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After Irene, Buyouts Turning Neighborhood into Ghost Town

Purchasing homes and knocking them down have been the solution of choice for many in Wayne.

The buying out of homes is transforming the Hoffman Grove section of town.

Several streets have only a few houses on them. Other homes are boarded up and marked for demolition. Caution tape wrapped around trees and poles mark the boundary of some lots. Patches of dirt are the only evidence that a house once existed on others. Soon, they’ll be covered with grass.

The streets are errily quite. Outdoor activities usually associated with a family-friendly town like Wayne: walking a dog, jogging, or bike riding, don't seem to happen here.

Although some clean up work of local waterways has occurred in Wayne since Tropical Storm Irene, buying out homes is the solution residents and local officials have embraced the most in response to the ongoing issue of flooding.

After the storm, many residents living in low-lying sections of town were quick to call on municipal, state, and federal officials to buy their homes so they could move and get a fresh start.

“It is the only way that permanently takes people out of harms’ way,” said Sandy Galecio, coordinator of the township’s Office of Emergency Management. “We look at getting people out of harm’s way and not being exposed to the dangers of floods, not only for the monetary losses that they suffer, but for the safety of their families.”

Residents are given fair market value for their homes. The homes are knocked down and the land they're on leveled with no further interference from people. Participating is voluntary. 

The town has already purchased and knocked down 71 homes in town; another 24 more in the Hoffman Grove section of town are slated to be bought out. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) funds the program.

But some residents and local politicians have been critical of the programs, saying they do not treat the problem of flooding, merely a symptom of it.

“They take too long and they don’t stop flooding from happening,” Ken Doremus, a Riverlawn Drive resident previously said. Doremus is still after floodwater form Irene destroyed it.

Galecio estimates the town has spent $15 to $16 million on buyouts since 2005. 

The township from the federal government under various programs to buyout homes. The township  in buyout money last year.

A Permanent Solution?

Assemblyman Scott Rumana said that only homes that flood when a severe storm occurs and whose value has decreased dramatically should be bought out. He said that buying out all the homes in the Passaic River Basin would cost $7 billion.

“You’re still going to get the same flooding. You’re not going to buy out all of these properties and the water is going to be absorbed and it’s all going to go away,” said Rumana, a former mayor of Wayne.

The DEP has set aside $2 million in Green Acre funds and is working on getting another $8 million to help purchase 174 properties in the basin that qualify to be bought out. That mitigation strategy is one of many  on flooding in the basin the DEP released in April.

Buying out all of the structures and properties would eliminate thousands of jobs that the local economy depends on to survive, Rumana said.

State and federal officials examined constructing a flood tunnel that would divert floodwater out to Newark Bay years ago, but the project was abandoned.

“If you do nothing about the problem, you’re going to spend 10 times more than you would ever spend trying to fix the problem without the tunnel project,” Rumana said.

The project had a projected cost of $2.8 billion.

Rumana said that the Army Corps of Engineers estimates that between $3 and $4 billion has been spent on cleaning up and repairing homes and businesses in the Passaic River Basin in the past six or seven years after flood events.

“Not addressing the problem is only going to keep making that number go up,” Rumana said. “If you think the American public is going to stand for its own citizens being left in a condition where their homes are destroyed and there’s no relief, that’s never going to happen.”

— Have a question or news tip? Contact editor Daniel Hubbard at Daniel.Hubbard@patch.com or find us on Facebook and Twitter. For news straight to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

