‘We’re All Trying To Rebuild’: Many Jersey Shore Residents Still Living In Limbo 7 Years After Superstorm Sandy
‘We’re All Trying To Rebuild’: Many Jersey Shore Residents Still Living In Limbo 7 Years After Superstorm Sandy by Cleve Bryan - CBS Philly
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Today marks the seventh anniversary of Superstorm Sandy. The deadly storm pummeled the Jersey Shore and other parts of the Northeast with heavy rain and winds of up to 115 mph.
Twelve people were killed in New Jersey.
The storm caused widespread destruction, costing about $37 billion.
Seven years after the storm slammed into some shore towns like Ventnor, there are many homes that are still not repaired, with residents still continuing to live in limbo.
New Jersey’s Department of Community Affairs says about 700 people in the post-Sandy rebuilding program have still not completed work to their homes.
Several people who attended a rally in Ventnor were victims of fraud and had to have their home repaired more than once, forcing them to live in and out of hotels and apartments for the last seven years.
For them, today’s anniversary is a reminder of rebuilding frustrations that have not gone away.
“Well, seven years ago we were hit with Superstorm Sandy and it was devastating to our entire community. We’re all trying to rebuild. A lot of us had stumbling blocks along the way like contractor fraud and various issues, and by the time those were resolved, the funding, the gap funding, went away,” Beth Torsiello said. “Our insurance doesn’t cover enough to actually rebuild the house.”
Others like Fran Baronowitz are facing what are known as “clawbacks,” where the government wants them to pay back Sandy recovery money they may have applied for inappropriately.
“They want over $35,000 from me,” Baronowitz said.
Torsiello and Baronowitz attended the rally in Ventnor as Gov. Phil Murphy announced a new interagency council on climate resilience to develop a statewide strategy.
Over the last seven years, the federal government has spent hundreds of millions of dollars to strengthen coastal communities by building up 127 miles of dunes along the Jersey Shore.
Many shore leaders say the next step is addressing back bay flooding, especially in light of climate change and sea level rise.
“The climate is changing, it is warming and you can argue forever why it’s occurring but it’s pretty obvious to anybody with common sense that’s occurring. And we’re going to have to provide for it,” Atlantic County Executive Dennis Levinson said.
An estimated 346,000 homes were damaged or destroyed in the storm.
On 7th Anniversary of Sandy Homeowners Deal with Clawbacks Rising Flood Insurance Rates by Nanette Galloway - Downbeach
VENTNOR – Seven years after Superstorm Sandy ravaged the Jersey shore, residents gathered at the home of survivor Fran Baronowitz in the Ventnor Heights section today to share stories about the aftermath of the storm.
Although it was nowhere near the high water during the October 2012 storm, street flooding made it difficult to reach Baronowitz’s house. The Dorset Avenue bridge was also closed due to flooding. Those who gathered today expressed concern that their communities are no more ready for extreme weather and flooding than they were seven years ago.
While some families still aren’t back in their homes after Sandy, those who are face the reality of grant clawbacks and the rising costs of flood insurance.
Baronowitz was asked to give back $30,000 in grant funds.
According to the New Jersey Organizing Project, 11% percent of families in the RREM program still have not completed construction or elevation projects and 23% have not completed their close outs. Community members are concerned it will become unaffordable to live in the homes they worked so hard to rebuild.
Many families do not have enough funding to complete their recovery. If it were not for the Supplemental Funding program that Gov. Phil Murphy and the New Jersey Organizing Project announced on the Sandy anniversary in 2018, many would not be home.
“It’s critical that as many families as possible get access to this funding as soon as possible so they can move forward,” said Alison Arne of the NJOP.
Storm survivors are being asked to pay back their own insurance money, loans and grants because of an outdated and dysfunctional disaster recovery system, Arne said.
“The state took a major step forward when Gov. Murphy announced a freeze on clawbacks last year. But a freeze does not mean money is not owed, just that repayment is not due at this time,” she said.
“Two years after I moved back in my lifted house, I got a letter from RREM requesting over $35,000 back,” Baronowitz said. “It shocked me, because I did everything I was supposed to do.”
While recovery efforts are ongoing, FEMA is preparing to update flood maps and the cost of flood insurance premiums. The new maps could double the number of properties in designated flood zones and double the cost of premiums every four years.
Effective flood mitigation, caps on premium increases and oversight over private insurers, is needed, Arne said.
“If our flood insurance rates triple or quadruple over the next few years, all the fighting we’ve done over the last seven years will have been useless, and our communities will crumble,” NJOP President Joe Mangino said. “We will continue to fight together to make sure Sandy families get home, can afford to stay home and are better prepared for future storms.”
The NJOP also held events this week in Brick and Toms River.
VIDEO - 700 families still not rebuilt 7 years after Superstorm Sandy in NJ - WPVI – Philadelphia, YahooNews.com
Seven years after Superstorm Sandy pummeled the New Jersey coast, about 700 families still have not finished rebuilding.
We're South Jersey and the Shore standing together for community solutions.