0:00

´╗┐BRITTANY LE STRANGE: Today's date is June 19, 2013. This is Brittany Le Strange, interviewing Sal Cortale at Project Paul in Keansburg. How old are you, Mr. Cortale?

SAL CORTALE: Sixty-five.

BRITTANY LE STRANGE: Sixty-five? And how long have you worked here?

SAL CORTALE: Two and a half years.

BRITTANY LE STRANGE: How is the neighborhood?

SAL CORTALE: Which one? Keansburg?

BRITTANY LE STRANGE: Keansburg.

SAL CORTALE: Oh, Keansburg. So, I've been here two and a half years, but I've volunteered over at St. Mark's for the past twenty years while I was a member of Christ's Church. And Keansburg has always been the town that has always been in need. You know, a lot of folks here are blue-collar workers and when the recession, or jobs get difficult to have, and stuff like that, this town gets 1:00hit usually harder than any place else, so the town now, you know, the town is still in that way.

BRITTANY LE STRANGE: And what do you do here in Project Paul?

SAL CORTALE: So, I'm the executive director of Project Paul, which means- this is a small, it's not-for-profit. We're not that small, we're one of the larger ones, but I'm the executive director, so I have to manage everything in here. I apply for grants so that we can help people, you know, like this year we'll probably get grants close to $400-$500,000 dollars, but then I have to run the thrift shop, the furniture store, maintaining the website, maintain the Facebook page. I'm the IT specialist. A jack of all trades.

BRITTANY LE STRANGE: A little bit of everything.

SAL CORTALE: Right.

BRITTANY LE STRANGE: And do you do this on a volunteer basis or do you make a salary?

SAL CORTALE: No, I make a salary. So the only salaried people here are me, and 2:00Sister- Sister Nancy, and we have a truck driver. Everybody else -- we have about 40-50 people -- are volunteers.

BRITTANY LE STRANGE: Okay. And what do you like about working here?

SAL CORTALE: What I like about working here is helping- you know, being help the folks throughout the whole Bayshore area, not just Keansburg, because we do everything from Clifton Beach, all the way down to the Atlantic Highlands, Red Bank, and so on and so forth. You know, I've always been active in that area, even when I was working my prior job, prior to retirement.

BRITTANY LE STRANGE: And how long have you lived in New Jersey?

SAL CORTALE: Since 1984.

BRITTANY LE STRANGE: Is there a specific shore that you go to when you visit the beach?

SAL CORTALE: So when I usually go to the shore, in the past it was always LBI, and then I used to belong to a beach club over in Seabright, Ship Ahoy.

3:00

BRITTANY LE STRANGE: And can you tell me about the community around here?

SAL CORTALE: What?

BRITTANY LE STRANGE: Can you tell me about the community around here in Keansburg?

SAL CORTALE: So, the community here in Keansburg, like I said, I've only been there two and a half years, but now I've spoken to a lot of people and things of that sort, and being the executive director and going for a lot of the grants, the community now is a very mixed community. Keansburg back, from what I understand, back 30-40 years ago was predominantly a blue-collar kind of Irish community, and then over the years, I don't know, there's been an influx of black individuals, and also, after that Hispanics. And [unclear] now we're getting a lot of Arab Americans, so now we're really a whole ethnic mix.

4:00

BRITTANY LE STRANGE: Okay, and since this is an audio interview, can you tell me a little bit about yourself and your background in terms of race and ethnicity?

SAL CORTALE: Do you want my business background or just my ethnic background?

BRITTANY LE STRANGE: In terms of race and ethnicity since it's audio?

SAL CORTALE: Okay, so as far as my background, so I am an Italian. I mean, I was born here in the United States, but Italian-American.

BRITTANY LE STRANGE: Okay, and what would you say about the schools in the area?

SAL CORTALE: So, I don't know a lot, you know, specifically about the Keansburg schools. What I do know is that there was a problem with asbestos in the original elementary school that was here, and that was knocked down, but it was very fortuitous that at the same time, was not fortuitous for St. Ann's Elementary School. But St. Ann's Elementary School was losing students, so what 5:00the Keansburg school superintendent did is-

[audio cuts out]

BRITTANY LE STRANGE: Okay.

SAL CORTALE: Is it working?

BRITTANY LE STRANGE: Yep, sorry about that. Technical difficulties.

SAL CORTALE: Alright. Do you think you have it in-

BRITTANY LE STRANGE: Yeah, I should have the first part right here. It's not a problem. And, when did you first hear about the storm coming?

SAL CORTALE: So, we probably heard about it, as everyone else did, probably 4-5 days before it happened, right? Because on the news they were calling it Frankenstorm and all those kinds of things, so yeah, it was about that period of time, 4-5 days.

BRITTANY LE STRANGE: Okay, and what were your first thoughts on the storm?

SAL CORTALE: So, you know, I don't live here in Keansburg. I live in, you know, East Freehold, but I never thought- You know, Keansburg floods because there's a 6:00high water level, just easily with thunderstorms, streets back up and so on and so forth.

BRITTANY LE STRANGE: There's even a flood over here yesterday.

SAL CORTALE: Yeah, so I mean, they weren't forecasting this to be like a Category 2 or 3, they were just calling it Frankenstorm, Superstorm. And even in my lifetime, I've never experienced it.

BRITTANY LE STRANGE: Right.

SAL CORTALE: So, I was just kind of thinking of this as a regular storm.

BRITTANY LE STRANGE: So you weren't expecting anything much?

