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Three years after Sandy, Jersey shore struggles to recover

A house stood in ruins after Hurricane Sandy.
A house stood in ruins after Hurricane Sandy.MEL EVANS/ASSOCIATED PRESS

TOMS RIVER, N.J. — In the months after Hurricane Sandy devastated the Jersey shore, Governor Chris Christie warned residents the damage would not be quickly undone.

Things would only look moderately better in the first summer after the storm, he said, and would be closer to normal in the second one.

But with the third summer after Sandy nearly here, the Jersey shore is still recovering despite the substantial progress that has been made in the 2½ years since the October 2012 storm. Beaches have been restored, roads rebuilt, infrastructure hardened, and many homes have been repaired.

But thousands of others still have not, and only now is the state getting to the last of thousands of applicants who had been on a waiting list for New Jersey’s main rebuilding grant program. The federal government has awarded New Jersey $4.1 billion in Community Development Block Grant funds for disaster recovery; $1.64 billion has been given to homeowners so far. The state says it is handing out money as fast as it can while guarding against theft or fraud.

‘‘I want to go home, I want my kids to go home, and everybody else to go back home,’’ said Joe Karcz, whose home in Stafford Township had to be demolished. ‘‘Two and a half years later, my home is still a dirt lot. I’ve moved 12 times since the storm. The home I’m in now just got sold, and I’ll be moving a 13th time. It’s a travesty.’’

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Christie spokesman Kevin Roberts said the administration expected the final phase of recovery to be the most difficult.

‘‘New Jersey continues to see remarkable progress in recovering from the worst natural disaster in our state’s history,’’ he said. ‘‘We know there is still more work to be done.’’

Beach replenishment projects have widened beaches in many parts of the state’s 127-mile coastline, but some vulnerable spots remain, largely because oceanfront homeowners refuse to sign easements allowing the work to take place. Christie has vowed to use eminent domain to acquire the strips of land needed for the project but still hasn’t done so.

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