Woodbridge Residents Take Blue Acres Buyouts

By Michael Hill

“I have a lot of wonderful memories. That’s why I hate leaving,” said Evelyn York.

That’s why at first, york said no to a state buyout of her five-bedroom house near a man-made creek that floods in Woodbridge.

“I was very inconvenienced by the flooding in the road. Being that my house is on a hill, I have a very high foundation and no basement. It never affected my actual home,” York said.

But, then came a reality check in a conversation with a real estate agent.

“He said you will never get more money than today and as of today your home has no value. Then I knew I had nothing to leave my children,” said York.

That reality check made York come around to walking away from the house she’s called home for 38 years, raised two children and spent countless time and money to beautify. She appealed the state’s pre-Sandy-valued offer and got a higher selling price, and a little peace of mind. Her home is among the first buyouts in Woodbridge in the state’s Superstorm Sandy Blue Acres program.

Now she’s excited about moving into a smaller house in need of major renovation in Middlesex County two blocks from her daughter. York’s joining a neighbor who made the same buyout decision.

“It got to the point where we knew though we had to move. We couldn’t keep doing this. So it was bitter to have to leave, knowing that we have to leave this but sweet in a sense that we knew that this was a way out,” said Monique Coleman.

The state’s $300 million Blue Acres buyout plan has targeted 1,300 New Jersey houses in flood-threatened areas that Hurricane Sandy ravaged and that other storms have repeatedly hammered over the years.

“We are really trying to get folks out of harm’s way. And at some point local governments basically came to us asked for our help,” said Fawn McGee.

McGee runs the state DEP program and says no corps of engineers flood protection is going up here and in other places because it all comes down to what’s best for public dollars.

Not everyone is buying state buyout. One man says the offer is too low. He says he’s 78. Who else is going to give him a mortgage?

Others have decided to raise their houses. For those who stay, McGee says they’ll stay in harm’s way and they’ll see those empty houses demolished and a lot of vacant lots.

“If we can get the right streets adjacent to these water courses then we really have an opportunity to alleviate some of that burden in the future,” McGee said.

For now, York and 305 families in six towns now have accepted DEP Blue Acres’ buyout offers to get out of harm’s way.