'Homeless in Seaside Park' Frustrated With Red Tape

Former Ocean County Director of Human Services upset with confusing mandates, insurance delays


An open letter to: President Obama, All the members of Congress, Governor Christie and members of New Jersey Senate and Assembly and to local mayors and council members


Super Storm Sandy has displaced seven people in my family. We all lived in Seaside Park, New Jersey. We are no different from the thousands of people who are facing what seems like insurmountable obstacles towards rebuilding our homes, our lives and our communities.

During the height of the storm our local rescue workers, emergency personal and police were heroic in their efforts to save lives and mitigate damages. The weeks following the storm were also filled with countless stories of families, neighbors, friends and strangers offering a helping hand. I have always had faith in the humanity and I was not disappointed. So many volunteers, so many offers of housing and food, countless acts of kindness and then the madness of trying to return home began.

Today, I feel like Alice in Wonderland. I have fallen into the rabbit hole and my world no longer has any logic to it. There is nowhere to go to get answers to the problems you are facing and no one place that can offer help, advocacy, guidance and real answers!  The FEMA centers are certainly not the panacea of assistance they are made out to be.

I am a trained crisis counselor and I find it amazing that our government believes that families who have lost their homes, who are struggling to make sense of recent events, fully expects us to plow through hundreds of brochures on the FEMA web site, to find an answer to what needs to be done, negotiate with insurance companies, mortgage companies and contractors.

Like Alice, the characters in this new world really don’t make sense and are certainly not there to give anyone clear and concise answers. Rather like the Cheshire Cat they present you with riddles and you are left trying to figure out the answers!

I have been to the FEMA offices 5-6 times in the past 2 months. There are some very nice people there, but handing me another brochure is really NOT helpful. I have made at dozens of phone calls to various government offices to educate myself on what needs to be done, develop a plan of action and put that plan in place, all the while trying to secure temporary housing, comfort family members and grandchildren, mitigate our property and find answers to complex and confusing issues.

Here are a few of the dilemmas we face; these are not in order because they are all intertwined!

  1. If you rebuild your home as it was, you will not be able to afford the flood insurance premiums FEMA is putting into place (see brochure on rising flood insurance costs).
  1. If you want to do the right thing for the future you need to raise your home according to another FEMA brochure. However, if your home hasn’t been damaged more than 50 percent and you have not had storm damage twice in the past ten years, you are not eligible for the ICC payment of up to $30,000 to raise your home.  HUH? You pay for this coverage and yet you are not eligible!
  1. The new FEMA flood maps seem to be in flux. So you really don’t know what your home’s flood elevation is on the new map. Then you have to wait to see what your town does in terms of adopting the new flood maps.
  1. Then there is “Free Board” (Not a surfing term!) which as I understand it is another level of elevation towns can adopt which will require you to raise your home, your heaters, etc.  yet another 1-2 feet! This is another 1-2 feet in addition to the height elevations FEMA is strongly suggesting homes be raised to. Do the municipalities realize that with every foot you raise your home your heater, etc. that there is a related cost to the homeowner?
  1. In New Jersey, state government cannot implement a new requirement on without a corresponding funding source otherwise known as, “State Mandate, State Pay.”  It would be nice if our federal government extended that premise to all the “suggestions” (Wink! Wink!) That FEMA is imposing on us! If we don’t follow their suggestions, our insurance rates will hit the roof. Where is the fairness in this?
  1. If you can’t get the ICC funds to help defer the costs of raising your home, where will you get the money to cover the additional cost of “Free Board”?

It seems to me that FEMA really wants me and thousands of others to file for bankruptcy!

