MANAHAWKIN, N.J. (AP) — Gov. Chris Christie said the Hurricane Sandy aid package Congress approved Tuesday will help expedite rebuilding after the superstorm, but he poked federal lawmakers for being "a little late to the party."
Christie reminded an overflow audience at his 100th town hall that he called out House Speaker John Boehner for delaying a vote on aid to the devastated Northeast. But the governor was in better spirits Wednesday after the House voted to send $50.5 billion to storm-battered states. A prior vote allocated $9.7 billion to pay flood insurance claims.
"A little delayed, a little late to the party," Christie said of Tuesday night's vote. "But if you're coming with $60 billion, you can be a little late."
Christie said the aid will help New Jersey begin rebuilding in earnest after the late October superstorm, the worst natural disaster in New Jersey's history, which caused $36.9 billion in damage and rebuilding costs. The governor said he expects the Jersey Shore to be largely rebuilt by 2014, but cautioned against unrealistic expectations for the upcoming tourist season.
"There simply isn't enough time between now and the Fourth of July, say, to get everything done, for everybody's homes to be rebuilt, for every business to be up and running again, for all the beaches to be replenished," said Christie. "What we're hoping to do for this coming summer is to make the Jersey Shore functional and livable again."
Christie returned to the Shore community of Manahawkin, the gateway to hard-hit Long Beach Island, for a town hall that attracted more than 1,000 residents, some whose homes were damaged by the storm.
One woman told Christie during the question-and-answer portion of the session that her home came through the storm undamaged, but her insurance company has placed it in a flood zone and is raising her rate from $375 to $1,700 a year.
A resident of Little Egg Harbor Township told the governor she was being ticketed for not repairing her bulkhead, but that she could not afford to make the mandatory repairs. She wondered if she'll also be fined if she cannot raise her home to accommodate new building codes.
And a Beach Haven West resident said she feels the existence of her modest community is being threatened by rising taxes, new and costly rebuilding rules and higher flood insurance premiums.
"Choices will need to be made here that are unpleasant choices," Christie said in response.
Christie said some of the federal aid would be available to homeowners who cannot afford repairs or improvements to their homes that are deemed necessary.
He said he is making decisions on flood maps and would announce new guidelines next week. But, he said, people who live in Shore communities may be required to comply with more stringent building standards.