McClellan working to get Ocean City’s 2nd Ward up and running after Sandy

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OCEAN CITY — It’s often noted that the damage from Hurricane Sandy could have been a lot worse. If the eye of the storm had passed a bit farther south or if the wind hadn’t shifted before the second high tide or if the storm had lingered much longer, Ocean City would have suffered a lot more damage.

However, for residents of the city’s hard-hit 2nd Ward, from the south side of Fourth Street to the north side of 12th Street, the notion falls a little flat. Many residents were flooded out and remain scattered across the island and in neighboring communities as city officials and landlords work through issues with state bureaucracy and insurance companies.

Low-lying bayfront areas across the island were flooded, but the 2nd Ward, home to the city’s downtown and a lot of older construction, took the brunt. 

Councilman Antwan McClellan knows first-hand the devastation wrought by Sandy. His home in the 400 block of West Avenue; law office, Slater and Tartaglia on the corner of Third Street and West Avenue; and church, Shiloh Baptist on the corner of Seventh Street and Simpson Avenue, were all under water.

“Everywhere I looked, there was water,” 2nd Ward representative McClellan said. “I understand how my constituents feel; I know what they are going through. It’s definitely not easy.”

McClellan found housing at 28th Street, but has to be out by the summer rental season, and like most of the displaced, he hopes his home is finished by the deadline. His law office recently reopened after working off the island for a few months. Shiloh Baptist, he said, which had four feet of water on the first floor, remains a work in progress.

“The most important thing for me is to get the families back into Peck’s Beach Village,” he said.

The low income housing project spread out between Third and Fifth streets and Haven and Simpson avenues was severely flooded.

“We’re hoping that the first group of families can get in by the end of the month,” he said.

The next round, he said, could be in mid-February. McClellan said city officials have worked closely and diligently with state public housing officials to make that happen.

“They are progressing pretty well,” he said. “It looks like it’s going to happen very soon and it’s going to be very nice.”

Each of the units will sport a brand new kitchen, and new flooring and walls on the first floor.

“The city had to make sure that they were doing what was right by the state housing authority,” he said.

Residents of the units are now scattered at the Watson’s Regency, the Port-O-Call and the Biscayne.

Families in low-lying housing are also on his mind he said. Many lost everything and struggle as they try to move forward.
“I have been contacted by a couple of families who did not have any insurance,” he said.

The biggest “savior,” McClellan said, has been the non-profit OCNJ CARE, a nonprofit formed to help in the clean-up, repair and recovery process for both residents and the downtown.

“It’s been incredible, just unbelievable how much they have helped everyone,” he said. “The downtown had such hardship. Every one of the stores had water in them. Though most of the stores are back on their feet, a lot are still struggling.

“OCNJ CARE and a lot of people, including the chamber of commerce, made sure that the downtown had a Christmas parade and that Santa came, and that as many stores as possible were able to reopen in time for Christmas,” he said. “They did a heck of a job.

“This winter we are continuing to try to get everyone back on their feet so by the spring we have everyone up and running.”

McClellan said he hopes the downtown is complete by sometime this spring, Memorial Day at the latest.

“They will be rebuilding for a while yet,” he said.

The Food Cupboard, he said, did a wonderful job of helping to feed displaced residents, but its relocation to the Civic Center, which hosts a slew of youth and adult recreation programs, presented another challenge.

“So on one hand the Food Cupboard was helping us, but then we had a lot of kids who missed, and needed, the recreation,” he said. “We had to find room at the high school and intermediate school, it all worked out, but it was nice to see that the Food Cupboard could get back into St. Peter’s and we could have the Civic Center to use again. Every time we fixed one problem we came across another.”

McClellan, in his first term on City Council, said he did not expect to face such problems when he ran for office. The devastation from Sandy has been challenging. Yet he ran for office to help people, so it comes with the territory, he said. It was, he said, baptism by flooding.

“Everywhere I turned in those first few weeks there was a problem,” he said. “It shows you what type of city we have because everywhere I turned for help, someone was there to try and help. The city workers and the volunteers kept going, everyone was trying to help.

“My goal is to get everyone who is off the island because of the storm back on the island,” he said.

Some of the landlords, he said, are running into insurance issues getting apartments fixed. Buildings are languishing, waiting for solutions, making it difficult for displaced families to return.

“It’s always been a problem finding year-round rentals, now it’s a very big challenge,” he said. “So if we don’t get some of these places fixed and they can’t be rented soon, we’re going to have to do something. We need to get these people back; we need to find some places for them.

“There is a lot of uncertainty, we just don’t know,” he said.

All in all, McClellan said he feels “blessed,” despite the flooding.
“To have had all of this to deal with, and to have had so much help from my city, yes, I feel very blessed,” he said. “If we can get the downtown fully operating by spring and get all of the families back home, where they belong, it would be great.”

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