JERSEY CITY, NJ — Even though a budget compromise may finally end the shutdown of all beaches, parks and other public facilities here in the Garden State, the effects of the three-day shutdown are likely to continue being felt by millions of tax paying New Jerseyans and tourists for some time to come.
Likewise, the reputation of Gov. Chris Christie is likely to remain blemished from the situation, possibly permanently.
That's because the governor, who shut down state beaches and parks over his impasse with state legislators, was photographed on Sunday sunning himself with his family and friends on the sands of Island Beach State Park. It was closed to the general public.
Nj.com took a series of pictures of the governor using the public beach he had shuttered as his own private retreat. He was on the shore behind the taxpayer-funded governor's beach residence when he was captured on film. He had gone down to the Monmouth County location via state police helicopter, which is also publicly funded.
"That's not right that we're all shut out but [the governor] can be on the beach," said North Jersey resident Matthew Diaz.
Diaz was referring specifically to being shut out from entrance to Liberty State Park on Monday afternoon.
He was among dozens of drivers PIX11 News observed trying to enter the state park, only to be turned away by police at the park's closed gates.
"It's supposed to be open to the public," said Samantha Irizarry, after she and her friend Sage Rondelle were turned away in their car. "Now we can't even go to the park."
Late Monday afternoon, Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-NJ) emerged from a room at the capitol in Trenton.
"We're making progress," he told waiting reporters, adding that he'd had staff members draft some compromise legislation on which members could possibly vote.
Meanwhile, the backlash against Gov. Christie has been global, with countless memes of his beach takeover circulating widely across social media. The reaction has also been intense, especially in New Jersey, where, in Asbury Park on Monday, a plane carrying a banner telling Christie to get off the beach raised cheers from thousands of beachgoers there, unable to enter state beaches themselves.
"In New Jersey, politics is a beach," said Peter Woolley, political science professor and political analyst at Fairleigh Dickinson University.
Woolley called the optics of Christie using a public seashore that he'd shut down as his own private beach self-defeating, particularly when a deal between the governor and the legislature could be fast approaching.
"When you have the public on your side it helps your negotiating position," said Woolley.
He said that public opinion does not make deals, but that it's like "wind in the sails" toward making one. In Christie's case, Woolley said, his actions only helped "other people's negotiating position."
Those negotiations, which involve Christie's bid to have the state take over some funds of a private health insurer, have continued into Monday evening in Trenton.
Legislators said they're trying to get state facilities reopened for July 4th.
That was not good enough for Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop. He ordered the Fourth Fireworks Festival moved from Liberty State Park to Exchange Place, in the heart of the city's business district, and next to the Hudson River.
"We couldn't wait" for "Chris Christie and Trenton" to strike a deal, the mayor told PIX11 News, adding that even if one was struck before July 4th, it would not have given organizers of the event, which features the pop/soul band Kool & The Gang, as well as dozens of vendors, enough time and access to set up the venue.
The festival will open at midday on Tuesday at Exchange Place.