Sandy: Slow Recovery & Now Sequestration

Congressman Bill Pascrell (D-CD 09) gave a press briefing today in Moonachie accompanied by its mayor and that of next door’s Little Ferry. Both of these towns were among the State’s most devastated by Sandy. 80% of Moonachie was flooded. Its Municipal Building will take another six months to repair, and its stripped-down council chamber was filled with boxes of flooded records that had been nitrogen freeze dried back to legibility. 400 Moonachie houses plus trailers were damaged when the Hackensack River rose 12 feet and overflowed the town.

Dennis Williams, a Moonachie resident and town employee, explained to me his predicament. Flooding in his home was four feet high, damaging the entire first floor, but leaving his house structurally OK. After the storm he faced over $100,000 in repair costs. He did not have flood insurance because it was not required. His home insurance does not cover the damage because it was induced by flood not hurricane. Banks would not loan him money because the house as is had little value. The Small Business Administration might have loaned him money, but the paperwork is onerous, the process a long one, and the homeowner has to bear all the closing costs – in his case about $7,000. Fortunately, relatives loaned him money and opened their home to him, and FEMA provided some assistance. He hopes to move back into his residence in about three months.

Congressman Pascrell was in Moonachie to stress the impact of sequestration on Sandy recovery efforts. He said, “Sequestration would be nothing short of a fiscal hurricane for the victims that have already been devastated. Of the $51 billion in Sandy aid passed last month, about $3 billion would be cut if Congress does not step in with a plan. I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to come together.” He added, “There are those in Congress who don’t want to cooperate and compromise, only to bring the country to its knees.” Unless Washington comes to its senses, sequestration is scheduled to start March 1.

For  New Jersey the full impacts of sequestration are severe. As one example in Moonachie, where 15-feet waves surged over and around berms on the shore of the Hackensack River, a plan to build a barrier flood gate in Newark Bay could mitigate the problem. However the Army Corp of Engineers is having its budget cut.  

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