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The Storm Warrior Of Ward 1

Township Council President James J. Byrnes lost his home in Superstorm Sandy

When Township Councilman James J. Byrnes was a young Army medic in Vietnam, he was used to triage and rescuing his fellow veterans.

So when Superstorm Sandy roared into Bayville on Oct. 29, Byrnes went on autopilot. This time, he rescued his fellow residents.

Never mind that his Dogwood Drive home was virtually destroyed, with a foot and a half of water and a cracked foundation. He spent Oct. 30 driving a bus up and down Butler Boulevard, ferrying storm victims from the flooded streets of Glen Cove to safety at the Bayville Firehouse on Route 9 North.

"Call it the medic in me," he said with a smile.

Although stunned by the loss of his home, Byrnes, 64, wasted no time feeling sorry for himself. He still spends many days driving around Glen Cove and devastated Good Luck Point, checking up on those who still remained and watching for looters.

"How are ya doing?" he'll say, during his patrols around the waterfront sections of Bayville.

"I got two cars gone and my house doesn't have a roof," resident Douglas Nutley told Byrnes, during a November tour of the battered area. "I'm getting too old for this aggravation."

Byrnes represents the Ward 1 section of Berkeley, which includes Glen Cove, Good Luck Point, Holly Park, South Seaside Park, Pelican Island and Toms River Shores.

Shortly after Sandy finally blew on and out of Ocean County, Brynes and Mayor Carmen F. Amato Jr. got to work on arranging a series of informational sessions to help storm-struck residents deal with the damage and move towards recovery.

"This isn't a sprint, it's a marathon," Byrnes told a crowd of hundreds at a rebuilding seminar in January. "People are wearing down. I haven't gotten any insurance yet. I'm tearing my house down. We are all in this together and we are going to get through it."

Brynes - the facilities director for the Freehold Regional School District - has fronted his own money to demolish the slab portion of his home and install pilings. The house now sits more than 12 feet above sea level, which should be enough to protect it from future storms.

But like many others, he has not received his total insurance settlement yet. When asked to describe the mood of Sandy-impacted Bayville residents, he answers with one word.

"Frustrated," he says.

"We need to get moving here," he said during a walk down his street with Berkeley Patch. "I've got 10 houses on my street alone that are coming down. There's an urgency. We need to get this behind us."

Brynes has moved up his retirement from the Freehold school district to April 1. That will give him more time to devote helping storm-battered residents in his ward. He spent a day last week in South Seaside Park with Amato, planting dune grass.

"I try to do everything I can to help" he said. "It's a very difficult situation. It's unprecedented. I feel an obligation to do whatever I can to help."

When a council meeting in late 2012 broke up, Byrnes spent time in the hallway talking to distraught residents. One older woman with tears in her eyes told him she didn't know where to start.

"Alan," Byrnes yelled over to Township Engineer Alan Dittenhofer, then grabbed him by the shoulder and steered him over to the woman. "Come over and talk to this lady. She needs help."

