Year After Hurricane Sandy, Victims Contest Christie’s Status as a Savior

October 28, 2013

Hurricane Sandy turned Chris Christie into something akin to America’s governor, as the nation watched him express his state’s pain on the devastated shoreline the morning after the storm, then triumphantly cut the ribbons on reopened boardwalks on Memorial Day. “We’re stronger than the storm,” he proclaimed in television commercials that ran in other states all summer.

But in the affected parts of New Jersey, Governor Christie’s storm campaign has not sold as well. With at least 26,000 people still out of their homes a year later, he has become the focus of ire for many storm survivors who say that the recovery does not look as impressive to them as it does to the rest of the country.

Homeowners promised money from Mr. Christie’s rebuilding program say they have yet to see it; those who have been denied aid vent about the bureaucracy. Some criticize him for encouraging residents to build to new flood zone standards to speed recovery; homeowners now say they are being penalized, because anyone who started rebuilding is ineligible for a grant.

Storm victims argue that the governor, who pushed fellow Republicans in Congress to pass a federal aid package, should be exerting similar pressure on insurers and banks to settle claims and prevent harm to the credit ratings of victims. And they accuse him of using the storm for his own aggrandizement, particularly after he spent $4.7 million in federal money to hire a politically connected firm to produce the television ads, choosing it over an agency that bid less but did not plan to show the governor in its commercials.

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