  1. Try talking with your mortgage company to explain all this (some mortgage companies like Aurora Financial seem to be listening and are trying to find a way to help you! Others like PHH mortgage, Nation Star and others want you put back your home exactly like it was. They they don’t want to hear what FEMA requires in terms of elevations!
  1. Insurance adjusters are coming from all over the United States and promise reports within 7-14 days (we have been waiting 6 weeks for the reports). I called my mortgage company and they really don’t know whom they sent out to see my home!
  1. If you are lucky enough to get an advance payment from your insurance, the mortgage company requires you to get a release of lien and W-9 payment for each vendor/contractor you use. What vendor wants to sign a release of lien payment when they haven’t been paid?
  1. If the contractor signs off, but doesn’t put his title on the waiver of lien page, the mortgage company will reject the form! If you are waiting to pay the contractor, add at least 2-3 weeks unto the time frame to get your insurance advance payment back from the mortgage company, once they receive the amended document.
  1. You think you have done all the paperwork and you call to find out where the check is and guess what??  They need additional information and now want a statement from your insurance company stating that the contractor fees are reasonable (please see #6 my insurance company has dropped off the face of the earth, I can’t even get a report from them.)
  1. All the time you are trying to get all the paperwork done, the mold and mildew continues to grow in your home. If you don’t have the savings to front money forget about getting anything done in a timely fashion.
  1. It is my understanding by friends who have been lucky enough to get a report from their insurance company the money you think you are going to get really doesn’t happen.  And another Alice in Wonderland experience begins! It seems that the insurance company depreciates everything to the point that the payment you may receive is 1/3-1/2 less than the actual replacement cost. So if you HVAC system cost you $9,000 to replace, you are lucky to get $3-5,000. And then you need to fight to get the money back from your mortgage company; who again like the Queen Of Hearts wants more paperwork, or she screams,  “ Off with their heads.”
  1. I pay the insurance premiums; I pay the mortgage and more than anyone I want my house whole! Why do I have to struggle with my mortgage company to get money to pay the contractors? Why has getting access to your own money turned into a house of cards?? One false move and the whole thing collapse and you have to start all over! Is nothing simple and straightforward anymore?
  1. If you have a job, good luck keeping it in this surreal world because while you are at work you need to make dozens of calls to insurers, FEMA, SBA, contractors, Code Enforcement Officers, mortgage companies, etc. trying to get answers and they are mostly available during your regular work hours.
  1. So, you make calls when you can and stay up late to get the paperwork done, mailed in, and then of course redone because you never do it to the satisfaction of: FEMA, SBA, Insurance companies and mortgage companies.
  1. Here’s another example of the madness you face. You finally get back to work after the storm and your first day back a FEMA representative calls and says he will be at your house in 2 hours. When you explain this is your first day back to work since the storm and he says, “well if you can’t get here today, it may be 2-3 weeks before we can reschedule a site visit!” You decide.
  1. I can’t tell you how many agencies have asked me for me income, my tax returns, my monthly bills, debts and so on. And yet when I go on the FEMA site the security questions they ask me in order to verify that I am who I am, relate to people I knew or were married to 35 years ago, or the name of my best friend, or a street I lived on as a child. The government knows a lot about me and yet they still ask for a copy of my taxes! Really?? I can’t get help without a ream of paperwork and countless documents; which the government and the mortgage companies already have!
  1. Finally, let me add that in times of natural disasters our government has sent millions of dollars to other countries to help them to rebuild. I am just wondering has anyone sent money to us to help with the rebuilding of the East Coast of the United States? I know I haven’t gotten a check.
  1. When Congress is withholding funds, I really need to question their reasoning. Isn’t it the tax dollars that we have all been contributing for years and years? Is this not our money? Or is Congress thinking like the mortgage companies and they continue to think my money is really their money? Yet another Alice in Wonderland dilemma. My descent into madness continues!
  1. We need money now, not in a month or next year. Those of us with and without insurance need help to rebuild our homes.  Does our United State Congress have something against New Jersey? Is it Snookie? Have we done something to offend them or am I forever doomed to living in Wonderland?
  1. When Katrina hit New Orleans (a city I love) we spent billions to help them out and yet it is a city that sits in a bowl surrounded by water! Did anyone tell them they had to raise their homes?  If we can help New Orleans, why does the US Congress not want to help us??

