First Home Demolished Under Sandy Blue Acres Buyout Program

Brenda Flanagan

Gaping mechanical jaws bit deeply into Lou Szabo’s house on Weber Avenue.

It’s one of 47 Sandy-ravaged homes bought with federal disaster aid, and scheduled for demolition in Sayreville this summer. Szabo watched it go down.

“It was rough. Oh, I’m not gonna be able to do this. I’m just kind of glad my dad’s not here to see it. He put everything he had into this house – it was the first house on the street here,” said Szabo.

And among the first in Sayvreville to get bought out. The state paid Szabo’s family $251,862– part of the Christie Administration’s $300 million Sandy Blue Acres Buyout Program.

“We give these folks pre-storm value — which allows them to sell their home to the state and move on to higher ground – we demolish all of the homes, removing everything — the open space is left. It’s a place to absorb the rainwater and the flood waters that come. And we’re being hit with floods on a yearly basis,” said program Director Fawn McGee.

Szabo says, Weber Avenue used to flood all the time — but that the water only came up a couple of feet. In fact, he said kids would have boat races down the street. But during Sandy, Szabo says, the flood waters rose so high — they actually covered the stop sign.

“It’s a shame. Everybody here, they lost everything they had,” said Szabo.

“It’s a sad day as the houses go down cause we’re losing the neighborhood and in many cases we’re losing residents who are not going to be able to relocate in Sayreville,” said Art Rittenhouse.

The DEP reports, 193 homeowners accepted buyouts in Sayreville and South River — 39 in Woodbridge. The ultimate goal — 1,300 buyouts statewide. But not every homeowner’s ready to leave. Several Sayreville holdouts turned down the state’s offer.

“It wouldn’t be worth it. We would lose money, probably. It was really a disgrace, what they offered us for this beautiful home after 46 years,” said Mary Ann Grabowski.

And, as each house gets torn down — Sayreville loses more property tax revenue — ripping a bigger hole in the town’s budget.

“And we’re gonna have to ask the state to see if there’s some type of compensation that might become available,” said Rittenhouse.

The Szabos left town.

“I’m just glad it’s over,” said Szabo.

Szabo’s mom moved to Pennsylvania.