WAYNE PARRY, Associated Press
JONATHAN LEMIRE, Associated Press
UNION BEACH, N.J. (AP) — The second anniversary of Superstorm Sandy arrived Wednesday in a region where recovery in New Jersey and New York is happening unevenly, with many houses, boardwalks and businesses rebuilt, but many other people still unable to return to their homes.
U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro and federal officials toured a flood-ravaged neighborhood near Raritan Bay in Union Beach where many residents are still struggling to rebuild. Andrea Kassimatis held her 6-month-old daughter as she described living with four other relatives in a 37-foot trailer next to a partially built home.
“It’s been a rough and grueling process,” she said. “You feel like your government has forgotten you.”
Kassimatis has received a $150,000 rebuilding grant from New Jersey but only got a third of what her flood insurance policy was supposed to pay — a common refrain up and down the coast.
“Don’t believe what you have from a flood insurance policy,” she warned. “Because what you’re sold is not what you’re going to get.”
She voiced her complaints to Castro, New Jersey’s two U.S. senators, Robert Menendez and Cory Booker, and Rep. Frank Pallone Jr., all of whom said more “accountability and transparency” is needed in Sandy aid distribution. At an event in Perth Amboy, state Senate President Steve Sweeney said, “People still aren’t getting the answers they deserve.”
The October 29, 2012, storm devastated the oceanfront coastline and caused catastrophic flooding in New York and cities in New Jersey, including Hoboken and Jersey City. It was blamed for at least 182 deaths and $65 billion in damage in the U.S.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio joined City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and other elected officials to work with Habitat for Humanity at a storm-damaged home in Brooklyn. The group has helped rebuild 100 homes in New York.
“We’re seeing what a rebirth of a home looks like, the birth of a community,” de Blasio said.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said his state has supported the repair and rebuilding of nearly 10,000 households, provided $20.8 million in grants to small businesses and facilitated the proposal of approximately 600 projects through the NY Rising Community Reconstruction Program.
In New Jersey, the Fair Share Housing faulted the pace of aid distribution, saying only $220 million of the $1.1 billion New Jersey has received for its main rebuilding grant program is in the hands of homeowners.
In the afternoon, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie will visit the revitalized business area in Belmar, the first Jersey shore community to rebuild its boardwalk after Sandy.
Two years after the storm, there are some concrete signs of tougher protections, from a nearly-finished sea wall protecting two devastated New Jersey towns to a Long Island boardwalk rebuilt to serve as a retaining wall. New floodgates protect a power plant where Sandy plunged miles of Manhattan into darkness and some homes sit higher while other buildings boast new flood barriers.
Enhanced preparedness has hardened backup power systems at hospitals, forged new systems to flood-proof subway vents, installed generators at dozens of gas stations to run pumps in a power outage, redrawn evacuation-zone maps and reshaped emergency plans for managing problems from debris to traffic.
But many planned projects are still years off and some ideas still under study. Thousands of homeowners await repair aid, some of it coupled with steps to make homes safer. Some efforts to buy out flood-prone homes haven’t gotten takers in the worst-hit areas. And across the coast, a patchwork of protections leaves some areas more vulnerable than others.
Wayne Parry can be reached at http://twitter.com/WayneParryAC
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