Superstorm Sandy Update at 5 1/2 Years

The government-created “disaster after the disaster” continues to dominate our lives. Virtually all government cooperation is still lacking at this point five and a half years after Sandy.

We have recently crossed the five and a half year mark since superstorm Sandy devastated our community and much of the damage has not yet been repaired. Fraud, mismanagement and red tape within the government systems that administer post-Sandy rebuilding programs are mostly to blame. We have plans and funding ready now but lack government approval to proceed. Many of the local people who initiated the “No retreat – Save the bayshore communities” campaign have sold their properties and moved out over the past year. Those who remain are deeply entrenched in a battle with government to negotiate a plan for recovery and sustainability.

Some of the issues that specifically hamper Money Island, New Jersey recovery are:

  1. New Jersey Department of Banking and Insurance declined to investigate sales practices of insurance companies that sold inappropriate and inadequate coverage.
  2. The National Flood Insurance Program admitted fraud and mismanagement in handling flood insurance claims but continued to deny payment on those claims anyway. Policyholders have been forced to settle for lesser amounts or give up die to high legal costs of pursuing their claim in court.
  3. Most recovery programs were denied to homeowners and businesses on the New Jersey bay shore region. We read that 98% of all post-Sandy Small Business Administration loan applications were denied.
  4. Almost all of the applications, pre-application meetings and project proposal applications for post-Sandy recovery work at Money Island have been denied.
  5. The Trump administration announced the removal of funds promised and approved by Congress for post-Sandy mitigation programs. Citizen activists like me believe that the Trump action is retaliatory against east coast states like New York and New Jersey that are suing Trump and his government in multiple actions. Both of our New Jersey Senators, Bob Menendez and Cory Booker, as well as our Congressman Frank LoBiondo and other states’ Senators, opposed the move and sent a letter to Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) asking for a one year extension for projects that are underway but not yet complete. The letter is part of a bipartisan effort of Congress to keep the projects funded because we have simply not had enough time to meet all the rebuilding requirements.
  6. On June 8, 2018 the Trump administration reversed course and announced that it will not pull back previously approved funds.
  7. On Monday June 11, 2018 when NJ activist Doug Quinn addressed FEMA administrator Brock Long about specific policy provisions at the National Flood Conference in Washington, DC on Monday to address the Congressman’s’ letter this week, NFIP administrator Brok Long said “I’m not going to answer that”, then shut down the meeting to questioning and walked off the stage. Quinn later wrote that the event “was a learning experience. We have no friends there”.
  8. On the same day, June 11, 2018, at the public meeting of Downe Township Committee mayor Bob Campbell said that FEMA officials admit that post-Sandy projects they intend to see completed are still incomplete here in our township. There was no discussion of a timetable for the federally funded projects.
  9. Last month the New Jersey Attorney General filed a lawsuit against Tony Novak and others for failure to make progress on post-Sandy recovery despite the track record of more than ten applications and pre-application proposals to do so.

Given the history of what we call “the disaster after the disaster” I am not optimistic about any immediate change in government’s role in our future recovery. We will continue to push for our recovery and long term sustainability at a grass roots level for years to come. We are able to rebuild under the various regional and local recovery plans but we need government permission and cooperation to do so. We also need funding for those aspects of the recovery projects that benefit the public interest rather than just private businesses and homeowners. Virtually all government cooperation is still lacking at this point five and a half years after Sandy.

I anticipate at least two more years will be required to settle existing litigation and appeals and then return to the process of rebuilding. The legal battles are a waste of time and money that only enrich the lawyers on both sides but we don’t think that it is likely that government will act responsibly or come to our aid anytime soon.

Thanks LoBiondo for environmental support

lobiondo-at-mi

Congressman Frank LoBiondo has been a strong supporter of the Delaware Bay region, our environment and our businesses. This photo was taken on his recent visit to Money Island in August 2016 where he spoke about the difficulty in promoting our environmental interests in Washington. His efforts are largely responsible for the EPA-funded restoration projects here.

This week NJ.com recognizes LoBiondo as one of only a few Republican leaders nationwide willing to stand up to the to repeal environmental restrictions on the coal industry.

Earlier in 2016 the Congressmen met with me and a group of other concerned residents still fighting to settle Sandy insurance claims years after FEMA fraud admissions.

I am grateful for Congressman LoBiondo’s efforts and feel blessed to have him represent us in Washington DC.

FEMA Sandy response: better late than never?

In yesterday’s mail I received a certified mail letter from FEMA, the Federal Management Emergency Administration, admitting that the agency found previously unconsidered documents related to my Sandy flood insurance claim made almost four years ago. The letter comes in response to my attorney’s request for information under the Freedom of Information Act made more than a year ago in August 2015.

FEMA had previously denied almost all of my flood insurance claim based on information that appeared to me to be either entirely fictitious or perhaps someone else’s property. The case information that I saw bore no resemblance to my property and the photographs and notes that I saw the claim examiners make on site in my presence in late 2012 and early 2013.

The letter dated September 30, 2016, received October 8, 2016, says: “This letter is to inform you that the National Flood Insurance Program has located additional documents regarding your NFIP claim file”. FEMA now admits they have 381 pages about my claim in their case file but will only release 347 pages.  FEMA is apparently refusing to release 34 pages apparently based on “Exemption 6 to the Freedom of Information Act on the basis that these pages would create an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy. I presume this might include personnel issues within FEMA and their contractors involved in the screw-up but this is only my speculation. I don’t know enough about this topic to comment further.

My cabin (rear) and BaySave office (front) prior to Sandy.
My cabin (rear) and BaySave home office (front) prior to Sandy.

After all insurance and aid requests were denied, I began slowly repairing the cabin as time and money allow. The cabin was low priority because I made the aquaculture facility and infrastructure repairs my my primary focus. We had to rebuild basic support like the marina community’s water system and electric service. I have only repaired about 1/2 of the damaged items and the most expensive issues remain unresolved. The external walls look OK now, but the roof, underside and waste water system still need repair or replacement. Even it the claim were settled in full today, my legal expenses would consume at least half of that amount.