In Ventnor Heights, relief lags for the less well-off

Posted: October 21, 2013

VENTNOR HEIGHTS, N.J. - Some things are back. Daniel Scotti, 81, for one, his deluged home on Harvard Avenue put back together, his Sandy survival story rounded out with a wife in hospice, rising water from three directions, and the heroic revival of a near-electrocuted dog.

Some things are gone: the local Bank of America branch, a city police officer's house, diehard Ventnor Heights families who cut bait and headed to the mainland, some leaving homes to the banks.

Even Tim Kreischer, a former mayor, has his house on the market.

Some things are the same, alarmingly so. Ventnor Mayor Michael Bagnell estimates that between 30 and 50 people - mostly elderly, disabled, living on the margins to begin with - are still living in Sandy-damaged houses that have not been repaired.

The rest of Ventnor Heights - a low-lying neighborhood despite its name, the part of town you're in before you cross the Dorset Avenue Bridge to get to the beach and beach blocks - awaits money to finish, or, in some cases, start repairs and elevation, many still mired in repetitive and mind-boggling paperwork consuming more than 30 hours a week.

But in a town where the affluent escaped damage for the most part, it is this most marginal category that has local officials particularly alarmed. Bagnell said N.J. Hope and Healing alerted him to the problem.

"They were having trouble getting access to some of the people," Bagnell said. "They knew the people were in there."

The city gathered its clergy for a meeting, urging them to help link these Sandy victims with the nonprofits that have ample funds to fix homes, but have had trouble finding clients that meet their criteria.

With some residents living in houses without heat, the specter of Sandy's second winter looms.

On Calvert Avenue last week, Paul Budzak, of the Fuller Center, a nonprofit Christian housing ministry, ripped out Sheetrock in one such unremediated home, where an elderly woman had been living, officials said. The walls had been insulated with newspapers dating to Dec. 20, 1945.



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