Call us at (732) 569-3484 | Email us at

All posts by author

29 Oct 2015


29 Oct 2015

Hurricane Sandy Victims Still Reckon With Insurance Underpayments 3 Years After Storm, Long Waits In FEMA Review

Right after Hurricane Sandy clobbered his bungalow in Long Beach, New York, Thomas Marlow headed for Manhattan, to tackle another area of flood damage: the Hugh Carey Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel. Marlow, a civil engineer, had to come up with a plan to pump 65 million gallons of water out of the underground highway. Working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Coast Guardhe got the job done in about two weeks.

Three years after the infamous superstorm struck the Eastern Seaboard on Oct. 29, 2012, Marlow’s own property on Long Island remains an empty sand lot. He demolished the house last year. He’s managed major infrastructure projects for airports, the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge and ground zero. “I’m used to red tape,” he says. But the task of rebuilding his own home, after receiving a low damage estimate from his insurance carrier, has proved tougher than anything he’s done during his career.

“Nobody wants to be living out of a suitcase,” says Marlow, who has stayed with family and friends while continuing to pay the mortgage on the bungalow. “It just takes a toll on everything – your job, your kids, your relationship with your family. I’m definitely tired, but I’m not ready to give up.”

A fire hydrant sits along a flooded Beach 36th street along the Rockaway Beach section of Queens, New York, Oct. 29, 2015. Oct. 29 marks the third anniversary of Hurricane Sandy that damaged homes and beaches along the East Coast. PHOTO: REUTERS/ SHANNON STAPLETON 

Marlow is one of thousands of Sandy victims who believe the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s National Flood Insurance Program underpaid them for damages to their homes. Following allegations of fraud by insurers and their subcontractors, these homeowners have decided to take up FEMA on a historic offer to reassess claims. In May, FEMA said 142,000 policyholders could request to reopen their Sandy insurance claims, and see if they were entitled to more money to fix their homes. For some homeowners, it’s a last chance to recoup funds after insurance struggles that drained their personal finances and uprooted their lives. For FEMA, the review is a critical test of the credibility of a program that is the primary source of flood insurance for homeowners nationwide.

29 Oct 2015

Sandy: Three years later, almost home

24 Oct 2015

3 years later, Sandy pets are homeless, too

21 Oct 2015

Mental Health Issues Persist Three Years Into Sandy’s Wake

Mental Health Issues Persist Three Years Into Sandy’s Wake

By Jennifer Peacock

At the corner of 7th and Ocean avenues in Ortley Beach sit homes devastated by Superstorm Sandy (Photo Courtesy Of Toms River Twp)

Hope turned to depression turned to anger: Three years out, many Superstorm Sandy survivors are still displaced, and with money and other resources running low, some may never return home.

“They had hope…The initially thought, ‘Hey, we can actually get somewhere and get something done.’ So many people now that are still not back home, sill out of homes. Some people will never go home because there’s no money,” Michele Green-Ferrante, Program Director of Mental Health Association in New Jersey (MHANJ) in Ocean County, said. “People just want normalcy, and it goes back to resiliency of people. It takes so long, still taking long time for people to get home, get projects done. They are losing faith and hope.”

Her colleague, Stephanie Mulfinger, LCSW, Director of Call Center Services MHANJ, said the calls are fewer these days, but the struggles for many persist.

“This is three years that people have been under stress. We try to help them reflect, to see if there has been any progress,” she said. “We ask: Is there anything that has been done? How have you been coping, and what have been the most useful things?”

Sandy Anniversary Emblem  She continued: “There are still some people with very high need. Oftentimes those are the individuals who were just getting by before storm. They had just enough resources and Sandy just wiped out that safety net. It’s been much harder for them to reintegrate and rebuild. They are really struggling.”

A Rutgers/NYU study the institutions co-led was released in July 2015. According to the study, more than 100,000 residents had damage to their primary residences. The study found 27 percent of those persons had moderate to severe mental health distress, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) was found in 14 percent of that population.