I am tired and saddened by all these things and more. The emotional, financial and physical toll of this storm is taken on so many families is immeasurable. It begs the question: Who can give us clear and financially doable options to help us rebuild?

I believe I am strong person who could handle most challenges. But I doubt that I will come out of this one whole.  I am asking for help and compassion from my government at the local, county, state and federal level. Without that help, we as individuals and as a state will fail to come through this crisis and I for one may never find my way out of the rabbit hole.

Please, we need answers. We need affordable, doable options so we can rebuild our homes and business. We need the insurance companies to be more responsive and the mortgage companies to know that we cannot repair anything until they release our money and we CANNOT put our homes back to the way they were. We need FEMA to understand we cannot all raise our homes and we cannot pay $10-18,000 annually for flood insurance.

The mad hatter is calling, my tea is ready and I must go. Thank you for taking the time to read this.


Faith C. Liguori,
Homeless in Seaside Park, NJ
126 8th Ave
Seaside Park, NJ 08752

Elayna C January 25, 2013 at 05:05 PM
Just to add, today I called my Mortgage co., who is supposedly working on a loan modification, which they received on Dec15 from me, but they still cannot find, even though they say they are looking at it, (WHAT?) ...and was told that they are tacking on VACANCY INSURANCE due to the fact that they sent and inspector to my home in Seaside (at my expense they told me) and the inspector found that the house is vacant and looks unliveable. Rabbit hole...nuff said....
Chris Buono January 25, 2013 at 05:57 PM
My mortgage company - Hudson City ... demons - wouldn't even returns calls made by OceanFirst requesting mortgage deferment periods. OceanFirst had to just say it was so. Even better, they it's a DEFERMENT, not a credit. I still have to pay it. So as of April 1st I owe for months mortgage. What's the purpose you ask? So I had cash in hand to do some work on the house while I wait for the flood insurance settlement. HAHAHAHAHAHAHA! What settlement?
foggyworld January 25, 2013 at 09:45 PM
You can start a petition to the White House but they just upped the ante. Until recently it took 25,000 signatures to get a response. A few weeks ago, that was upped to 100,000 signatures. Therefore, it might be wise to include all the people in the States slammed by Sandy no matter where they reside or resided. I personally think the Wizard of Oz is running us all in a circle just hoping we will drop!
foggyworld January 25, 2013 at 09:55 PM
To Michael S. below: Somehow or other most of us just don't want counseling from any of the folks who are making a living by being part of this completely non-functioning system. What exactly are you offering us? Sounds to me like the Comfort Care that Seniors now are getting in lieu of actual medical treatment. The displaced and demolished simply need the government and insurance companies to live up to their obligations. Why don't you push for that and watch the stress just run away.
foggyworld January 25, 2013 at 10:09 PM
But Egypt really NEEDS those F-16's that are heading their way courtesy of our tax dollars, and based on a request made by the imprisoned former President Mubarak.
foggyworld January 25, 2013 at 10:11 PM
Michael, You mean well but really no-cost emotional support services would not even be required if your employer would just step up to the plate and do the right things.
foggyworld January 25, 2013 at 10:17 PM
But WHERE is John Galt?
foggyworld January 25, 2013 at 10:27 PM
It's hard to plan these days when the rules of the game keep changing. Many of us paid into Social Security for decades even if we didn't want to with the understanding being that we would get retirement money and Medicare. Both are about to go out the window because the funds were never invested but simply looked at as cash on hand to those pols who grabbed it.
foggyworld January 25, 2013 at 10:39 PM
