Neighborhoods Still Rebuilding After Historic Flooding
Some residents who live in the heart of the flood zone are trying to sell their homes. Others are staying, choosing to elevate their residences instead.
The houses stand several feet off the ground, their foundations still unfinished. Others are still being constructed or repaired. Some houses have just been abandoned, the grass in their front lawns uncut.
Houses in the Riverview and Mountain View sections of town are still being repaired and rebuilt a year after Tropical Storm Irene.
Pierre Chibiak is rebuilding his two-story home nine feet higher than it previously was.
“I’ll never get any water in the house ever again,” Chibiak said. “It’s a permanent solution, one that’s costing me a lot more than people think.”
Chibiak received some money from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for the project, but had to fund much of it himself.
“I enjoy living here, but I don’t like getting flooded every year,” Chibiak said. “No one wants to buy my house so I’m stuck with having to take money our of my own pocket to live in peace, but I’m going to do whatever I have to do.”
Chibiak moved to Riverview in 2007, the same year the floodgates on the Pompton Lake dam became operational. He is one of many residents who say that flooding has gotten progressively worse because of the floodgates.
The state Department of Environmental Protection released a report earlier this year that states the gates do not contribute to downstream flooding.
Residents have disputed the conclusions published in that report.
Some residents have tried selling their homes to escape the flooding.
Streets are littered with realtors’ signs throughout the Riverview, Mountain View, and Old Wayne neighborhoods. Most are from major reality companies, but there are more than a few “For Sale By Owner” signs marking front lawns.
Yellow caution tape is still stretched across the front of a North Road property nearly a year after a gas explosion occurred there.
“I’d love not to have to deal with the floods, but who will buy my house,” Oscar Kayat asked. “No one’s going to buy it but that’s okay.”
Kayat, his neighbors, and others say that they don’t want to move because of the relationships they’ve developed with their neighbors. The flooding has brought everyone closer together and formed bonds that aren’t easily broken.
“That’s what’s keeping me here,” Kayat said. “The people here are so great and we’ve been though so much together.”
Kayat’s neighbors agree.
“The people here, we all mean so much to each other,” said one of Kayat’s neighbors who didn’t want his name used. “We’re as tight as any community can be. That’s what makes the difference here.”
Selling and buying out homes may be a solution for some people, but the strategy does have its detractors.
“You can’t buy this problem out,” said Assemblyman Scott Rumana. Rumana said buying out the entire 100-year floodplain in the Passaic River Basin would cost $7 billion.
“It’s not feasible, it’s not logical, and it’s a silly thing to even suggest,” Rumana said. “Even if you could come up with the $7 billion, where would put all of those people?”