SAL CORTALE: No, as a matter of fact, even with the heavy rains and stuff, the water would just flow in the street and come up maybe a little in the sidewalk. So, the night before, we just put some towels by the front door, under the bottom of the door, and put stuff behind it.

BRITTANY LE STRANGE: Is that all you did to prepare, the towels?

SAL CORTALE: Well, yeah, because we never anticipated anything of this magnitude.

7:00

BRITTANY LE STRANGE: I'm trying to- do you believe there was adequate warning?

SAL CORTALE: Yeah, yes, I do believe there was adequate warning. Again, even like, myself, I don't think anyone, you know, having never ever experienced this in my lifetime, right? I don't think everyone- no one anticipated what this really was going to be.

BRITTANY LE STRANGE: Right.

SAL CORTALE: And it wasn't even- when it hit land, it wasn't even a hurricane. It was a tropical storm, so.

BRITTANY LE STRANGE: What did you make of the governor's warnings?

SAL CORTALE: Well, back, by the time they started doing all the warnings and everything else, they were evacuating and people in Keansburg were told to evacuate, to evacuate that day, and I think it started hitting home for people here in Keansburg. But again, a lot of people that I've spoken to even 8:00subsequent to the storm, no one ever experienced it either, and no one anticipated the water being so high and coming so fast.

BRITTANY LE STRANGE: And were you here the day of the storm, earlier in the day, or no?

SAL CORTALE: No, because we had closed the night before, and all of this was happening overnight the following morning. But I was staying touch with folks that, you know, like my truck driver lives in Keansburg, but towards Route 36.

BRITTANY LE STRANGE: Right. Okay, and once the storm hit, how did you get your information that first day [unclear] coming back?

SAL CORTALE: Well, basically, it was like recovery mode. Information? So, I, 9:00myself, was keeping track of everything because I did have my iPhone. I had no power in my house, but I had my iPhone and I had bought and had in my car an adapter to charge the iPhone, and prior to all of this, I had already got on Facebook and joined New Jersey State Emergency Information, and I was getting lots of information from places like the Holmdale Patch and New Jersey- the State of New Jersey emergency groups and so forth.

BRITTANY LE STRANGE: What was going through your head the next day when you first got down here?

SAL CORTALE: So, when I first got down here, I was amazed. I mean, I was really amazed. I was amazed, and then simultaneously, you're starting to think about how the hell are you going to recover from the magnitude of what I was seeing.

10:00

BRITTANY LE STRANGE: And what did you see that first day?

SAL CORTALE: So, what I saw that first day- first of all, when I ever got down here, as I was approaching it, my truck driver was with the van and he was parked on the sidewalk because the water was still up several- like 4-5 inches in the street next to our building. And next to our building were arcade games from the amusement park, which was a half a mile away. There were cars that were- a bunch of cars that were perpendicular to the curb. They had been floated up in the air and just plopped down. And then when we opened the door, we had realized then there had been three and a half feet of water in the store. And so things had -- and that was the first floor, we had all our thrift shop in the front part and the back part was food pantry. So, everything had been floating 11:00in the first part in that three and a half feet of water, and that was- and let me also say, it wasn't pleasant ocean water where you feel refreshed when you come off the beach in a normal August or something like that, right?

BRITTANY LE STRANGE: Right.

SAL CORTALE: The water was filled with silt and everything else as it came through the streets. So now, so that's what we first saw, and as we were able to even get around the back of the store, that's where we have our major food pantry, we saw that the three commercial refrigerators got flooded, and then they were gone. The air conditioners had been underwater, so we had these large outside ones, and then all of the food, a lot of it was in boxes and so the boxes got all wet and everything started collapsing, so everything had tumbled over in the back of our food pantry.

BRITTANY LE STRANGE: Can you describe the scene and the mood of the community 12:00the next day?

SAL CORTALE: Uh, I think the -- as it was, even here -- it was one of shock. What do you do next? Who is going to help clean this up? Who is- and these are all thoughts going through your head. Who is going to pay for all this? Right?

BRITTANY LE STRANGE: Right.

SAL CORTALE: And who knows if you'll survive through all of this and still be open?

BRITTANY LE STRANGE: And with all the issues of the cell phone coverage, did you have any problems with that the next day and the coming week?

SAL CORTALE: No, you know, I had Verizon and the iPhone, and so I had no problem with that. And it was interesting, because at home, we did not have a regular 13:00plug-in phone. We had- which I do have now, I went out and bought one. We had our answering machine, which plugged into the- years ago, we had thrown away that plain old plug-in phone. So, as a matter of fact, as you can see over there, I have two of the old Princess phones.

BRITTANY LE STRANGE: I see.

SAL CORTALE: Because it would be the same situation here.

BRITTANY LE STRANGE: Right. And how did you go about getting the day-to-day necessities once you were down here?

SAL CORTALE: The what?

BRITTANY LE STRANGE: The day-to-day necessities, with the stores being closed and all the gas lines and everything?

SAL CORTALE: Well, this place, we were really in a unique position- and I think I mentioned to you the other day when you were here-- if you ever wanted to have people to think about who we are and what we do, the easiest way for me to explain it post-Sandy, to people --and I've been here two and a half years but this place has been here 32 years -- is, we have been a mini-FEMA.

14:00

BRITTANY LE STRANGE: Right.

