28 November 2012

Mayor in hot water over US tourism remarks

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Seaside Heights, one of the areas worst hit by Hurricane Sandy last month, has found itself in the news once more after Mayor Bill Akers was forced to quickly retract remarks he made that a rollercoaster ruined by the hurricane could remain where it was as a US tourism attraction.

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The mayor of Seaside Heights suggested the destroyed ride could remain in place as its own tourist attraction.

The Star Jet roller coaster was destroyed when the hurricane collided with the Eastern Seaboard of the US and Canada late last month, costing over 200 lives and causing billions of dollars in damage. The image of the ruined rollercoaster has become one of the most widely used images of the storm but Mr Akers' comments it could be a US tourism attraction in itself have not been received well.

Speaking to NBC New York last week, the Seaside Heights mayor said he was working with the coast guard to discover how stable the ruined ride is and whether it could remain in place to become 'a great tourist attraction'.

However, his comments were not well received given the destruction and havoc wreaked by the hurricane despite tourism being one of the town's largest industries, forcing the mayor to apologise and clarify his comments in the local press.

"I told [NBC] that I did not have an issue with [the rollercoaster staying], it's not my decision since it's private property," said Mr Akers. "That was the extent of my comment and then all of this firestorm. It was not the brightest comment."

"Everyone all over on Facebook was commenting on it and took a shot at me. The whole situation is unfortunate."

The mayor added that tourism makes up 75% of the town's budget and getting the industry up and running again was his number one priority.

"Our biggest concern is returning the boardwalk to where it was before the storm. Tourism is the lifeblood of this town."

Clean up of the area has almost been completed in preparation for construction of a new boardwalk scheduled to begin next month in line for reopening before the summer.

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