Residents of a mobile home park in Plattsburgh who were displaced by severe flooding in January moved back into new homes Tuesday.
In January an ice jam formed in the Saranac River that led to flooding of the Underwood Estates Mobile Home community in Plattsburgh. Nearly 200 people living in 70 homes were evacuated. The city was not eligible for FEMA or state recovery aid. Governor Andrew Cuomo toured the damage shortly after the water receded and vowed to help. “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.”
On Tuesday, state Senator Betty Little stood next to one of the new mobile homes that are replacing the flood-damaged housing. She explained that the legislature modified the Homes and Community Renewal Mobile and Manufactured Home Replacement Program to make $7 million available for reconstruction and rehabilitation. “This legislation this year we had to change it because it said that you had to own your own property and not be in a park. Well this was a park so we changed the legislation that made this mobile home park eligible for that money.”
State Housing Commissioner RuthAnne Visnauskas was at Underwood Estates as the first five residents received keys. “It is challenging to build affordable housing generally from a siting perspective, from a financial perspective. I think this threw us all for a loop and this was more complicated than anyone could have imagined at the get-go. That as a result of a flood that happened in January that we would be replacing so many homes by providing elevated homes, safe homes, environmentally sound homes. And we thank all the residents who were patient with us as we worked through the all the issues that we encountered as we came along between the berm and the electrical and the utilities. It was really a challenging experience.”
Visnauskas toured the new homes and construction of a new berm and new utility systems that are being installed at Underwood Estates. “I think that this is such an unusual project that we haven’t encountered before. We really came in there was a massive flood and we were doing both infrastructure upgrades as well as a lot of brand new homes that I think in some ways we’re sort of writing the manual on how to do this should it happen again. This was not something that we had a standard playbook to say sort of what do we do when a mobile home park floods from a multiple governmental agency, not that we don’t deal with crises, but this was certainly um…”
“You’re rebuilding a whole community.” Assemblyman D. Billy Jones jumped in. “This is a community and you have to rebuild the infrastructure and everything that goes along with that. So you come up with a game plan so to speak.”
After nearly eight months in temporary housing, Kristina Sterling’s family is moving into a new mobile home. She says her two daughters aged 7 and 3 are very excited to come home. “It’s been hard but thanks to the help of everybody coming together we’ve been able to push through and make it past all of it and we actually at first didn’t know that we would get all this help and all this support. So we were all very surprised and we were all thankful that we were able to get it. I’m hoping now that we have had this happen that we can take the precautions needed to make sure it does not happen again and then this way everybody is safe, we won’t have another devastating event. So hopefully everything will be fixed.”
All of the new mobile homes are being placed on concrete slabs and elevated above the 100-year flood level. The berm along the Saranac River is being engineered to meet 100-year flood criteria.