By David Cruz
The lasting symbol of Sandy’s impact on Moonachie is best seen in Borough Hall, which took a direct hit when flood waters roared across Moonachie Road, gutting the building that served as headquarters for not only municipal government, but police and emergency services as well.
“October of 2012, when we were hit with that storm, there were people in here, some of them are here behind me and in the audience today,” recalled Moonachie Mayor Dennis Vaccaro. “As you can see around you, we had around 30 inches of water in the building. From that you can see the damage that occurred.”
Over the next 16 months, borough officials and the Federal Emergency Management Agency haggled over a price tag for substantially repairing or replacing Borough Hall, which dates back to the 1940s. FEMA’s original estimate of the damage was $68,000, which the mayor said wouldn’t have done much here. Enter Congressman Bill Pascrell, who today announced that that number had now risen to just over $2 million, which will allow the borough to take down, and replace, the building.
“I’m proud to fight for the Sandy relief package that has allowed FEMA to already deliver $1.1 billion in public assistance to New Jersey towns and $421 million over that in individual assistance to New Jersey residents,” noted Pascrell.
Pascrell spoke glowingly of FEMA. He said the federal agency was responsive and competent, which is in sharp contrast to what Gov. Chris Christie has been saying about FEMA at his town hall meetings. On more than one occasion he has called FEMA “the new F word.”
Today, Pascrell, who has been at odds with the governor over the role of the federal government in relief efforts, wasn’t in the mood for a disagreement.
“The governor has his opinion; I respect the governor’s opinion and I hope he respects mine, and I’ll stick with what I said,” he answered when asked to compare and contrast how the two see FEMA’s work in New Jersey. “The governor will speak for himself.”
Mayor Vaccaro was also diplomatic. “What has helped is all government coming together — the federal, the state and the local — putting their heads together trying to get a project complete,” he said.
The congressman says he wants the federal Housing and Urban Development Department to more closely oversee the second wave of Sandy relief funding so that the waste and mismanagement which has plagued the first phase of relief distribution won’t happen again.
Officials here say they expect to start demolition on Borough Hall in the spring and for construction of a new Borough Hall to begin in the fall, right around the second anniversary of Sandy.