Monmouth County mayors and other municipal officials are reacting to Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer’s allegations that her city is not receiving Sandy Relief funds because she hasn’t pushed through a redevelopment approval coveted by Governor Chris Christie with a high degree of skepticism, because their storm ravaged communities have yet to see significant money yet either.
One elected official who asked not to be quoted said, “If Hoboken had approved that Rockefeller project, Zimmer would still be standing on her head at a Hoboken street corner looking for her Sandy money. The money hasn’t started to flow yet.”
“Is it believable that Guadagno (Lt. Governor Kim Guadango) or Constable (DCA Commissioner Richard Constable) encouraged Zimmer to expedite an project? Yes. As a quid pro quo for Sandy dollars? No way,” another official said.
Zimmer alleged on MSNBC’s Up with Steve Kornacki this morning that Guadagno pulled her aside at a Hoboken ribbon cutting and warned that Sandy Relief money to Hoboken was contingent on a development application by the Rockefeller Group being approved by the city. Zimmer said that Constable told her at a Monmouth University symposium on Sandy recovery that relief dollars would flow if the Rockefeller application was approved.
After talking to local and state officials today, MMM understands that the federal money for Sandy Relief is
flowing dripping through four sources; FEMA, the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs (DCA) which administers relief for homeowners, the New Jersey Economic Development Agency(EDA) and County Governments which are administering Hazard Mitigation Grants. The Hazard Mitigation Grants are funded by FEMA and distributed to the counties by the State Office of Emergency Management.
Hoboken’s clean up and repair money would not have been administered by the Christie Administration. That money comes directly from FEMA. Hoboken was approved for almost $6 million from FEMA last May, according to a report in HobokenPatch. The $127 million in requests that Zimmer referred to on Up with Steve Kornacki is for Hazard Mitigation, that would be administered through the Hudson County Executive and Board of Freeholders, and new projects that would be considered by EDA.
FEMA reimburses municipalities directly for clean up and repairs. While a great deal of the clean up and repair expenses have been approved by FEMA, most of that money has not been paid to the municipalities yet. Highlands Mayor Frank Nolan said that his borough has only received about 40% of its approved FEMA reimbursements so far. Belmar Mayor Matt Doherty said his borough’s iconic boardwalk rebuilding has not yet been reimbursed by FEMA. Both mayors said their projects have been approved and they anticipate the money, but it is a slow bureaucratic process. Another municipal elected official who asked not to be quoted said that Highlands’ 40% reimbursement from FEMA sounds very high compared to what other towns are seeing, and that Highlands must be further along in the process than most.
Middletown Township Committeeman Tony Fiore, who was mayor during Sandy and the first year of recovery said, “There has never been any quid pro quo suggested from anyone in the state with regard to Sandy money. Middletown has received some of its clean-up money and we’ve been approved for a $375 thousand planning study, but haven’t seen that money. Other than that, the only money Middletown has seen is $1.5 million in SHRAP grants, which is federal money we received from the County to help residents pay their bills.”
“It’s taking way too long for Sandy money to flow,” Fiore said, “but that’s because of federal and state bureaucracy.”
Doherty said Belmar has an application worth about $3 million with EDA that has been in process for months, but that he does not expect an answer until late April.
“Dawn Zimmer is egregiously out of line,” said an official on the condition of anonymity, “she’s trying to make herself relevant in the larger Bridgegate story, and distance herself from Christie to get back in the good graces of the Democratic party.”