The Downtown Business District of Piermont was going on Week 2 of having no power from Superstorm Sandy. Senator Chuck Schumer was joined by several local and state officials on Monday for a tour of the flood damage in Piermont.
Piermont Mayor Chris Sanders led the tour, which included Schumer, Congresswoman Nita Lowey, New York Assemblymembers Ellen Jaffee and Ken Zebrowski, State Senator David Carlucci and Michael Oates, president and CEO of Hudson Valley Economic Development Corporation.
"I've been visiting various communities for two reasons: one—to show the people that there's someone here that cares and second—to see the scope of the damage. The scope of damage is both deep and broad," said Schumer.
The tour began at Village Hall and went down Piermont Avenue to several of the local businesses, some without power and all of them still recovering.
During his visit to Rockland County, Schumer petitioned the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to open the county’s second Disaster Recovery Center (DRC) in the Piermont-area to provide better support to local residents.
Sanders said that the village has put together a team of inspectors and Schumer said that FEMA will “reimburse localities for hiring inspectors… whether they are experts on debris removal or electric."
Schumer also said that given the times-sensitive nature of repairs, issues with accessing gasoline following the storm, and more, it is important that residents in southern Rockland communities aren’t forced to drive great distances to visit a DRC for help rebuilding.
“I am pleased that FEMA opened their first Disaster Recovery Center in Pomona on Saturday, and now I am urging FEMA Administrator Fugate to open a second DRC closer to Piermont, one of the hardest hit communities in the County,” said Schumer. “DRCs serve as one stop shops for residents, business owners and local officials to work with FEMA and access the resources that the emergency disaster declaration provides, and it is critical that residents in southern Rockland County are not shut out.”
Piermont’s waterfront of restaurants, marinas and homes was severely damaged as a result of the high tides caused by Superstorm Sandy. Rising waters caused by a historic high tide resulted in the major downtown area to be completely flooded. The storm caused residents and business owners to evacuate, only to return to find most of their property suffering from water damage.
Debris from the wreckage and personal items being thrown out have formed piles upon piles all along the sidewalks in Piermont.
In Piermont, the Hudson River’s high tide surged upward of 9 ½ feet, submerging sea walls, damaging docks and flooding Route 9W in and out of the village. Estimates for the damage are already projected to be several million dollars in the Town of Piermont alone. Several sailboats and cabin boats washed up throughout the town, along with concrete park benches and pieces of boardwalk from over a mile away. Superstorm Sandy also caused severe flooding in Nyack’s riverfront area — including the municipal marina, the Nyack Boat Club and Clermont condos at South Main Street.
Last week, Schumer helped include Individual Assistance and full Public Assistance – Categories A through G –in the disaster declaration in Rockland County. Schumer highlighted that the declaration is only the first stage of a long recovery process, and that DRCs are an important tool in helping Rockland County residents access the resources that a declaration provides.
DRCs are staffed with FEMA and Small Business Administration (SBA) employees who answer questions and provide resources for residents affected by Sandy. Federal specialists staff the centers, generally from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. seven days a week, and help ensure that qualified residents and businesses get the assistance to which they’re entitled.
These centers provide information on housing assistance, rental resource assistance, clarification and guidance to questions and referrals to agencies that may provide further assistance. According to FEMA, over 69,000 people in New York have already registered for disaster assistance and more than $75 million in assistance has been approved.
There was a Q&A session with Schumer following the tour:
At the congressional level, what's being done to allocate more money to meet the estimated $30 billion (in damage and economic loss)?
We don't know the amount of damage yet and we're going to have to work bi-partisan with our other states that also (were damaged by Sandy). We're looking at other programs. FEMA is the largest program. FEMA only gives homeowners $31,400 if their house is hurt. For many New Yorkers, they won't be able to build their house with just $31,400. We're looking at ways we can get more money, from CDBG and other programs. We're looking at small business loans. Small businesses see 4 percent and say, 'what good is that?' and we're seeing if we can find other ways to help small businesses.
When Hurricane Irene hit, there was no money in FEMA's till. That's because there was a group of people in the House (of Representatives) that there shouldn't be money for disaster aid. We fought and we won and now FEMA has $7.2 billion in its till. The immediate recovery is not going to be hurt. We're obviously going to need more than $7.2 billion and we're going to have to come back.
We're going to try to find the best way to get the most amount of money for New York.
Do you expect opposition like there was last year with Hurricane Irene?
There may be opposition. The House of Representatives ... is less friendly to these kinds of requests than the Senate is, but we do have a bi-partisan coalition.
"Speaker (John) Boehner has expressed some willingness to work together with both sides of the aisle. I do hope he will be a leader and there can be a bi-partisan solution," said Lowey.
A copy of Senator Schumer’s letter appears below:
Dear Administrator Fugate:
I write today to bring to your attention an important issue facing the residents of Rockland County, New York.
As you know, Rockland County was severely impacted by Superstorm Sandy. Specifically, Rockland County, particularly in Piermont and Nyack, experienced severe flooding and wind damage following Sandy. Tens of thousands of lower Hudson Valley residents remain without power, over a week after the storm. The storm’s impact was such that New York requested approval of a major disaster declaration for Individual Assistance and Public Assistance (Categories A through G). My fellow New Yorkers and I were very relieved and very grateful when this request was expeditiously approved and when FEMA opened up a Disaster Recovery Center (DRC) in Pomona (Rockland County).
Unfortunately, the declaration is only the first stage in a long recovery process. Rockland County residents are still struggling to assess the impact of Sandy and what federal resources are available to them. Given this countywide uncertainty, I respectfully urge you to open a second DRC in Rockland County. Doing so will ensure that Rockland residents all across the county can feel the presence of the federal government in their local communities, know what federal resources are available, and how they can access them.
I am grateful for the prompt attention that you and the entire federal government have given to quickly responding to this disaster and for your commitment to cutting bureaucratic red-tape so that assistance can be provided as quickly and efficiently as possible. In that spirit, I strongly urge you to approve this request.