SAL CORTALE: For the past 32 years, in this town. You know, we give help with clothing, money to help people pay rent, food. So, you know, people were coming to us for the basic necessities, right? And now they're watching us throw food out because it was all damaged and messed up with Sandy and everything else. So, for us, thank God the core of employees that are here, like the Sisters, they actually lived over in the convent, right? So the water didn't reach there. My truck driver lived on the other side of 36, so the water didn't reach there. I didn't live here per say, so when we got down here, we wanted to get ourselves up and going as best we could so that we could start helping people.

BRITTANY LE STRANGE: And how long did your power outage last?

SAL CORTALE: Uh, I'm trying to think here. Here, about- I don't remember. I can 15:00tell you back in East Freehold, we were out of service for, like, ten days. It came back here before it came back there. I would probably, here it was four or five days. But then what happened here, too, is that when it came back on, it blew out a Via Box, so then we had no phone service here for several days because a Via circuit was damaged.

BRITTANY LE STRANGE: When would you say the stores in the area started reopening?

SAL CORTALE: Probably, it had to be January, I would say. I mean, many of the stores were completely damaged. If you go north of us towards the water, all of those stores, like Cumberland Farms, the pizzeria, they were all severely damaged.

BRITTANY LE STRANGE: And how were you able to get back and forth to work, with 16:00the gas shortages?

SAL CORTALE: So, I had been lucky enough or wise enough -- whatever you want to call it -- to have filled up prior to it, so my car and my wife's car were both full. But as time was going on, we were getting less- you know, we were going through the gas, right? As I said, I lived in East Freehold, and then I began here that south of Route 195, on Route 9, gas stations were open. So, we rode over to Route 9, I rode over to Route 9, and as soon as I got Route 9 and got near 195, the gas stations were opened and I was able to fill up.

BRITTANY LE STRANGE: How long of a line to you wait in?

SAL CORTALE: I tell you, I was lucky. I was lucky, because the day before, there was lines, like -- there was cops directing things and lines all over the place. And the gas became a problem, too, because without the electricity, people 17:00needed gas for the generators.

BRITTANY LE STRANGE: Generators, right. How was the mail service here in Keansburg? Did it start right back up or did it take a while?

SAL CORTALE: No, it took a while. A lot of people- well, we got back in service very quickly, but when you, like I said, once you're up north of us here, and when I say "us," we're, like, Washington Avenue, Washington and Carr, most of the water was so devastating in those areas there, a lot of people still to this day are picking up their mail at the post office.

BRITTANY LE STRANGE: And how was trash pickup? Did that take a while before it started picking things up?

SAL CORTALE: I would say so. You know, I ended up here needing to- we worked with a vendor company that provides us with the dumpsters and everything else, 18:00so subsequent to the storm, I had to rent four or five thirty-yard dumpsters, because we had to throw all the contents of the entire first floor, including the food, into the dumpsters.

BRITTANY LE STRANGE: And were a lot of your volunteers able to come and help clean up, or were they all dealing with their own personal-

SAL CORTALE: No, a lot of the volunteers that we have here at Project Paul are generally retired folks, right? Or- retired folks, and a lot of them are late 60s and 70s and there's lots of ladies here. So, basically the cleanup was with me and a couple of core- my truck driver who's also kind of a facilities person, and yeah, we had a few other people in the neighborhood came in to help us.

BRITTANY LE STRANGE: And how was your- how was dealing with the power companies?

19:00

SAL CORTALE: We didn't have any problems.

BRITTANY LE STRANGE: What about insurance and FEMA?

SAL CORTALE: Well, you know, we were lucky here in that these buildings, the property is actually owned by St. Ann's Church, so I pay rent to St. Ann's Church, but as a result of the properties being owned by St. Ann's Church, they were covered by St. Ann's flood insurance- not St. Anne's, I mean the Diocese of Trenton flood insurance, because the Diocese of Trenton insures on a big policy, all of the facilities. So I was lucky insofar as I was dealing with that one insurance- I mean there was numerous insurance adjusters and everything else, but they were all under the Diocese of Trenton.

BRITTANY LE STRANGE: How long to you believe the response took?

SAL CORTALE: For what?

20:00

BRITTANY LE STRANGE: For FEMA and insurance companies to come out and inspect everything?

SAL CORTALE: You know, I think people experience different things.

BRITTANY LE STRANGE: Right.

SAL CORTALE: Like I said, we were covered with the insurance of the Diocese of Trenton, so the Diocese of Trenton, it was Ocean, Monmouth County, and several other counties, so it was a very large entity. They're a very big customer to the insurance company, so we had a very immediate response. Plus the Diocese of Trenton had 51 sites-

BRITTANY LE STRANGE: Wow.

SAL CORTALE: -that were impacted. And it sounds like a lot, but when you start thinking about all the churches in Monmouth and Ocean County, all the Catholic schools, right? All the retreat houses, all the convents, all the rectories, 51 of those were damaged. So, there was a very strong response our insurance companies and then getting a firm in here to clean up.

21:00

BRITTANY LE STRANGE: Do you know if Keansburg -- I can't think of the word -- had a curfew during the storm?

SAL CORTALE: Well, they called for a mass evacuation, and I believe they did have a curfew after the storm of, like once sundown, stay in.

BRITTANY LE STRANGE: Since you're a big giver to the community, how did the community cope with you guys being -- for lack of a better term -- out of business for a little while?

