N.J. to buy up 1,300 flood-prone homes

 South River resident Robert Smith points to a piece of black tape on the front of his home on Water Street indicating how high Sandy's floodwaters reached. (Phil Gregory/WHYY)

South River resident Robert Smith points to a piece of black tape on the front of his home on Water Street indicating how high Sandy's floodwaters reached. (Phil Gregory/WHYY)

New Jersey intends to buy up 1,300 homes located in flood-prone areas to end the constant threat of damage from storms and heavy rains.

Gov. Chris Christie traveled to Middlesex County Tuesday to meet with residents of South River and discuss plans to buy their homes.

Some of the residences sustained damage from Superstorm Sandy; others have repeatedly flooded by river waters.The goal is to purchase entire sections of neighborhoods, demolish the buildings, then maintain the properties as open space.

Some of the residents Christie spoke with Tuesday were eager to sell.

Robert Smith lives on Water Street in South River. He’s applied for a buyout because he says it terrible having to deal with floodwaters from the Raritan River that have repeatedly damaged his home.

“It seems like the water is coming higher and higher all the time, but this Sandy, that capped them all. That did a job,” he said.

“It was really bad. When the high water comes in, it does nothing but damage. It looks for cracks and crevices, it looks for basement, it looks for anything, and it just floods everything out.”

South River resident Tom Deltz is not so sure he can be persuaded.

Though his Lee Street home, which is 12 feet above sea level, was flooded out by Sandy, Deltz said he’s trying to decide whether to apply for a state buyout.

“I like it here. I’m not sure that they’re going to be able to give me what I need to move out. That’s the whole deal,” he said.

“I think most of us here we don’t know what they’re offering,” he added. “Once we know what they’re offering that’s going to tell us yes or no or maybe.”

Robert Smith’s wife, Pat, has mixed emotions about the prospect of leaving their longtime Water Street residence. Though her grandchildren don’t want them to sell the house, she said she could not go through the stress of losing her belongings and repairing flood damage one more time.

“When the water comes in it’s heartbreaking, the cleaning, doing all the work again,” she said. “I did it too many times already. I can’t do it again.”

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