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Trial by Flooding: First Time Homeowner in Union Beach Hit Hard by Sandy, Bounces Back with Help of RREM Program

Trial by Flooding: First Time Homeowner in Union Beach Hit Hard by Sandy, Bounces Back with Help of RREM Program

David J. Andriola: “The RREM Program was excellent. I am so grateful for everything.”


June 14, 2016
Union Beach, NJ

Before David J. Andriola bought his house in Union Beach in late 2011, he did his homework on the property. 

Andriola did not buy the home until after Hurricane Irene swept through New Jersey in August 2011. This allowed him to see how Irene impacted the house and the surrounding neighborhood. He looked for flooding, water leaks, and poor drainage, and found none.  

“There was not a drop of water anywhere” from Irene, Andriola recalled. “The property drained perfectly.”

He spoke to homeowners in the neighborhood about how they fared after Irene and learned their homes had not flooded from Irene or other major storms. 

So, Andriola – known as DJ to his friends – bought the house. Located two blocks from Raritan Bay, the two-bedroom, two-bathroom ranch house was approximately 1,000 square feet. It was the first house he ever owned. He bought flood insurance on his home’s structure and began to settle in. 

Just as he was trying to decide when would be the right time to start renovating his home more to his liking, Superstorm Sandy decided for him. 

When Sandy hit, Andriola was working at the A&P in Atlantic Highlands, where he had grown up. The store had needed employees to stay overnight and he volunteered. He didn’t sleep at all that night as he listened to the loud sounds of the storm. 

The next morning he returned to his house to survey the damage. A large deck from a neighbor’s property was resting on his property. Even though all his fences were down, his house was still standing, which gave him hope. Then he walked inside. 

There was mud and seaweed throughout the house. A disgusting smell filled his home. The police were moving through the town ordering everyone out of Union Beach because it was without any utility services.  

“Everything was just soaked in water. I was freaking out. I just grabbed whatever I could grab” and joined the evacuation, he said. 

After he contacted FEMA, he received rental assistance, which helped in the short term. While he filed his insurance claim and got that process underway, he started ripping everything out of his house – walls, floors, ceiling – to stop the mold growth. Knowing that his flood insurance might not be enough to repair his storm-damaged home, he also applied for and was approved for a grant through the state’s Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, Elevation and Mitigation (RREM) Program. 

“Because I just bought the house, I didn’t have any money left. I couldn’t take out another loan,” Andriola said. 

From the point he applied to RREM to the start of construction, he made every effort to save money, which he decided to put into elevating his house an additional three feet above the required six feet for extra protection.  

Once construction started, “I was shocked at how fast they did everything,” said Andriola, who lived with family in Atlantic Highlands during construction.  

His completely rebuilt home is elevated on pilings with breakaway walls. He is using the extra space as a garage and storage area. 

“The RREM Program was excellent,” said Andriola, who moved back home in October 2015. “My friends and family love the house. I’m very, very happy with the finished product. It’s a million times better than what I had. I am so grateful for everything.” 

Right now, the hardest part for Andriola is figuring out how to decorate his home. He’s taking his time in picking out paint colors, tile backsplashes and other decorative finishes.  

“I’m just doing things slowly and taking the time to really enjoy the place. My neighbors are great next door. My neighbors are great across the street. Everyone in the neighborhood is coming back. It’s nice to see that. This is a beautiful little town. It’s nice and quiet, the people are friendly. I want to stay here for a while.”

For more stories like this one, please visit Spotlight on Recovery.