The floodwaters from Superstorm Sandy gushed in through Bob and Pat Smith’s porch windows and didn’t stop rising till reaching the 6-foot mark. The Smiths marked the insurgence with a piece of black electrical tape to the left of the front door.
Now the Smiths, who have lived on Water Street in the Middlesex County Borough for about 50 years and have been flooded before, are among 79 neighbors who now want the state to buy out their homes.
“I’ve seen a lot of water come up, and I’ve seen it come up high, but I didn’t see it come up like Sandy,” said Bob Smith, 73. “Sandy come in fast, furious, and it was devastating.”
Gov. Chris Christie announced that these homeowners had been targeted for buyouts Tuesday, the same day the administration said settlement offers had been made to 129 property owners in nearby Sayreville.
“Back in May I announced that the federal government had approved giving New Jersey $300 million to buy out homes damaged by Sandy so that residents in impacted areas like South River and neighboring Sayreville who want to sell their homes can begin to rebuild their lives in another place, having never again to put up with the damage and upset you’ve had to put up with in the aftermath of Sandy,” Christie said.
The state is buying up contiguous properties from willing sellers, allowing it to create flood plains. FEMA will provide 75 percent of the funding, while the state will pay 25 percent.
The state plans to buy 1,300 repeatedly flooded properties, including 300 in the Passaic River basin that didn’t flood during Sandy. The buyouts are being handled through the Department of Environmental Protection.
The first buyouts are concentrated in Middlesex County, with repeatedly flooded neighborhoods in Woodbridge and Old Bridge next in line.
Residents are offered the pre-storm value of their properties after an appraisal. Once agreements are reached on a cluster of homes, the sellers will relocate and the state will demolish the homes within 90 days. The property will then be returned to flood plains.
The worst storm in state history hit in late October, causing $37 billion in damages and destroying or damaging 365,000 homes.
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