Cost of Sandy continues to mount

Photo By Cheryl Hehl
A tent city scene across a busy Routes 1 and 9 in Linden was set up and paid for by FEMA to house, feed and care for out-of-state utility workers at a cost of $1.7 million, but according to sources, was barely used.

Since superstorm Sandy, FEMA has approved $557 million for homeowners, paying more than $250 million in the past month for rent, emergency home repairs and even money for cash strapped homeowners impacted by floodwaters. But not all FEMA money is going to survivors.

A few weeks ago on the site of the former General Motors plant in Linden, a tent city was erected almost over night by a company outsourced to do the job for FEMA at a cost of $1.7 million, according to information obtained from FEMA.

Trailers loaded with portable bathrooms, showers and cots made a steady stream through the Route 1 entry across from Aviation Plaza, heading toward the football field-sized white tents erected days before. Mammoth generators were tuned and ready to pump heat into the tents and chefs stood by the ready, awaiting tons of food that was due to arrive and turned into mouth watering hot meals.

(See related story: Linden’s road blocks to recovery)

The tent city was supposed to house utility workers who traveled from out of state to help with storm repair efforts, staying for as long as 30 to 45 days, but that never happened. No one at FEMA has responded to repeated questions regarding the unused facility or the money spent that could have gone to storm victims in need.

A week ago, WABC Eye Witness News reported that in New York millions of pounds of food and water were just sitting in tractor trailers in Brooklyn, unused. The reason? According to FEMA, it’s in case another disaster hits the area.

At a recent meeting held at Union County College by Republican Assemblyman Jon Bramnick and the Union County Freeholder Board, one resident from Linden whose foundation was compromised by floodwaters could not understand why he was turned down for help by FEMA, and why representatives from the group were of little help.

According to information obtained from the county Monday, 20,468 people had applied to FEMA in Union County. But there were no figures on how many actually received aid so far.

The total number of applicants so far received at FEMA’s central disaster recovery site for the entire state as of Nov. 25 was 231,020, with $255.9 million in disaster relief funding approved and handed out. Gov. Chris Christie’s office reported last week that a preliminary cost analysis of the damages is estimated at $23.4 billion.

The county reported last week that during the storm, the regional shelter in Cranford had facilities to house 250 people and as the crisis spread, there were often up to 100 people seeking relief from the cold.

Union County Communications Director Sebastian D’Elia said the county worked with partners to provide 39,550 hot meals and 106,000 snacks countywide, and supplied 850 cots and more than 8,100 ready-to-eat meals, 1,500 blankets and 370 comfort kits. Public Safety Director Andrew Moran and Division of Emergency Management Director Chris Scaturo reported 90 percent, or over 200,000 customers, in Union County were without power.