Sandy was a game changer. She left her mark on every beach community from Montauk to Cape May, and Union Beach was among the hardest hit. It will take years to recover, and many challenges lie ahead for the borough and its residents. However, recover we will - the whole Bayshore will too - and it will be thanks in large part to so many caring people from towns near and far who stepped up to help in the wake of the storm. That is, off course, unless FEMA kills the recovery.
FEMA, or Forget Everything Mentioned Already, keeps changing their rules. And that means that the victims of Sandy have to wait…and wait…until final decisions are arrived at somewhere down the line. In the Patch article, “New Jersey to Adopt FEMA's Flood Elevation Maps, Christie Says,” that appeared in the 1/24 edition, we are being told that FEMA flood insurance for homes in an “A” Zone will cost either $3,500, $7,000 or $31,000 per year depending on the elevation of your home.
That is a far cry from FEMA’s initial notice. I can’t find the exact figures, but it was for about $460, $1,700 or $17,000. Obviously, homeowners will be better off raising homes to avoid the highest premiums. And FEMA has promised (hopefully without fingers crossed) to subsidize the raising of homes to the tune of $30K each, although it may take up to two years for the money to be released. This premium increase may well force many to abandon their homes due to the cost and the wait time without guarantees. And homeowners are being warned not to do any mitigation work ahead of FEMA’s final decision. They may be made to redo the work to comply with unforeseen changes in regulations, and homeowners will not be able to be reimbursed after the fact. Raise your home so you can get back into it before the deal is finalized and you’re on your own.
Add to all this the broken FEMA trailer promises. Trailers stored near Great Adventure were supposed to be set up in the old Bradley’s parking lot in Hazlet. That fell through. Then Congressman Pallone called FEMA and was promised that trailers would be brought into the towns and could be placed on people’s properties. However, FEMA changed its mind and decided that trailers could not be placed in a flood zone, so that got squashed. And I could go on…and on…and on.
The argument will rage over just how much money the taxpayers should contribute to the recovery, and if FEMA should be in the insurance business at all. It’s a worthy discussion to have, but I doubt if any workable solutions will come of it. However, we need some good thinking to implemented moving forward in a decisive way. Just don’t count on it coming from the Federal government.
On top of this monumental Sandy recovery mess, I am astonished that Robert Fischer and the BRSA still intend to move forward with their plans to erect a 38-story noisy industrial wind turbine with blades each the size of a cell tower at their plant in Union Beach. Mr. Fischer, GIVE IT UP! We have gone through enough here. We have enough work to do and problems to overcome if we are to restore our home values and quality of life. Your dreamed-of monstrosity is the last thing we need our town.
The good news is that after the upcoming BRSA Reorganization Meeting on February 11, only one commissioner from the original Gang of Six that unanimously gave birth to the turbine will remain. Also, Union Beach now has the upper hand in the legal battle to bring an end to the turbine project. I don’t have a crystal ball, but I would bet that Union Beach prevails, especially with the likelihood of more reasonable people sitting on the board.
And so to Mr. Fischer and the new board I say, have a heart, do the right thing and give it up. It will look better for you in the long run than losing the final court battle. And Union Beach won’t stop fighting the turbine and Sandy’s aftermath until we indeed do prevail. Some reporter once called Union Beach folks "pesky." He was right.