One Area That Always Seems To Be Forgotten
Disastrous. Mortifying. Destructive. Calamitous.
Those are just a few of the words that can describe the horrors Hurricane Sandy brought to the residents of Woodbridge, New Jersey, and citizens all across the Northeast coast of the United States.
New Jersey was one of the hardest-hit states, and its beloved shore area was devastated by Sandy’s high winds and flooding. One flood prone area in central New Jersey is the Woodbridge River Basin. Although the area has not received much attention that some other devastated places in New York and New Jersey, it is a spot that has been devastated by major flooding over the past two years from Hurricanes Irene (in 2011) and Sandy. The area has suffered mightily from storms over the years, yet nothing major has been done to fix or slow down the flooding that occurs.
Along with a state-of-the-art community center and the oldest library in Woodbridge, the town features the Woodbridge River, which begins in the central Woodbridge area and snakes its way down to Arthur Kill, which is the body of water that separates New Jersey from New York. The river began causing trouble when an extension of the New Jersey Turnpike was built in 1951. Because the Woodbridge River ran in the path of the turnpike extension and caused major flooding problems on a marquee roadway, a man-made creek was built to channel waters away from the turnpike and into swamp lands that neighbor a small community.
What does that mean? It means that every time a major rainstorm occurs, the turnpike will not flood, but the small neighborhood will be prone to flooding.
While Hurricanes Irene and Sandy have been the most recent disasters to hit New Jersey and the Crampton neighborhood, there has been plenty of trouble in the area since the extension was built to the turnpike.
“My mother had to be rescued off the first floor from a dump truck in this house in 1992,” one homeowner in the neighborhood said.
When news came that Hurricane Sandy was going to hit New Jersey, it was instant action for the Woodbridge neighborhood. When the stormy Monday came, Hurricane Sandy left homeowners in Crampton scrambling for safety as the rain and wind from the “frankenstorm” teamed up with the high tide of the Woodbridge River to create catastrophic results. (Hurricane Sandy, a Category 1 storm, had a diameter of more than 900 miles and the wind speed at landfall was 80 m.p.h.)
Nearly everyone in the Crampton neighborhood had been affected by the flood, whether it was three feet of flooding in a basement in one house to an entire first floor being completely covered in another.
“I just moved here in July because of the space,” a new resident in the Crampton neighborhood said. “I lost everything in my basement, and I just moved in so I didn’t even unpack my stuff! Water went up to the top of my basement and flooded my porch. This is ridiculous!”
The Woodbridge Fire Department was working feverishly to try and pump out all remaining water in the neighborhood, but it wasn’t until Thursday later that week that all the houses in the area had been pumped free of water. “The fire department pumped out about seven feet of water in my house,” one homeowner said.
For many, the superstorm brought disappointment and good money wasted. “I had put in $10,000 in water-proofing equipment and they didn’t do thing,” one homeowner said.
There were a number of houses along the neighborhood that were deemed to unsafe to live in because of damage caused by Hurricane Sandy. A total of 15 houses in a five-street radius were flagged as hazardous in the surrounding area. “There are about eight condemned houses on one street alone,” one citizen pointed out.
The residents in the Woodbridge neighborhood have constantly said that their area needs to be bought out by the town. If Woodbridge did buyout the neighborhood, they would buy all the houses in the area and then give the money to the homeowners. The town would then stop anybody from living on that land and the families that formerly lived in the area would be able to buy new houses elsewhere. The Mayor of Woodbridge, John McCormack, has said that “it’s up to the feds” — meaning the federal government — in terms of a possible buyout situation.
Even if Woodbridge does not buy out the area, homeowners are still looking for a way out. “We are definitely going to leave due to Sandy,” a resident named Margaret said firmly. “It’s very hard to live a normal life here.”
Another thing that prevents current homeowners from moving somewhere else to live is that most people in the neighborhood are stuck in their homes because the values have decreased due to constant flooding. “Who’s gonna buy these homes, a guppy?” one owner asked. “The only thing that would live here is a turtle!”
Although there were other areas along the northeast coast of the United States hit far worse than Woodbridge, the Crampton neighborhood is one extremely overlooked portion of the disaster. “Caution” stickers can be found on nearly every street in the area, the amount of trash piled on the sidewalks due to basement flooding is hard-to-miss, and the defeated looks on the faces of many residents means one thing: This area needs help fast.
—Kid Reporter Amiri Tulloch
Photos: (top) A Woodbridge home devasted by Hurricane Sandy; (bottom) Garbage piled up on Woodbidge streets as residents began cleaning up after the storm. (Courtesy Amiri Tulloch)