After Closing On A RREM Grant, DCA Says A New Home For Vietnam Vet Is Not In The Cards
By Art Gallagher
Russell Card Jr removes his “family crest” from his family’s home in Highlands in preparation for demolition . Photo via facebook
A Vietnam Veteran from Highlands and his 65 year-old wife had their expectations of a new home crushed last week when their RREM approved builder informed them that a stop work order had been placed on their project by the Department of Community Affairs, with no explanation. The family had prepared their house for demolition, based upon promises from DCA/RREM, and now fear they will be without a home.
Russell Card, a 72 year-old Vietnam Veteran from Highlands closed on his $150,000 RREM grant on July 28. He put up his $18,000 escrow to cover the difference between the cost of the project and the amount granted. Card, his wife Maureen and son Russell Jr, 35, prepared their home (which was built in the 1890’s and in the family since 1933) for demolition. They moved most of their belongings into a POD on their immaculately maintained property and moved themselves into an apartment the size of the living room in the Bay Avenue house they have lived in since 1986. By mid-September all the utilities were disconnected at the house and it was ready for demolition before their new home would be built. The funding for the new home was the RREM grant, a gap grant of $30,000 from Gap Funding Initiative and $17,762 that was remaining from a $55,000 grant Mrs. Card had received from her employer, CareOne, after Sandy filled their home with eight feet of water on October 29, 2012.
Tina Napalo lived in a bungalow-style house on Fourth Street in Union Beach for more than 20 years. “I didn’t have everything,” said the 40-year-old mother of four, but, “it took me a long time to get what I had.” Then Hurricane Sandy hit.…
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If Governor Chris Christie’s presidential prospects have been damaged by the Bridgegate scandal and associated investigations, you wouldn’t know it by the amount of television cameras at the Town Hall Meeting in Port Monmouth this morning. Middletown officials estimate the crowd was about 500 people. There was easily 50 members of the media including reporters, photographers and videographers.
There was no swagger from the Governor today. No fist pumps, no snazzy introductory video, no in your face insults to hostile questioners. Christie dodged the only hostile question he heard. The Youtube moment came not from an idiot or thin skinned reporter, but from a three year old girl who said her house is still broken.
Bridgegate, the controversy over the September lane closures at the George Washington Bridge that has spurred investigations by the U.S. Attorney and a Special Legislative Committee never came up. The people who came to today’s meeting would gladly trade places with the Bergen County residents who were inconvenienced by traffic jams for four days. They been without their homes for 16 months.
“My message to the federal government, get the resources where they are needed as fast as possible, as hard as possible and for the duration. Because the recovery process, obviously in a place like New Jersey is going to take a significant amount of time….
I told the mayors and the governors, if they are getting no for an answer somewhere in the federal government, they can call me personally at the White House.” ~ President Barack Obama, October 30, 2012
“On October 29 last year the job changed for me. It’s no longer a job, it’s a mission.
You see a mission is something that is different from a job. A mission is sacred. It’s a sacred trust that was thrust on me, and you, on October 29 of last year.
And that mission is to make sure that everyone, everyone in New Jersey that was affected by Sandy to return to normalcy in their lives.
I will not let anyone, anything, any governmental entity, or any force get in between me and the completion of my mission.” ~ Governor Chris Christie, November 5, 2013
Welcome back to Monmouth County, Governor Christie. We’ve been waiting for you.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has turned down a request from the Christie Administration that the rule requiring that reconstruction work on homes damaged by SuperStorm Sandy stop upon the homeowner applying for Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, Elevation and Mitigation(RREM) aid, according to an Associated Press report posted on NJ.com and other outlets.
HUD rules require that the plans for all work on properties receiving RREM grants be evaluated and approved by the government. Work done without the RREM approval is not eligible for reimbursement under the program, even if the work complies with all requirements. This process has created a major logjam is funds being awarded and homes being rebuilt.
In an undated letter obtained late Tuesday by The Associated Press, HUD rejected the state’s request.
HUD says the rules, which have been the source of many complaints from homeowners struggling to rebuild after the October 2012 storm, are intended to make sure historically significant properties aren’t damaged or demolished, and that aid is not duplicated among the numerous Sandy reconstruction programs offered by federal and state governments.
Yolanda Chávez, HUD’s deputy assistant secretary for grant programs, wrote to New Jersey Community Affairs Commissioner Richard Constable listing other reasons why the rule can’t be dropped as well.
“If the construction does not meet elevation requirements and must be undone, resources will be spent with no benefit to the recovery,” she wrote.
If you’re going to Governor Christie’s Town Hall Meeting in Middletown tomorrow, expect to hear about this rule and others as the source of the delay in RREM funding, and as an explanation for why the multi-family projects outside of Sandy impacted areas, notably the Belleville and New Brunswick projects that have been in the news, have been approved while Jersey Shore residents are still waiting and not living at home.
Governor Chris Christie will likely be tan and relaxed after a holiday weekend in Puerto Rico when he arrives in Middletown for his first Town Hall Meeting since last June tomorrow.
He should be ready for bear.
Christie could get RREM’d tomorrow.
Bayshore residents who overwhelmingly voted for Christie in 2009 and again last November are ready to give up on giving Christie the benefit of the doubt. The politically connected feel he’s taken Republican Monmouth and Ocean Counties for granted. Those still suffering from the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy feel like Christie has ridden their suffering to national prominence while neglecting his self professed “mission” to rebuild the shore.
The powder keg of frustration with Christie was building before the election and certainly before Bridgegate. Sandy victims brutalized by the storm feel further violated by the red tape and false starts peddled by all levels of government, banks and insurance companies.
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