SAL CORTALE: So, people were used to coming to us for help and assistance, so they were kind of frustrated with that, but I think the other thing that was happening was that there was a big outpouring of assistance from lots of different organizations. I mean, people coming in from out of state and churches from all over the place, and then clothing things were set up at the old, you know where the new Shoprite is on Route 35, the new one that just opened up?

22:00

BRITTANY LE STRANGE: Yes.

SAL CORTALE: Right? You know, where Staples is and all those?

BRITTANY LE STRANGE: Yeah.

SAL CORTALE: So, there used to be a Children's Place over there, and actually, the Shoprite family was going to actually start building but they postponed it, and they let the community use that Children's Place as a place for homes and other stuff. So people were able to get things that they needed from other sources while we were just coming back.

BRITTANY LE STRANGE: Okay. And how would you describe the response of the police during the emergency, with everything going on?

SAL CORTALE: I think all of the services were fine. I think the police, the firemen did a good job. Fire department did a good job. I think the state government- I think Christie, he was doing a lot of communication, and a lot- 23:00I'll tell you what, you keep hearing about social media now and over the past five or six years in foreign countries and stuff like that, being useful and disseminating information and getting things done, and I found that to be extremely useful. I was getting lots of information over the internet, through social media, and things of that sort.

BRITTANY LE STRANGE: And where did Project Paul get any aid from, if you did get any?

SAL CORTALE: So, as I mentioned before, we're covered under the Diocese insurance policy, but there was a lot of money that was needed to get us back, so we got aid from the insurance companies. We got a lot of private donations from individuals and even organizations, because everybody was interested in getting us back up and going, and then, at that point there, even myself, I mean 24:00you don't know what was going to be covered and what wasn't going to be covered, because we lost a lot- everything I just described, we lost inventory that day. Here and we lost inventory at the furniture store. And then we were knocked out of commission pretty much until the end of January, so we lost income. So, aside from the inventory, we lost income that we would normally use, right? To pay for electric, gas, run the truck, pay insurance policies, and so one and so forth.

BRITTANY LE STRANGE: Did you, yourself, contribute in any way, besides your time?

SAL CORTALE: What do you mean, monetarily?

BRITTANY LE STRANGE: Did you contribute any resources or money or generators, open your home to people?

SAL CORTALE: No, because, I mean, this was a twelve-hour-a-day, six-day-a-week job down there. I mean it was, this was nonstop, and that's why I always tell 25:00people, I can't imagine what some of the regular community people were going through, because I know what I was going through, and I was supported by the insurance company, the Diocese of Trenton, I'm very proficient on the internet, my past experience of working as executive director for Bell Labs -- I was able to document and do things quickly, but it became, between dealing -- I had to file with FEMA, so I still don't even have a final from them, I don't have no idea what I might get from there, but there was just everything. I mean, I had to get phones back up, we were downstairs- I was downstairs with plastic gloves on, putting stuff into the dumpster, ordering new equipment, dealing with contractors to rebuild, and "where do you want this and where do you want that?"

BRITTANY LE STRANGE: Right.

SAL CORTALE: And even though Sisters and I -- and they were there with us -- 26:00even though were salaried, the best way to think of it is like a priestly salary. [laughs] Everybody here, including the Sisters, as she'll tell you later, are putting twelve hours a day, six days a week, just to get the place back up again, and not knowing if it ever was going to come back.

BRITTANY LE STRANGE: Right. How did you feel about the response of basically everything, of the government and FEMA and all that? Did you feel it was positive, at least for you?

SAL CORTALE: Yes, I do, I do. Like I said before, I really think- I really think some of these smaller towns like Union Beach and Keansburg, they really tried to do the best they could possibly do. You know, a lot of these positions are part-time positions and these folks have other jobs, and they have their own houses, and many of these folks also live in the communities, as well, right?

BRITTANY LE STRANGE: Yeah.

SAL CORTALE: So they had triple whammy now of having a superstorm, having to 27:00deal with the federal and state governments, trying to get their houses back in shape, and go to work.

BRITTANY LE STRANGE: Right.

SAL CORTALE: So, I really think all of the people involved did a great job. And as I said, I think Christie really handled this very well.

BRITTANY LE STRANGE: Do you believe New Jersey itself prepared adequately?

SAL CORTALE: Uh, I think they did everything they could do at this point in time. You know, nobody- I don't think anybody- I don't know what you could have done. It's like, somebody asked me, "well, could you have gotten sandbags," right? I would have had to anticipate a storm of the century, which means 1% chance every year happening, and ordered 3,000 sandbags back in May of that year, right?

BRITTANY LE STRANGE: Right.

SAL CORTALE: Anticipating based upon my research on the internet that a severe 28:00storm of this magnitude would hit. You know, it's like, I don't- right? I mean, I don't even know how you would-

BRITTANY LE STRANGE: Even with how the damage was, would they have even worked?

SAL CORTALE: You know, right, I don't even know, but even if- by the time you could have anticipated, let's say, holy mackerol, it's ten days before. You know, there's- who am I gonna call, because this whole building, I would have to put sandbags up four feet high. So I would need a wall of sandbags four feet high and three feet wide to surround the entire building. There really- I don't know how anybody could prepare. The police station is no longer in commission here in Keansburg, right?

BRITTANY LE STRANGE: Right.

SAL CORTALE: Because they would have had to thought along the same way. Get all these sandbags from some place early on and have them sitting there in anticipation of a superstorm.

BRITTANY LE STRANGE: Do you think there could have been anything done differently?

