They voiced their displeasure during a hearing for the state’s use of $1.4 billion is Sandy relief funding Tuesday afternoon at the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey.
“I feel like I’m returning from Afghanistan," said Georgina Shanley, an Ocean City resident for nearly 28 years. “I’m not receiving any of the services I was promised. Is the purpose of the DCA to assist us or make us into adversaries so they don’t have to pay the compensation?”
Shanley explained many people in Ocean City have given up seeking aid from the state because the Department of Consumer Affairs has been so difficult to deal with. She added that while there are people in Ocean City who remain without homes, the businesses are being restored at a rapid rate.
“Builders and contractors are in Ocean City like a frenzy,” she said. “Buildings are going up everywhere. There’s no long term plan to deal with Global Warming and there’s no transparency.”
She went beyond the three-minute time limit speakers were asked to adhere to, but when Marc Ferzan, the Executive Director of the Governor’s Office of Recovery and Rebuilding attempted to prevent her from speaking further, the rest of the assembled public came to her defense.
“Let her speak,” many people told him until he relented.
Shanley’s example of homeless people suffering while businesses were rebuilt and tourism was supported was a familiar refrain.
“There are still 20,000 homeless people in the state,” said Jeff Tittel, Executive Director of the Sierra Club of New Jersey.
He added the state hasn’t updated building codes and doesn’t have a Climate Control Plan in place, which he says has resulted in the State of New York receiving more funding than New Jersey in the aftermath of the storm.
“You’re not dealing with the major issues, and you’re putting more people at risk,” Tittel said. “You’re not following science, you’re following political science.”
As for the emphasis on tourism, Toms River resident Gina
Pizzuto pleaded with the state not to run the “Stronger Than The Storm” ad
campaign again this year.
“It’s demeaning and it’s misleading,” Pizzuto said. “My family from up north brought their seven-year-old down this summer and they were horrified to see the damage. They said there’s nowhere to take him. Please don’t run it again this summer. We are not stronger than this storm.”
She complained about the transparency in the recovery process.
“How many people have received funding and how much have they received?” she asked, adding the funding wouldn’t be necessary if “the insurance companies did what they were supposed to do in the first place.”
“I couldn’t get insured because my loss was due to the movement of the Earth under my house,” she said. “There was movement under my house because of the storm.”
Others pointed to areas that have not received much attention, if any, including Cumberland County and Atlantic County.
“I’m from Brigantine,” Jane Peltonen said.. “Remember Brigantine? Gov. Christie and President Obama walked through our town two days after the storm hit and assured us help was on the way. Since then, one house has been lifted. … We’ve been waiting too long. The towns that have been impacted should’ve gotten help already.”
“Come to Atlantic County and see what’s going on down here,” pleaded Robert Giraldo, of Pleasantville.
The hearing was held to discuss the state’s use of plan to spend $1.46 billion in additional federal funds to help New Jersey residents and businesses recover from Superstorm Sandy.
The state proposes spending $735 million on housing assistance programs, with $450 million of that going to low-to-moderate-income families.
Another $535 million would go to infrastructure programs, including providing reliable power to critical public facilities including hospitals, shelters and wastewater treatment plants; and to provide flood protection for high-risk areas.
Additional hearings take place Wednesday at the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) in Essex County and Thursday at Brookdale Community College in Monmouth County.
Comments made during all hearings, as well as comments submitted via email and mail through March 5, will be included in the final report.
Written comments can be submitted by email to firstname.lastname@example.org or can be provided by mail to the following address:
Attn: Gabrielle Gallagher, NJ Department of Community Affairs, ‘
101 South Broad Street, Post Office Box 800, Trenton, New Jersey 08625-0800.
A copy of the proposed plan is available on the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs website.