TRENTON, NJ (CBS) — This week will mark three years since Superstorm Sandy hammered the New Jersey coast.
Seventy-five percent of those who qualify for state assistance are still out of their homes and many point a finger of blame squarely at Governor Chris Christie. And a group of activists have set up shop outside the Capitol in Trenton to express their frustration.
They’ll be here through Friday, even under the threat of heavy rain, to let it be known they’re tired of being ripped off, shuffled around and put on hold.
Kelly Brier wants back in her Union Beach home, but says her insurance and FEMA aid won’t cut it. And then, there’s the paperwork.
“I should not have to fight over how many screws were lost in my door frames,” Brier told reporters along State Street. “I should not have to fight over sub floors and framing material and whether or not the sheet rock should be replaced at four foot and down or where the electric has to get pulled out.”
Letters, pictures and even an American flag were just some of the symbols of what was lost are stapled on a makeshift wall erected as part of the demonstration which will continue through Friday.
While their numbers only amount to a couple dozen, each has a horror story to tell.
Take Joe Karcz, who wants to go to his home in Beach Haven West, but has had to move 13 times in three years. So many, in fact, that FEMA is demanding some of its money back.
Ask him how he feels about Chris Christie and he doesn’t hold back. “He don’t care about us. We’re in the rear view mirror,” Karcz said. “It’s a shame. It really is.
But the complaints here go further than the Governor’s office. FEMA’s reopening claims, but that involves more bureaucracy. There are still delays in getting help out which, in many cases, doesn’t begin to pay for the repair work.
It was enough to prompt one homeowner to take a road trip earlier this year. Joe Mangino couldn’t get a meeting with Governor Chris Christie, until he confronted the Governor at a town hall meeting in Iowa, where Christie is running for President.
“For me, that got my project moving forward,” Mangino told KYW Newsradio. “Now it’s a shame that thousands of other people may have to do the exact same thing.”
Demonstrators also are calling for action to hold contractors and insurance companies more accountable.
It is, perhaps, ironic that the remnants of Hurricane Patricia may fall on this group as they conduct their protest. State Senate President Steve Sweeney is due to meet with them on Wednesday. It is unclear whether Christie will do likewise. His schedule has him out of state, on the campaign trail, most of the week.
Christie’s office issued a statement in response to the protest, which reads in part, “There is still much to do, and the Governor is as committed today as he has always been in seeing the job through. The state works each day with individuals impacted by the storm to help get their lives back on track.”
The statement also indicates that senior members of the Administration work with advocacy groups as concerns are brought to their attention. That would include meetings in recent weeks with organizers of the demonstration.
The Governor’s schedule shows a number of events on Thursday and Friday across New Jersey to mark the Sandy anniversary. Included are a session with the Health Commissioner in Pleasantville, the Environmental Protection Commissioner in Sea Isle City, two meetings in Ocean County with administration officials and one in Millville with the Commissioner of the Department of Children and Families.
Christie himself is scheduled to appear Thursday afternoon at an event in Bergen County that includes a roundtable with small business owners.