‘Bittersweet’: N.J. demolishes first Sandy buyout home [photos]


After spending 25 years in their Sayreville, N.J., home, Theresa and Marty Kuczynski watched as it was reduced to rubble in only 30 minutes.

An excavator’s claw grabbed the portico first, then reached through the roof, collapsing the wall and windows beneath.

“It’s over and it doesn’t even feel like it’s my house right now,” said Theresa Kuczynski. “It’s very strange.”

Kuczynski said it stopped being her house after she agreed to sell it to the state back in October for $265,000, its pre-storm value. It was the state’s first purchase and its first demolition as part of its Blue Acres program, a $300-million initiative to buy flood-prone properties and demolish them. The state plans to purchase 1,300 homes, including 170 accepted offers in Sayreville and nearby South River. Fifty deals have closed so far.

Surveying a pile of debris, Marty Kuczynski thought about all the work he’d put into the home over the years.

“It took me longer to paint a room than to knock my house down,” he said. “Oh boy, every piece of wood, I remember working on something in there.”

“Oh well,” he shrugged, more amused than sad.

The Kuczynskis have relocated to higher ground, a couple miles away. During Sandy, seven feet of water flooded into their basement.  But unlike many other homes in the area, it was the first time the property flooded. Sayreville was one of the first communities to advocate for buyouts after three storms caused severe flooding of nearby Raritan and South Rivers in the last three years.

But many residents who applied for the buyout program have been unhappy with the price the state has offered for their properties.

Jamal Stafford lives next door to the Kuczynskis’ former home. He came out to watch the demolition and said he was happy for his neighbors’ fresh start, but he won’t be taking the buyout.

“They’re not offering enough money,” he said, noting he thought his offer was at least $40,000 too low. “They’re not giving people a fair assessment of what their houses are worth.”

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