This V zone business is the rip off of all time. We built a house to Outer Banks building code specs and as a result our home was dry after the storm. For doing what the local pols wouldn't - put the NJ shore into those same codes - because builders didn't want them there, we are being punished. And worse than that by far, is living in a war zone and scooping up one's devastated neighbors and helping in any way possible. Things have not improved one bit and in fact have gotten worse. No one even sent spray in to curb the mold that is now festering on most of these houses. For the first 3 weeks in Berkeley Township, we couldn't even get once a week brown can pick up and now as of January 16th, the town will no longer pick up any storm damaged materials. People are leaving quietly and they are walking over this State's borders and its truly heart breaking to watch this escalate every day. We have one Senator who is 89 years old and thinking of running again while the other one is being looked at for his paying 16 year old girls in the Dominican Republic for sex. We have no representation in the Senate and boy does it show.
foggyworld January 25, 2013 at 10:42 PM
You may not be doomed. There is federal grant money out there for people who need pilings. The problem is the amount of funding isn't going to begin to cover the actual need.
Chris Buono January 25, 2013 at 10:51 PM
@foggyworld I'm on all that. I was told by a FEMa rep at the Fisher Blvd. DRC that the FEMA Mitigation Grant could take 4-6 years to come around. Also, there's ICC pay back still outstanding from Katrina. Not only may you have not have enough, you may die waiting for whatever is available. AND, there's no guarantee the Mitigation Grant money will come to life. It's supplement leftovers after claims are paid. Considering claims are not even being paid out it's unlikely this grant will be funded. It's a bullshit.
Elayna C January 25, 2013 at 10:59 PM
Chris...I got a deferment as well. They call it a forebearance. But mine runs out Feb 1. That's why I asked what's up with my loan modification, and guess what I was told. "NO IDEA WHAT TO TELL YOU. Must pay...plus extra, since the place is vacant and we had to go inspect. BTW, when will you be moving back in? CANT HAVE IT VACANT!"
carolyn January 25, 2013 at 11:06 PM
My home is still for sale with furnishings if any one is interested. Holiday City Carefree, Toms River. Just move right in. My heart goes out to all of you. hippydippy50@aol.com
Chris Buono January 26, 2013 at 04:27 AM
We were originally supposed to get back into the payment schedule Feb. 1st, too. I told them I had to have more time. They know we have nothing to lose - we already lost everything. Isn't that some shit they charge YOU for the inspection? Mine is pulling that crap as well. Unreal.
Chris Buono January 26, 2013 at 04:29 AM
If anyone is going to the FEMA Workshop tomorrow at TR HS East, please help me ask these real deal questions: Who pays for a rebuild if you fall below FEMA's $:$ ratio in a V Zone? In other words, is there grant money for a rebuild if you're home is not worth lifting? Can someone confirm whether or not grandfathering is negated due to the Begerts-Waters Act of 2012 and, if so, WHEN will rate increases will apply? Will it be two years as Brick Mayor Acropolis stated earlier this week? Will Toms River require "free boarding?" How does the Hazard Mitigation Grant point system work? Has Toms River applied for the Community Development Block Grant and how do we get on the list?
Elayna C January 26, 2013 at 11:00 PM
I get no FEMA money since I had flood, and I get no flood since my mortgage company will get the check and they already are threatening foreclosure. I really think we all have to withhold property taxes. But it has to be everyone. Otherwise I'm betting there is some conglomerate out there who would be willing to buy up our homes and are just waiting to find which they can choose from.
dainty January 30, 2013 at 12:21 AM
We are volunteers helping gut homes and remove debris. While we have been mostly in Ortley, we'd be trilled to help out in Seaside, if you have those needs. Please contact me. Joan* Sandy Weekday Warriors on Facebook* 732 672 1472
Elayna C January 30, 2013 at 03:37 AM
My husband spent the last 2 1/2 months gutting our 2 houses by himself. Physically and emotionally totally taxed. Now with the new FEMA map that Christie signed off on, it seems we will lose everything. We cannot elevate since our houses are all concrete block. Would have to tear them down and rebuild, costing way more than we have. If we dont, our Flood policy will be up to 30K per year beginnning in 2 years. Obviously impossible. I have never seen him give up before. I cannot believe this has happened to the shore, to our lives, and that our govt is allowing it.
carolyn January 30, 2013 at 04:17 AM
