Coronavirus NJ: Should people be allowed to hunker down in second homes at Shore?
There wasn’t much love last week in one Jersey Shore Facebook group. It has over 2000 members and my guess is that about half are year-round residents and the
other half either own second homes ( like me) or just like to vacation at the shore.
It is usually a friendly group of people who share photos of sunsets and surfers but a huge debate broke out after someone posted an article that officials from Cape May County were asking people not to come to the county. This resulted in bashing a New York City resident who visited there recently and later tested positive for the virus.
Many permanent residents (and a few mayors) are urging second home owners to stay away. Never mind if they stock their car before they leave and agree to follow all the virus guidelines once they arrive. The second homeowners argued that this was still a free country and they had a right to use their homes — and they pay a lot of taxes all year round. Some locals defended them.
many of whom work in service industries, and the second home owners. Some locals posted that they wanted New Jersey Gov. Murphy to “close the bridges” and ban access to various islands. (On Saturday, Murphy urged people not to go to second homes at the Jersey Shore, saying the Shore towns weren’t prepared for the influx.) Residents from counties “up north” (like Bergen County) that have more cases than the Shore were also getting randomly attacked.
Someone I know who lives on Barnegat Bay Island tweeted about staying put on the island because all the cases were “over the bridge.” As if the virus can’t enter via a delivery person or a stock clerk or cashier who lives “off island”
Another similar argument about second home owners staying away broke out in another Shore Facebook group. Also debated was the Seaside Heights mayor’s decision to keep open the boardwalk. All arcades and amusements are closed and restaurants are take out only. The discussion really made this Jersey Girl want a slice of that great boardwalk pizza.
I totally get the urge to flee. I live in Manhattan and attended an emergency planning meeting in my building on March 15. I walked out scared, knowing this was going to be bad. I have a small bungalow at the Jersey Shore and was tempted to leave. I’m not wealthy at all. I inherited this cozy cottage when my mother died and I co-own with two siblings.
The beach house is still closed for the winter, although it’s not a big deal to turn the utilities back on. But it’s actually smaller than my one-bedroom apartment and I don’t have a car. (I go by train and use my bike when there). Even under normal circumstances, there’s little to do on this island in the off-season with few people around. I’d be bored out of my mind, so I decided to stay at home in New York.
Almost everything is shuttered here but I can still go for a walk and talk to my neighbors from a safe distance. I live in a large building with over 400 apartments and many senior citizens. I’m over 60 but I’m in good shape, so I volunteered to be a floor captain in my building. I'll get groceries or meds for anyone who needs help. This makes me feel useful.
What I sensed from these heated Facebook discussions is that people who live at the Jersey Shore are fearful and looking to barricade themselves in. They are also looking for a scapegoat. There was always tension between year rounders and summer people aka “the bennies,” but the virus has exacerbated it.
If someone is healthy, I think they should be able to drive to their summer home and hole up there, practicing the precautions as they'd do elsewhere. They should not have to ask permission in a Facebook group as did one considerate man. When all this is over, we will still be summer neighbors at the Jersey Shore. But maybe we won’t be speaking to each other.