BOUND BROOK: Borough sees signs of normalcy

Published in the Home News Tribune 9/28/99

With the National Guard gone, NJ Transit trains stopping in the borough again and much of Main Street open to traffic, a small degree of normalcy has returned to the borough.

But the lasting effects of Hurricane Floyd are still evident on Main Street, where many businesses have been boarded up or put up for sale. "Grants or Ghost Town" signs hang on nearly every storefront.

A handful of Main Street store and restaurant owners, an average of one per block, worked to restore their buildings yesterday, some planning to reopen as early as next week.

"The life goes on. You don't never put your head down," George Athanasopoulos said as he hammered in new two-by-fours at Mike's Carpet on Main Street.

Athanasopoulos plans to open his eatery, George's Station Restaurant, next week, then reopen Mike's Carpet and the Track Side Bar and Grill a few weeks later. Although he is fearful his businesses will be hit by another flood, Athanasopoulos said, "I can't just walk away. I've got a lot to lose."

Larry Cowlan, the owner of Torpedo's Tavern & Grill go-go bar on Main Street, said he is spending $150,000 to reopen because of the success he has enjoyed in Bound Brook. He was scheduled to appear before the Planning Board on the day Hurricane Floyd hit for permission to build 10 apartments above the bar. He has now put off those plans for five years because of his losses.

Across the street, Debra Betancourt has had new windows installed in the Avatar Pottery shop. She will have new flooring installed this week and reopen next week. "Even with all the problems, it's a nice little town," she said.

Merchants staying in town are worried about what will happen to the storefronts around them. Cowlan said many of them have already moved to new locations in other towns. "They're all friends," he said. "It's just a sin."

The Queen's Bridge, a main route into downtown Bound Brook, was tentatively scheduled to reopen today. Contractors yesterday removed debris that had collected under the bridge and rebuilt material around the base of the bridge's piers.

NJ Transit began running normal service out of Bound Brook yesterday morning. The agency cleaned mud and debris out of the borough-owned parking lot on Sunday to ready it for commuters.

NJT Executive Director Jeffrey Warsh said yesterday's ridership was about 250, half the normal amount, but there continued to be a marked increase in commuters using the Bridgewater station. He expects there to be normal ridership in Bound Brook once Main Street is fully reopened.

NJ Transit provided buses for about 40 evacuees from their new shelter in Hillsborough to the Bound Brook train station during the morning rush hour. The agency also ran buses during the evening rush hour and will run the routes as long as the shelter is open, Warsh said.

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