If you can't build then you can come and take a look at my home for sale with everything you need inside. All appliances and furniture, You can even have the dishes pots and pans towels and tools in the garage. There is also a piano . TVs and microwave. Toaster Coffee Pot Fireplace , Outside furniture and swing. Great Clubhouse with new pool. Castle Harbor Model on Bimini Drive, Holiday City. 2 Bdrs. 2 Bths Liv Rm Dn Rm Kit with Den and fireplace. Laundry room. Garage Enclosed porch. Central Air Baseboard gas heat. New Roof. Asking $200,000, Its negotiable. hippydippy50@aol.com (732) 674-9699 Carolyn
George Kasimos January 30, 2013 at 01:30 PM
Joan, Can you please help spread the word. We are bringing the fight to FEMA. I live in Toms River and our house was flooded and we need answers from FEMA to rebuild. We need to know if we will finally be in an A or V zone. We need to know if / when / how much money we will receive from the Mitigation Grants. We need answers now, NOT in FEMA time. www.facebook.com/StopFemaNow Please join and like
Chris Buono January 30, 2013 at 01:49 PM
To all: You MUST call your insurance agents and talk to them. In the past few days I've learned we're all jumping to conclusions when it comes to the rates - no thanks to Christie's speech. The skyrocketing rates due to the new law passed last July (Bigerts-Waters Act of 2012) applies to secondary home and businesses. Sadly their rates already started to go up by 25% increments and will for the next three years until they're at full risk rate UNLESS they comply. This does NOT apply to primary homes. Right now, we are grandfathered. If you watched Brick Mayor Acropolis' video he's incorrect in saying all grandfathering has been eliminated. I spoke to two different agents this week and they both said identical things in regards to this. If your policy states a Zone A, your rates will stay Zone A even if it changes to V. Your rates will go up under normal circumstances, not under this doomsday scenario. Now, if you try to build new or expand you will have to comply to whatever the Zone is at that time. Bottom line: primary homeowners go home, rebuild, wait out the grants. As for flooding in-between that time - we're getting content insurance and keeping EVERY receipt. Hopefully we can elevate before another significant flood. It's still a crap shoot, but we're NOT walking away and losing everything. No way. Also, there's aggressive research into V Zone construction with alternative modified foundations. It's not just pilings! As long as your at or above BFE it will fly.
Chris Buono January 30, 2013 at 01:59 PM
To add: If you go to sell, that's another story. Depending on the rules of the mortgage company/bank you may or may be able to transfer the elevation cert. thereby selling the flood policy to the buyer. If not, they will be hit with the current rates and elevations and will, of course, walk from the sale. Only a cash buyer can circumnavigate this. But who the hell does THAT?!! HAHA! Also, keep these two things in mind: Though Christie said what he said last week the town STILL has to adopt it. They set the building rules. Also, the spring is supposed to be when FEMA takes another look at the V Zones in residential areas where the science makes no sense. There's strong belief we will be rolled back to A Zones. Regardless, you're still grandfathered and can go back and rebuild what you had. For restoration Toms River is now enforcing permits. Only for new construction. To be totally honest we're entertaining two scenarios: 1. Sell the house for the balance minus the flood settlement - end all this. Already consulted a lawyer - this can fly. No bank is going to refuse MONEY. Take our savings and put a down payment something else. We'll be house poor, but out of flood zones and done with this. 2. Take the settlement money and rebuild and return. Wait for the Mitigation Grants and the Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) to come through. My family wants their home back. The one they love. I do, too. If we can't sell then we fight to make this whole.
Jack Jampel January 30, 2013 at 04:23 PM
Chris Just to clarify, thats correct that secondary and businesses get rate hikes first. However insurance rate hikes to primary homeowners is being rolled out as per a timeline. It is in the plans and will occur so it is not really grandfathering. Also would you be able to advise as to what other alternative structural options we may have in V Zone besides pilings or helicoils which are extremely expensive? Thanks
George Kasimos January 30, 2013 at 05:21 PM