The report quotes David Abramson, the study’s lead investigator.

“Recovery, or stalled recovery, is not as dramatic as the storm and the initial response,” Abramson said. “But it is what exacts the greatest toll both financially and psychologically. Sandy may have occurred nearly three years ago, but it has had an enduring impact on those individuals and communities exposed to it.”

Green-Ferrante said that clients immediately after Sandy had a sense of urgency and purpose, that the focus was on filling out the right paperwork, making the appropriate plans to get “back to normal.” But as time passed and plans collapsed, the stresses of losing so much started to weigh on people. Even just the trauma of surviving Sandy poured out of people. One man who has been seemingly doing well, six months after the storm, broke down and cried; he recounted walking through waist-deep water with his child on his shoulder.

“We actually just had a client in here this morning (October 8) who said, ‘I just can’t go on.’ If it wasn’t for getting help, she couldn’t do it,” Green-Ferrante said. “We’re seeing a lot of mental issues with everything they’ve been through.”

The rising anger isn’t necessarily directed at a person, either.

“They’re angry. Angry at the system. Angry in general that they’re not home. What we try to do is offer them emotional support, and guide them to other resources to get them the help they need,” Green-Ferrante said. “We’re helping them and showing them what they’re going to need so we can relieve some of that tension. Their case managers can help guide them to complete the process. We’re just somebody who is going to listen to them, to validate what they’re going through. I think that’s make a big difference.”

While not everyone who suffers from some sort of mental illness will fall into drug or alcohol abuse, people who have used or abused alcohol or drugs in the past are more likely to turn to those things to cope after a major catastrophe, said Dr. Petros Levounis, chair of the Department of Psychiatry, New Jersey Medical School.

In April of 2013, the basketball court at Bayside Park in Ortley Beach still showed signs of being heavily damaged by the storm surge during Superstorm Sandy. (Photo By Judy Smestad-Nunn)

“Yes, that’s very interesting. We don’t have as much data about Sandy. We do have some understanding in general about the effects of disaster, including 9/11 or the Oklahoma City bombing, that is consistent with what we see with people coming out of Superstorm Sandy,” Levounis said. “We do have some ideas what has happened. We did not see many cases novel initiation for drug use in Sandy. What we have seen, however, is relapse.”

He continued: “People who have had drug or alcohol problems in the past, and then were sober, something as catastrophic as Superstorm Sandy, their acute stress was so severe that they relapsed. The bottom line is, people were unlikely to start, however, there was likely going to be increased relapse.”

He referenced one study that said people who were already in a good opioid abuse or prescription pill abuse recovery program did extremely well in continuing their care despite disruptions to clinics and pharmacies after Sandy. Those who did have good care had a minimal increase in relapse.

Several groups exist to help with mental health issues, and are focusing on those impacted by Superstorm Sandy.

A weekly support group and workshop called “Grieving with Hope” is for individuals who survived Hurricane Sandy.

The group meets 7:30 to 9 p.m. on Wednesdays at the First Presbyterian Church, 701 Forman Avenue in Point Pleasant Beach.

Topics include ways to cope with grief, how to adjust to new realities, healthy management of anger and positive thinking strategies, among others. The Mental Health Association in Ocean County offers the weekly sessions. No cost to attend. For more information, contact Pat Greeley at 908-872-5096 or

Ocean County Long Term Recovery Group is a nonprofit organization helping homeowners still struggling after Superstorm Sandy. They work with local community partners to fund unmet needs and work toward a safe and secure recovery. They are committed to helping qualified clients restore their homes and rebuild their lives. Contact 732-569-3484 or email

08 Oct 2015

We need money and a plan to fix N.J.’s dunes before it’s too late, lawmakers say

As the tides and floodwaters receded from the weekend’s storm, it took sand with it — sand needed to protect the Jersey Shore.

