Gearing Up for a FEMA Fight

A grassroots organization opposed to FEMA's new flood maps is hoping to make some changes.

The same complaints George Kasimos has shared with his neighbors across the street he’s seen posted online, questions and concerns futilely written in emails and posted on message boards and social media sites, left unanswered. Residents are angry, they’re frustrated, and they want to know what’s next.

There’s a movement brewing, but what it lacks is direction.

Like many residents of the Jersey Shore, Kasimos is facing an uncertain future following Hurricane Sandy, one that’s especially clouded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s new flood elevation maps. He wants to fight the maps, knows he’s not alone. But if residents are to stand a chance, they need to be organized and share the same motivation.

The solution is simple, he said, and it’s represented right into the name of the grassroots group he’s started to see it through: Stop FEMA Now.

“Are we here for FEMA? No, they're supposed to be here for us,” he said during a recent phone interview. “We need to get the word out. Most people take it on the chin. We don’t have to take it on the chin. We need to let people know what’s going on.

“We need to come together and tell them to stop it.”

Stop FEMA Now is hosting an information session and meet and greet this Saturday afternoon in Toms River. Kasimos said everyone along the shore who has issue with FEMA’s new flood maps, known as Advisory Base Flood Elevation maps, and their flood zone designations should make a point of stopping by.

The more residents who participate in the effort to fight FEMA, the better chance they fair, Kasimos said.

A Toms River resident, Kasimos said his home suffered flood damage during Hurricane Sandy. Tasked with rebuilding after the storm, Kasimos said he’s had to delay progress after learning that his property has been rezoned. Previously in the A Zone, Kasimos’s property is now listed in the V Zone, which means during a once-a-century storm, like Sandy, it could be subject to wave action. The move will essentially require Kasimos to raise his home above the new flood elevations.

Should he fail to elevate his home, he, like other residents who now find themselves in V Zones or, for the first time, in the also flood-prone A Zone, Kasimos would conceivably be on the hook for flood insurance premiums in the area of tens of thousands of dollars annually. 

The advisory flood maps are simply unfair, Kasimos said. Instead of calling on towns to build seawalls or the Army Corps to dredge waterways and rebuild dunes higher, the burden of flood mitigation falls directly on residents, many who can neither afford to elevate their homes or pay the inflated insurance premiums if they don’t, he said.

“First, let’s change the thinking. In Galveston (Texas) they built a sea wall. In Seaside Heights they’re building a sea wall. Don’t you think it would be more cost effective to build a sea wall, or build dunes higher?”

But, as Kasimos believes, it’s not about flood mitigation, but about funding the FEMA-run National Flood Insurance Program. The flood maps were developed prior to Sandy and do not include data from the storm. According to some, the maps are more than just a little bit inaccurate. In some cases, properties that have never flooded before or during Sandy now sit in designated flood zones. Homes that sit along waterways that haven’t been maintained properly or had adequate protections put in place have been tasked with footing the bill for future floods both in New Jersey and the rest of the country, Kasimos said.

“This isn’t just a New Jersey issue, this is a national issue,” he said. “From my understanding, 18 percent of people in the country are in flood zones, and there are going to be more.

“My flood insurance is going to go from $1,000 to $17,000 if I don’t elevate. There are some folks that are walking around in circles – they don’t know what to do. We don’t need an answer, we need 100 answers here.”

Support for Stop FEMA Now has already started to grow. The new group’s Facebook page, which is used to post stories and news clips related to FEMA and its flood maps, already has nearly 500 likes. Kasimos has also started the site stopFEMAnow.com to serve as a landing page for residents looking for information or to join the fight against FEMA. 

“The only way they’re going to listen to us, (U.S. Sen. Frank) Lautenberg, (U.S. Sen.) Menendez, FEMA, (Gov. Chris) Christie, is if we have 5,000 or 10,000 or 100,000 people to join us,” he said. -

Stop FEMA Now is hosting a Meet and Greet and Rally this Saturday, Feb. 23 from 3 to 4 p.m. at Belly Busters Restaurant, 708 Fisher Blvd., Toms River. The public is welcome to attend.

