Sandy victims still waiting for FEMA invited to fundraiser

Sandy victims still waiting for FEMA invited to fundraiser – By Steve Moran, Asbury Park Press

The New Jersey Organizing Project (NJOP), a grassroots advocacy group for victims of Superstorm Sandy, will be holding a fund raiser on Saturday, Oct. 29 from 4-7 p.m. at the Lighthouse Tavern, 397 Route 9 in Waretown.

The “Sandyversary” event is being held to fund “the first community driven survey to get a picture of how the recovery is going, and how our health and finances may have been impacted (over the past four years),” according to their Web site.

“Additionally, it will help support our ongoing work to pass legislation to stop foreclosure on Sandy impacted families,” said the organization’s director Amanda Devecka-Rinear, a fourth-generation resident of Cedar Bonnet Island.

There are still thousands of people who registered for the state’s Rehabilitation, Reconstruction, Elevation and Mitigation (RREM) program, a $1.1 billion, federally funded program, that aren’t back home or have not had the work completed, said Devecka-Rinear

NJOP’s past accomplishment were successfully lobbying Trenton for the creation of a Rental Assistance Program, and then led a coalition of communities and elected officials to extend rental assistance for families still out of their homes.

“We then worked with Senate President Stephen Sweeney to pass the Efficiency and Transparency in Sandy Recovery Spending Act,” said Devecka-Rinear.

NJOP also worked with state legislators to pass a bill with strong bipartisan support in both the Senate and Legislature to prevent foreclosures on families whose properties had been impacted by Sandy and were still not back in their homes.

It was conditionally vetoed and sent back to the Senate by the Governor Chis Christie on the last day of the legislative session.

It effectively killed the bill causing hundreds of people to lose their homes, said Joe Mangino, of Manahawkin another NJOP founder.

The Legislature has already passed a new bill and it was unanimously voted out committee by the Senate earlier this week, he said.

“Several members and others testified at that hearing We aren’t going to quit, we will just keep plugging away to help people keep their homes,” Devecka-Rinear said.

She and Mangino drew national attention to Sandy victims and NJOP shortly after Christie’s veto when they traveled to Iowa and publicly confronted the governor during a campaign event when he was running for the Republican presidential nomination.

The Sandy Memorial Wall they created in Trenton during a three-night campout at the statehouse to mark the third anniversary of Sandy last October served as the catalyst for the survey, said Mangino. “The stories we heard there and over the summer as we took the wall on tour inspired us to get a more broad based picture of what has and hasn’t happened in the last four years,” said Mangino.

NJOP has already launched the survey effort, entitled the Sandy Truth Project, when last Saturday they went door to door with approximately 60 volunteer students from Stockton University in Atlantic City.

Similar efforts are in the planning stages from there through Ocean County, including Little Egg/Tuckerton and Beach Haven West/LBI and on up the coast to Belmar, he added.

The survey is also online at www.newjerseyop.org/sandy-truth-project.html.

You can also find more information or join NJOP via their home page.

The will also be computers set up at the event at the Lighthouse, whose owner incidentally is Jim Keady, another NJOP founder and the man Gov. Chris Christie shouted at to “Sit down and shut-up!”

Keady had questioned the governor about the slow pace of the Sandy recovery efforts during a televised press conference in Belmar last November.

Tickets for Saturday’s fundraiser are $25 and can be purchased via the Web site or by calling or emailing Magino at 609-312-3899 or jmangino@newjerseyop.org.