I went on a winter shell hunting trip to the beach with my daughter in January of this year, Save Jerseyans. We ended up in the Laurence Harbor section of Old Bridge. On this icy cold day, we didn’t find any shells, but I was encouraged to see a boardwalk being built and an open area of beach where it looked like the sand had been replaced.
As we were leaving, we drove along the beach section of Old Bridge and we happened upon a ghost town, a neighborhood with 25 houses all boarded up. We drove down an eerie looking street named ‘Cliffwood Way.’ I made the turn into the neighborhood and was met with a very tragic sight: many of the houses featured crudely-painted warnings to looters.
It’s almost 2 years since Superstorm Sandy. Why are those houses still in shambles? Are they condemned and not going to be livable again or are the families waiting for Sandy Aid? It felt as if we had stepped onto the set of a disaster movie and not a community of the Jersey Shore.
I decided to come back and check in when the weather is warmer so I may find some of the home owners.
Among those residents who live in New Jersey’s hardest hit communities, only 41% are satisfied with the state’s recovery efforts while a decided majority (54%) are dissatisfied. In the remainder of the state, 49% are satisfied while 41% are dissatisfied. This marks the first time that residents of hardest hit communities have shown a significant difference in satisfaction levels when compared to residents in other parts of the state. In prior polls, these two groups’ satisfaction levels differed by no more than five percentage points.
Six state Senators representing Monmouth and Oceans Counties have written to New Jersey’s U.S. Senators and Members of Congress asking for help in correcting inequities and inefficiencies in the federal government’s response to Superstorm Sanday.
In a letter dated March 31, Senators Jennifer Beck and Joe Kyrillos of Monmouth County, Robert Singer, Christopher Connors and James Holzapfel of Ocean County and Sam Thompson of Middlesex raised six issues concerning Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), the Small Business Administration (SBA), FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Grant Program and the Rehabilitation, Reconstruction, Elevation and Mitigation (RREM) grant program.
With all those agencies and initials, how could anything be going wrong?
“When I addressed the allegations made by Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer in January, I categorically denied them as false and illogical. I also stated that my position would be borne out by a full evaluation of the facts. Now, after an exhaustive review, it is clear that Mayor Zimmer’s allegations do not stand up to scrutiny, and in truth, are demonstrably false based on contemporaneous documents, other witness accounts, and her own prior statement(s), all contained in the report. In fact, Mayor Zimmer’s version of events was and is fictional.”
Governor Chris Christie listens to a resident’s question in Belmar. March 25, 2014 MMM photo/Art Gallagher. Click for larger view.
Governor Chris Christie told the 650 people in attendance at his Town Hall Meeting in Belmar yesterday that he went to Washington last week to ask HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan to waive the rule that is keeping Sandy victims from rebuilding their homes while they are waiting to find out if they will be approved for Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, Elevation and Mitigation (RREM) grants of up to $150,000.
The RREM program will not reimburse homeowners for work done on their homes prior to their acceptance into the program. Over 3000 people are on the RREM waiting list for the second round of HUD funding which is expected to be awarded late this spring. They are in limbo, living in temporary housing, paying rent and mortgages, while their ruined homes are dormant.
Christie said that Donovan told him he could not waive the rule because a specific federal law prohibits grants being used to pay for work performed prior to the federal approval being secured.
Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon, R-Monmouth, issued a statement today welcoming Marlboro Mayor Jon Hornik’s support of Regional Contribution Agreements (RCA) for use in getting Sandy victims back into their homes, and called upon residents of his Bayshore district to question Senate President Sweeney the use of Affordable Housing Funds when Sweeney visits the district for his Town Hall meeting in Keansburg on Thursday afternoon.
“Recently, Marlboro Mayor Jon Hornik suggested that RCAs could be used by towns to help their neighbors continue to rebuild in the devastating wake of Sandy . My Republican colleagues and I have been calling for the use of RCAs for years and I am excited to hear that Mayor Hornik is on board. When the Democrat leadership in Trenton killed the RCA program it was bad, short sighted policy that many of us knew would come back to bite us. Its flaws are now magnified by the plight of Sandy victims as many towns struggle with the economic burdening of rebuilding.
