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Christmas in Watchung Slayed for Sandy Victims

Retired contractor Fred Corigliano was planning special event for displaced storm survivors.

The plans by a Watchung man to offer a special Christmas for some families from Union Beach whose homes were destroyed or damaged by Superstorm Sandy has apparently ended.

Instead of being able to celebrate with red bows, Fred Corigliano said he ran into red tape.

Corigliano, a retired contractor, said Wednesday he had planned to bring families to his 12,000-square-foot  High Oak Road home for several days of rest and relaxation, but has been unable to get responses from officials who might help arrange the visit.

Instead, Corigliano said, he had probably run out of time.

“I wanted to help, but now its late,” he said, his voice filled with frustration.

He said he needed cots, pillows and blankets, and some help with the logistics of the event.

He had arranged with caterers to provide food, but now since he does not have a number of people to serve, Corigliano has most likely missed their deadlines.

“They need some lead time, and I don’t even have a number I can give them.”  Corigliano said.

He said he started this effort on Dec. 5.

He said he contacted Union Beach officials, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and several news organizations seeking some publicity about the effort. Union Beach officials were unavailable Wednesday.

Corigliano said he understood some concerns about why anyone would do this, but said he was willing to provide any personal and background information necessary to alleviate those fears.

He got a positive response from Watchung Borough officials, who agreed to contact local news organizations on his behalf

Corigliano was a builder for 40 years until he retired. He had asked for and received offers of help cover the costs of food and other expenses from others in the industry, and other friends, he said. Several of those people had offered to prepare food for the event.

The plan was to bring families who have been displaced to his home for up to four days from Dec. 23 to 26. He said the large home with 12 bedrooms and 10 bathrooms, could have accommodated 30 to 40 people.

“I wanted to help families,” he said.

Corigliano said at first he reached out to the office of New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg hoping  that families from Staten Island might be able to take advantage of his offer.

Staten Island seemed like a place that was hardest hit and little relief was taking place, he said.

After not getting anywhere with Bloomberg’s office, Corigliano set his sights on Union Beach, which was also ravaged by Sandy.

The borough of 6,245 residents on Raritan Bay lost 62 homes to the storm, and has about 200 that are uninhabitable, Mike Harriot, the emergency management coordinator had reported earlier. Harriot also said 300 homes has sustained damage and 400 others were under at least 6 feet of water.

It seemed like a place where people could use some help, Corigliano said.

He  said he had a plumber check all the home’s bathroom, a heating contractor examine the system to ensure that it would be working, and his housekeeper washed all the bed linens in preparation.

“I wanted it to be comfortable and joyful,” he said. “If it was not prepared, it would not be comfortable and joyful.”

Instead, he said, he’s out of time.

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