With officials all over the state objecting that victims of Hurricane Sandy have not received adequate funding to return to their homes, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is under fire yet again for another suspicious project paid for by Sandy funds. This time: a $4.8 million apartment complex in unaffected inland suburb New Brunswick.
The complex received money meant for victims of the hurricane, angering many in the state who have yet to receive funding or have found state and federal aid insufficient to improve their status. The complex is one of a number of similar projects that have surfaced, bringing into question whether the Christie administration has been using money from these accounts to benefit allies.
New Brunswick, the suburban town home to Rutgers University, sits on the Raritan River, far from the ocean. While the town and its surrounding environs lost electric power and other amenities for some time in the wake of the storm, Rutgers ranked it 188th on the list of towns most affected by Sandy.
The government is arguing that the apartment complex can help Sandy victims even without being in the towns that need to rebuild. The apartment tower includes several units of affordable housing, and agency officials claim this could help the displaced victims of Sandy even when the money did not go straight to a town ravaged by the hurricane. According to Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency head Anthony Marchetta, the millions funneled into the project were legitimate because other parts of Middlesex County were significantly destroyed, and those who once lived there still need homes. “We’re always in short supply of affordable housing in New Jersey,” Marchetta told NBC New York.
Christie has blamed Congress in the past for not sending sufficient funding to the state to help Sandy victims, attacking House Speaker Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) for not expediting the funding. This week, Christie asked FEMA to extend the costs of maintaining Fort Monmouth, a temporary community established for those who lost their homes to the hurricane but have not been able to rebuild. Many at the fort are waiting for grants from the government two years later.
There are other questions regarding the distribution of these funds, including the results of a study that found that black and Latino applicants are less likely to receive Sandy funding if victims of the storm.
Christie has been accused of misusing these funds himself, however, both as a “slush fund” to pay off the Top 100 mayors he had been attempting to woo over to his side before last year’s gubernatorial election and to pay for advertising prominently featuring him and his family meant to draw tourism to the Jersey Shore in the aftermath of the storm. The federal government is currently auditing the Christie administration regarding the latter.