Maybe Gov. Christie would help Point Borough's Sandy-flooded neighborhoods if he would do one simple thing: see them.
That's the thinking of Point Borough Mayor William Schroeder, who has been trying in vain for the past six weeks to get the Garden State's head honcho to visit the Borough where it was tidal surge flooding, and not wave and wind destruction, that flooded 1,000 homes.
"We deserve his visit to see the town first-hand," Schroeder said. He said that while 1,000 homes flooded, there are now 2,500 in flood zones on the new FEMA map, which he and many others think is over-kill and put an unfair burden on those residents who would get charged higher flood insurance rates.
Why is it important for the governor to know what type of damage hit the Borough? Because maybe then he will help the Borough of approximately 20,000 residents fight some of the flood zone designations laid out by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Schroeder said.
However, Schroeder is hoping that acceptance was geared more toward house elevations, but leaves some negotiating room when it comes to the flood zone designations.
Besides that, he would like the governor to view the damaged areas to see if there are any other ways the state can help.
Schroeder and Borough Business Administrator David Maffei met Tuesday afternoon at Borough Hall with members of the governor's staff, including Chris Stark, regional director of intergovernmental affairs, and Toni Angelini, the governor's new liaison to Sandy-ravaged municipalities.
"We had a good meeting," Schroeder said."I feel a little better because I talked to people who had some answers and now I have someone to call." The mayor said Angelini provided her contact information so he can touch base with her with problems and questions. Schroeder said he passed along his invitation to the governor.
He said the state officials said residents should explore every possible avenue to get financial assistance, including applying for Small Business Administration (SBA) low-interest loans in addition to registering with FEMA. And it is not only residents who were flooded who should apply for SBA loans, Schroeder said.
"People should apply if they had no power and lost products or if they had other types of damage, not just flooding," he said. Those interested can get more information through the SBA website.
Schroeder and municipal officials are also meeting next week with Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), who has been in touch with the mayor for weeks regarding possible financial assistance for residents.
Parts of the Borough, including much of Sunshine Harbor and Bay Head Shores, are in the "V zone," which is defined, in part, as zones where there has been or potentially could be significant wind damage during storms and where there can be "three foot waves" on nearby waterways.
Tom Bolcar of the Sunshine Harbor Board has balked at that, saying the community is not on the ocean where there are three foot waves and the damage was from rising flood waters, not wind.
Properties in the "V Zones" also typically face the highest flood insurance rates that can be mitigated only somewhat by raising homes.
The mayor and Borough Council have promised worried residents that they are trying to fight the V zone designation.
Seeing "V zones" on a map on his town where he was born and raised is heartbreaking and maddening for Schroeder, especially when he looks at the oceanfront maps and sees that there are some oceanfront and near-oceanfront areas that are in "A zones," not quite as restrictive.
It's maddening because he is concerned that state and federal officials don't understand that the destruction on the oceanfront and the damage in his town were not the same.
The Borough did not get the direct wind and wave damage that wiped out houses in Mantoloking and Ortley Beach and chewed and spit out entire boardwalks like they were toothpicks.
The Borough got the brunt of tidal surge flooding when the ocean breached the Barnegat Bay in Mantoloking and then the bay and its tributaries, including lagoons in the Borough, had nowhere to go but into people's homes and businesses.
The zones are in FEMA's Advisory Base Flood Elevation (ABFE) map which the agency is saying are "only advisory," but are striking fear in the hearts of flooded residents who are worried about paying sky-high flood insurance rates. And that's if they somehow figure out how to come up with the money to raise and renovate their homes.
Just after Sandy struck,
"I would like the governor to actually visit the Borough, instead of just speeding by at 60 mph," Schroeder said.
Councilmember Antoinette DePaola also said this week that the Borough should continue to fight the V zone designations and that she feels the town has support from at least some state legislators representing the local area. She said she believes the governor's acceptance of the FEMA maps provides guidance for residents, but does not mean the flood zone designations are written in stone.
"Those who must rebuild now have standards to guide them," DePaola said. "For those who don't need to rebuild, we have time to fight the V Zone designations to give these homeowners relief for the future."
The Borough passed an ordinance (see attached PDF) on first reading allowing residents to raise their homes so they do not need to get a Zoning Board of Adjustment variance (or approval). The ordinance is scheduled for a public hearing and adoption on Feb. 19.
To see the FEMA maps, click here. To find out about a FEMA Hazard Mitigation grant program that some residents may be eligible for, click here. To hear audio of a conference call, geared primarily towards businesses, about how FEMA and SBA may be of assistance, click here.