By John Burton
Super Storm Sandy was a bipartisan storm, displacing both Republican and Democratic mayors, whose homes were damaged it the storm’s wake.
Like so many of their constituents, mayors of Sea Bright, Highlands, Little Silver and Oceanport saw their homes so damaged by last October’s storm they became displaced and three of them still have not returned.
Oceanport Mayor Michael Mahon and his family had to rely on relatives after the storm. But “I’m one of the lucky ones,” he insisted. His home was repaired sufficiently, allowing the Mahons to return right around last year’s holidays.
The others aren’t so lucky.
“My home is no longer my home,” said Sea Bright Mayor Dina Long, as she looks toward a year out of her residence. Over the past year, while working on the overwhelming magnitude of issues her community faces following the storm’s devastating effects on the oceanfront community, Long and her family had to address dealing with their own situation.
Like so many others in the community, they’ve been at odds with their insurance providers and have had to deal with government red tape, as they attempted to access the various programs intended to assist residents.
“You live by the water, you know the risk, you buy a policy,” Long said. “I get it.
“But then you’re told it won’t cover your home,” she added.
According to Long, her policy should have allowed for $205,000. Instead the carrier is saying she is entitled to $5,000 for her home contents and $60,000 for damages. “My cheapest repair bill is $75,000. And that’s if I cut corners,” she said.
“The cruel joke is they don’t give you enough to fix,” she charged.
Long is currently waiting for the final determination for the state’s Rehabilitation, Reconstruction, Elevation and Mitigation (RREM) grant program before her family can make any final determination on what they’ll do.
Mayor Frank Nolan, saw not only one, but two homes structurally damaged by the storm, his family’s and his mother-in-law’s, that he has been caring for. “I just paid my 12th rent payment,” on the rental his family has been using, after having spent approximately 17 days in a housing shelter at Henry Hudson Regional High School.
Everything in both homes is being replaced as well as the other work that needs to be accomplished, which he said, “puts me in the same position as most of the downtown residents,” of Highlands, where about 1,250 of the approximately 1,500 homes were damaged to some degree.
“It’s frustrating for me, it’s frustrating for everybody,” dealing with contractors, insurance adjusters and red tape. Nolan said he was ready to scream recently, when the windows and doors order arrived and were the wrong ones, causing another delay.
Work is moving forward on Little Silver Mayor Robert Neff’s home, slowly but surely, Neff pointed out. Like others he’s had to replace everything in the family home and repair it from the flooding. “Between my wife, my kids and volunteers, I did much better than I might otherwise,” he noted, as everyone pitched in to help clean out the structure, filling two 1-ton dumpsters, to make way for the work.
“We’re pretty grateful to be where we are a year from this because of all the help we had,” he said.
Neff is very close to being back, hopefully within the week, he said. “It’s been a long year but we’re getting there,” he said.
Nolan said he’s about “10 percent away” from returning home.
For Long and her family, things remain up in the air. And this experience has caused her and her family to rethink some basic things.
“It has certainly changed my relationship with the material world,” she said.
“I’m certainly content to rent for the rest of my life,” she said.