By Lauren Wanko
It took years to make a Normandy Beach house a home, but this afternoon it only took a few, short hours to knock it to the ground.
“It’s sad. It was our home. We didn’t rent it. We lived here. We used it all year round,” said homeowner Rich Hennion. “It’s tough to watch.”
DEP Commissioner Bob Martin today toured demolition sites in Brick and Toms River to highlight the demolition effort and FEMA’s private property debris removal program. About 3,000 demos are expected to be completed statewide by the end of the summer. Martin says he’s happy with the progress.
“The second phase of this is rebuilding and the governor’s laid it out — this is gonna take time in a lot of cases. And we gotta work through a lot of both federal regulation, also a lot of federal money. The federal money’s just been coming through just now so there’s only one phase at a time. We can only move as fast as we can with the federal portion of this,” Martin said.
FEMA will pick up 90 percent of the cost. As for the other 10 percent?
“The municipality pays that money up front but then what happens is the homeowner is required to give us all their insurance information so they would apply for the insurance, that insurance payment would be made and would come to the municipality,” said Brick Township Mayor Stephen Acropolis.
More than 200 homes are slated for demolition in Toms River. Mayor Tom Kelaher says the FEMA program is vital for homeowners.
“We have a whole spectrum of people. Some have insurance, some don’t, some can afford it, some can’t. If we had to leave it up to the individual people, there could be houses in that condition for who knows how long,” Kelaher said.
Still, the financial toll is only part of the burden for homeowners like the Hennions.
The family spent the past four summers in their home. Since the house collapsed, they couldn’t access it. That means everything is still in the home as it’s being demoed.
Rich Hennion remains optimistic. He’s meeting with an architect tonight.
“It’s sad, but it’s a first step in rebuilding,” he said.
Still, mountains of debris saddened neighbors like Mary McFarland. This was her favorite house in Normandy Beach.
“We’re just watching this machinery gobble it up and we know that we’re not gonna have this. It’ll be a memory now,” McFarland said.
The DEP expects all demo work to be completed by the end of the year.