Written by Nick Malfitano
The Berkeley Restaurant and Fish Company in South Seaside Park was the site for one of two rallies held in the local area by grassroots organization “Stop FEMA Now” today, on behalf of homeowners still reeling from the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy as the one-year anniversary of the storm approaches.
Berkeley Township Board of Education President Jim Fulcomer welcomed everyone to the mid-afternoon gathering and explained the organization needed to call on the government to solve the issues of instituting dune protection throughout the barrier island, preventing flood insurance premiums from skyrocketing, and postponing, amending or repealing the Biggert-Waters Act.
The legislation, which is pending approval this Tuesday, October 1, will change the process by which flood insurance is calculated if it is passed and lead to an increase in flood insurance premiums for policyholders over time. This is a change Stop FEMA Now says is for the worse.
“The government is stupid to raise the cost of premiums,” said Fulcomer. “If less people buy flood insurance, they’ll have to use funds from the General Treasury.”
Fulcomer also pointed out the errors made in the flood maps created by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which claimed three-foot high waves were found in Barnegat Bay.
“The bay is too small and shallow to generate those kinds of waves,” said Fulcomer.
Seaside Park resident Faith Liguori spoke with passion about the storm’s lasting emotional and human impact on area residents that is still being felt nearly one year later.
“The environmental impact, the human impact, is critical to us now,” said Liguori. “The emotional impact will be felt for years to come. Congress needs to hear your voices, your stories, your hardships. We need to put a human face on this disaster.”
Stop FEMA Now founder and rally organizer George Kasimos came to the meeting straight from the first local rally, held earlier today in Toms River, where he said that 1,000 people attended. Through his strong and fiery delivery, Kasimos added now is the time to get the word out on the plight of homeowners opposed to FEMA and for action to be taken on behalf of those not receiving satisfactory assistance from the federal government to restore their homes.
“Everyone here are the Paul Reveres of this devastation problem we have,” said Kasimos. “But, I don’t want to bitch about it. I want to do something about it.”
Kasimos said that Mississippi Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney filed a lawsuit against the Federal Emergency Management Agency on Sept. 26 to prevent increases in flood insurance rates forecasted through the Biggert-Waters Act.
“We will also be filing a lawsuit,” said Kasimos.
Kasimos thanked various elected officials who have pledged to help the cause of Stop FEMA Now, including members of local government and U.S. Senator Robert Menendez. Still, Kasimos urged the grassroots volunteer component of the organization must continue also.
“If everyone here can get five of their neighbors to join, we’ll be in good shape. 750,000 people in New Jersey have flood insurance, and until we have 750,000 people with us, we have work to do,” said Kasimos.A question-and-answer session followed Kasimos’s remarks. The rallies in Seaside Park and Toms River were just two of many being held throughout the country today.