In his bid for the White House, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is leaving behind people in his home state who are still struggling to rebuild three years after Superstorm Sandy, some residents say.
Victims of the storm, a dozen of whom gathered outside the State House to protest, said they feel the governor has “forgotten about us” while out on the campaign trail.
Hoping to set up tents and camp out across from the capitol building in Trenton on Tuesday to bring attention to their issues, the demonstrators were ousted by state police who said it was unlawful to set up tents. But protestors say they still plan to sit or stand outside for the remainder of the week. Several in attendance have still not returned to homes they fled when the storm struck on Oct. 29, 2012.
"He's completely forgotten about us," said Doug Quinn, whose house in Toms River remains unlivable, in an interview with The Associated Press. "He didn't even mention Sandy in his State of the State speech. We feel absolutely abandoned by Chris Christie."
According to the state’s Community Affairs Department, as of Tuesday 7,680 of the more than 8,000 homeowners entered into the state's grant program to rebuild have accepted payments from the state, with more than 7,600 receiving their first payouts, which the agency says means they are in construction.
About a quarter of that 8,000 have completed construction, and a little more than half of the $659 million allocated for the program has been dispersed to homeowners to date.
The protesters gathered outside the State House have, for the most part, received some amount of financial assistance. But they told the AP that "red tape, contractor delays, insurance disputes, and more have kept them from fully rebuilding."
Governor Christie says he has "a pretty good batting average," in a recent response to criticism to New Jersey's rebuilding efforts.
"I will never be completely satisfied until everybody who wants to be back in their home is back in their home," he said at a press conference in Sea Isle City’s Fire Department. "But to say that in less than three years, we have the overwhelming majority – 365,000 homes damaged or destroyed in Sandy – and now you're talking about a few thousand that are left, folks who have not gotten back in, I think it's a pretty good record."
Another protester at the State House, Joe Mangino, told the AP that he went so far as to follow Christie to a campaign event in Iowa back in March, where he disrupted the presidential-hopeful’s speech with complaints about the speed – or lack thereof – of post-Sandy cleanup.
A guy yelled "Shut up and go home!" says Mr. Mangino. "I said, 'Don't you get it? That's why I'm here: I have no home.' "
This report contains material from the Associated Press.