KIYC: For dozens of NJ families, returning home after Superstorm Sandy was a process years in the making
More than 7,000 New Jersey families have used reconstruction grants to return home after Superstorm Sandy destroyed their homes, according to the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs. But for some, it was a long and difficult road.
Kane In Your Corner chronicled the saga of Jim and Carol Ferraioli for nearly a decade as they attempted to rebuild their storm-damaged home. The Ferraiolis gave News 12’s Senior Investigative Reporter, Walt Kane, a tour earlier this month.
“I’m glad you were able to share this with us because you've helped us along the way a lot,” Carol Ferraioli said.
The Ferraiolis’ struggle began when their state-approved contractor took $64,000 in grant money and walked away. This was after elevating their home on temporary pilings. As the months passed, chunks of the house began falling off, as it rotted in the elements.
That was just the first chapter. As they tried to deal with contractor fraud and apply for supplemental grant money, the Ferraiolis’ mortgage company refused to give them a forbearance, as required under New Jersey law. The lender only acquiesced after Kane In Your Corner reported on the issue. By the time the Ferraiolis returned home, in August 2020, the contractor who had defrauded them, Jamie Lawson, had already been out of prison for a year.
The Ferraiolis are one of dozens of families Kane In Your Corner helped in the aftermath of Sandy. Steve and Jeanne Fritts of, Point Pleasant, were also victims of a shady contractor. Theirs failed to properly bolt the home to the new foundation after elevating it. The job had to be redone from scratch. The Fritts' finally made it home in 2017.
Paula and Mike Galida, of Ortley Beach, lost their home, but were told in 2013 that all grant money had already been awarded. Paula says the letter made her “feel like you're a second-class citizen.” The Galidas cleaned out their retirement accounts to rebuild, then applied for a $150,000 grant during the next round of funding in hopes of replenishing their savings. They were only approved for $42,000. Still, they consider themselves lucky. They made it back.
As Kane In Your Corner reported on Monday, thousands of families are still not home or face clawbacks.
“We have to get money out to people more quickly,” says Amanda Devecka Rinear, executive director of the New Jersey Organizing Project, “And it has to be in a system that people can understand and navigate because that has not happened, and it looks like it’s still not happening.”
“There's times where you bring up Sandy and people are, like, rolling their eyes like, ‘oh, God, really?’” Carol Ferraioli says. “I know, people are tired of hearing about it. But it's real.”
But the Ferraiolis’ story isn’t just one of perseverance. Theirs is also a love story. Jim and Carol had just started dating when Sandy hit. They have now been married for over five years. And Jim says his wife is the only reason they have a home to return to.
“If it wasn't for my wife, I would have just walked away,” he says. “The paperwork, the running, the doing, all the phone calls. And you still have a life you have to take care of. You still have to do your daily chores, do your work and everything. So, to get that all done, it was - it was just too much. I would have walked away. She saved the house. She saved everything.”
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