Hurricane Sandy slammed both New York and New Jersey hard in late 2012 and, after some political wrangling, Congress voted to provide more than $60 billion in storm recovery aid. But as the details come into focus, it's clear that New York is receiving more aid than New Jersey—a lot more. And New Jersey officials can't understand why.
NJ Spotlight, an online news service, has a report ( "Why Did New Jersey Get Only Half as Much Sandy Aid as New York?" by Scott Gurian and Matthew Schuerman). "New Jersey has gotten less than half as much Sandy aid from HUD as New York State and City combined, even though the states' original damage estimates suggested that New York was only slightly harder hit."
Theories abound on why this might be, the report says. One view is that U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary, Shaun Donovan, a New Yorker, is showing bias. Another, put forward by environmentalists, says that New Jersey is being punished for neglecting climate change and sea level rise in its rebuilding plans. Then there's the theory that New York is getting more money because its power utilities are publicly owned, not privately held.
According to NJ Spotlight, none of those explanations hold water. Instead, the website reports, several factors in the Congressional funding formula end up favoring New York.
Oddly, New York benefited from a Congressional deal, designed to garner votes from inland politicians, that allocated some of the funding in the Sandy relief measures to repairing damage from other, earlier disasters. New York ended up getting some of that money, because upstate New York was hard hit by Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee in 2011.
New York also got a big slug of money to repair damage to its subway trains. Public transportation was not a big factor in New Jersey's losses.
As for private homes, many of New Jersey's ruined houses were second homes. These aren't eligible for federal help in the aid bill formula.
"Given these factors, the federal government estimates that New Jersey's unmet repair and resiliency needs for homes, businesses, and infrastructure total $4.9 billion—less than half the combined needs of New York State and New York City, which add up to more than $11 billion," reports NJ Spotlight.
The upshot? New Jersey officials say that after spending all their federal aid, they'll still need another $17 billion to fix all the damage from Hurricane Sandy.