Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Razing of Flood-Prone Homes Starts

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Razing of Flood-Prone Homes Starts

Article excerpt

WAYNE -- With a crunch, a backhoe tore into the house at 45 Newark Ave. on Wednesday, reducing it to rubble in no time, a process to be repeated with 125 other houses in the Passaic Valley flood plain in the weeks to come as part of a multimillion-dollar federal demolition project.

In this phase, the township bought houses, such as the one at 45 Newark Ave., with $19 million in grant dollars, the single largest federal award to a New Jersey town for clearing residences from the path of floodwaters.

By the end of the year, another $300 million will be spent to buy out homeowners in Bergen County and elsewhere in Passaic County. Governor Christie said he anticipates $1.8 billion in federal dollars to buy more houses that are vulnerable to floods.

"It's sad that the houses are going, but the families that have now moved on are out of danger," said Wayne Mayor Chris Vergano.

Other communities have pursued different plans for mitigating flooding. Little Falls, for example, has generally raised the foundations of flood-prone houses rather than demolish them to preserve the tax base. Buyouts are preferred in Wayne because it removes residents from periodic flooding and exposes first responders to fewer dangers.

Assemblyman Scott Rumana, R-Wayne, the former mayor and the chairman of the governor's Passaic River Basin Flood Advisory Committee, has praised the governor's buyout plan.

"There are certain properties that will have to be bought out no matter where we go with a comprehensive solution in the Passaic River Basin," Rumana said. "For those properties in the most severely affected areas, this is a good short-term alternative."

Millions of dollars in state and federal dollars were awarded to Wayne and other Passaic and Bergen county towns after the record floods caused by Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee in the late summer of 2011. …

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