AROUND NJ

Hoboken Residents Struggle to Get Help for Sandy Damage

By David Cruz
NJ Today

Everywhere you look in Hoboken, you can see signs of recovery. Workman are replacing sidewalks, replanting trees and still cleaning up. But away from all the brooms and jackhammers, individuals are finding that getting help from the agencies created to help them, is a bit slow.

Alisa Kartzman lives on Monroe Street, one of the hard-hit streets on the city’s west side. “We lost everything, we threw everything out, except the TV but everything else we had to purchase new.”

WATCH VIDEO:

Alisa’s lucky in that her landlord repaired the major damage from the flood, but for everything else — couches, tables, everything in the kitchen and other personal effects — she was out of pocket, close to $10,000. Relief officials could only offer a small business administration loan.

Alisa is in a no-win situation. Her rental insurance doesn’t cover for flood and and FEMA denied coverage because she had rental insurance.

Councilman Tim Occhipinti summed up Alisa’s situation as “a perfect example of someone being denied by FEMA and their renters insurance and being stuck right in the middle.” And that’s just unacceptable, he said.

“If she’s not approved for the personal property through the Small Business Administration (SBA), then what they will do is kick her back to FEMA for possible grant assistance for the contents of her home,” explained FEMA Applicant Services Specialist Tammy Jones.

Mayor Dawn Zimmer says about 1,700 street level and basement apartments and businesses are similarly affected.

“We’re gonna be short-changed because of this insurance gap because of the way the law is written right now,” said Zimmer. “So right now, the immediate way to try help people is try and give additional assistance. The longer term issue is they really need to look at how the national flood insurance program is written.”

Recovery work does mean opportunities for contractors, though, and Raul Menares, who owns RAM Design Builders, says while Sandy has meant lots of work for him, he also sees the hardships his clients are facing. Today he’s working to restore this three-bedroom basement apartment.

“The sad part about it is that a large majority of them don’t have the finances to be able to remediate immediately,” he said. “So they have to live in apartments where half the sheet rock, half the walls are out. They don’t have any heat; some of them haven’t been able to afford to put in new boilers or hot water heaters.”

Officials say progress here has been slow, steady and, certainly, not exactly perfect, but the overriding message they do want to deliver is that this city is open for business.