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New Jersey to hold public hearings on Sandy aid spending plans

February 9, 2014 6:05:42 AM PST
New Jersey residents will be able to comment at three public hearings next week on the state's plans to spend more than $1.4 billion in Superstorm Sandy recovery aid.

The state is holding hearings Tuesday at Stockton University in Galloway Township from 4 to 7 p.m.; Wednesday at New Jersey Institute of Technology in Newark from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m.; and Thursday at Brookdale Community College in Middletown from 4 to 7 p.m.

"We are certainly anticipating some robust public comment," said Richard Constable, commissioner of the state Department of Community Affairs.

The October 2012 storm devastated the oceanfront coastline and caused catastrophic flooding in cities including Hoboken and Jersey City. Seventy-one people were killed in or shortly after the storm in New Jersey.

Republican Gov. Chris Christie's administration wants to use roughly half the money for housing programs, including grants for homeowners to rebuild and developers to put up new apartment buildings. Of the $735 million to be spent on housing assistance programs, $450 million would go to low- or moderate-income families.

About a third of the next round of money would go toward fixing vulnerabilities that Sandy exposed in the state's transportation, energy and water infrastructure systems. The $535 million investment would include a proposed "energy bank" to fund resiliency projects and a multifaceted flood hazard risk reduction program. Part of the money would be made available to satisfy governments' matching funds obligations for infrastructure-related recovery and resiliency projects.

The state received $1.83 billion in storm aid last year.

The plan calls for adding $390 million for the Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, Elevation & Mitigation (RREM) Program, which is the state's largest Sandy housing recovery initiative. This is in addition to the $710 million received last year. It would add $200 million to the $179 million allocated last year for a fund to help develop affordable multifamily rental housing.

It also would allocate $100 million for the New Jersey Blue Acres Buyout Program to purchase flood-prone homes.

The plan also calls for spending $25 million to develop affordable housing for special-needs populations and $20 million to help stabilize storm-damaged neighborhoods with significant numbers or abandoned, foreclosed or vacant properties.

An additional $5 million would fund a summer tourism campaign different from last year's "Stronger Than The Storm" ads, which drew fire for starring Christie in the months before he was up for re-election.


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