Weehawken bonds $2,500,000 for repairs in wake of Ida

Mayor Richard Turner expects the township to be reimbursed by FEMA

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The aftermath of one of the mudslides in Weehawken. Photos via the Township's Facebook page
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Another view of the carnage left by mudslides in Weehawken.
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Crews are cleaning up the mud and assessing the damage to the cliffs.
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The aftermath of one of the mudslides in Weehawken. Photos via the Township's Facebook page
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Another view of the carnage left by mudslides in Weehawken.
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Crews are cleaning up the mud and assessing the damage to the cliffs.

The Weehawken Township Council has adopted two resolutions to help deal with the aftermath of Hurricane Ida. The resolutions awarded contracts to various emergency firms for storm related damage and bonded $2,500,000 to cover the costs.

“We had a tremendous rainstorm with Ida,” Mayor Richard Turner said at the council’s Sept. 8 meeting. “We’ve had an unprecedented amount of issues.”

Water everywhere

“We had many residents, almost everybody got a little water someplace or another, either through their cellar drains, either through the apartments in the cellar, through toilets or shower drains, or their backyard,” Turner said. “We had 40 inches of rain in August, and the nine inches in eight hours and four inches in one hour overwhelmed the system.”

There was also a small nonstructural destabilization of a bank at the reservoir. Turner said crews have been out all week filling in the culvert that started to developed.

“The reservoir is a dam, so it was nonstructural,” Turner said. “If we ignore it, it will become structural, and then we’ll have a problem with the dam.”

Helping residents

Turner said the flooding has gone down, and the township is now assisting residents in dealing with the damage.

“We’re helping people with their basements,” Turner said. “We’re removing things for those who cannot physically remove their damaged belongings themselves… Most residents are taking care of their own.”

Turner said most of the flooding was clean water, but the township is helping disinfect areas flooded with heavy sewage water.

Currently, five or six families are displaced by the storm, according to Turner. They are being put up in various hotels by the township; the number is down from 12 or so at one point.

Mudslides

Turner said the “big surprise” of the storm was the mudslides off the cliffs.

“We never had mudslides before like this,” Turner said. “We had two on Hackensack Plank Road from upper Gregory Avenue.”

That affected four properties on upper Gregory Avenue and a similar number on lower Gregory Avenue. Gregory Avenue runs largely parallel to Hackensack Plank Road, only at a higher elevation.

“The [flooding] on Upper Gregory created a massive slide on Hackensack Plank Road, forcing the closure of the road,” Turner said. “Tons of mud washed through The Shades.”

The township is cleaning up the mud and debris in the road as well as The Shades neighborhood. Turner said the DPW haa been “doing nothing but removing six to eight inches of mud.”

“It’s a very dangerous situation,” Turner said. “Boulders are exposed, and some of the retaining walls are exposed. Our fear is if any of these boulders come down, they will go right over Hackensack Plank Road to Park Avenue below and affect one of the entrances to the tunnel.”

Another view of the carnage left by mudslides in Weehawken.

Clean up time

On Hackensack Plank Road, four or five other properties were affected after mud fell from above.

“That property was built with all kinds of retaining walls and netting and everything,” Turner said. “No one expected the top to come down, and two or three homes were severely damaged. In one home, the whole back wall was blown out from the impact of the water and the mud. Those individuals are all up in hotels.”

Turner said the cliffs could not take the saturation from the rainfall over the last two months and are now in a “precarious” state. Turner said the township has hired a firm to “shore that up.”

“The emergency firms have put a shore metal mesh over what remains of those areas,” Turner said. “Hopefully that will hold back any more material or anything but major boulders.”

Turner said the firms have also removed mud from the porches, backyards, and interiors of houses on Hackensack Plank Road across from Park Avenue.

Another property on Hackensack Plank Road and the adjacent garage structure have cracked retaining walls. Turner said the township is taking emergency action to shore up that before more rain falls.

Permanent solution

Turner said the township is in the process of hiring a firm to permanently shore up the damaged cliffs. Engineers are currently assessing the damage.

“They might have to do a temporary shoring up and come back and do a permanent shoring up,” Turner said. “So we have a temporary clean- up company, we have a permanent cleanup company, we hired a machine that sucks up as much mud as possible from the homes.”

Turner encouraged residents to take pictures of the damage to submit claims because they may be eligible for assistance once the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) declares a Major Disaster Declaration for Hudson County and Weehawken. Turner said that when the agency toured the damage, even “FEMA couldn’t believe it.”

The cliffs “have been here forever, and there’s never been an issue,” Turner said. “FEMA was even stunned. But we will get through all this and we have some resolutions tonight that will start the process. Then we will apply to FEMA for reimbursement.”

Turner said the township was very successful inbeing reimbursed for damages from Hurricane Sandy and expects the same.

Crews are cleaning up the mud and assessing the damage to the cliffs.

Emergency firms hired

The township council adopted two resolutions totaling $2,500,000 to cope with the damage.

“Unfortunately, when you’re dealing with cliff collapse and everything else that’s taking place, we can’t wait for FEMA,” Turner said. “We will do the bond. We will take the money. We will fix it now. Then FEMA will reimburse us similar to what we do with Sandy.”

The first resolution awarded contracts to various emergency firms for storm related damage.

Philco Industries was hired for the cliff work. The contract awards an initial $355,000 for temporary shoring up of the cliffs and an additional amount not to exceed $2 million for the eventual rebuilding and permanent restoration of the cliffs.

J. Fletcher, Creamer and Son was contracted for roadway cleanup not to exceed $150,000. Montana Construction was contracted to secure the reservoir not to exceed $100,000. SERVPRO was contracted for water cleanup and remediation not to exceed $75,000. JZN Engineering was contracted for the design of the permanent cliff structure not to exceed $45,500.

Reimbursement expected

The second resolution issued a bond for $2,500,000. According to Turner, the township will have to pay five percent down, so the issue will be $2,380,000. The rest will come from the township’s capital reserve. Turner reiterated he expected FEMA to cover most if not the entire cost.

The council voted unanimously to approve both resolutions.

For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Daniel Israel can be reached at disrael@hudsonreporter.com.