If Governor Chris Christie’s presidential prospects have been damaged by the Bridgegate scandal and associated investigations, you wouldn’t know it by the amount of television cameras at the Town Hall Meeting in Port Monmouth this morning. Middletown officials estimate the crowd was about 500 people. There was easily 50 members of the media including reporters, photographers and videographers.
There was no swagger from the Governor today. No fist pumps, no snazzy introductory video, no in your face insults to hostile questioners. Christie dodged the only hostile question he heard. The Youtube moment came not from an idiot or thin skinned reporter, but from a three year old girl who said her house is still broken.
Bridgegate, the controversy over the September lane closures at the George Washington Bridge that has spurred investigations by the U.S. Attorney and a Special Legislative Committee never came up. The people who came to today’s meeting would gladly trade places with the Bergen County residents who were inconvenienced by traffic jams for four days. They been without their homes for 16 months.
As we pointed out after last month’s marathon Bridgegate presser, unlike President Obama, he’s willing to stand in front of constituents for extended periods of time and take the heat… and now he’s doing it with zero media cover:
“We respond as Americans,” Christie bellowed following a congressional adjournment which occurred without a vote, “at least we did until last night… it was disgusting to watch.”
A majority of conservatives were of a decidedly different opinion, ranging from disinterest to feelings of betrayal. Their disgust was reserved for an event that occurred approximately two months earlier, before the Mitt Train officially derailed, when the rockstar GOP Governor embraced President Obama on Garden State soil, a move which public exit polling suggested could’ve helped move the needle in the incumbent’s direction in key 2012 battleground states like Virginia and Ohio. Base political calculation at its worst? Or simply emotions getting the best of an emotional guy?
I genuinely, sincerely hate to say “I told you so,” folks, but I most certainly did. Now look at the mess in which our Governor finds himself heading into Thursday’s much-anticipated Middletown town hall meeting, the first such gathering since Bridgegate and Sandygate changed everything for the inhabitants of Christie World…
It’s ugly. Real ugly. But there’s still a way out.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has turned down a request from the Christie Administration that the rule requiring that reconstruction work on homes damaged by SuperStorm Sandy stop upon the homeowner applying for Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, Elevation and Mitigation (RREM) aid, according to an Associated Press report posted on NJ.com and other outlets.
HUD rules require that the plans for all work on properties receiving RREM grants be evaluated and approved by the government. Work done without the RREM approval is not eligible for reimbursement under the program, even if the work complies with all requirements. This process has created a major logjam is funds being awarded and homes being rebuilt.
Governor Chris Christie will likely be tan and relaxed after a holiday weekend in Puerto Rico when he arrives in Middletown for his first Town Hall Meeting since last June tomorrow.
He should be ready for bear.
Christie could get RREM’d tomorrow.
Bayshore residents who overwhelming voted for Christie in 2009 and again last November are ready to give up on giving Christie the benefit of the doubt. The politically connected feel he’s taken Republican Monmouth and Ocean Counties for granted. Those still suffering from the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy feel like Christie has ridden their suffering to national prominence while neglecting his self professed “mission” to rebuild the shore.
The powder keg of frustration with Christie was building before the election and certainly before Bridgegate. Sandy victims brutalized by the storm feel further violated by the red tape and false starts peddled by all levels of government, banks and insurance companies.
Believe what you want to believe about the Bridgegate scandal, Save Jerseyans. It’s no skin off of this blogger’s nose.
Some of you insist that it’s more appropriately called “Bridgetgate” with a “t” while others in our audience would prefer the “Christiegate” moniker if they could only get MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow to read their unsolicited 3:00 a.m. e-mails.
None of you know for sure because, like 99.99998% of the state population, you weren’t on the e-mail chains. Neither was I. What do we know? As of today? (1) Even the hyper-partisan SCI Chairman John Wisniewski admits there’s still no evidence that Governor Christie knew about the lane closures before he said he did, and (2) this Governor’s major Bridgegate detractors inside New Jersey continue to demonstrate epic levels of credibility-obliterating cowardice.