Stop FEMA Now founder and Superstorm Sandy recovery advocate George Kasimos took New Jersey Governor Chris Christie to task at an event yesterday in Seaside Heights.
In what was supposed to be a speech touting recovery process in the four years since Sandy struck the Jersey Shore, the governor found himself suddenly under attack by Kasimos and protesters.
At Jimbo’s, a boardwalk bar and restaurant damaged by the storm, shortly after Christie began speaking, Kasimos quickly took blunt exception to the governor’s claim that only 1,700 of the 365,000 storm damaged houses remain in disrepair and are uninhabitable.
And he didn’t mince words.
“I call bullshit. I call bullshit. I call bullshit, governor. That’s bullshit. That is a bullshit number, sir. That is a bullshit number, you know it. There’s 600 substantially damaged homes in Toms River,” Kasimos shouted at Christie.
A Seaside Heights police officer then approached the advocate.
“Arrest me or get off me,” he said. Seaside Heights Police Chief Thomas Boyd then approached, and Kasimos responded by saying, “Don’t touch me. Why are you standing next to me? Are you trying to intimate me?”
Simultaneously, protesters in the crowd unraveled signs with messages that blasted the recovery. One read, “Governor Christie, Thousands of Families Still Not Home After Sandy.”
“Oh you got a problem, yeah, look at these folks. This is what happens when you don’t work for the people,” the advocate shouted.
Kasimos continued, stating that he was upset he hasn’t been getting answers and solutions from the state Department of Community Affairs regarding contractor fraud.
“Instead of having a common meeting, like human beings, I gotta scream at my governor to get something done.”
Protesters then chimed in, raising concerns about foreclosures and other recovery problems.
A few minutes later, Christie left the podium and Boyd stepped in an attempt to regain order.
“I’ll call people out because I’m not scared. Governor, I want the head of DCA to come and meet with my group. Otherwise, you’re going to hear my voice more.”
About 10 minutes later, Christie returned to the podium and resumed his speech. He said he understood the frustrations, particularly with contractors, and stressed that recovery is a long process.
The governor also said that the people who “scream the most and hurl the most accusations are often the ones who have little to no contribution to the solution.”
Christie concluded with a positive outlook.
“Let us not forget that despite whatever frustrations we have, God has bestowed upon us incredible blessings and tomorrow when the sun rises there will be another one. Another day where we get to get to get up and we try to do something really great with our lives for ourselves, and for our families, and for our community,” he said.
Kasimos tells NewsWorks that the protest appeared to achieve results.
“Before I got back to the mainland I received a few FRANTIC calls/emails from state officials calling to set up a meeting with the Department of Community Affairs and any other meetings that we would like,” he said.