New Jersey's storm recovery chief steps down, replaced by deputy

New Jersey Gov. Christie walks in before speaking at the second day of the 5th annual Faith & Freedom Coalition's "Road to Majority" Policy Conference in Washington
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie walks in before speaking at the second day of the 5th annual Faith & Freedom Coalition's "Road to Majority" Policy Conference in Washington, June 20, 2014 file photo. REUTERS/Larry Downing

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The director of New Jersey's response to Superstorm Sandy stepped down on Tuesday, almost two years after the storm tore through the state, and was replaced by his deputy, Governor Chris Christie's office said.

Marc Ferzan, who was appointed in the early days of the recovery in 2012, has been criticized for delays in doling out recovery money and accused of allowing politics to interfere with the distribution of funds.

In a statement, Christie said that Ferzan served with "great professionalism, effectiveness and with the needs of Sandy survivors always in the front of his mind."

Sandy crashed into the Jersey Shore in late 2012, tearing up beach-front boardwalks and leaving entire towns with extensive flooding and storm damage.

Christie's initial response, especially his public embrace of President Barack Obama in the days leading up to the Democratic president's re-election, was widely lauded, and the governor himself cruised to re-election the following year.

But since the start of the year Christie has been beset by scandals, including one involving a made-up study that caused a massive traffic snarl near the George Washington Bridge. Christie also faces charges by the Democratic mayor of Hoboken that his office linked Sandy aid to her support of a development project.

Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club and one of the governor's harshest critics, faulted Christie's insistence on rebuilding on land that Tittle said is especially vulnerable to future storms and Ferzan's frequent absence from meetings and legislative hearings on storm recovery.

Tittel and others have also faulted the state for spending recovery dollars on inland counties, while badly hit coastal areas say they have not received enough help.

"It's not the individuals but the policies that are a failure, and the policies come from the governor," Tittel said.

Ferzan's replacement, Terrence Brody, has served as the deputy executive director of the Governor’s Office of Recovery and Rebuilding since its creation. He previously served as chief of staff to the state attorney general.

The governor's office said that Ferzan is departing to "support a career opportunity for his wife" and will teach at the University of Virginia's Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy.

(Reporting by Edith Honan; Editing by Bill Trott and Lisa Shumaker)