VIDEO: Christie Wants Federal Aid for Snow Cleanup
Governor defends his vacation during the powerful blizzard and gives high marks to state agencies
FREEHOLD—Gov. Chris Christie on Friday signed an application for federal aid aimed at reimbursing municipalities for the expense of cleanup from this week's blizzard.
The application to the Federal Emergency Management Agency covers 13 counties, including Bergen.
Christie, in his first public appearance since returning from a Florida vacation Thursday, thanked Colonel Joseph R. Fuentes, head of the state police, and Department of Transportation head James S. Simpson for their work during the storm.
"This has been an extraordinary five days for them,'' Christie said.
The governor praised the state's planning and response to the storm.
"I would give the folks in New Jersey state government and county government an 'A' for the effort that they put in. We would probably get a 'B+' for results, in my view. We can always do better," Christie said.
Christie also thanked Senate President Stephen M. Sweeney, a Democrat, for his work as acting governor while he and Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno were out of the state.
Christie—who has faced stiff criticism for being absent while the state dug out from, in some places, more than two feet of snow—called that criticism "carping and craziness'' and said it was nothing more than partisanship.
Guadagno, he said, had planned a vacation with her gravely ill father and, his Disney vacation also was planned far in advance.
"I was not going to rescind my daughters' Christmas gift,'' Christie said. "I believe my first responsibility is my responsibility as a husband and a father.''
Christie also said he was in near constant contact with his cabinet and acting Gov. Sweeney and on top of the situations as events developed.
"Believe me, my cellphone was ringing far more often than I would have preferred during a normal situation on a family vacation,'' he said.
FEMA teams will be in the state Monday, Christie said, to assess the storm damage.
"Hopefully we will be able to move rapidly on the process of getting the damage assessment done and getting relief to municipalities," Christie said.
U.S. Senators Frank Lautenberg and Robert Menendez also wrote a letter to President Obama Friday asking him to declare Bergen and 12 other New Jersey counties disaster areas as a result of the Dec. 26 snowstorm.
"Despite the professionalism and dedication of emergency management personnel, the sheer magnitude of this disaster overwhelmed the limited resources of our state with high winds exacerbating an already difficult situation and making travel treacherous days after the snow stopped falling," the senators wrote to Obama.