Governor Andrew Cuomo toured flood-damaged areas of Plattsburgh this morning and promised state aid to residents forced out of their homes.
During the warm weather in mid-January, ice jams on the Saranac River breached a berm at the Underwood Mobile Home Park in Plattsburgh. Nearly 200 people were evacuated from about 70 homes.
The ice and water has since receded. Mayor Colin Read led Governor Cuomo to the damaged berm. “Many of these mobile homes were under two or three feet of water. You’ll see some tipped over fuel tanks, a lot of debris all around. Most of the hardest hit were on the far end. You’ll see a lot of X’s on windows right now. These are homes that can’t get occupied yet. Some people will be able to get back in but we figure somewhere around 30 to 35 can’t be occupied."
Aide: "We’ll go down this way Governor and we’ll see where the breach was.”
Property manager Bruce Eaton Jr. then took the governor inside one of the damaged and vacated mobile homes. “The insulation underneath is soaking wet.”
Cuomo: “The water is just going to sit in there.”
Eaton: “Oh yeah.”
Cuomo: “And then you’ll have a mold problem. Nothing you can do here. How much water was in the homes that were worst hit?”
Eaton: “Just reaching floor level to some of them probably a foot, foot and a half of water.”
Officials have allowed 24 of the 70 units to be re-occupied but many still have mold problems. Eaton says it’s uncertain how many families will be able to return. “Now that the Governor has gotten involved I think these people will get a little bit of relief. I think we’ll get assistance that they need. Homes will be remodeled. Maybe new units will come in. Who knows? But I think it’s a blessing that we have the response that we got today. People were starting to come unglued around here. I mean it’s not a good situation for anybody.”
The homes are not below the threshold to be eligible for any recovery funds by New York state or FEMA. But after his tour, the governor announced the state will provide money to those impacted. “These 70 residences need help. So I don’t care that it doesn’t fit into a state program. I don’t care that it doesn’t fit into a federal program. We’re going to reimburse people for their losses. We’re going to make $7 million available, up to $100,000 per home. I don’t think they’ll even get to that level per home. We’re also going to provide three month rental assistance for the families.”
Plattsburgh Mayor Read says the governor’s announcement brings much-needed relief. “Many of the residents of the Underwood Estates are going to be overjoyed to see this. You know it had two components right? One is the three months of housing assistance. We’ve already taken care of some of the short term needs with the shelter etc. but giving people three months to start getting their lives put back together as we do the rebuilding was essential. Then to hear the great news of actually having a path for rebuilding I thought that would take actually much much longer.”
The DEC will also expedite permitting to repair the damaged berm.