Sandy-Impacted Residents Decide on Home Buyouts

January 17, 2014 | Energy & Environment, Politics
Residents in Sayreville and South River have received offers to buy out their flood-prone homes since Hurricane Sandy.

By Desirée Taylor
Senior Correspondent

Deal or no deal? This question has been vexing Cheryl Satorski whose property was flooded and damaged by Superstorm Sandy.

“I just don’t want to be the lone sole on the street,” Satorski said. “He wants to stay and I don’t.”

Satorksi says her husband wants to stay and raise their home, but the grant they hoped for appears to have fallen through. So they may have to take the buyout. So far, more than 120 of the 272 homeowners in Sayreville and South River who have been offered the deal, have accepted. It’s part of the Christie administration’s plan to acquire 1,000 homes in areas significantly impacted by Sandy.

“We’re trying to do a flood control measure. The overall goal of the program is to take people out of harm’s way,” said Rich Boornazian of the DEP.

“Thinking about the future. What they are saying about the weather changes. I want to leave,” said Bernice Satorski.

Bernice Satorski, Cheryl’s neighbor and mother-in-law, is taking the buyout. She says the offer isn’t substantial, but enough to buy a mobile home.

“It isn’t the value of my house but from my standpoint, because I don’t have a mortgage, it’s good for me and my husband,” Bernice Satorski said.

But neighbor Renee Vona has no plans to leave.

“We have been offered a buyout. We don’t want to take it. We don’t think it’s reasonable. We can’t get anything comparable,” Vona said.

“A couple of friends are walking away with nothing. They have to start all over again because of offers they’ve gotten,” Cheryl Satorski said.

“The appraisers instructions are to value the house as if it had not damaged by the hurricane. But again, if they don’t like our appraisal, they’re free to hire their own appraiser and we will take that, show it to a third independent appraiser who will look at all three plus his own experience to make a determination of what fair market should be,” said Boornazian.

DEP officials say the goal of the buyout program is to buy clusters of homes which will be demolished and then kept as open space to serve as buffers. But if pockets of people choose to stay, residents fear it will impact local taxes and leave the neighborhood looking like a ghost town.

The buyout program, part of the Blue Acres initiative, has been expanded beyond Sayreville and South River. One hundred nineteen homes in tidal areas of Newark, East Brunswick and Woodbridge have been targeted for the next round of purchases. And other municipalities have expressed interest in buyouts.