George Kasimos February 22, 2013 at 03:11 AM
I almost wouldn't mind building to "A" zone. With the ICC insurance it wouldn't be too much out of pocket. But to build to "V" zone it is a large investment that might not need to be completed at all. Especially if I could receive funding if I wait for the mitigation grant or the CBDG grants. If you raise your home before you receive approval for grants or ICC you will not receive any money.
George Kasimos February 22, 2013 at 03:14 AM
Very good idea Freetobe, Does anyone have a decent HD camera and know how to edit videos? We would appreciate anyone who can volunteer time and equipment. thank you.
George Kasimos February 22, 2013 at 03:15 AM
Save our NJ communities is our Sister Organization. They are great!
notasellout February 22, 2013 at 11:05 AM
This is hysterical. A ground roots effort, being led by people who have absolutely no real world experience in flood or any other construction method, to change back a necessary change in building regulations that are being put in place and are designed to protect peoples investments and prevent future losses. The blind are truly trying to lead the blind.
Jack Miller February 22, 2013 at 11:21 AM
Notasellout, maybe you should rethink your logic.
notasellout February 22, 2013 at 11:43 AM
Sorry, should say grass roots.
Angelo from Newark February 22, 2013 at 11:45 AM
Stop crying if your guy Mitt would have run there would be no fema for you to whine about remember Mitt said it was immoral Howd you like the no bid contract that wasted millions from Gov Christie and Happy Gilmore?
jerseyswamps February 22, 2013 at 12:26 PM
Here's what I do know. For decades our government has led the middle class down the road to the jersey shore. For those of us who wanted a piece of life at the jersey shore our government said "don't worry, we got your back". Our government backed flood insurance to make home ownership at the shore affordable and desirable. Heck, they even built the Garden State Parkway to open up the jersey shore for development. The Parkway wasn't built as a link between cities. So now our government sees the taxpayer backed flood insurance program is going broke and maybe it wasn't such a good idea to back flood insurance. So now our government just wants to bail on a program that was the impetus to all the development that they now say is too low, too weak and too vulnerable to be in a flood zone. They've gone from promising to watch our backs to putting us on our backs.
Ken G February 22, 2013 at 12:53 PM
" FEMA an Obama admninistration run program; made up their minds, Chris Christie to get the money needed to rebuild accepted the new FEMA maps. You can all get together jump up and down running naked on 37. Grouping together at some crappy diner is not gonna help. Nobody is going to change thier minds. Did you all vote for Obama. Well if you did...Live with your administrations decisions. YOU voted for him." .....FEMA has been around long before Obama was even a senator.
~Barb~ February 22, 2013 at 01:12 PM
Ken, the Obama Administration is running FEMA right now. How it functions (or falters) is entirely his responsibility. Same held true for Bush after Katrina.
proud February 22, 2013 at 01:54 PM
@KenG, I get your point and believe that the comments posted by @I have spoken are meant to be inflammatory. However, that you state that FEMA has been around since prior to Obama being a senator, fails to recognize the real problem that this grass roots effort is addressing. That problem being the short sightedness of the Biggert-Waters Act of 2012 which was signed into law in the fourth year of Obama's first term.
proud February 22, 2013 at 01:57 PM
Per the comments made by @ notasellout and in the words of the infamous Rocket J. Squirrel, "Now it's time for Mr. Know It All..." www.stopfemanow.com
Poindexter McSmash February 22, 2013 at 02:25 PM
I would like a job working for fem-a, you don't have to do much...
Johnjcpa February 22, 2013 at 03:12 PM
Easy to apply. United States citizen or national Highly motivated A self-starter who can work with minimal supervision Able to pick up and leave home with sometimes a 24-48 hour notice Able to be away from home for 30 days or more Able to travel to any state or territory at a moment’s notice. Computer literate / ability to prioritizing tasks / customer service oriented Financially able to work only part of the year and have an unpredictable level of income Able to work long hours - seven days a week in some circumstances Able to effectively perform work under physical and mental stress Able to pass a background investigation And you receive no health, pension, holiday of vacation benefits.
Stilts February 22, 2013 at 03:14 PM
Don't blame FEMA for a bill passed on a bipartisan basis (one of the few) by Congress last year. They are simply implementing what Congress told them to do. The law says you can only appeal the Preliminary BFE's (not these Advisory BFE's) and only on a technical, scientific basis. It will be very hard to get Congress to change what they just passed when most of the country does not want to subsidize people who live (or have second homes) at the shore, people who live in flood-prone river valleys or people who live along the hurricane-prone southern coastlines. The Preliminary BFE maps will no doubt reduce the V-Zones, but probably not by a huge amount. Based on the current maps, our flood insurance (on a house we raised to two feet above the current BFE) will go from $425 to over $19,000 per year... Do we raise it again?
Squandered Youth February 22, 2013 at 03:15 PM
