By Michael Aron
Chief Political Correspondent
One hundred forty-eight teams from 15 countries participated in the storm mitigation design contest.
HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan announced the two winners — a flood-wall project for the Hoboken area and a wetlands restoration for the Meadowlands region — out of a total of 10 finalists.
“I want to say for all the finalists, today is just the beginning of making these projects a reality across the region. We are going to build them, we are going to make lives better, make communities and families safer,” Donovan said.
The two innovative projects will cost $380 million in Sandy relief funds.
Gov. Christie noted that on top of the $1.7 billion in federal recovery funds the state received in round one, it’s getting another $1.46 billion approved last Friday and is anticipating a third and final round of $881 million.
He welcomed HUD’s approval of that second round.
“So for the people of New Jersey, some 6,000 who are waiting on the RREM waiting list, about half of those will now be comforted in knowing that because of this the money will now flow to you to be able to make sure that we begin to rebuild your homes in a way that will bring your lives back to a new normal” Christie said.
The design teams and the mayors of the winning regions were on hand to celebrate, including Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer who famously accused the Christie administration of bullying her on Sandy funding.
Today she wasn’t talking about that, though a reporter tried to get her to, asking if she talked to Christie.
“Yeah, No I didn’t have the opportunity to speak to him, I appreciated his remarks and recognized that he’s going to do his job and I’m going to do mine and our administrations are going to work together and get this done and it’s extremely important to the people of Hoboken and Weehawkin and again Northern Jersey City,” said Zimmer.
Zimmer hailed the project that’s coming to her town.
These events tend to be about all the money that’s being spent in the state but not everyone walked away from this one happy.
“I was led to believe when I came here today that we were going to be part of the funding. In fact when I walked out of my car, I was immediately congratulated only to find out our name wasn’t called off even though we”re part of that project,” said Secaucus Mayor Michael Gonelli.
Donovan is leaving HUD to be OMB director.
He and Christie said they’ve worked well together.
“We’ve talked late into the night, we’ve texted into the wee hours of the morning,” Donovan said.