TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — Some victims of Superstorm Sandy said they feel New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has forgotten about them in his pursuit of the presidency.
About a dozen protesters intended to pitch tents and camp out across from the Statehouse in Trenton on Tuesday to dramatize their plight, but were barred by state police from using tents. Many of the demonstrators are still unable to return to their homes three years after the storm. They say they'll sit or stand outdoors the rest of the week.
"He's completely forgotten about us," said Doug Quinn, whose Toms River home is still uninhabitable since the Oct. 29, 2012 storm. "He didn't even mention Sandy in his State of the State speech. We feel absolutely abandoned by Chris Christie."
Joe Mangino, who just recently got back into his home in the Beach Haven West section of Stafford Township, recalled traveling to Iowa to confront Christie at a campaign event in March, disrupting his speech with complaints about the pace of Sandy recovery.
A guy yelled "Shut up and go home!" Mangino recalled. "I said, 'Don't you get it? That's why I'm here: I have no home.'"
The state Community Affairs Department said Tuesday that of the more than 8,000 homeowners active in the state's main rebuilding grant program, 7,680 have signed their awards and more than 7,600 have received at least one payment for their homes, indicating they are in the construction phase.
Of those, nearly 2,000 have completed construction. To date, more than $659 million has been paid out to homeowners under the program, more than half the projected total.
Most of Tuesday's protesters have gotten at least something from the state program. But red tape, contractor delays, insurance disputes and more have kept them from fully rebuilding.
Christie spokesman Brian Murray said New Jersey has made "tremendous progress" since Superstorm Sandy.
"There is still much to do," he said, "and the governor is as committed today as he has always been in seeing the job through."
Christie recently defended his performance in Sandy recovery, saying he had "a pretty good batting average."
"I will never be completely satisfied until everybody who wants to be back in their home is back in their home. But to say that in less than three years, we have the overwhelming majority — 365,000 homes damaged or destroyed in Sandy — and now you're talking about a few thousand that are left, folks who have not gotten back in, I think it's a pretty good record."
Joe Karcz said he has moved 13 times since Sandy wrecked his Stafford home. He wore a bright orange T-shirt with the message: "Gov. Christie: Finish the Job."
"He's running around the country raising money," Karcz said of Christie. "He doesn't care about us; we're in his rearview mirror."
Wayne Parry can be reached at http://twitter.com/WayneParryAC