SAL CORTALE: I think in hindsight, I think maybe what could have been 29:00differently, even in some of these richer areas as well, like Mantelocken and some of these other areas, is they could have done more in terms of making sure that there were burms built and those kinds of barriers built-

BRITTANY LE STRANGE: Right.

SAL CORTALE: -in various places. I mean, when you get down to Mantelocken, people were buying, for example, $3 million houses with three floors, so they didn't want their view obstructed from their first floor living room, so they didn't want dunes built, right?

BRITTANY LE STRANGE: Right.

SAL CORTALE: And stuff like that. Those kind of things, like bigger dunes and so on and so forth, making sure, like Keansburg, even Union Beach. I mean, Union Beach got swamped because of all the creeks. There really isn't much of a beach.

BRITTANY LE STRANGE: Yeah.

SAL CORTALE: But then they have all these creeks and the creeks all lead all the 30:00way up to Route 36. I don't know, I mean I'm not geologist or environmentalist, but I don't know if something could have been done to create some barriers that would have prevented some of that.

BRITTANY LE STRANGE: Do you believe a storm was an occurrence because of things like global warming or was just a freak occurrence, or--?

SAL CORTALE: I believe, I do believe the environment is changing. There's pros and cons with this whole thing with global warming and everything else, but the icebergs are melting, north poles and south poles and water levels are rising and things of that sort. We're seeing more violent weather everywhere. I mean for as long as I've lived, there's been more crazy weather. So, yeah, I think 31:00that we need to be more conscious of those kinds of things. So, like, you know, even New York City got completely wiped out and in my lifetime I've never seen the Battery Tunnel flood. And now they're talking about creating barrier islands outside of Manhattan. But all of that takes money, and a lot of times in even towns like this, what it comes down to, and it's gonna cost a billion dollars, and you're like, "who's gonna pay for it?" And then nobody wants their taxes raised. But yeah, so we need to do things differently.

BRITTANY LE STRANGE: Right. How'd you feel about the media coverage? Do you feel that it was accurate, or sensational? Horrible?

SAL CORTALE: I think it was accurate. You know, and I think it was accurate and it's interesting, you know I live in East Freehold, as I mentioned, and I was 32:00just out into the city having Father's Day dinner with my wife and my two daughters, and in speaking with them, once you get away from the shore here, people don't realize the impact- people do not realize the impact of what's really going on. You know, like FEMA just came out I think their final elevation numbers this past week. People now are just finding out how much insurance they're gonna get. People now are just starting to rebuild, so I think the coverage that was happening during it and even til now is adequate and, if anything, people need to hear more, even more about how some of these towns, whether it's rich or poor, are still struggling. We were lucky here at Project Paul. We got a lot of press coverage. It was because we were the group that was 33:00always helping and now we were damaged, so we needed to get ourselves better so we could help others. So, we were in, like, every newspaper, so it worked out good for us from that perspective.

BRITTANY LE STRANGE: You know, because you've mentioned elevation and all that, is your building here zoned to have to be raised or no?

SAL CORTALE: Well, this building is a business structure, so you can't raise it. But FEMA has been down and they're talking about flood barriers, because if you can't raise it, then you have to create flood barriers, which are these metal structures that would get bolted to the building and to the sidewalk area, and they would be four feet high, right? And they would cover the whole front of the building four feet up from where the front windows are and the door, right?

BRITTANY LE STRANGE: Right.

SAL CORTALE: And then the same with our big huge truck entry garage door, and 34:00the same with the back door. So, we're still waiting to hear back from them. But even when they first came down with the specialist from FEMA and the contractor, it would be October before we're going to hear what their recommendation was. So, that would be subsequent to the 2013 hurricane season. So, we may find out what we need in October.

BRITTANY LE STRANGE: Just in time for the next storm.

SAL CORTALE: So yeah, there's still a lot of ambiguity around all that stuff. It took us a while for them to tell us how high we had to raise our air conditioners.

BRITTANY LE STRANGE: Right. How high did you have to raise them?

SAL CORTALE: Like, four feet out the back. And that's the perfect example- as I said, we don't live here, right?

BRITTANY LE STRANGE: Right.

SAL CORTALE: But that's a perfect example of some of the frustration that people are feeling, because even as you go through Keansburg, you don't have to drive 35:00too far and you'll see a couple of houses that are already up, like, ten feet, because they used the old maps and didn't want to take any chances. And then they're sitting next to a ranch that is down at normal level, at one level, so the roof of the ranch is- where the roof of the ranch is, that's where the front door of the house next to it is, and there's, like, three flights of step before you get up to the front door of these houses.

BRITTANY LE STRANGE: Everyone will be in good shape.

SAL CORTALE: Except most of these people are, like 75, 80 years old. So, it'll be interesting to see what happens when the emergency squads and everything have to get into some of these houses.

BRITTANY LE STRANGE: Wow, I never thought about that.

SAL CORTALE: Yeah.

BRITTANY LE STRANGE: What did you think about Obama and Governor Christie?

SAL CORTALE: So, I thought that was a good example of bipartisanship. You know, 36:00the Republican Party and the Democratic Party, at least at that point in time, there really was no politics taking place. And Christie, Christie was doing the right thing to get things done at being governor of New Jersey. So, his first level of accountability was to the people of New Jersey, so I thought he did the right thing and I thought Obama did the right thing.

BRITTANY LE STRANGE: Did it change your opinion of Christie?

SAL CORTALE: No, because I still have my own concerns and opinions, and unemployment's still high in New Jersey, and there's lots of other things.