Dear Press, Public Officials and Flood Insurance Property Owners: What we want are our Politicians to change; 1) A thorough re-evaluation of the flood zones, in a timely fashion. 2) Evaluating if we raise the dunes a few feet if it will significantly reduce all our flood levels and insurance premiums. 3) Getting quick answers as to who gets the mitigation grants, when they get the grant and for how much. 4) Creative ways to lower our flood insurance premiums 5) Grace period of a few years before the rise in flood insurance premiums 6) FEMA to notify all homeowners of the impending new flood insurance rates and elevation requirements What we want from all Flood Insurance homeowners to do; 1) Copy and paste this email and send to your local, state, federal politicians and members of Press. 2) Form Coalition to protect our interests. 3) Spread the word to your neighbors George Kasimos www.facebook.com/StopFemaNow 150 members and growing
Chris Buono January 30, 2013 at 05:45 PM
Good for you, George. Consider this done.
Chris Buono January 30, 2013 at 06:07 PM
Hey Jack, I first read that on the FEMA pages and have been on the defense ever since. It's the main deterrent from moving forward for us. The intense diggin I've done has come up with the contrary for primary homeowners as stated by several insurance brokers I've grilled ad nauseum. Do you or anyone have a source, a website, a doc to be scanned and distributed that actually addresses this one way another? That would be incredibly helpful to all of us. Here's the deal on V Zone construction in Toms River: As long as your engineer signs off on the method, Toms River will approve. I have an email straight from TR engineering confirming this. Here's the most important part of that email: "Your engineer should be aware of all the codes that he/she must follow when raising your house to a V standard. Therefore, if your engineer is able to determine that raising your house on masonry is viable, then it will be his responsibility to put his name to it." Masonry materials will not only help drop the cost, but more importantly NOT CONDEMN OUR HOMES TO THE IMPOSSIBILITY OF PILINGS. The insurance rates are based on elevation height, not the construction method. However, the method will come back to haunt you if this happens again - and it will at some level - if you disregard details like finishing walls within the elevated area or you lose something you were storing in there. The big question is can we go home and wait out the grants? There's still answers to be found.
Corinne January 30, 2013 at 09:55 PM
FAITH; Thank you for sharing your wonderfully expressed letter. You hit the nail on the head. I am sure that there are thousands of us experiencing what you have been thru. CHRIS ; tThank you ever so much for sharing all of your research and acquired knowledge. You surely have put lots of time into your investigations. Dixie, a Silver B
Chris Buono January 30, 2013 at 10:09 PM
Sorry, I meant to write, "for restoration Toms River is NOT enforcing permits." There's building going on all Silverton with no pink slips in the windows!
Missy Russoman February 01, 2013 at 03:12 AM
Well said. Faith, you are and always will be an inspiring and amazing woman of truth and knowledge, and of love. I wish you and your family, my Mother, and all who have lost and/or were affected by this tragic hurricane a faster restoration of lives, homes, and well-being. I wish you the best and may all the pieces fit back together again to make you whole- and not remain in one.
Theresa Krakauskas March 11, 2013 at 02:00 AM
God bless you for putting into words what we've all been feeling. I live in North Long Branch & your letter fits our situation to a T. I'm at the point where if I have to fill out one more sheet of paperwork, I'm going to scream & never stop. While we did manage to extract a partial payment from the insurance company after 4 months (the last month being taken up by the mortgage company), it's been a daunting & exhausting experience. If it hadn't been for the kindness of a friend who used to be in construction who taught us how to demolish walls & an electrician who rewired our kitchen with no money up front, I'd be sitting here with mold growing to my ceiling & no refrigerator or stove. The best joke was when one of the representatives from CitiMortgage asked me why there hadn't been more work done at this point. Um, because you won't release my money & workers want to get paid? This is Wonderland, Oz & Twilight Zone all put together.


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