South Jersey lawmakers have been looking for ways to mitigate the beach erosion before another storm comes to the Jersey Shore.

“If you talk to almost all of our barrier islands, they will tell you that, the ones that have had the (dune) construction projects, there was probably a tremendous amount of property that was saved due to the dune system,” said U.S. Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-2). “That was the first line of defense. ”

Leading up to and after the storm, LoBiondo has been meeting with local officials and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to figure out how to protect the Jersey Shore from future weather events — especially now that many of the protective dunes have been eroded.

Over the course of 30 years, more than $1 billion has been spent on beach replenishment, according to coastal researchers.

High tides carved eight-foot-high cliffs into dunes on North Wildwood’s beach and a house was swept into the water in Middle Township.

01 Oct 2015

A new disaster resource for Ocean County

TOMS RIVER A new Ocean County site for storm information should be on line by Friday, Oct. 2.

The Ocean County Community Organizations Active in Disaster or OC COAD, will collect and disseminate important information about Hurricane Joaquin and other upcoming storms, according to Sue Marticek, executive director of the Ocean County Long-Term Recovery Group.

“We want people to know that this is where you can go to get accurate information,” Marticek said Thursday. She said the new group will send out email blasts containing pertinent storm information and will also send texts to people’s mobile phones. To receive information from the new group, send an email to and include your cell phone number for text updates.

Information about places to evacuate, if necessary, and shelters where pets are accepted are samples of the types of messages the new group could send out. It will also serve as a clearinghouse for where to volunteer and what to donate in the event a storm or other disaster does occur.

The OC COAD site will attempt to coordinate and disseminate vital information so that residents will have one place to turn to for important updates

“There are 560-some municipalities throughout the state, and they all tend to do their own thing,” said Keith Adams, the chairman of New Jersey Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster, a statewide consortium of volunteer groups active in disaster response.

Adams’ group and the Ocean County Department of Human Services are working with the long-term recovery group to create the new OC COAD site.

Jean Mikle: (732) 643-4050,

25 Sep 2015

Sandy advocates: We’ll help you reopen flood claim

24 Sep 2015

Get Help Requesting A Sandy Claim Review!

If you filed a flood insurance claim after Superstorm Sandy and you were not satisfied with the amount of money you received from your insurance company, you can request a review of your claim through FEMA.

The Federal Emergency Management Administration just agreed to extend by 30 days the deadline to apply to have a National Flood Insurance claim re-examined.

The Ocean County Long Term Recovery group has volunteers available to help you through the process at a clinic Thursday — today — in Stafford Township.

The assistance is free.

The Ocean County Long Term Recovery group says community advocates will provide one-on-one assistance and lawyers and insurance experts will be present, but they ask that you make an appointment.

The clinic is set for 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. at St. Mary’s of the Pines, 100 Bishop Way, Manahawkin, NJ 08050. Appointments are recommended and can be made by calling 732-569-3484, ext. 24.

Walk-ins are welcome on a first-come first-served basis.


24 Sep 2015

Get Help Requesting A Sandy Flood Insurance Claim Review Today

If you’re thinking about it, the Ocean County Long Term Recovery Group volunteers can help. The window for reviews closes in mid-October.

Get Help Requesting A Sandy Flood Insurance Claim Review Today

Members of the Ocean County Long Term Recovery group will be on hand at St. Mary’s of the Pines church in Manahawkin today to help Superstorm Sandy victims through the FEMA claims review process.

Community advocates, lawyers and insurance experts will be available to provide one-on-one assistance. Appointments are preferable. To make an appointment, call 732-2569-3484, ext. 24. Walk-ins are welcome on a first-come, first-served basis.

 The church is located at 100 Bishop Way in Manahawkin. The clinic will run from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. The assistance is free.

FEMA and the National Flood Insurance Program recently extended the deadline to file for a claims review until mid-October.

Photo credit: Patricia A. Miller