Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

State's Sandy Relief Efforts Criticized

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

State's Sandy Relief Efforts Criticized

Article excerpt

Public advocates criticized New Jersey's Superstorm Sandy recovery effort on Tuesday, claiming there was mismanagement, a lack of transparency and evidence of discrimination.

Criticism of the Christie administration -- at a hearing of the Senate Oversight Committee -- for its handling of Sandy aid came shortly before the governor was scheduled to announce his plans for handing out $1.4 billion in a second round of Sandy relief at a town hall event scheduled for Thursday.

The management of New Jersey's Sandy relief efforts is being debated at a sensitive time for the governor, who is fighting sinking favorability ratings because of the George Washington Bridge scandal. Christie was praised nationally in the aftermath of Sandy. But now questions are being raised about whether the aid might have been mismanaged or whether victims were wrongfully denied relief.

"With this $1.4 billion we have a chance to get it right," Kevin Walsh, an associate director of the advocacy group Fair Share Housing Center, testified at the hearing. "We can correct what has gone wrong now."

The oversight committee decided to draft a letter to Richard Constable III, the commissioner of the Department of Consumer Affairs, which oversees the dispersal of much of the money, asking why so many applications for aid were wrongly rejected, among several issues that were raised.

At a press conference in December, Christie called the Fair Share Housing Center "a hack group that I'm just not going to waste my time and my breath on."

In a release published this month, the Christie administration said it had "launched more than 50 recovery and rebuilding programs and initiatives at an unprecedented pace."

Sen. Robert Gordon, D-Fair Lawn, said he was working to schedule a time when Constable could appear in front of the committee after he addressed the members' questions. …

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