Last year, Jersey City's drainage system was the focus of a lawsuit from the Environmental Protection Agency, which said the city failed "to properly operate and maintain its combined sewer system."
The city settled the suit in July of last year and pledged to invest more than $52 million in infrastructure repairs and upgrades.
And yet those incremental updates may actually miss the bigger point, as many say that little done at the municipal level could have blunted the power Sandy unleashed on the region.
The more pressing issue may be how to decipher ways to best protect the city from lesser, more frequent storms, while enlisting federal support for the kind of long-term infrastructure needs that lie ahead.
"Sandy was to some extent unavoidable," Spangler said. "But Irene was a flood that never should have happened."
To rebuild or not
The gas shortages and massive power outages that plagued New Jersey after Sandy and a nor'easter that struck a week later are now starting to dissipate. The state lifted gas rationing orders Monday, and only about 4,000 customers across the state were still without power as of Wednesday. At the height of the storms, more than 3 million customers in New Jersey were without power.
Yet restoring power to many of those still in the dark requires inspectors to go door-to-door to check individual electrical panels, to avoid triggering further damage, such as electrical fires.
Still, the cost of rebuilding is in the billions. And Tad Drouet, 45, said he expects the damage to his Jersey City home after Sandy to be much higher than it was after Irene.
"Last year, our tab for fixing everything was about $15,000," he said. "This year, it'll be twice that."
Others, like Spangler, say they are again shelling out for those home appliances and other items that they expected to buy only once or twice.
"I just spent money again on a washer-dryer," he said. "I bought one last year too. These are the things you buy and expect to last 10 years."
Looming over many of these twice-battered storm victims is a basic question: "How much is enough?"
And yet despite the chorus of post-Sandy voices that warn of a recurring rash of inclement weather in the region, others say market forces will still probably absorb the risks tied to waterfront property and prevent a downward price spiral in real estate.
"There might be temporary blips on the radar," said Gary Malin, president of Citi Habitats, a New York-based real estate firm that specializes in rentals and home sales. "But if history teaches us anything, people always rebuild and they always come back."