LITTLE EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP — Two years ago Tuesday, Debbie Christensen and her husband, Erik, spent her birthday evacuating their Mystic Island home as Hurricane Sandy approached the New Jersey coast.
“When we came home, we lost everything. Everything in our house. I was running around trying to save things, anything, important papers, but it was all gone,” Debbie Christensen said.
The couple’s new modular home, a birthday gift for Debbie, was delivered to their empty lot on West Potomac Road on Tuesday morning.
The Christensens have lived in Mystic Island since 1995. The home Sandy destroyed belonged to Debbie’s grandmother.
“Oh my God! Oh my God! I am so excited, my heart is beating 100 times a minute,” Debbie said as she covered her mouth and watched a trailer drive down Potomac Road hauling the second piece of her new home.
A banner that read “Happy 60th Birthday” was hung on the window of the home that would be lifted and placed onto piling
The Christensens said they are excited that most of their neighbors who are still displaced from Sandy will come home as rebuilding continues on their street.
Ryan Niedoba, foreman for the Christensens’ home-building project, said GK Construction Custom Modular Homes has completed about 25 Hurricane Sandy rebuilds.
Niedoba said it has been difficult for homeowners to wait for funding to come through to complete rebuilding.
The couple said coming back home was not easy. They lived with family and then found an apartment in Little Egg Harbor where they have been living.
“I call all these rebuilding programs alphabet soup. These poor people are told they have all their paperwork down, and then they come back and tell them they need more,” Niedoba said.
The paperwork that had to be completed to rebuild their home became a full-time job and there was little help, Erik Christensen said.
“It was a road of hell. We had full coverage insurance and paid $5,000 a year. The insurance company turned around and gave us $44,000 and said go build a house,” Debbie said.
The couple then waited months to receive $150,000 in funding through the state’s Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, Elevation and Mitigation (RREM) Program.
“We ended up having to pull together an extra $90,000 to pay for our house,” said Debbie, whose new home will cost about $300,000 once it is complete.
The state has spent $498 million of RREM funding, with $602 million remaining to be used to assist about 2,100 applicants on the waiting list, said Lisa Ryan, spokeswoman for the state Department of Community Affairs.
After the home was unloaded, the couple said they were finally at ease as contractors attached hurricane straps to the roof.
Once the home is complete, it will be about 1,000 square feet larger than the home that was destroyed during Sandy. Debbie, who has knee trouble, will also have an elevator in the home.
The couple said Gov. Chris Christie has paid little attention to Mystic Island’s Sandy troubles. Christie visited Little Egg Harbor last year on the one-year anniversary and was greeted by a crowd of homeowners with protest signs.
Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno will attend a Sandy first responders thank-you luncheon today at the Little Egg Harbor Community Center, while Christie attends anniversary events in Toms River and in Monmouth and Middlesex counties.
“We’re home, but we all still feel forgotten down here. We don’t have a boardwalk. It is what it is. I would love to see Gov. Christie in person. I’d say thanks for nothing,” Debbie said.
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