UNION BEACH, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — The devastation from Superstorm Sandy can still be seen across New Jersey, on the eve of the second anniversary of the storm.
As CBS 2’s Christine Sloan reported, a yellow house in Union Beach that was split in half came to symbolize the devastation of the storm. That house and many others still had not been rebuilt two years later, and others were just getting the money they needed to move forward.
Bob Vazquez and his family were just rebuilding their Union Beach home two years later.
“Our second floor fell into the water with us in it,” Vazquez said.
He pointed out the sites where his family’s house and garage were once located on a photograph of loose boards and other debris strewn around a neighborhood.
An apartment above the garage was where Vazquez and his wife, Pamela, took refuge. But the Raritan Bay washed it away, along with other homes.
“Everything that was in those homes is in the water with us, and the apartment we were in is now chasing us,” said Pamela Vazquez.
The Vazquezes ended up on a neighbor’s deck. Even their dog, Molly, survived.
“Miracle Molly, we call her,” Pamela Vazquez said.
But the Vazquezes, still living in a trailer, said Sandy was nothing compared to the pain of fighting for construction money.
“We were so wrapped in red tape in the beginning,” Pamela Vazquez said.
With no insurance, the Gateway Church donated funds to help, and a federal program called RREM – Reconstruct, Rehabilitate, Elevate, and Mitigation – just kicked in.
The Vazquezes were able to build the shell of their home with donated and RREM money, but to finish up their project, they had to dip into their savings.
“This is all we have in our house, but we are so far ahead of others,” said Bob Vazquez. “It’s kind of sad for us, because we want others to come along with us.”
Meanwhile, the site of Roger and Mary Jane Michalak’s house remained an empty lot two years later.
“I just pray to God that every day that they would call, and us get into a house before we die,” said Mary Jane Michalak.
The Michalaks applied to RREM, but have not gotten any money.
“People who had insurance didn’t get taken care of,” Roger Michalak said.
Many vacant lots remained in Union Beach two years after the storm. Of the 298 homes destroyed, only 170 had been rebuilt.
The New Jersey Department of Community Affairs said it has allocated $1.1 billion in RREM money.
“With all their best intentions of trying to get the money to the homeowners as soon as possible, there is a lot of guidelines they have,” said Union Beach Administrator Jennifer Wenson Maier.
Those guidelines, the Michalaks said, have kept them from rebuilding, while the Vasquezes hoped to be in their home by the end of November.
A representative said RREM federally mandated historic guidelines are strict. The Michalaks said they were having problems because their home sat on a Native American burial ground.
New Jersey officials said they cannot talk about individual cases, but that of the 4,000 applicants, 3,800 are now in some form of construction.
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