New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie uses the beach with his family and friends at the governor's summer house at Island Beach State Park in New Jersey on July 2. Christie is defending his use of the beach, closed to the public during New Jersey's government shutdown, saying he had previously announced his vacation plans and the media had simply "caught a politician keeping his word."
How Chris Christie reacted to the beach photos
01:04 - Source: CNN

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Jersey Shore beachgoers had harsh words for Chris Christie

'What he did for the state of New Jersey is an embarrassment,' one said

CNN  — 

As she does every year, Chris Tierney made the trip from her home in Bayville, New Jersey to Island Beach State Park on Tuesday to enjoy the beach with her son for July Fourth.

This year, though, things seem different.

“I’ve never seen this beach this quiet,” she said. “I feel bad for the people that lost money here.”

And she had harsh words for one political figure involved in creating that quiet: New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.

“Christie is an embarrassment, what he did is an embarrassment, what he did for the state of New Jersey is an embarrassment,” Tierney said.

Chris Tierney, from Bayville, NJ, visited the beach with her son on Tuesday.

Tierney was one of a number of Jersey Shore beachgoers on Independence Day with sharp criticisms of Christie, a day after photos emerged of him lounging on a closed beach during a state shutdown.

New Jersey leaders reached a budget compromise on Monday, ending the 3-day shutdown that had closed the state’s public beaches and parks.

But during that shutdown, Christie was spotted in flip flops and a beach chair with his family outside the governor’s residence on Island Beach State Park, which was otherwise closed to the public.

CNN analyst Chris Cillizza wrote that the photos, posted by NJ Advance Media, showed a governor who has stopped caring about what his constituents think about him. The photos also led to a round of mocking memes, and did little to help Christie’s flailing approval ratings in a state that he was twice elected to lead.

Christie defended the family outing at a press conference Tuesday, saying that his son had invited friends over for the weekend and that he wasn’t going to cancel family plans because state assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto, a Democrat, couldn’t get enough votes for a budget.

“I don’t care about political optics,” the governor said. “I care about right and wrong. If I have a choice to make between my family and political optics, I choose my family.”

“Let’s be really clear, that’s our residence,” Christie added. “We have a right to be there whenever we want to be there.”

Beachgoers react

Patricia Salgado, 26, and her son.

Patricia Salgado, a Staten Island resident who traveled to Island Beach State Park with her son on Tuesday, said the photos of Christie were “ridiculous” and said she was “never a fan” of his.

“I wasn’t upset when I saw the photos, I just thought it was unfair,” Salgado said. “I was worried about coming today because I thought the beaches would be closed because he said they would be.”

Monica Tucker and Luis Mercado.

Monica Tucker, 21, and Luis Mercado, 27, came to the beach from Toms River, New Jersey. Tucker, who also said she was never a fan of Christie, called the governor’s beach lounging an “abuse of power.”

“If you don’t follow your own laws, how do you expect people to follow the laws you set,” she said.

Mercado said the shutdown was a “big inconvenience,” though he admitted he doesn’t vote in New Jersey so he didn’t really know who Christie was until his girlfriend explained to him.

“Does he think he’s above the laws he’s set? It’s not fair,” he said.

For his part, Christie still has his defenders. Gloria Hohn, a senior citizen from Manchester, New Jersey, said she comes to Island Beach State Park every year, and she said she “was not disappointed” in Christie.

“It’s his right, but I am grateful that the beaches could reopen,” said Hohn, who was with three generations of her family. “It was a pleasant surprise.”

Jim Miller, the owner of food concessions in Island Beach State Park, said he wasn’t happy that he couldn’t come into the office for the busiest weekend of the year. But he said he wasn’t upset with Christie’s beach photos as much as the broader failure to pass a budget.

“I wasn’t necessarily upset with (the photos). I was upset with … not having the budget passed,” she said. “He’s entitled to it. He’s the governor, it’s his house. I didn’t have a problem with that.”

Michael, 58, from Brick, NJ.

Michael, 58, who declined to give his last name, was visiting the beach with his wife Donna from their home in Brick, New Jersey. They have season passes to the beach, so they said they were very disappointed it was closed over the weekend.

On Tuesday, they were shocked by how empty the beach was and with the lack of a line getting into the beach.

“Today is emptier than it is on some weekdays, and today is a holiday,” Michael said. “It’s so empty. Our town beach in Brick was busier!”

Matty Tropeano, from Old Bridge, New Jersey, was visiting the beach with her husband and daughter on Tuesday. He said Christie’s beach visit was “hypocritical.”

“He should have just stayed in his back yard knowing that the people of New Jersey couldn’t use the beaches, he decided to go on you know with his family,” Tropeano said. “He doesn’t care.”

CNN’s Madison Park and Ralph Ellis contributed to this report.