UNION BEACH, N.J. (AP) — Bart Sutton fought with his insurance company for a year over what it would cost to rebuild his flood-damaged home, then gave up in frustration and tore it down. A week later, the money came through.
Simone and Ken Dannecker fixed their flooded home themselves, deciding they couldn’t wait for insurance and government aid as green mold threatened to overrun it. Now, with the work nearly done, they are all but bankrupt — and still can’t afford to elevate the house they fought so hard to stay in.
Gigi Liaguno-Dorr needs $2 million to rebuild the bayfront restaurant that was one of the town’s major employers; she has less than a quarter of that and says she has never felt so helpless.
For these three families in Union Beach, a blue-collar enclave clinging precariously to the Raritan Bay, full recovery from Superstorm Sandy is still elusive nearly a year after the storm pummeled the state Oct. 29. That’s also true to thousands of others at the Jersey shore; in Ocean County alone, the county planning board estimated 26,000 people were unable to return to their homes as of last month.
Michael Drewniak, a spokesman for Gov. Chris Christie, could not estimate how many storm-damaged homes remain unoccupied. Many families are living elsewhere while their homes are being rebuilt, and “a large number” of bungalows and small homes that were destroyed or severely damaged were second homes for people living in their primary residences, he said. The state taxation division said more than 40,000 properties suffered a total of $4.3 billion in lost value from storm damage.