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Last updateWed, 16 Sep 2020 2pm

Politics

Political Superstorm: Sandy and the Government’s Role

Stronger Than the Storm: Superstorm Sandy One Year Later


Superstorm Sandy hit and government agencies and personnel were expected to serve the citizens and communities affected by the storm. Issues such as easements, dune replenishment and insurance claims have been a large part of the recovery effort.

According to a Monmouth University polling institute poll, Gov. Christie is leading over State Senator Barbara Buono by 24 points. Christie’s popularity soared after Superstorm Sandy to 69 percent approval rating.

Dr. Joseph Patten, Chair of the Political Science and Sociology Department, said, “Polls show that New Jersey residents admire the way he took charge during the crisis, and his willingness to work across the political aisle with Democrats to solve problems in our state.”

Patten continued, “This is especially appealing to residents since Washington has been bogged down in partisan politics in recent years.  Generally, Governors and Mayors are less partisan than legislators because as executives they are responsible for solving problems, they actually run the government, and usually prefer not to waste as much time with partisan bickering.”

Katie Meyer, graduate student, said, “I think that everything that has happened politically since Sandy has been a power struggle and Jersey residents are the unfortunate kids stuck in the middle of a truly nasty divorce.”

Garrett Brown, freshman communication major, said, “My town was cleaned up within 4 days. It looked brand new.”

Dr. Alan Steinberg, adjunct of political science and sociology, said, “I think Gov. Christie did a superb job…I think what he did that was very good was that times of catastrophe is when political leaders need to be visible. [Gov. Christie] was on the ground and he made people feel like he shared their concern and would do what he could to compensate the victims.”

Steinberg was in region two of the Enviornomental Protection Agency where he was on the ground in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita. He describes those two days, “The two of the most horrifying days of my life.”

Easements have been a topic of concern for homeowners as well. The New Jersey Supreme Court case, Borough of Harvey Cedars v. Karan, dealt with easements and what is the value of the land that would be taken by eminent domain. This case took into consideration the “loss of view.”

According to the court opinion, “The Karans argue that they should not be made to pay twice for storm-damage protection afforded by a public project, once by their taxes and again by deducting the enhanced value of their home from the damages. However, that argument is far-fetched when the actual numbers are considered. The Harvey Cedars shore-protection project cost twenty-five million dollars, with the federal government bearing most of the cost, with the State bearing a lesser amount, and with the municipality pitching in one million dollars. Tens of millions of taxpayers contributed to the shore-protection project that shields the Karans’ property from destruction. Because the Karans occupy frontline ocean property, the benefits afforded to them are much greater than to others.”

According to Peter Reinhart, Director of the Kislak Real Estate Institute, the case was settled by the trial courts where the Karans were awarded $375,000 for the loss of view due to dunes but the decision was appealed and Karans settled out for $1 and legal fees. “Until the Karan case, towns were reluctant to move forward because they didn’t have thousands of dollars for multiple homeowners,” said Reinhart. Steinberg believes dunes are necessary because, “Shore protection is needed.”

Reinhart also said that now each municipality is responsible for negotiating with individual homeowners.

Meyer said, “I think that people who want to live by the water are parts brave and stupid. Scientists have said that we will experience another storm like Sandy. It’s not a question of ‘if’ but of ‘when.’”

Meyer continued, “I think that the easements and dunes will only do so much to keep the waters back and keep the damage small. People need to understand that they are fighting a force they can’t win against.”

Reinhart said that one way to help reduce the costs of loss during a major storm could be combining of municipalities. He used Sea Bright as an example. According to Reinhart, 40 percent of their tax base was destroyed during the Superstorm. “However, if they were part of Middletown, the destruction to the tax base wouldn’t have been so severe,” said Reinhart.

Another issue that will need to be addressed, according to Reinhart, is construction of new or partially damaged homes. “Building codes have changed. The beach front homes that New Jersey was known for may not look the same because now according to the new federal flood maps.”

Reinhart continued, “What you are going to see is homes literally jacked up 10-12 feet and that is going to change the fabric of the Jersey shore.” Reinhart said that if you travel along the eastern coast, the raised homes are normal and New Jersey may look that way in the next five years.

Steinberg said that he questions the Governor not requiring the raising of beach front homes. “I do believe when you experience something like Sandy, you need to be proactive…You should plan for it with required elevation.”

Steinberg referenced climate change and he said that while there is no evidence that outright says that climate change causes more hurricanes, there is information that climate change could be contributing to “more intense storms such as Sandy, Katrina and Rita.”

According to Gov. Christie’s press package titled, “NJ, One Year Later,” there are four main areas that have been addressed:

Dune Construction. In September 2013, Governor Christie signed Executive Order No.140 to speed up dune construction to protect countless homes and businesses along New Jersey’s 127 miles of shoreline.

Sea Walls. In August 2013, Mantoloking and Brick received federal and state approval for a steel sea wall to provide secondary coastal storm protection as an integral part of the forthcoming federal beach and dune project.

Hazard Mitigation Grant Program. In October 2013, the Christie Administration announced $50 million to enable local and regional resiliency projects that will better protect the state in the event of a storm or other disaster.

NJ TransitGrid. In August 2013, Governor Christie partnered with the Obama Administration to design a microgrid to power the state’s infrastructure and NJ Transit during storms or other times when the traditional centralized grid is compromised

IMAGE TAKEN from politickernj.com

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