Wayne to Receive $6.3 Million for Home Buyouts Due to Flooding
Officials announce new FEMA grants statewide to buyout homes damaged by flooding caused by Hurricane Irene.
Wayne will receive an additional $6.3 million in federal disaster relief funding for voluntary home buyouts in the wake of devastation from Hurricane Irene, Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr. and U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg announced at a press conference Friday.
The grant money, released by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, will fund voluntary buyouts of 56 homes in the township, according to officials, who spoke at the Wayne Municipal Complex.
Approximately 150 homes in total are eligible to be bought out by the federal government, officials said.
Statewide, FEMA has awarded more than $28 million in grants through its Hazard Mitigation Program for buyouts, officials said.
"A storm of this magnitude [Hurricane Irene] demanded a strong response from the government and that’s why we’re here today," said Lautenberg, vice chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security, which funds FEMA.
"These buyouts will help us reclaim natural land and restore open space. Instead of water flooding a family’s basement it will be absorbed by the environment. We’re not going to stop until we have long-term solutions to the flooding that plagues these areas," he said.
Grants were also awarded Friday to several other towns along the Passaic River basin, including Pequannock, Little Falls, Fairfield, Lincoln Park and Pompton Lakes.
The 56 homes are located on some of the most heavily-flooded streets in the First Ward, including: Riverside Drive, Riverlawn Drive, and Fayette Avenue.
The latest grant money comes in addition to federal money previously awarded to Wayne, one of the communities hardest-hit by the storm.
The township is already in the process of buying out dozens of homes in the Hoffman Grove section of town. Those homes are covered under a separate buyout program.
"We certainly are very grateful in Wayne Township for what the government has done for us,” said Mayor Chirs Vergano.
Despite the buyouts and the relief they are bringing residents, some are still dealing with with their homes flooding multiple times a year.
Maureen Sullivan lives on West Road in Hoffman Grove with Michael Kunbre. They have been trying to get the government to buy their house since 2009.
"I just want to live a normal life," Sullivan said.
Sullivan and Kunbre are living with Kumbre's aunt in an apartment in Jersey City. Floodwaters have destroyed most of what they own.
"My only option is a buyout," Kunbre said. "[Hoffman Grove] that's the worse place you can be when it floods."
The announcement comes only three months after rain from Hurricane Irene caused the worst flooding in North Jersey in a century.
Mike Moriarty, FEMA's deputy regional administrator for New York and New Jersey, said that a typically it takes about two years before a grant is awarded.
The decision to issue the grants comes, "because there was a tremendous partnership and collaborative effort from the local government, the state government, as well as the federal government," Moriarty said.
A number of factors are used to determine whether or not a property is placed on the buyout list, including the amount of insurance claims that have been filed against the property, its fair market value, and the cost of remediating it in future flood events.
Residents and officials deemed the latest flood event in August worse than the historic 1984 flood. Individuals who never received water in their homes experienced flooding when Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee dumped several inches of rain on North Jersey. Houses near Ryerson Avenue were completely destroyed.
Residents have said that the floodgates on the Pompton River dam are to blame for the increased frequency and severity of flooding in lowest-lying sections in town. Governor Christie has commissioned an independent study of the gates' operation. The results will be avaialble in February.