CHRISTIE ADMINISTRATION ANNOUNCES FIRST CLOSINGS ON BUYOUTS OF
SANDY-DAMAGED HOMES IN SOUTH RIVER
169 OFFERS ACCEPTED SO FAR IN SOUTH RIVER AND SAYREVILLE; 424 PROPERTIES
STATEWIDE APPROVED FOR ACQUISITION
(14/P13) TRENTON – The Christie Administration today announced the first eight closings on buyouts of Superstorm Sandy-damaged homes in South River, bringing the total number of Blue Acres Superstorm Sandy Program closings in South River and neighboring Sayreville to 44, Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner Bob Martin announced today.
In total, 169 property owners have accepted DEP buyout offers in the two Middlesex County municipalities that sustained significant flooding when Sandy’s storm surge pushed from Raritan Bay and into the South River.
“The success of this program is an important component of the Administration’s Sandy recovery efforts,” said Commissioner Martin. “Our case managers and teams will continue to work one-on-one with property owners so that these families can move on with their lives.”
The DEP is continuing to expand the program in other Sandy flood-impacted communities, so far securing funding for the acquisition of a total of 424 properties statewide. In addition to Sayreville and South River, the DEP also has secured funding for potential buyouts in Woodbridge, East Brunswick, Newark and the Delaware Bay community of Lawrence Township.
The DEP also has engaged in dialogue with officials and residents in other Sandy impacted municipalities, such as Old Bridge, Linden, and another section of Woodbridge to consider a next round of buyouts using a recently announced second round of federal Sandy buyout dollars, once that funding gets formal federal approval.
These numbers demonstrate significant progress toward the Administration’s goal of buying out 1,000 properties in tidal areas affected by Sandy and another 300 properties in other towns, such as Manville and communities in the Passaic River Basin, that have repeatedly flooded, Commissioner Martin said. The program was launched May 16, 2013.
The eight homes in South River, which were sold to the state by willing sellers at pre-storm value, are located adjacent to the river and range in purchase price from $103,000 to $238,000.
“Everyone in the Blue Acres program knows what they’re doing,” said South River Mayor John Krenzel. “They’ve gotten into a rhythm and the buyout process is going very smoothly. In fact, it’s going so smoothly, we have another round of people here hoping to participate in the program. The state is doing a very good job.”
Tom Somers, one of the South River residents who recently sold his home to the Blue Acres Program, said of the program: “It’s good for South River, for the community, that they’re making the land open space. Overall, I’m very happy with the program.”
Once acquisitions are completed, the homes will be razed and the land will be permanently maintained by the municipalities as open space, accessible to the public for recreation and conservation purposes. It also will be able to absorb flood waters and reduce the need for future disaster assistance by police, fire, emergency crews and other first responders.
FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Grant Program will provide 100 percent of the funding for up to 361 buyouts in Sayreville and South River, plus up to 89 homes in the first round of Woodbridge buyouts. Additional federal funding to acquire other properties impacted by Superstorm Sandy, including the next round of homes in Woodbridge, will be provided through $100 million earmarked for buyouts from the $1.46 billion second round of federal Community Disaster Block Grant (CDBG) Disaster Recovery funds allocated to New Jersey by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
In a related buyout effort, the state’s Blue Acres Program and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resource Conservation Service are partnering to buy and preserve as open space the Bay Point section of Cumberland County’s Lawrence Township, including 33 homes. That land will be converted to open space that will provide wildlife habitat and buffers against flooding.
The DEP has created a special team in its Blue Acres Program to work closely with sellers and process their applications as quickly as possible. The team is reaching out to individual homeowners personally and guiding them through the process.
Launched in 1995 the initial Blue Acres Program targeted purchases of lands in floodways in the Delaware, Passaic and Raritan river basins, but was later expanded to include all state waters. Eligible properties are those that have been storm damaged, that are prone to incurring storm damage, or that may buffer or protect other lands from such damage.
Homeowners interested in selling their homes through this process may contact the DEP’s Blue Acres Program at 609-984-0500.
For more information on the Blue Acres Program, visit: http://www.state.nj.us/dep/greenacres/blue_flood_ac.html
For information on Sandy Recovery, visit: http://www.state.nj.us/dep/special/hurricane-sandy/