Untangling the bureaucratic mess that hampers Sandy recovery is undoubtedly a complicated task. A number of well-intentioned people continue to work on the issue bet we’ve not seen any results here at the tiny community of Money Island NJ. From a pragmatic perspective we can break down the problems we face at Money Island into two categories: those that are merely unhelpful and those that are antagonistic. The unhelpful actions simply mean that we need to look for alternate sources of financing and support. The antagonistic actions hurt morale, contribute to ongoing poverty and mental stress and discourage new investors from entering the community.
UNHELPFUL GOVERNMENT ACTIONS
1) NJ Department of Banking and Insurance refusal to take action against enforcement action against homeowners insurance companies that denied claims of the basis of no wind endorsement and flood insurance companies that denied claims for damage caused by floating and water-borne debris smashing into homes.
2) FEMA’s decline of aid applications.
3) SBA’s decline of small business loan applications.
4) State of New Jersey redlining Cumberland County as ineligible for federally funded aid programs.
5) NJ SeaGrant’s decline of pump out station grant applications.
6) NJ Economic Development Authority decline of aid applications.
ANTAGONISTIC GOVERNMENT ACTIONS
1) Downe Township’s refusal to issue building permits for repairs based on a pre-existing zoning defect unrelated to Sandy or recovery efforts.
2) NJ Department of Environmental Protection issuance of property liens in April 2013 for pre-existing problems unrelated to Sandy or the recovery effort. In addition, the liens are based on errant information. (It is unclear whether the error was unintentional or a deliberate action).
3) State of New Jersey issuing a stop work order and $2,000 building code fines for repair work performed without a permit.
4) Cumberland County Health Department’s eviction of residents who used a temporary garden hose water supply while a water well was repaired and refusal to allow another homeowner to reconnect to water and septic after storm repairs.
5) Downe Township’s issuance of foreclosure warnings against properties. (Tax funds were used for emergency repairs and have not yet been replaced).
6) NJ Department of Environmental Protection issuance of a menacing report on local water quality based on atypical data collection procedures and errant identification of contamination sources.
As a result, Money Island NJ remains in a state of crisis. None of the houses damaged by the storm are occupied today. The Money Island Marina suffers from a lack of worker housing. The only homeowner who was able to afford to replace his home has been denied a certificate of occupancy.
The message from Money Island residents to NJ government is clear: “if you aren’t going to help us then at least get out of the way to allow us to rebuild our lives to where we were before the storm”. My strategy is to continue to be the ‘squeaky wheel’ to publicize this issue until we see some progress.