Increase in Construction Jobs Noted After Sandy
House raisers and carpenters note spike in work, adding that many residents are waiting for insurance funds before signing contracts.
The message on the answering machine at LBI House Raising is telling: "Due to the high volume of requests we are receiving, we are only able to provide estimates for Long Beach Island homeowners at this time. Please check back with us periodically for updates. We apologize for the inconvenience."
There was a time, LBI House Raising Co-owner Nancy Leonetti said, when their contractors would travel all the way to Flemington, N.J., to raise a home. But that all changed after Hurricane Sandy.
If there can be one "bright spot" in Sandy's wake, it would be the growth in certain businesses that cater to the rebuilding efforts needed all along the shore, from private home rebuilds to construction of various recreational areas, like boardwalks.
Late last month, the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development issued a press release stating that private sector employers added 30,900 workers to their payrolls, and construction jobs were among those topping the list.
Although the agency said it would be another month or two before they could analyze the data to show that the spike was actually related to Sandy, it is apparent, just by a drive through any shore town that certain businesses - namely those related to home rebuilding - are booming.
According to the Labor statistics department, in December, job gains were posted in all of New Jersey’s nine major private industry sectors. The industry sector with the largest gain was trade, transportation and utilities, which rose by 6,000 jobs. That was followed by growth in construction, at more than 4,300 jobs.
"Let me just say that my house was flooded as well," Steve Borer, owner of CDA Roofing Consultants, told Patch. "And yes, it is a huge inconvenience. But following this storm, I have hired six more full-time people. I have spent money on advertising and on business cards. The up side of all this, if there is one, is that it is boosting the economy in New Jersey, and I think it is needed."
Borer said that as a Brick resident and businessman, he has heard the frustration and confusion of his fellow Jersey Shore residents, regarding FEMA's advisory flood maps.
Called Advisory Base Flood Elevations, or ABFEs, the new maps were compiled prior to Sandy using historical storm data and changing topography and will eventually become the National Flood Insurance Program’s official flood elevation maps. Though the ABFEs won’t become official until the middle of 2014 at the earliest, their adoption by the state leaves impacted municipalities with few options moving forward.
Much of the criticism of the new maps focuses on changes to its various zones, specifically its A and V Zones. Residents who fail to rebuild their homes higher or elevate their existing properties above base flood levels will soon be subject to extreme flood insurance premiums.
"My advice to people who don't have the money to raise, and if they don't have the 51% damage, is to just pay off their mortgage, and ride it out without absorbing the cost of the flood insurance," Borer said. "I'm not always trying to get a sale, I'm in a position now of having to help them make an educated decision about what will be best for them." Borer cited his own father as an example.
"My father lives on the bay in Point Pleasant. He is in his 70s and can't make it up and down the stairs, so raising his home isn't a good decision for him," Borer said, adding that he has done more than 100 estimates for house lifting since Sandy.
Leonetti echoed those sentiments, adding that many residents, particularly in the LBI area, are waiting to see about their Increased Cost of Compliance funding before committing to raising, because they don't have the money to pay. Further, there are protocols in place that residents have to follow before they can apply for the money.
Impact on other businesses
Just as when the storm hit, the waves created by Sandy have been far reaching.
Ray Guida, owner of Ray Guida and Sons Contracting, which is based in Manalapan, said his business has also seen a spike in work after Sandy, despite being an "inland" business.
"Right after Sandy, I was getting calls from people who wanted sheetrock on their first floor level to avoid the mold starting to grow," Guida said. "There was one shore house down in Brick. We gutted the entire first floor right up to the ceiling, and we were going to remodel the entire interior, but the project is on hold, because now he's been told he has to raise his home. I feel badly for a lot of people down there, because a lot of people just can't afford to make these repairs. And of course the talk of the town, is people are deciding to just leave their homes."
Local unions are also reporting spikes in workload, but at least one union member expressed frustration by what appears to be a stall in the work.
Michael Maloney, who is the business manager of UA Local 9, told Patch that right now, the work is coming in in "drivels", because "many people are waiting for their FEMA checks."
Maloney said he is frustrated that bills like Senate President Stephen Sweeney's (D-Gloucester), S. 2425 which adds to the project labor agreement law on the books since 2002, by adding highways, bridges, pumping stations and water and sewage treatment plants, are being met with resistance from Republicans, whom he claims are voting along party lines. Sweeney (D-Gloucester), has said the agreements are key to making sure work goes to New Jersey workers.
"I can't believe there is partisan B.S. going on when people here in this state are suffering," Maloney told Patch. He added that many people in his union lost their own houses in Sandy.
At a recent town hall meeting in Stafford, several carpenter union representatives asked Gov. Chris Christie about the work situation in coming months.
"None of us would have wished this on New Jersey, but now that it has come, I would say a lot of you will be back to work," Christie said.
Christie also said he planned to be vigilant about price gouging - which many Shore residents have reported - and trouble shooting any other issues that may surface from less-than-reputable contractors. For any storm related service, Shore residents are encouraged to:
- Get more than one estimate.
- Take those estimates back to your insurance agent and ask, "Is this a reasonable cost," because if it's not, the insurance company may not pay for it.