Town Officials Said Feds Assured Them Money For Demolition Would Be There

UNION BEACH, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — Some residents in Hurricane Sandy-ravaged Union Beach are livid after funding they said they were promised is no longer available to them.

Mary Jane and Roger Michalak are fixtures in Union Beach’s Hurricane Sandy Help Center, volunteering despite the fact that their own home was destroyed by the storm.

“They’re still here every day with a smile,” Union Beach resident Sharon Sacchi said of the couple.

But as CBS 2’s Christine Sloan reported exclusively on Monday, those smiles are slowly diminishing.

The couple just found out their home won’t be demolished by the borough as promised, and they’re so strapped they can’t afford to do it themselves.

“We don’t know what to do, we’re beside ourselves. We don’t want to leave the town but if we have to, what can we do?” Mary Jane Michalak told Sloan.

“They took down every house on the beach front and they can’t do the same for all the residents?” Roger Michalak added.

Union Beach officials said it’s not the borough but the Federal Emergency Management Agency that’s to blame.

They said that while FEMA gave them money for 170 homes that have already come down, the federal agency said it won’t cover 92 others unless they’re in imminent danger of collapsing.

Of those remaining homes, more than 50 need asbestos removal.

“They’re all dangerous to live in but I can’t prove that they’re going to fall down tomorrow. So because I can’t prove that, they refuse to pay,” Union Beach Administrator Jennifer Maier told Sloan.

Town officials said back in May that FEMA led them to believe in several meetings that they would cover the cost of all the demolitions.

However, two weeks ago the town got an email from FEMA saying that was no longer the case.

FEMA said its Demolition of Private Structures policy backs up its decision.

The policy states that funding from the agency “requires certification that homes to be demolished are in imminent danger of full or partial collapse,” but that only “eight homes have been certified by Union Beach to be in imminent danger of collapse.”

While they’re getting some help, the Michalaks said they have also taken matters into their own hands by doing some of their own asbestos removal.

FEMA said it will continue to work with Union Beach and that the agency has paid for debris removal by the cubic yard.

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