Lawmakers to hold 4th Sandy recovery hearing

TRENTON – For the fourth time, legislators will conduct an autopsy of the Sandy recovery, focusing on what remains to be done and on people who are still out of homes and out of patience with bureaucrats.

A joint Assembly/Senate Environment Committee will hold court on Monday at 4 p.m. in Toms River, which was hard hit by last year’s superstorm, and listen to witnesses tell stories of inflexible rules and unresponsive agencies.

What the lawmakers probably won’t hear from are state officials who have been consistently invited to appear but don’t: Department of Community Affairs Commissioner Richard Constable and Marc Ferzan, head of the Office of Recovery and Rebuilding.

Previous hearings in Atlantic City, Jersey City and Trenton provided lawmakers with evidence that more than a few home and business owners have struggled to get on their feet because of having to deal with hastily trained personnel in processing their claims, and with bankers and insurers who turn a deaf ear to their plight.

The hearings have prompted sympathetic lawmakers such as Sen. Jennifer Beck, (R-11), Red Bank, to pledge personal assistance from her office on the spot to witnesses.

The other pattern that has emerged in testimony is from environmentalists who believe the state is taking a shortsighted approach to rebuilding, that agencies are more concerned with restoring the status quo than with ensuring New Jersey infrastructure withstands the next storm.

Grace Spencer, chair of the Assembly Environment Committee, said after the latest hearing last month: “We are 322 days past the storm and rapidly approaching hurricane season. The hard reality is that many residents are no closer to returning to their homes today than they were last November.  The Sandy rebuilding progress has stalled for many affected by the storm.’’

Monday’s hearing will be held at the Toms River town hall.

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In Toms River, $28M grant for essential services in Sandy’s wake Lawmakers to hold 4th Sandy recovery hearing