Sandy-Devastated Homeowners in Woodbridge Got Small Comfort from FEMA Meeting
Residents in sections of the township who experienced major losses and destruction from October's hurricane found little to allay their frustration at the first local meeting on the destruction.
Maybe it's becaue it's been so long since Hurricane Sandy, or maybe it was just the frustration of dealing with monolithic federal bureaucracies.
Woodbridge homeowners who have been suffering since last October's gigantic hurricane had little good to say about a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) meeting held on Monday. It was the first public meeting held for township residents to deal with the effects of Hurricane Sandy since it devastated parts of Woodbridge four months ago.
"[It was a] total waste of time. Nothing was presented that I didn't find out on my own 3 months ago," posted Debbie Wherrity Smith on Woodbridge Patch's Facebook page.
"No new info! And no one could answer any of our questions!" declared Christina O'Leary, who also attended the meeting.
The homeowners were at their wits' end in trying to figure out where the money would come from to repair their homes, and to elevate the structures to comply with the new flood maps. Homeowners whose houses are still intact, even if damaged, have to raise the buildings or face onerous flood insurance costs.
"There is no funding for buyouts, and the elevation rules and requirements are completely absurd; [it's] impossible to get a straight answer," posted Justin Kooey. "Apparently tax dollars are not good enough for a permanent solution, so we need to rely on a federal grant, and we all know how that goes."
Wherrity Smith said that she has started repair work on her home, but she still can't get answers on elevating the home.
"We are not doing anything right now about raising the house. We cannot get any straight answers about requirements or reimbursement, and we certainly cannot wait the 18-24 months to rebuild as the FEMA rep suggested. We are trying to do the right thing, but this is too much already," she said.
Kooey, whose home had been devastated in Hurricane Irene, the 2011 storm that hit the township, mulled over the options Woodbridge homeowners have.
Residents can "repair to pre-Sandy conditions and hope for a permanent solution; walk away; [or] tear down and rebuild high - really, really high," Kooey said.
"To me ,it doesn't make much sense to raise the houses in the area. Most are older homes with no attics. If you elevate, you lose your basement. Then you have no storage, and nowhere for utilities."
Like other homeowners, Kooey wanted to see a copy of an engineering report commissioned by the township. "The only hope is a permanent solution the engineers need to figure out," he said.
Mayor John McCormac, who was at the meeting, came for his share of criticism.
"The mayor only had the meeting to shut up the residents and pretend he
;tried' to get us help," O'Leary posted.
Cheryl Ann Pensabene Cuthbertson agreed. "It was a waste of time to pacify people and 'assure' [them that] any federal funds or grants [are] coming the Township's way," she posted.
If things don't change and there aren't more feasible solutions for affected homeowners, the result could be dire.
"I'm thinking you are going to see a lot of foreclosure throughout Woodbridge Township," O'Leary said.