The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) says it won’t pay to repair an Ocean Grove, New Jersey boardwalk wrecked by superstorm Sandy – and area residents aren’t happy.
The nonprofit Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association, which owns the boardwalk, says the structure provides critical emergency access to the beachfront. But according to the association, FEMA has told it the boardwalk doesn’t qualify for federal aid because it’s both privately owned and a “recreational facility.”
State Sen. Jennifer Beck of Red Bank called the decision “unacceptable” and pledged to appeal it in a news release quoted by USA Today.
"The Ocean Grove boardwalk serves as an essential public thoroughfare and connects Bradley Beach to Asbury Park," she said. "It provides access to emergency services and augments flood protection measures.”
Most commenters on the Facebook page of local newspaper the Asbury Park Press side with Beck.
“Ocean grove boardwalk may not be ‘township owned’ but it is a public boardwalk....open and free for anyone to use!!!!!! FEMA is wrong to help any other towns rebuild their boardwalks but refuse Ocean Grove!!!” argues Patricia Wilson.
“Ocean Grove is a section of Neptune, NJ, and as such, pays astronomical taxes to Neptune. Moreover, the boardwalk is not private, and is open to use by the public at all times,” writes Tom Baldino. “So FEMA and the administration can shove it, incompetent morons.”
“No surprise,” adds Gev Sweeney . “It took THREE MONTHS for the Congress to decide it wanted to fund relief. Why expect anything else?”
While 14 commenters criticize FEMA, three defend the decision.
“I feel bad for the town of Ocean Grove, but you can't have it both ways. You are either a private non-profit org or you are not,” writes Debbie Post.
Meanwhile, Violet Steinmacher-Raike says she doesn’t mind if federal funds get used for the boardwalk – as long as everyone gets a roof over their head first: “I think all the rebuilding of all the houses and homes should be priority,” she proposes. “Build the boardwalks, but not till everyone is back in their home.”
The Stafford Act, the main federal law covering disaster relief, allows the government to fund reconstruction of a nonprofit facility if it provides critical services such as “power, water, sewer, wastewater treatment, communications, education, and emergency medical care.”