UNION BEACH, N.J. — Bart Sutton fought with his insurance company for a year over what it would cost to rebuild his flood-damaged home, then gave up in frustration and tore it down. A week later, the money came through.
Simone and Ken Dannecker fixed their flooded home themselves, deciding they couldn’t wait for insurance and government aid as green mold threatened to overrun it. Now, with the work nearly done, they are all but bankrupt and can’t afford to elevate the house they fought so hard to stay in.
Gigi Liaguno-Dorr needs $2 million to rebuild the waterfront restaurant that was one of the town’s major employers; she has less than a quarter of that and says she has never felt so helpless.
For these three families in Union Beach, a blue-collar enclave clinging precariously to the Raritan Bay, full recovery from Hurricane Sandy is elusive nearly a year after the storm pummeled the state Oct. 29. That is also true for thousands of others along the Jersey shore; in Ocean County alone, the county planning board estimated 26,000 people were unable to return to their homes as of last month.
Michael Drewniak, a spokesman for Governor Chris Christie, could not estimate how many storm-damaged homes remain unoccupied.
Many families are living elsewhere while their homes are being rebuilt, and ‘‘a large number’’ of bungalows and small homes that were destroyed or severely damaged were second homes for people living in their primary residences, he said. The state taxation division said more than 40,000 properties suffered a total of $4.3 billion in lost value from storm damage.
Progress has been made in recovering from one of the worst storms to hit New Jersey and the second-costliest in the nation’s history at $65 billion, trailing only Hurricane Katrina’s $125 billion cost. Tens of millions of dollars have been spent rebuilding boardwalks and oceanfront attractions crucial to the tourist trade, and thousands of homes have been repaired, either with the help of government aid or through a mix of insurance and savings.