BRITTANY LE STRANGE: Right. How'd you feel about the response of the rest of the country?

SAL CORTALE: You know, this is the first time I've ever been involved. So, like 37:00I said, prior to this I worked in corporate America. I was responsible for sales operations at Bell Labs. So, I was always in that corporate, even though I volunteered and did things all over the place, but I was always in the corporate world, and then you used to read about some of these things. But what was amazing was the outpouring from everywhere. Over here in Keansburg, even, you were seeing Georgia First Baptist Church construction trucks and vans, and there were churches from the whole surrounding Jersey area, from as far as Freehold, Manela, wherever. They're roaming around the streets with clothing and food and so on and so forth. So, the outpouring was amazing with people, just your 38:00average people wanting to help. What was interesting was being in the midst of it, and also being like a logical place that people would come to. I know, like, St. Catherine's in Holmdel ran into similar stuff. People wanted to give so much, but see, there's no entity to process it. So, people were calling us and they would say, "Hey, we have a truckload of clothes." And I would say- "hey, we have clothes, can we donate them" and this even a month or two, a month and a half later. I would say, "Okay," and all of a sudden they would come with a tractor trailer, and there's no place that could handle that stuff. So the biggest problem for a lot of places was managing that whole part of it. Like St. Catherine's had put a thing up on the Facebook page, "do you want to help Union Beach?" and before they knew it, their entire church, the entire area in front 39:00of the church, all the offices were completely packed floor to ceiling with clothes and food and everything else, and they had no mechanism to distribute it. So, that- the outpouring was great. Managing it all was the tricky part.

BRITTANY LE STRANGE: Would you say things have returned to normal around here?

SAL CORTALE: I would say probably 75% of normal, and the reason I said that is if you were to walk from here toward the beach area, which is north of Washington Street, for the purpose of the taping, there's still a lot of houses that are empty. There's landlords are not sure what they're supposed to be doing. There are homeowners that are not sure what they're supposed to be doing -- is the house supposed to go up six feet, is it going to go up fifteen feet? They've probably been negotiating with insurance companies. So, it's still, it's 40:00not back to normal. And people have been- some people may have been relocated.

BRITTANY LE STRANGE: With everyone looking to help out and everything, has this changed your outlook on the community or the world in any way?

SAL CORTALE: No, because it's been interesting operating here. I was always active in my church even when I was in corporate America, and we always had outreach programs where we were always helping various communities and stuff. And having been here for two and a half years, it's amazing how many people who are here just forget about the storm, just normally. You know, Girl Scout troops, churches, people just donating moneys or coming in and dropping off the clothes. So there's always- you get to see the other side of life.

41:00

BRITTANY LE STRANGE: Right. Okay, and do you think this impacted the election at all, for the presidential election? With Obama's response and everything, do you believe that it impacted the election since the impacted did happen in the midst of all this?

SAL CORTALE: I don't know. I don't know how much it impacted, really. I don't sense that it did a lot. I think his holding back the information on Benghazi and things of that sort, and the IRS type of activities, was more strategic in helping him get reelected than the positive effect of what he did, you know. And I think Christie scored more points. You know, I think the president did what he had to do, whether it's a wildfire in Colorado or an earthquake, or something else. The president has to go there as Commander in Chief, as cheerleader and so 42:00on and so forth. I mean, Christie could have either handled it poorly or badly, I mean poorly or really exceptionally well, and he handled it exceptionally well.

BRITTANY LE STRANGE: Right. If you wanted to give a message about the storm, what would it be?

SAL CORTALE: A message about the storm. I think New Jersey and the federal government really need to educate people more on the impact of global warming and the changing weather patterns and things of that sort, and additionally they need to do whatever they have to do in order to create some more of these natural barriers that will prevent future storms from happening. I mean, not 43:00future storms, that will prevent flooding of this kind of magnitude from happening. I think that would be key.

BRITTANY LE STRANGE: What do you believe the legacy of the storm will be?

SAL CORTALE: Good question. The legacy of the storm? I think it would be one of unbelievable damage and- unbelievable damage and destruction and something that impacted people's lives and their jobs, in some cases both at the same time, and tremendous sadness and aggravation. But on the other hand, you had this outpouring of the community coming together. You know, even the radio stations, 44:00the newspapers, everybody coming together and pulling together to help a community, Jersey, New Jersey in this case, pull themselves back together, and never actually stopping until they were back together. So, you know, you had all the negativity and then you had the positive side of things.

BRITTANY LE STRANGE: Okay, and did I miss anything? Is there anything I didn't ask that you think I should have?

SAL CORTALE: No, no, I think you covered it all. You know, and I think what would be useful, because now you'll be interviewing Sister Kathleen- Sister Kathleen, in the midst of all this and even in the recovery phase, spent a lot of time dealing with individuals, for various reasons. They needed assistance. You know, you see a lot of folks in these areas like Union Beach and Keansburg. There were people who were kind of living on the fringe, just in general. It's 45:00not like they have a $200,000 401K and another $50,000 sitting in a savings account some place. A lot of folks are doing the best they can do and just getting along, so with something like this, that really pushes some of those folks over the edge. And so Sister Kathleen and Sister Nancy have been working with folks to help them with rent and utilities, and then additionally I applied for a grant, the Robin Hood Foundation. And we got moneys through the Robin Hood Foundation. We told them we thought one of the things that would be needed would be mattresses, beds, because a lot of people with the flooding took place at that [unclear] and a lot of people were without beds. So I applied for a grant for the Robin Hood Foundation and they gave us $35,000, and I created then a relationship with one of these furniture stores here in Middletown, and we have 46:00gone through $25,000 so far and provided people with mattresses, box springs, and bed frames, for however many people. And these recently was Union Beach and Keansburg. So she- the reason I'm telling you that story is because, aside from all the regular stuff that we do in terms of rent and utility, we also had these moneys to help people in that case, and so she's been dealing with all these people, and so she has a lot of the detailed stories of what these people have gone through. And I think when you're speaking with her, you should really- you can get more of a personal view, an individual-level view when you speak with her.

