NJ tent city complete with guards, fencing, and gates.. Could these people be entraped?

By Deborah Bell

Residents are wondering who built an enormous tent city, complete with guards, fencing, and gates, at an old General Motors plant site.

Anyone who travelled north on Routes 1 and 9 from Woodbridge to Linden remembers Linden Airport, and the GM plant right across the narrow lanes of the highway.

That plant was torn down in 2008 to make way for a building renaissance that so far hasn’t happened. But in the past few days what has arisen aren’t structures of steel and concrete, but an encampment comprised of wooden poles and white tent bunting.

In the tent city, there are water trucks, vehicles for taking showers, and what looks like a ton of raw materials for more building.

Trying to find out what it’s for, though, is another story.

A nearby resident of the plant had spoken to several of the guards, who swore it was a project of FEMA – the acronym for the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

But FEMA spokesman Scott Sanders at first denied that his agency had anything to do with the white tent city.

“We might provide provisions, but we don’t run shelters,” Sanders said when asked if the tents were to be used for people displaced by Hurricane Sandy. Across the Arthur Kill from Woodbridge, Staten Island residents who were devastated by last week’s hurricane and storm surge are still homeless.

Officials in Staten Island have been looking at several possible sites to house Sandy victims, including reopening an old prison facility, according to the Staten Island Advance.

Sanders pointed to the Red Cross as a source for finding out what the tent city is for; the Red Cross did not return repeated phone calls.

A spokesman in the office of Linden Mayor Richard Gerbounka said the tents were to be used for utility workers from out of state who had flooded New Jersey after the hurricane hit.

It is true that many utility workers were working in the central New Jersey area to restore power since last week. But in a conference call Friday, the last one of the Hurricane Sandy media updates, PSEG President Ralph LaRossa said that he expected the workers to begin leaving by Sunday or Monday.

The tent city was put up only in the past few days, so it wouldn’t seem to be needed for out-of-state utility workers whose emergency work here was largely completed.

The Union County Office of Emergency Management also said the tents were to house utility workers, but they, too, had nothing to do with it, according to spokesman Sebastian D’elia. As of Friday, “ten percent of the county still doesn’t have power,” he said, so he wasn’t anxious to see the utility workers leave before electrical service was restored.

The Linden spokesman insisted that the city had nothing to do with the tent encampment, and that it was a project of the New Jersey State Police and FEMA.

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