By Lauren Wanko
Folks down the shore — still waiting for federal funding to help them recover — eagerly await the second round of Sandy aid. But Congressman Bill Pascrell wants more accountability.
“I’m pleased that HUD will be coming to New Jersey to take a closer look at the state’s handling of federal Sandy recovery funds. While this is a welcome sign, there is still more that needs to be done to ensure that this next round of federal funding is spent fairly, efficiently, and gets to the families that need it most,” said Pascrell.
In a letter to Gov. Chris Christie, Pascrell made 13 recommendations to the state’s disaster recovery action plan for the second round of federal funding. Pascrell says the state must publicly acknowledge its rationale for the early termination of its contracts with HGI and URS.
“We agree with Congressman Pascrell. We have a lot of concerns over what really happened particularly with HGI and URS. We got some documents last week about this and we still don’t know a lot of basic answers,” said Fair Share Housing Center Attorney Adam Gordon.
HUD did not reply to NJTV’s request for comment. The Department of Community Affairs told NJTV News HUD has been engaged in monitoring and reviewing Sandy related contracts, programs and expenditures since funding was first made available to the state. Meanwhile, on Friday, Christie signed an executive order spend another $15 million of Sandy federal funding to demolish unsafe, Sandy-impacted structures. The order takes effect immediately. The Department of Community Affairs will oversee the program, which Toms River Mayor Tom Kelaher says is vital.
“We’ve been getting requests or phone calls from neighbors to say, ‘The house next door, I haven’t seen that guy since the Saturday after the storm. There’s mice, there’s mold, it’s overgrown,” said Kelaher.
Mold is a major concern for Ortley Beach Resident Frank Good.
“A lot of people that live here like us that are full timers, we’re worried about it because it’s not good for your health and when spring comes and windows are open and things a start blowing around, we’re worried about it at little bit you know,” said Good.
Toms River started an involuntary demolition program this past fall. A team examined abandoned houses, the township identified upwards of 100 homes that should be demoed here. That work hasn’t started yet, but the mayor says without the federal assistance the township would be footing the bill.
As for Congressman Pascrell, he says he’ll continue to urge the Christie administration to take his recommendations into account.