BRITTANY LE STRANGE: Okay.

SAL CORTALE: So, that would be it.

BRITTANY LE STRANGE: Thank you.

47:00

0:00 - Interview introduction

Play segmentSegment link

Partial Transcript:Today's date is June 19, 2013. This is Brittany Le Strange, interviewing Sal Cortale at Project Paul in Keansburg.

Segment Synopsis: An introduction to the interview with Sal Cortale.

Keywords:

Subjects:

0:15 - Brief biography

Play segmentSegment link

Partial Transcript:How old are you, Mr. Cortale?

Segment Synopsis: Cortale describes his many roles as executive director of Project Paul. Also, he explains that he enjoys working with this non-profit organization and talks about the areas in which Project Paul distributes its help towards.

Keywords: Area; Bayshore; Christ's Church; Clifton Beach; Facebook; Furniture; Helping; Job; Keansburg; Neighborhood; Project Paul; Red Bank; Salary; St.Mark's; Town; Volunteer; Work

Subjects:


GPS: Project Paul (Keansburg, Nj.)
Map Coordinates: 40.447776, -74.133660

2:41 - Living in New Jersey

Play segmentSegment link

Partial Transcript:And how long have you lived in New Jersey?

Segment Synopsis:

Keywords: Beach; Community; Ethnicity; Irish; Keansburg; Long Beach Island; New Jersey; Schools; Seabright; Shore

Subjects:


GPS: St. Ann's Elementary School (Keansburg, Nj.)
Map Coordinates: 40.448089, -74.134408

5:25 - First thoughts

Play segmentSegment link

Partial Transcript:Yeah, I should have the first part right here. It's not a problem. And, when did you first hear about the storm coming?

Segment Synopsis: Cortale explains that his first time hearing about the storm, he was not expecting too much from it. Even though nicknamed "Frankenstorm", Cortale barely prepared for the storm to come.

Keywords: First thoughts; Flood; Frankenstorm; Freehold; Keansburg; News; News forecast; Rain; Storm; Thunderstorms; Water

Subjects:


GPS: Freehold, Nj.
Map Coordinates: 40.259010, -74.273393

7:01 - Warnings of the storm to come

Play segmentSegment link

Partial Transcript:I'm trying to- do you believe there was adequate warning?

Segment Synopsis: Cortale explains that he believes the warnings were adequate but no one expected how big the storm actually became. He also shares how he received his information during this disaster.

Keywords: Adequate warning; Car; Evacuate; Experience; Facebook; Governor; Holmdale Patch; Home; House; Hurricane; Information; iPhone; Keansburg; New Jersey; New Jersey State Emergency Information; Power; Storm; Warnings; Water

Subjects:

10:09 - First day of the storm / mood of the community

Play segmentSegment link

Partial Transcript:And what did you see that first day?

Segment Synopsis: Cortale explains the horrors he witnessed during the first day of the storm. He also tells about having to buy princess plug-in phones while the storm was going on since he didn't have one previously.

Keywords: Amusement parks; Building; Cars; Cell phone; Clean; Community; Coverage; Flood; Floors; Food; Home; iPhone; Mood; Ocean; Phone; Shock; Store; Verizon; Water

Subjects:

13:30 - How Project Paul helped the community / power outage / reopening of stores

Play segmentSegment link

Partial Transcript:Right. And how did you go about getting the day-to-day necessities once you were down here?

Segment Synopsis: Cortale reveals that he considers Project Paul to be a mini-FEMA for the community. He also shares that his organization gave help with clothing money to pay rent, and also food during their time of need.

Keywords: Damage; FEMA; Food; Freehold; Gas lines; Help; Hurricane Sandy; Lived; Money; Phone; Power outage; Renting; Services; Stores; Town; Water

Subjects:

15:58 - Gas shortage / mail services / trash cleanup

Play segmentSegment link

Partial Transcript:And how were you able to get back and forth to work, with the gas shortages?

Segment Synopsis: Cortale explains how he was lucky enough to fill up both his and his wife's cars before the storm. Therefore, he did not have to deal with too much of the gas shortage chaos. Although it took a while for the service to start back up, some people are still having to pick up their mail from their nearest post offices. Also, Cortale talks about the trash clean up and describes the volunteers who helped during that time.

Keywords: Car; Clean up; Cleanup; Cops; Dumpsters; Electricity; Floors; Food; Freehold; Gas; Gas lines; Gas shortage; Gas Stations; Generators; Help; Keansburg; Lucky; Mail; Neighborhood; Post office; Project Paul; Service; Trash; Volunteers; Washington Ave; Work

Subjects:


GPS: Washington Avenue (Keansburg, Nj.)
Map Coordinates: 40.447609, -74.135547

18:55 - Response of FEMA and insurance companies

Play segmentSegment link

Partial Transcript:And how was your- how was dealing with the power companies?

