LONG BEACH TOWNSHIP — Rebuilding New Jersey after Hurricane Sandy will include constructing more dunes, dredging in local waterways and grants and loans for the owners of homes and businesses, Gov. Chris Christie told a town hall meeting Tuesday.
Speaking to more than 600 people at the St. Francis of Assisi Parish Community Center, the governor spent the meeting addressing various concerns from the shore community six months and one day after the storm hit the region.
Loveladies resident Robert Bard asked how the governor will ensure all the homeowners along the beach give easements so the state can build dunes.
Christie said he will do everything in his power to secure the easements from Cape May to Long Beach Island. He said it is the most effective way to protect shore communities, noting that places with dunes had far less damage from Sandy than areas with less dune protection.
“We are not going through that again so you can sit on the first floor instead of the second floor and see the ocean,” he said.
Christie said if anyone said the governor plans to build showers, roads, a hot dog stand or a Dairy Queen instead of just dunes, they would be wrong.
“It’s (expletive). That’s what it is,” Christie said, after asking adults to cover the ears of any children in attendance. “I have no interest in taking your property. We are building these dunes whether you like it or not.”
Christie said dredging projects will begin in local waterways in mid-July after all boats and other debris are removed. The governor said 1,400 boats were located in the water after the storm, and several homes and other debris also were swept out into the water.
The governor also outlined how the state will spend $1.8 million it received from the federal government Monday to help people affected by Sandy.
“We can start using that money to rebuild the state beyond what we already have,” he said.
Included in the new programs:
The state will provide $600 million for Rehabilitation, Reconstruction, Elevation and Mitigation grants that will provide as much as $150,000 to residents to rebuild their homes. The applications should be available in three weeks, he said.
The state will spend $75 million for the restoration of multi-family units damaged by the storm.
Applications will be available Wednesday for $260 million that will be distributed in grants for up to $50,000 for business owners, and no-interest loans ranging from $100,000 to $5 million will also be available soon, he said.
The state will also start a $25 million marketing and tourism campaign for the Jersey Shore in three weeks.
Christie said he will use additional federal money to buy out neighborhoods that were completely destroyed by the storm — with the first round in Middlesex County — but he wants local communities to work to rebuild their own towns and preserve the character of the Jersey Shore.
Christie also said Tuesday was the last day of transitional shelter for Sandy victims. The state was down to about 50 families still displaced. At the height, the number was 5,500.
“Ninety percent of the state feels back to normal,” he said. “Now the next phase is to take care of the 10 percent.”
The aftermath of Hurricane Sandy was the biggest issue discussed by residents at the town hall meeting — many of whom had specific questions as to how the new programs could help their situation. Many said they were thankful of the governor for coming and credited his leadership, but there remained uncertainty whether their situation could be improved.
Beach Haven West resident Christina Biedebach said she has received FEMA money and a U.S. Small Business Administration loan but is still $60,000 short of being able to rebuild her home that Sandy destroyed.
“Were all my questions answered? Not really. I hope when the new grants come out they’ll be able to help me,” she said. “I lost my whole house and everything in it. I don’t have enough money to rebuild. What do I do?”
Linda and Carl Bakshas said they lost their beach home in Beach Haven West and the insurance company did not give them enough money to rebuild. Linda Bakshas said she took a card for the governor from a staff member and will call to ask for help. She said she and her neighbors are constantly in touch with each other trying to pass along information and find a solution.
“I do feel better,” she said.
The governor said it will be up to the Legislature to pass tax cuts in the upcoming budget that must be passed by June 30. The governor said he compromised with the Democrats on their tax-relief plan. The Democrats say they may not be able to afford rebates based on recent projections.
“Let’s give these jokers 60 days to show their true colors,” he said. “If they do not pass it then you’ll know they were lying about it all along.”
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