Ashbritt Boys March 24, 2013 at 03:57 AM
Byrnes played the patronage game on the school board that is how he got his cushy Freehold school job. Byrnes & Amato sold out to their boss Gilmore on the payroll with Ashbritt. Byrnes is BFF with Gilmore he is sniffing out his next job. He is a bigger influence peddler than Gilmore & Amato combined.
Natty Bumppo March 24, 2013 at 12:19 PM
More Amato fiction?!? Why not end every story you post: "...and Mayor Amato was there and helped"?!?
One Term Amato March 24, 2013 at 05:41 PM
Mayor Amato helped put residents in financial hard times with his tax increase last year. Now he will raise taxes in the name of hurricane Sandy. Every dime he raises taxes will pay off his campaign debt to boss Gimore and the good ole boys.
L & M March 24, 2013 at 06:43 PM
God bless people like Jim Byrnes and Mayor Carmen Amato. They were two of the hardest working people in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. It has been close to five months since the storm, and they and the many others who continue to volunteer their time and energy, should be commended. We will continue dealing with the tragic results of this storm in the coming months and years. We can do so much for each other if we work together. Rather than criticize those that are working so hard to bring life back to some semblance of normal, lets all try pulling together. If you have a better plan, bring it up at the next town council meeting, our with the towns professionals.
One Term Amato March 24, 2013 at 09:30 PM
They voted to give Ashbritt a contract that cost double, and had their republican chairman & township attorney on the payroll. Amato and Byrnes voted for the most disastrous FEMA map possible. They only voted for it to appease Christie and their good old boy Gilmore. Amato raised taxes prior to Hurricane Sandy not knowing he would have to raise them again due to storm. He is just another politician like all the rest. I will vote against any candidate he supports for BOE or in election.
grace March 24, 2013 at 09:31 PM
you sound like a great guy who happens to be able to affor the raising and repaying of a loan at 62..how many pensions do you get...some of us dont get any
foggyworld March 24, 2013 at 10:06 PM
Could you explain that? Which school board was he on and what is the cushy Freehold school job?
foggyworld March 24, 2013 at 10:13 PM
Many of us are working well with each other and are trying to bring things back. Good Luck Point unfortunately hasn't been the recipient of much help but we are trying on our own to at least clean up and help the displaced to return. But too much of this has been paid for by concerned citizens who have been unable to get serious attention from those in office. It isn't a question of criticizing as much as just stating the facts. Drive out here and see for yourself. It's a war zone atmosphere but the weather is breaking and we intend to make it but give credit where it is due. Driving around doesn't clean up or move us forward and approving the FEMA rules without making substantial objections is very difficult to understand.
One Term Amato March 24, 2013 at 10:54 PM
@ Butch. Amato has two pensions coming to him with his BFF Byrnes. Another question is how does Amato balance his full time job at the county? These influence peddlers have to go!
Maureen March 26, 2013 at 12:23 AM
Thank you James for all you do. You are always there with a smile and some good advice. Maureen
Dawn Parks March 26, 2013 at 03:38 AM
Mr. Byrnes did you have the correct license to drive a bus? or did you just open the town up for law suits? To call your self a warrior is a disgrace. When real warriors are dieing for our country!!!
Patricia A. Miller (Editor) March 26, 2013 at 01:28 PM
FYI Mr. Byrnes did not write the headline, Patch did.
Raven March 26, 2013 at 02:01 PM
BC, mtg. companies do not give mgt. to individuals passed 60. Why ? Chances are you won't live to pay off the debt. How do I know this? Use to be a realtor.
Raven March 26, 2013 at 02:03 PM
What bank is going to give a loan to people in their 60's.....Not gonna happen.
Brian Gingrich March 27, 2013 at 12:16 AM
Dawn you must be a total moron, are you brain dead ? Jim spent so much time helping others when his time could have been spent helping himself. What did you do for anybody. you likely spent your time bashing anyone who put others ahead of themselves, and then you have something to say about his war record, I called you a moron at the start of my reply but a much harsher description of you is needed but I can't write here. You should be ashamed of yourself, do you forget how much he helped you? I would hate to be in a war zone and have to count on you to cover my back, tell me, how much time have you spent in a war zone, you should thank him every time you see him if you have the courage, I don't think you are smart enough to understand how military people think, grow up stop showing how ignorant you are. I am also a Nam vet, go to war and then you can open your mouth Brian Gingrich
Susan Bilt March 27, 2013 at 03:21 AM
Well, kudos to Dawn Parks to come on here and comment as herself. I totally disagree with her comments. As she is most likely not aware that James Byrnes is a honorably discharged disabled veteran, who served as a medic in Vietnam who was awarded a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star for Bravery. But kudos for being YOU!! Finally someone not cowering behind a computer, probably in a dark mold infested basement hiding behind a phony name. What do you say: @Chief @OneTerm @Natty @Ashie, have the gumption like Ms. Parks and come on out and be yourself!! COWARDS!!!
Dawn Parks March 27, 2013 at 04:21 AM
Mayor Almato and Jim Byrnes Berkeley Council President need to stop using Super Storm Sandy and other people’s misery to advance there political careers. Just by riding around town asking if people were alright and posing for pictures does not help anyone. As for Ashbritt, the hiring of them was a total knee jerk reaction. For Berkeley to pay a Florida firm was a sham. When it could have gone to local people. The town could have hired more local workers and payed them instead of hiring Ashbritt. Besides that Ashbritt never finished the Job. Ashbritt can’t even prove where the garbage came from. Their invoices are 95% incomplete they couldn’t even give Berkeley a street name of where the garbage/trash/removal came from. As for the town excepting a bill of 210,768.13 with out knowing where it came from is a joke. I have all the invoices for all the towns that Mr. Gilmore has been associated with. Berkeley Jackson Toms River Sea Side Park Sea Heights Brick Lavallette long beach ocean Manchester Mantoloking Stafford Beach Haven long beach township Along with a big fat bill that was 45,000,000.00 dollars to the county. Along with us already paying a bill from the county of 5,160,854.82 for ocean county landfill tipping fees. I hope every town that I mentioned takes a good look at what you have spent.
brokeninbayville April 03, 2013 at 12:41 PM
another one....get a life!
brokeninbayville April 03, 2013 at 12:43 PM
you should have had a better life choice!! Maybe you should put 20 years in the service.
brokeninbayville April 03, 2013 at 12:44 PM
He almost did die for his country. Get off the soap box and put your energy to helping all those who are still homeless from the storm.
brokeninbayville April 03, 2013 at 12:45 PM
Well put Brian
brokeninbayville April 03, 2013 at 12:47 PM
We gotta do what we gotta do. This was an event beyond our wildest imaginations. Sit home in your cushy house while others are living in shelters...


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