Claude Brodesser-Ankner | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
BELMAR — On the second anniversary of Hurricane Sandy, a crowd of 350 people stood at the intersection of 7th and Main Street under a mix of sun and clouds. This time, though, a new weather system had blown in: Hurricane Christie, the governor who brooks no hecklers. When Jim Keady, annoyed at the pace of storm recovery, interrupted Gov. Chris Christie’s speech to Belmar reisdents several times, the often combative governor told him: “Sit down and shut up.”
As Christie began to speak, Keady, who runs an advocacy organization called Finish the Job, held a sign and shouted: “Do your job!”
“Yeah, you do yours, too, buddy,” Chrisite shot back, and continued speaking.
But the heckler wasn’t standing down, and continued his tirade.
“Now, you all know me,” said Christie. “So if we’re going to get into a debate here today, it’s going to get very interesting and very fun.”
He wasn’t kidding.
“I’ll be more than happy to have a debate with you anytime you like, guy, because somebody like you doesn’t know a damn thing about what you’re talking about except to stand up and show off when the cameras are here. I’ve been here when the cameras aren’t here, buddy, and done the work. … Turn around, get your fifteen minutes of fame, and then, maybe, take your jacket off, roll up your sleeves, and do something for the people of this state.”
Keady, who said he is a lifelong resident, continued, “I was here for a month after Sandy, and …”
Christie finished Keady’s sentence for him.
” … and there’s been 23 months since then, when all you’ve been doing is flapping your mouth and not doing anything. So listen, you want to have the conversation later? I’m happy to have it, buddy. But until that time, sit down and shut up.”
At this, the crowd of mostly local residents erupted into applause, even if a new Monmouth University poll released yesterday found that 66 percent of Garden State residents are “somewhat dissatisfied” or “very dissatisfied” with the recovery effort now, a level largely unchanged from a year ago.
The heckler, eager to accept Christie’s offer to continue the conversation, invited the governor to have dinner with him.
“There’s about a thousand things I’ll do tonight,” said Christie, “Going to dinner with you is about number 1,001.”
“Listen everybody,” Christie continued, regaining his composure, “The fact is that, no matter what, in this job, you’re going to face challenges, and you’re going to be confronted with opportunities. And those are some of the challenges,” he said, motioning to the heckler. “And you see, that’s why I love this state: The reason I love this state is because you got characters who are willing to do that kind of thing. Good; I’m thrilled for him. Stand up, yell and scream, do your thing. But here’s the bottom line. You gotta do work.”
With the heckler silenced, the governor took a momentary victory lap.
“I still have plenty of Jersey in me,” said Christie, “so when it comes to having a little ‘back and forth’ I will not hesitate to have a little ‘back and forth.'”
Afterwards, in a scrum of reporters, Christie turned his ire at criticism from New Jersey’s Democratic U.S. Senator, Robert Menendez, and state Senate President Steve Sweeney, both of whom held their own press conferences today to excoriate the state’s administration of Sandy relief funds. Christie blamed red tape from the federal government for the slow disbursement of funds.
According to the New Jersey Organizing Project, of the $1.1 billion Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, Elevation and Mitigation program, which provides grants of up to $150,000 to help homeowners repair, rebuild, or raise the elevation of their homes, just shy of $300 million had been disbursed to affected families.
“I love these people in the silly season a few days before an election, who all have critiques himself, and Senator Sweeney and I haven’t heard a word of suggestion from either one of them in two years,” Christie said, “If they have something they want to say to suggest, both Senator Menendez and Senator Sweeney have my number - and they’ve used it before.”
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