks Marine Project Manager Tom O’Donnell.
The JetStar became a mangled pile of metal after it was left in the crashing waves when Sandy took out its foundation, the beloved Casino Pier amusement park. In the months since the Halloween storm, the wreckage became a magnet for photographers and “adventurists” – some who tried to walk on the twisted debris and one who even managed to plant a flag, said O’Donnell.
The coaster became a dangerous hazard that had to go, he added. “The mayor and the people of Seaside felt it was time. They knew with the coming of the season, people could really get hurt out there.”
The coaster may be gone but the lion’s share of the project – removing the end of the pier that is now underwater – won’t be completed until Labor Day.
Weeks Marine signed the contract to remove the JetStar with property owner Casino Pier in April. O’Donnell, who also served as the estimator on this bid, said his company didn’t win the job at first, but Casino Pier was unable to come to agreement with the lowest bidder and called on Weeks Marine a month ago. Since then, he said, timing has been the biggest obstacle.
“We needed the perfect weather window to make sure we could get our barges to the right spot since we had to work in what we knew could be very dangerous conditions,” he said. “We were waiting and waiting for a weather window. The winds blowing from the East makes it rough to handle a job like that so we were forced to wait for a westerly wind. Finally, we got our window.”
As it turned out, the team got the go-ahead on the very same day England’s Prince Harry happened to be in town. All eyes around the world were on Seaside Heights as Weeks Marine’s crews dismantled the structure, beginning in the early morning hours of Tuesday, May 14. The following day the wreckage had already been hauled away.
“Every one was very thankful the job was able to be completed before Memorial Day,” O’Donnell added.
The most dangerous aspect of Weeks Marine’s job in Seaside Heights, however, still lies ahead. The project manager confirmed that the remaining work – removing the end of the pier that is now underwater – is, by far, the biggest part of the project. “We plan to build a temporary trestle and start removing the pier right after Memorial Day. We will work through the summer and hope to have the job finished by Labor Day.”
Weeks Marine is no stranger to difficult working conditions. The company, whose strength, said O’Donnell, is in “the amount of equipment, the size of equipment and ability to mobilize quickly,” has been on the scene of many of history’s most recent disasters.
Cranes and barges emblazoned with the Weeks Marine logo hauled debris away from the World Trade Center after the Sept. 11 attacks, lifted the US Airways plane, landed by Capt. Chesley Sullenberger, from the Hudson River, carried NASA’s Space Shuttle Enterprise from John F. Kennedy Airport to the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum and sent hundreds of old New York City subway cars to the bottom of the ocean as a manmade reef.
Thinking about his team’s most recent success on the Jersey Shore, O’Donnell was quick to say: “It feels good to have been part of this process. We know removing the JetStar is a step toward restoration and toward the shore getting back to normal. People see the rebuilding going on and everybody wants that. It feels good to be a part of that.”