Before we break out pitchforks and torches we need more information. A post on the Christie "You Dopes" story links to a little-known FEMA letter setting the new insurance rates, but it doesn't have all the tables. Someone should get them and publicize them. What is there shows two things: 1). The average increase in premiums necessary to put the NFIP on a sound footing is about 2% (for some properties 9%). That's the increase the rest of the country is paying unless and until the ABFE zombies get them. FEMA has gone beyond this by using the ABFE process to get increases of 50% PER FOOT of new elevation. 2) Even with FEMA's overreaching, premiums are not going to increase to $32k a year. That's a worst case scenario, but FEMA is trying to use uncertainty to scare people into raising their homes. Instead it's caused panic and inertia, and that just isn't fair or right. It's in everyone's interest that we know what premiums will be before deciding what to do.
Cherry Quay resident February 22, 2013 at 03:16 PM
Don't have an opinion unless your were affected by the storm or the other way you can have an opinion is IF I GIVE IT TO YOU. Shut up and don't be an idiot. HELP SAVE THE SHORE.
Sal Sorce February 22, 2013 at 04:12 PM
Stafford "Officials to Public Repair Homes Now, Raise Them Later". "Stafford to Fight FEMA'S Flood Zone Maps" according to a recent press article Mayor Spodofora has told residents to move ahead... Stafford to Gain New Outlook on Tax Base Feb. 21, 2013 ... "New Jersey municipalities have until March 1 to report Ocean County their total loss in tax revenue due to Superstorm Sandy. Stafford Township Administrator James Moran is working with the municipal tax assessment department to calculate that figure which he estimates will fall between $140 million and $160 million. "We're not done yet," Moran said this week. Simultaneously, he explained Stafford is undergoing an in-house, town-wide reassessment of pre-storm property values and then applying those values to a damage factor ranging from 10 to 50 percent. Some 4200 homes in the Beach Haven West section of town have evidence of damage, he added. "we will "level the playing field'" Councilman Henry Mancini explained at the recent municipal meeting, and "will put us in better shape as we construct the budget" by providing a realistic outlook on the ratable base. See more on Stafford to Gain New Outlook on Tax Base, Barnegat-Manahawkin Patch February 21, 2013
Sal Sorce February 22, 2013 at 04:25 PM
At this point residents are stressed out and are frustrated about the many weeks since Sandy Superstorm ... many I hope will move with caution on any construction work ... I have not seen any of the specific data on ELEVATIONS ... why hasn't FEMA and Stafford published the standards NOW??? A risky move to go ahead with construction or improvements unless YOU can rely on the word of an official ... face facts ... in the Beach Haven West section among the several development over the last 40-50- years were all approved with the township mayor, council members, county and state officials ... cannot believe those homes were allowed to be constructed on a slab and or a few concrete blocks above grade??? My home in Surf City bless Len Connors, is on pilings and among many in the town were not seriously impacted by Sandy ... (8-9 feet above grade). Many of the homes that were built in Stafford with Lagoons and or on the water should have had a requirement of at least 60 inches above grade ... "4200 homes in Beach Haven West"? How about the other hamlets along the region ??? Village Harbor, Colony Lakes etc???
john doe February 23, 2013 at 02:55 AM
put up a seawall in tomsriver than.
john doe February 23, 2013 at 03:01 AM
build a seawall on the bayside than.
Karly C February 23, 2013 at 04:18 AM
Bening homeless sucks. Not knowing how or when I will return to my house is worse. Banding together is te only way our voices will be heard. SFN!
Rich Wieland February 23, 2013 at 04:33 PM
"The average increase in premiums necessary to put the National Flood Insurance Program on a sound footing is about 2% (for some properties 9%). That's the increase the rest of the country is paying... FEMA has gone beyond this by using the ABFE process to get increases of 50% PER FOOT of new elevation." (Sure. NJ has always given more to Washington than it gets back.) FYI, the new flood insurance law was overhwlemingly passed by the House of Reps. (including both Repubs and Dems). NJ's real-world experience has proven that changes must be made.
bernie February 23, 2013 at 04:43 PM
Karly C i agree! Theres strength in numbers
Stinger February 23, 2013 at 08:05 PM
@Angelo, Mitt Romney paid more in taxes in one year that you will most likely make in your entire life, so technically YOU are the one who has not paid your "fair share". He brought to light the fact that 47% of this country is living large off the blood, sweat, and tears of the few good Americans left with a work ethic and if he had been elected, FEMA would have been eliminated and none of this would be an issue. On top of that, instead wasting trillions of dollars on social programs for people who don't want to work for a living, our government would have had more resources to devote to the good people of the Jersey Shore in their time of need.
Jay Gee February 24, 2013 at 09:56 AM
Jay Gee February 24, 2013 at 10:13 AM
@LEAVING......................WHAT LOGIC?
Jay Gee February 24, 2013 at 10:20 AM
Jay Gee February 24, 2013 at 10:22 AM
Martin March 11, 2013 at 11:43 AM
Gaining momentum! Over 200 at March meeting! FEMA proven wrong about flood zone maps and elevation mandates! Get important info at Facebook.com/StopFemaNow. "Like" our grassroots movement, so our voice is heard from Trenton to Washington! Fight exorbitant annual insurance premiums! Save our Shore homes and communities! StopFemaNow.com.


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