WNYC's Bob Hennelly is an award-winning investigative journalist. While at WNYC he has reported on a wide gamut of major public policy questions ranging from immigration and homeland security to power outages and utility mergers.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said on Monday that his goal is to secure multi-billion dollar federal aid for Sandy recovery from Washington during Congress's lame duck session.
"Our push is to have this done during lame duck, and there is history for this because they got this done during Katrina by the beginning of January," Christie told reporters.
The comments came during a return visit by the governor to a Port Monmouth Fire House where he thanked first responders and volunteers for their efforts.
Christie added his $29.4 billion statewide damage estimate, first released Friday, is expected to climb higher over the next few days as the Garden State finalizes its federal request.
Little was given about the specifics of the aid request but Christie said the damage estimate did not include the Port Authority, whose PATH commuter rail was particularly hard hit by Sandy's unprecedented storm surge.
Christie also said he was pushing for as much as $1.2 billion in federal support to install sand dunes and shore erosion protections along New Jersey’s entire coastline, as well as funds to "storm harden" the state's power grid.
Earlier on Monday, officials from New Jersey's hardest hit coastal communities testified at the first of a series of hearings into the state’s response to Sandy.
The committee heard testimony on a number of topics — from the failure of cell phone service to the lack of accurate information from power utilities — that were major hindrances to Sandy rescue and recovery efforts.
Brick Mayor Steven Acropolis told the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee that his local utility, Jersey Central Power and Light, had to ask him where power was on and where it wasn’t. "We have to find a way for the utilities to know where the power is on," Acropolis said.
First responders also told the legislative panel they were under equipped to deal with Sandy's unprecedented several foot high storm surge inland.
"I never envisioned flood waters like this in my 39 years on the job," Toms River Police Chief Michael Mastronardy said. As a consequence, he testified that some of the hardest hit neighborhoods were on the mainland where there had been no mandatory evacuation order.
Mastronardy said they lacked “the tools" to rescue all the people who had not been ordered to leave but found themselves totally surrounded by flood waters several feet deep.
Meanwhile Toms River business administrator Paul Shives testified about the cost of the storm to municipalities — both in tax revenue and in clean up.
"We had to authorize an emergency $35 million dollar bond," Shives said to cover the mounting costs of overtime, debris removal, and landfill costs.
Many municipalities are reliant on property tax revenue, and towns like Toms River had over 9,000 properties damaged.