Rebuilding continues in New Jersey 3 years after Sandy

29 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

3 years, 3 voices: Superstorm survivors still can’t go home.

Three years ago, Superstorm Sandy slammed the New Jersey shore, destroying homes, splintering boardwalks, wrecking businesses and displacing thousands of people. Three years later, several thousand still cannot get back home due to bureaucratic red tape with government aid programs, disputes with contractors and insurance companies, and just not having enough money to complete the job. Here are three of their stories: “This is paradise,” Bob Collis said, sitting under the awning of a travel trailer stuffed to the brim with many of his family’s possessions; his clothes are all in plastic storage bins wedged underneath the trailer because they won’t fit inside. Collis and his wife, Katherine, loved the little ranch house they had in Toms River, in a tight-knit waterfront community near Barnegat Bay called Snug Harbor.

Now the 72-year-old couple lives in a trailer at a mobile home park in Berkeley Township, a few miles south, where Katherine is recovering from a series of strokes, one of which predated the storm and two more that came soon after it. Their biggest problems, they said, have been an unresponsive bureaucracy, a period of agonizing over whether to elevate their damaged house or knock it down and start over, and a severe shortage of funds that has left them still $150,000 shy of what they need to get back into a house for their remaining years together. They say their elevation contractor delayed too long to save the house; the contractor says it did more than $10,000 worth of work but never got the go-ahead from Collis to proceed with more work. Lisa Ryan, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Community Affairs, said the agency speaks with Sandy victims each day and is mindful of their struggles. “We want to assure families affected by the storm that our singular focus at DCA is to get them back into their homes, and that we will work in good faith with any homeowner who is committed to the rebuilding of their storm-damaged home,” she said. “We are also continually assessing the operational effectiveness of our recovery programs and improving our performance. “ Michelle Petrow, a single mother of three, needs a kidney transplant and is still rebuilding after years of fighting with insurers, contractors and state aid programs.

I don’t even know where my kids’ stuff is, we have stuff in storage in so many places. “So much of life has happened in the last three years; there’s no place to have Christmas or a party,” she said. “It’s a terrible feeling. It makes me crazy not being able to finish this.” Petrow, an interior designer, got a $150,000 rebuilding grant from the state and a $130,000 flood insurance payout from a policy she expected to cover $250,000 worth of losses. The house had been in foreclosure last year, but that was halted when she filed for bankruptcy protection. “We’re not trying to cheat anybody,” Petrow said. ‘I’m putting money into the house, and I still haven’t signed on the dotted line that I’ll actually be getting the house. In the days after Sandy’s waters receded from his house in Little Egg Harbor, he ripped out soggy wall board, and sprayed bleach where mold was starting to grow. Griffin handed his contractor $50,000, representing one-third of the work’s cost, but said he still has not gotten a commitment for when the work will begin.

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