By Assemblywoman Connie Wagner
In 1958, my mother and father started their journey towards achieving the American Dream, building their own home, in what were once the idyllic country-like surroundings of South Hackensack, New Jersey. Weeping willow trees, open space filled with fields and plenty of ponds to go ice skating on in the winter. Each weekend, Dad and the rest of the family would gather with hammer and nails and work for hours alongside the hired carpenter. The result was a three-bedroom Cape Cod house which was our castle; the collective effort of working hard, saving, and sacrificing for our family’s dream.
As the years went by development after development popped up along the landscape: factories, homes and paved parking lots. The surroundings may have changed but to our family it was still our home. However, with each passing storm, water began inundating our basement. So after experiencing one too many rainstorms Dad purchased and installed a sump pump, but it was not enough to keep the water from entering our basement. One of the final memories I have of my father after he suffered a stroke was him sitting in a chair holding a wet-vac waging an unwinnable battle with the surging water. His castle was being destroyed.
This past fall as I visited the communities of Rochelle Park, Saddle Brook, New Milford and Lodi and spoke with residents, I understood their pain. I listened to the residents who told me of their endless battles with flooding. The residents begged me to not forget them and to do something. “Out of sight, out of mind” they would say. Their fear was that after the storm, nothing would be done and I am afraid that they are right. They wanted government to work for them, to help ease their pain, to lessen the effects of the damaging rain storms. The “once-in-a-lifetime” storm for some had occurred five times. Losing their home was not only financially costly but also emotionally costly. Their castles were destroyed.
I hear the comments, “New Jersey has no money.”, “There is no emergency.”, and “The people have to vote.” Did the people vote on the $261 million tax break for the Revel project in Atlantic City? Did the people vote on the $102.4 million tax break for Panasonic? Did we vote on the $82 million tax break for Goya to stay in New Jersey?
Must we wait for another storm before we do the simple projects to try to alleviate some of the damage? Putting off action will only result in recurring damage to our communities. We are all paying for it one way or another by the heavy costs of clean-up and rebuilding. This recurring nightmare requires the fortitude to take the first steps to try and tackle the problem. By repairing some of our transportation and water infrastructure we might be able to partially mitigate the disastrous effects these floods have taken on our families, friends and neighbors.
Government must step up and remedy the situation, and yes, we will have to pay, but if we put off the problem, the solution will only become more costly.
Wagner, (D-38), Paramus, has pending a bill A4269 that would authorize $100 million to help combat flooding throughout the state. The bill is in the Assembly Appropriations Committee.