It's hard to fathom that but a year ago the entire state was sitting in darkness and in crowded shelters as Superstorm Sandy ravaged New Jersey, leaving the cherished shoreline an unrecognizable husk of destruction. What's even harder to fathom is how so many people are still displaced. Governor Christie largely waged his reelection and presidential aspirations on his aggressive response to Sandy and, of course, has done everything and anything to get a nice photo op of himself (and family) at the restored Jersey Shore. Since it's an election year and all about appearances, every campaigning politician was out in full force yesterday to comment on the one year anniversary of Sandy. And while there certainly have been achievements and vast improvements to tout one year later, there are still a great many not so glamorous communities and beach towns that haven't seen such positive results.
Take Michael Conacchio of Brick, for example. Like so many of the other estimated 26,000 people still displaced from Sandy, Conacchio feels like a hostage in the bedroom of his devastated home.
“For the past 12 months I’ve been living in my bedroom,” said Conacchio, 56, of Brick Township. "There's mold throughout the first floor.” (Fox News.com)
Conacchio is but one of the great many citizens benighted by the Sandy recovery. Residents expressed outrage at low-balling insurance agents, FEMA workers who won't listen and a slew of arbitrary rules governing the aid they so desperately need.
George Kasimos of Toms River became so frustrated with the lack of aid money and the overly bureaucratic process that he eventually started the advocacy group Stop FEMA Now.
“The big problem is that no grant money has hit the streets,” said an exasperated Kasimos. “They just give you a denial. Without any explanation.” (Fox News.com)
Connachio has it especially hard. The self-employed auto tech is still reeling from major back issues from a car accident and was actually facing foreclosure when Sandy hit. Connachio lost both his work van, boat and two cars to Sandy. And adding even more bruising kicks to the nuts, he has yet to see the $115,000 awarded through his homeowner’s policy due to his foreclosure. It seems the check was made out to both him and his mortgage company, but he's been unable to get the loan servicer to free up the money to pay contractors.
"I’ve developed lung problems." Conacchio said. "I use two inhalers and have to carry around a bag of meds. I have constant migraines. About 80 percent of the time I’m home, I sit in the dark with a wet towel over my eyes.” (Fox News.com)
It's overlooked and abused residents such as Conacchio that compelled Kasimos to start his advocacy group. After all, why should all the businesses and beach attractions get all the love when other towns can barely get sloppy seconds? Kasimos was greatly angered by the fact that federal money allocated to help victims has not been spent, but yet Christie immediately announced that Sandy recovery money would be used to repair the damage caused by the "faulty wiring" fire that hit Seaside Park boardwalk last month.
“The boardwalk should have fire insurance, right?" Kasimos said. "So why are we giving [them] federal money? My neighbor across the lagoon from where I live, his home caught fire. It was gutted. No one helped him.” (Fox News.com)
The Asbury Park Boardwalk and much of the state's other beach attractions may look brand new one year later. But for much of the state's displaced residents, it might as well be the immediate aftermath of the storm