TRENTON - Gov. Christie asked the federal government Wednesday for an additional $7.4 billion for Sandy recovery, bringing the state's total request to $36.8 billion.
The additional money would be used to reengineer beaches, including additional sand dunes, to protect the shoreline against future storms. Last week, state officials asked for $29.4 billion in federal funds to offset emergency response and repair costs.
"I've called this 'Our Katrina' because the damage to New Jersey is like nothing we've ever experienced in our state's history," Christie said at a Statehouse news conference.
Hurricane Sandy severely eroded more than 100 miles of New Jersey's coastline when it smashed into the Shore on Oct. 29. The storm resulted in 34 deaths and left seven million residents without power. It destroyed or significantly damaged 30,000 homes and businesses and affected an additional 42,000 structures, Christie said.
As Congress and President Obama wrangle over the fiscal cliff, some have questioned whether lawmakers can muster the will to support the spending Christie has requested.
The Republican governor, who announced his reelection bid this week amid soaring poll numbers, said he understood the federal government had "financial issues." But it has helped other states hit hard by natural disasters, and he said he expected New Jersey and New York state, which has requested $42 billion in aid, to be treated similarly.
"These are realistic numbers that we need," he said, noting that the federal government has paid $112 billion to states affected by Hurricane Katrina in August 2005. "Let's keep it in context. . . . Our request together is about $78 billion. . . . We're not talking about requests that are unprecedented."
Christie said he and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo had pledged not to compete for federal funds.
"This is a regional problem. . . . Transit and the economies are so intertwined between New York and New Jersey," he said. "We're going to go down there as a team."
The Federal Emergency Management Agency already has distributed more $500 million in aid in New Jersey, and 230,000 residents have registered with FEMA for assistance, Christie said.
Also Wednesday, Christie appointed a former federal prosecutor to head Sandy recovery operations within his office. Marc Ferzan of Lawrenceville worked in the U.S. Attorney's Office when Christie led it from 2002 until 2008.
Christie said he trusts Ferzan with the complicated task of storm recovery in part because of how he handled himself as a prosecutor.
"Whenever there was a tough task to be done in the U.S. Attorney's Office, when I was there, a case that other people couldn't see to either move or get rid of, wasting investigative resources, I'd turn to Marc," Christie said.
Ferzan joined Christie's administration in January 2010 as executive assistant attorney general, helping to manage a staff of more than 8,000 and offering legal and policy guidance to the attorney general and the governor's office.
Ferzan left in June for a consulting position as managing director of PricewaterhouseCoopers Advisory.
Contact Joelle Farrell at 856-779-3237 or firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @joellefarrell.