Monday, September 30, 2013

Third NJ hearing today on hurricane recovery problems

Situated at the southwestern base of Route 72 bridge to Long Beach Island, Beach Haven West is one of many Jersey Shore neighborhoods that were devastated 11 months ago by Superstorm Sandy.

In today's Star-Ledger, MaryAnn Spoto reports that many homeowners here are still struggling to make their homes livable again. Some are still renting elsewhere, others are crammed into usable portions of their houses while using what funds they have to make repairs. All are still waiting for promised government relief.

"Many homeowners have been promised help in the form of grants from the Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, Elevation and Mitigation Program (RREM) to rebuild or elevate their homes," Spoto reports. "But as summer slipped into fall, residents are still waiting, wondering if they can rebuild without going bankrupt.

"We’re not getting relief at all," said Jackie Terefenko, of Morris Boulevard. "We’re all on freeze with no money."

beach-havem2.JPGJackie Terefenko becomes emotional as she shows two visitors the cluttered
condition of the master bedroom she and her family have been forced to live
in while working to repair their Hurricane Sandy-damaged home on Morris Blvd.
Photo: Andrew Mills/The Star-Ledger

"This cozy section of Stafford (Township) sits directly west of Long Beach Island and is a triangular maze of lagoons bounded by busy Route 72 to the north, the Mill Creek to the south and Manahawkin Bay to the east. About 1,080 homes in Beach Haven West were substantially damaged by Sandy and must be rebuilt to new standards set by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. About 450 have to be torn down, according to Mayor John Spodofora. And, he said he suspects many homeowners underestimated damage to avoid FEMA regulations, including elevating their homes. The damages — just in this section alone — dropped the township’s ratables by $200 million, Spodofora said.

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"With money from their flood insurance claim, Terefenko, 59, and her husband Michael, 70, started repairing their two-story home, but quickly ran out of cash. They are among 211 full-time residents of Stafford approved for the RREM program, which provides grants of up to $150,000.
"The Terfenkos were counting on the RREM money, but the process has been painfully slow, she said. After registering in July, they still have a long way to go in the 11-step process. No one has received any money from that program yet, state officials have acknowledged.

Legislative hearing today in Trenton will examine state recovery programs
The plight of families like the Terefenkos likely will be raised this morning in Trenton at a
joint hearing of the Senate and Assembly Environment Committees. It will be third time in recent months that the two panels have met to explore the progress and shortcomings of government programs in the wake of the October, 2012 hurricane.

Previous hearings
At the committees' August 15 hearing
in Atlantic City (Lawmakers hear other side of NJ's Sandy recovery), EnviroPolitics Blog conducted video interviews with Senate Chairman Bob Smith and Assembly Chairwoman L. Grace Spencer. We also spoke with environmental experts: Mark Mauriello, Rod Scott, Wayne DeFeo, Jeff Tittel and Debbie Mans. 

The committees met again on September 17 in Jersey City: North Jersey also felt Superstorm Sandy's punch.

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