curly August 27, 2012 at 12:44 PM
sad... very sad! hopefully these families were able to build a new life with there families with what the township has given them for there home.
wyldthang18 August 27, 2012 at 01:03 PM
isn't it a gov buy out not the township?
lisa August 27, 2012 at 02:13 PM
I've lived here all my life and been through many floods buying out homes is not the answer to our prayers doing something to prevent the problem is this town really don't care about the little people like they used to wake up we are human just because we live in a flood are don't mean we are unknown wwe have lives back here to its about feelings start treating us like we exsist please
Daniel Hubbard (Editor) August 27, 2012 at 02:15 PM
Yes. The money comes from the federal government.
Scondo August 27, 2012 at 03:46 PM
I believe the buyouts help people who might not have known what they were getting into when they rolled the bones and bought in a flood plain. It saves them from themselves. It is a good solution.
Brad August 27, 2012 at 03:55 PM
what is "fair market value"? These homes are close to worthless. I would bet that these people tried to use something like the average home price in wayne, which their house is probably only worth 25% of and got a sweet deal to sell. These homes people buy just to get their kids in our schools which they really can't afford any other way. Now they cry about the floods and want to be bailed out, but they knew the house was in a flood zone when they boug and now they are trying to cash in. If any of these people got more than $100K, there needs to be an investigaton done.
Cathy Cote August 27, 2012 at 11:14 PM
The buyouts also help those whose were NOT in a flood plain when they bought, but are now IN a flood plain since FEMA updated the maps. The dam has changed many of the flood zones, As soon as it opened we received a letter stating that we were now in a flood zone when we werent before, We were required to get flood insurance after the dams opening. Scondo, I know we dont agree on the effects of the Pompton Lakes Dam, but it did cause FEMA to change the flood zoning.
leanbean August 27, 2012 at 11:57 PM
@Brad, You better call for an investigaton. There where homes in Hoffman Grove bought out for more then 100K
Heather August 28, 2012 at 02:11 AM
Some of these houses should have never been built to begin with. Personally, between flooding and our encroachment on wildlife, I agree with somebod these buyouts.
Brad August 28, 2012 at 02:16 AM
I dont care about the decision to buy them out, the price is the important part. Wayne should have required the owners to get an offer from a homebuyer and then the town would match it and buy the house. What cant happen is them to use a number like average house price in wayne, and apply it to the shittiest houses in town, which are worthless.
Brad August 29, 2012 at 12:21 AM
I love when unintelligent people use the word ignorant wrong. How can I be ignorant of the housing market in Wayne, when I live in a beautiful home in one of the most desirable sections of Wayne, and you live in the flood zone in a house that is literally worthless. Who cares what their mortgage is, that is like saying I bought a $50K far that was damaged by flood, but I want all my money back, what you paid is a sunk cost and has no bearing on "fair market value". Those houses are literally not worth a dollar since they will be demolished and the land no usable for housing... If they offered $50K that is generous when these houses aren't worth a dollar. And I think you mean "dam" not "damn". You must be an Obama guy to want the government to bail you out of your mistakes.....
Nose Wayne August 29, 2012 at 12:33 AM
How much money did we spend on buyouts and how much would it have cost to build the tunnel ?
leanbean August 29, 2012 at 12:47 AM
With what Fema spent on the flooding. Insurance and buyouts. The tunnel would have been cheaper if they had built it. That's not counting the loss of taxes from the bought out homes.
Nose Wayne August 29, 2012 at 12:56 AM
Thank You Lean !!!! NO TUNNEL,JUST MO' MONEY, MO' MONEY, MO' MONEY !!!!!
georgeg August 29, 2012 at 01:11 AM
Brad, correct me if I am wrong, but I don't remember seeing you at the last MENSA meeting.......
Lisa August 29, 2012 at 03:54 PM
Wow Brad. Great to make all your observations sitting in your grand part of town. My house never flooded until Floyd showed up and the dam was built. Then every year since then there has been either a street flood or it surrounded my house and in Irene's case, came in my first floor. I don't know what your faith is, but if you proclaim yourself a Christian, Jesus is laughing at you. Way to be empathetic to your neighbors in Wayne. I really love when people can spout off their bullcrap without ever thinking about being in anothers shoes.
Brad August 29, 2012 at 04:01 PM
that was 13 years ago Lisa, welcome to 2012.... There is nothing to be done about nature, there is no point to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to try and move the flow of water when you can just buy up these houses in these bad areas for 1/10 of that cost and build in a better area. Plus these houses are worth close to nothing, they bring the price of other houses in Wayne down and those people pay less taxes so the rest of us have to pay more to cover the same services that you are getting cheaper. Where is the advantage to the town and its citizens to do something else? Or do you just want us to bail you out and pay you four times what your hosue is worth so you can buy a house in a better part of town?
Lisa August 29, 2012 at 04:22 PM
Soo basically you are saying tough luck Lisa, you have no worth of living here in this beautiful town in which you grew up. Your crap out of luck and your bringing the rest of us down and I really don't give a crap about you or your neighbors. I will continue to sit up in my nice comfy home upstream and forget that we are all a part of this community. Maybe giving people some dignity to get out of this situation with a way to start over somewhere else is too much. By the way, Human development upstream has changed this area, not nature.
Brad August 29, 2012 at 04:26 PM
I am fine with giving people dignity, but not giving them a handout or a payout.... But that is what these people want, they say that they want "fair market value" for a house that has little to no value, but what they really want is "fair market value" of a non flood zone house, which is not what they have....
Lisa August 29, 2012 at 04:28 PM
I don't want hear anymore about these stupid million dollar studies. Are you kidding me? Dredge the river at the very least. All these army corp people are getting their paychecks week after week and the system just continues to push along. Nothing ever getting done.
Brad August 29, 2012 at 04:35 PM
They cant dredge the river, because the soil is contaminated and it will be released by dredging..... Things happen, life isnt fair, deal with it. Did I get to cry to Fidelity when my 401K lost 60% when the market crashed and demand that someone return my money? When I was buying my house I told my realtors flood zone or not, I dont want to look at any house near North or South road or on the other side of 23. That is just common sense. People need to be accountable for their decisions, be responsible for their savings, retirement, and healthcare, not just crying for the gov't to take care of them, but that is the new thinking in this Obamanation.... Why work hard, just get handouts....
Lisa August 29, 2012 at 06:00 PM
There are many people in these low lying areas myself included who didn't flood until the last few years. It is truly sad that you have such a rotten perspective that people in the flood zone are looking for handouts. I work very hard for what I have. Quite frankly your "every man to himself" attitude is what is wrong with not just this country, but the planet.
Brad August 29, 2012 at 06:15 PM
so if you dont want any assistance from the town, and knowing that there is no fix for the problem that isnt a burden on taxpayers, what do you want? This is like buying a house in california and complaining about earthquakes, if you bought in a low lying area you knew that this would happen, get flood insurance, or dont live there. Is it that difficult?
georgeg August 29, 2012 at 07:40 PM
Brad,,,,,when are you going to join the human race??? You seem to have a lot of time on your hands complaining about hand outs.....If you are a young man, you are certainly in for a rough ride the rest of your life. If you are of an advanced age, you are doing nothing more than showing your misery.....
wayne resident August 30, 2012 at 11:24 PM
Lisa some people are just not worth arguing with, some people do not have an open mind to even hear another side. I posted as well and then took myself off so that I did not become so overly irritated. I am, as you, a hardworker living in a one-salary home and proud of what I built --until YES all of the changes THE TOWN made... I had a great decade here and now things are completely different and unbarable! I just want you to know others are on your side I just won't waste my time with individuals like this Brad -I decide to save my energy for those who -YES BRAD- get what we NEED and DESERVE. Good Luck to you Lisa!

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