A few dozen flood victims filled the council chamber Wednesday night to send a definitive, unified message to Mayor Chris Vergano and the Town Council: find a solution to the flooding.
Residents of Park Street, Ryerson Avenue, and other streets that have been flooded three times already this year said that not enough is being done to alleviate the problem that is costing them thousands of dollars in insurance deductibles and lost value to their homes.
“Please, come down when something happens. Have some sympathy for us. I can’t sell my house,” said John Lynch, who lives on Ryerson Avenue. Ryerson said his family had to spend eight days in a hotel room during a flood event this year. “There comes a time where the people who are losing money need to be reimbursed somehow.”
Other residents accused the officials of not representing them. They said that just because only 5 percent of the town floods, doesn’t make the 5 percent who live there insignificant.
“We’re at the crisis point now,” Martin Thomas said. “Our home values are dropping like a rock.”
Luis Gallgo said that three houses on his block have gone up for sale recently.
“But who is going to buy them,” Gallgo asked.
Even children expressed their frustration with the situation. Jada Carroll and her friend said the problem is with the floodgates on the Pompton River Dam.
“This needs to end. [The dam] is only saving Oakland and it’s not saving us,” Carroll said.
Carroll’s mother Eileen said that she feels like the victims are not being represented and need a voice.
Earlier this year, the Passaic River Basin Flood Advisory Committee recommended to Governor Chris Christie 15 measures designed to minimize the impact of flooding in the Passaic River Basin. One of these measures is the appropriation of $120,000 to conduct an independent study on how to improve the floodgates’ operation. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers operates the gates. A computer determines when they open. Flood basin residents have said that the gates, which were put into use in 2007, are opened after too much water has flowed into the Pompton River. This causes water to rush out at a faster rate than it should; this causes flash floods that deliver more water to Wayne.
One victim said the water came into her home so fast during the last flood event it knocked her daughter over.
“We can’t take it anymore,” she said. “We have feelings and we have needs. It has to stop. I can’t keep moving washers and dryers and clothes every time it floods. We need help and we need it from you.”
Wayne, Little Falls, and other area residents met with federal, state, and local officials the recommendations and possible solutions in Little Falls earlier this year.
Another recommendation is to spend $300,000 to install a flood warning notification system.
Victims said they need more time to prepare for a flood event. They said a better notification system must be implemented.
Mayor Chris Vergano said that a contract to hire a research firm to conduct the study could be awarded in four weeks.
The township has bought out dozens of homes in the Hoffman Grove section of Wayne. Another $19 million has been appropriated to purchase 77 homes outside of that area. Vergano said town officials are meeting with 120 residents in June to who have expressed a desire to have their homes bought out. But he said buyouts aren’t the answer.
“The federal government needs to step in and solve the problem,” Vergano said. “I don’t have all the answers, but we really do care.”
Councilman Chris McIntyre agreed.
“The mayor and council, we are doing our best, we really do care,” McIntyre said. “These residents are the backbone of Wayne.”