New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, a Republican seeking re-election, lashed out at beachfront homeowners who won’t grant the state permission to build dunes to protect the state’s 127-mile coast after Hurricane Sandy.
Christie, 50, said residents’ concerns that signing the easements would let the state build boardwalks, snack bars and bathrooms near their homes are off base. The homeowners face a deadline today to sign off on the agreements, or Christie said he plans to disclose the names of holdouts.
“For those people who don’t want to give us the easements after tomorrow, I want to make it very clear to you that we are building these dunes,” he said yesterday at a town-hall meeting on Long Beach Island, an 18-mile (29-kilometer) stretch of shore towns that swell with summer tourists. “And we are building these dunes whether you consent or not.”
During the meeting, Christie urged parents in the crowd of more than 500 people to cover their children’s ears and then used an expletive while rejecting homeowners’ objections that easements would allow construction other than dunes.
“Here’s why they’re really concerned: they don’t want their view blocked,” he said. “Darn right, it’s about money because it almost always is.”
Sandy made landfall in New Jersey on Oct. 29, devastating some shore towns. Christie has said it will cost $36.9 billion to repair the damage and prevent future devastation.
Statewide, 365,000 homes were destroyed or damaged by Sandy, and 62 households still remain in hotels and motels, according to the governor’s office. The federal government this week approved $1.8 billion in grants to help residents and businesses recover from Sandy.
Christie said the state has no interest in building roads, infrastructure or even a “hut” on the portions of land contained within the easements. He said oceanside communities with the best dune systems were able to weather the storm and were protected from its surge.
The economic benefit of building a dune system outweighs property owners’ concerns, Christie said. He said even a small number of holdouts would make the system less effective.
“I will use every ounce of power at my disposal to protect the people and the property of this state,” he said. “We had a lifetime of memories for families up and down the Jersey Shore washed away forever. They’ll never be able to replace it. We are not going to go through that again so you can sit on the first floor rather than the second floor and see the ocean.”