Friday, August 16, 2013

Lawmakers hear other side of NJ's Sandy recovery story

[See video interviews below]

At a hearing in Atlantic City yesterday, New Jersey lawmakers heard from a number of shore residents, church leaders, and advocates for the poor and the elderly who testified that the state's efforts to recover from Superstorm Sandy are less effective than the public might believe after watching Governor Chris Christie's "Stronger than the Storm" television ad campaign.

The Associated Press reports today:

Simone Dannecker, of Union Beach, is fighting her mortgage company for the right to stay in her home. She works 20 hours a week as a bank teller and spends another 20 writing letters, filling out paperwork for seven separate aid programs, and making phone calls.
At a joint state Senate-Assembly hearing on the pace of rebuilding since the Oct. 29 storm, she broke down in tears describing the frustration and hopelessness she and her family feel as everything they once knew has been upended.
"We are the typical hard-working blue-collar American family who ask for nothing," she said. "Now they tell me I owe $320,000 on a house that isn't worth $150,000 right now.
"We are living in a mold-infested neighborhood," she said. "Do I fight to keep the house I lived in and raised my kids in, or do I walk away? It's a very emotional thing to deal with this on an everyday basis.
"The state has gotten us wrapped in so much paperwork, it consumes your life," she said. "It really does. Not once have I spoken to the same person.
You get passed along and passed along."

Michael Drewniak, a spokesman for Christie, said the ads "were critical to dispel the
idea that the shore, rentals and attractions were unavailable or unattractive."

Others testified that many elderly residents are totally unequipped to negotiate with government agencies and insurance companies and some have been victimized by phony mold-removal contractors who fail to deliver on promises of mold-removal after pocketing their fee.

Several environmental experts and organizations called for land-use planning that incorporates anticipated increases in sea levels, more government buyouts of properties in flood-prone areas, and swifter future analyses of possible contamination in floodwaters that pours into homes and businesses.   

Below are interviews with Assemblywoman Grace Spencer and Senator Bob Smith,
the two committee chairpersons who conducted the joint hearing. They promise to hold
an additional oversig
ht meeting in Trenton in late September.

NOTE: In a separate blog post later today, we'll provide video interviews
with several persons who testified on Sandy's environmental lessons

Related environmental news stories:
Still displaced by Sandy, some ask pols for help

Hurricane Sandy victims: Recovery slowed by red tape and poor information

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