Segment Synopsis: Cortale describes how lucky Project Paul was in terms of responses from insurance. With an almost immediate response from an insurance company, he tells that the clean up of Project Paul, owned by St. Ann's Church, was commenced rather quickly.

Keywords: Buildings; Church; Clean up; Experience; FEMA; Flood insurance; Impacting; Inspection; Insurance; Lucky; Monmouth; Power companies; Property; Renting; Response; Schools; Trenton

Subjects:


GPS: St. Ann's Roman Catholic Church (Keansburg, Nj.)
Map Coordinates: 40.444365, -74.132910

21:01 - Services of Keansburg after the storm

Play segmentSegment link

Partial Transcript:Do you know if Keansburg -- I can't think of the word -- had a curfew during the storm?

Segment Synopsis: Cortale discusses that a nearby Children's Place had even opened up to shelter families at this time of need. He also commends the work of the police and firemen in Keansburg.

Keywords: After the storm; Building; Business; Children's Place; Christie; Churches; Communication; Community; Cope; Curfews; Emergency; Evacuation; Fire department; Fireman; Help; Home; Information; Internet; Keansburg; Police response; Response; Services; ShopRite; Social media; Staples; State; Storm

Subjects:

23:24 - Receiving and giving of aid

Play segmentSegment link

Partial Transcript:And where did Project Paul get any aid from, if you did get any?

Segment Synopsis: Cortale talks about being covered under the Diocese of Trenton insurance policy. He also describes

Keywords: Aid; Bell Labs; Christie; Communities; Community; Contractors; Contributors; Diocese of Trenton; Donation; Electricity; Equipment; Experience; Federal; FEMA; Furniture; Gas; Generators; Home; Houses; Income; Insurance; Insurance companies; Internet; Job; Keansburg; Lost; Organization; Phones; Positions; Positive; Project Paul; Rebuild; Response; Salary; Sister; Small town; State; Stores; Superstorm; Tax money; Union Beach; Work

Subjects:

27:17 - Preparation of New Jersey

Play segmentSegment link

Partial Transcript:Do you believe New Jersey itself prepared adequately?

Segment Synopsis: Cortale describes his feelings what he thought could be done to prevent such superstorms such as the building of barriers. He also reveals the plans to create barrier islands outside of Manhattan for this reason, but of course, it would cost more money that people are not willing to pay.

Keywords: Area; Beach; Building; Changed; Cost; Damage; Dunes; Environment; Freak occurence; Global warming; Houses; Keansburg; Magnitude; Manhattan; Money; New Jersey; New York City; Police station; Prepare; Prepared adequately; Room; Sandbagged; Storm; Superstorm; Taxes; Town; Union Beach; Water; Weather

Subjects:


GPS: Manhattan, Ny.
Map Coordinates: 40.782852, -73.970089

31:44 - Media coverage / elevation maps

Play segmentSegment link

Partial Transcript:Right. How'd you feel about the media coverage? Do you feel that it was accurate, or sensational? Horrible?

Segment Synopsis: Cortale believes that the media coverage was accurately portrayed. Also, he goes on to describe the elevation maps of Keansburg.

Keywords: Accurate; Adequate; Building; Business; Contractors; Coverage; Damage; Daughters; Dinner; Doors; Driving; Elevation maps; Emergency; FEMA; Flood; Freehold; Help; Helping; Houses; Hurricane; Impacting; Insurance; Keansburg; Lived; Media; Perspective; Project Paul; Rebuild; Seasons; Sensational; Shore; Storm; Town; Window

Subjects:


GPS: Keansburg, Nj.
Map Coordinates: 40.441469, -74.129592

35:49 - Opinion of President Obama and Governor Christie / response from the rest of the country

Play segmentSegment link

Partial Transcript:What did you think about Obama and Governor Christie?

Segment Synopsis: Cortale tells how he feels as though the president and governor's moves to help during the time of need was a good choice on their part. Also, he describes the outstanding amount of people willing to help and donate for those in need.

Keywords: Area; Barack Obama; Chris Christie; Christie; Churches; Construction; Country; Democrats; Donated; Facebook; Floors; Food; Governor; Governor Christie; Help; Keansburg; New Jersey; Obama; Office; Politics; President Obama; Republicans; Response; Union Beach; Volunteer

Subjects:

39:22 - Normalcy / impact on the election

Play segmentSegment link

Partial Transcript:Would you say things have returned to normal around here?

Segment Synopsis: Cortale describes that things have almost returned back to normal, but not quite. Also, he believes that the president would have had to show up in a time like this while the governor showing up earned him more points in terms of impacting the election.

Keywords: Beach; Christie; Church; Community; Election; Help; Helping; House; Houses; Impacting; Information; Insurance companies; Normal; Outlook; President; Presidential campaign; Relocated; Storm; World

Subjects:

42:20 - Message of the storm

Play segmentSegment link

Partial Transcript:Right. If you wanted to give a message about the storm, what would it be?

Segment Synopsis: Cortale discusses his interpretations of the message from the storm being to let go of negativity and come together as a community. He also believes people should be more educated on global warming and the climate change to prevent such horrible storms in the future.

Keywords: Community; Damage; Destruction; federal government; Flooding; Global warming; Impacting; Job; Keansburg; Legacy; Magnitude; Message; Money; New Jersey; Radio; Renting; Storm; Union Beach; Weather

Subjects:

Search This Index
SearchClear