Categorized | Hurricane Sandy, News

Sayreville Sandy Victims Still Waiting

By Beverly Samuleson—

SAYREVILLE — March 25, snow is falling, the air is cold and very damp. This day marks the 148th day since Hurricane Sandy struck. Richard and Ellen Bednarz, along with their neighbors on Weber Avenue in Sayreville are STILL waiting for relief.

According to Richard, Mayor Kennedy O’Brien went to the residents asking them to prepare for the storm; he didn’t know how much flooding to expect as this neighborhood flooded many times before. The Bednarzes began to move their belongings to 2 storage units and up to the 2nd level of their home. They did everything to prepare, all Rich and Ellen could do now is wait and pray.

When the storm hit, havoc struck. The Raritan Bay began flooding the streets and didn’t stop at the curb. The water kept rising higher and higher, in a short time the basement was flooded, and then the water began to rise into the 2nd level. The sewers were backing up, oil drums from a local business broke open, and neighbors were scrambling to get out. It was a night of horror.

The next day no one could believe what they saw. It looked like a war zone; foundations gone, cars gone, homes completely destroyed by water, sewer waste, oil, and mud. The streets were littered with household items, family pictures, clothes, etc.

The neighborhood formed a group and hired an outside consultant who is working with the Borough of Sayreville on a buyout plan for the residents who do not want to rebuild. To date, 275 homeowners have applied for a buyout and as of now there is no time line established on a settlement. From what was learned, the federal government funds 75%, state and local government fund 25% to cover the buyouts.

FEMA did surveys for the area and established the following criteria:

1) A resident would need substantial damage to qualify for a buyout.

2) A resident who had multiple floods during the time they occupied the home.

3) Residents wanting to rebuild would have new flood elevations to qualify

Under this scenario of new flood elevations the Bednarzes would need to raise their home 8 feet to qualify for a rebuild. With the flooding problem over the years, they opted for a buyout. They are presently renting and will not go back to Weber Avenue.

Governor Christie has asked federal officials to set aside $250 million of the state’s $60 billion federal Sandy relief allocation to buy perennially flooded homes and turn them into public open spaces. Christie said the state should know by the end of the first week of April whether the feds will approve New Jersey’s request.

The amount would be enough to purchase about 1,000 homes valued at $250,000 each. “The money is coming, and we are going to be in Sayreville with a buyout,” Christie told a crowd Tuesday morning during his 104th town hall in Middlesex Borough.

Christie said hard-hit communities such as Sayreville and South River, another Middlesex County town, would be “at the top of the list.” Christie toured Weber Avenue in the storm’s aftermath. “I remember that neighborhood clearly,” Christie said, pivoting to a criticism of Congress for delaying a vote on the storm-relief funds. “I understand your frustration. It was nearly 100 days before they (Congress) voted for this help. We are working really hard to get this done.”

The foundations of nearly 40 homes collapsed, and about 300 other homes and apartments were severely damaged by Sandy’s floodwaters.

Governor Christie said that the Hurricane Sandy New Jersey Relief Fund, which is run by his wife, Mary Pat, has raised $32 million in donations; some of this money will be used to fund buyouts.

Mayor Kennedy O’Brien of Sayreville will be having a question and answer session for residents who want to participate in a buyout. The session will be held on April 16th at 5:30 p.m. at borough hall on Main Street. The buyout funds will be from the State of New Jersey and FEMA.

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