Cuomo hears of a region rising after Tropical Storm Irene
By: Rick Karlin
September 11, 2013
Gov. Andrew Cuomo stopped at the state university campus here on Tuesday to visit with members of Schoharie Valley’s NY Rising committee, which is helping to guide the region’s long, slow recovery from Tropical Storm Irene two years ago.
While much of Cuomo’s talk recapped his program of regional grants to help with recovery, there was a bit of good news: About 70 percent of Schoharie Valley buildings — homes and businesses — that were hit in the 2011 flooding have been rebuilt, said Sarah Goodrich, executive director of Schoharie Area Long-Term Recovery, a nonprofit group that coordinates the rebuilding. Goodrich also was appointed by the governor to the local NY Rising committee.
Under the NY Rising Community Reconstruction program, flood-torn regions compete for grant money to help with rebuilding, and to protect against future floods or other catastrophes.
In addition to the Schoharie Valley, communities in the Hudson Valley, Capital Region, North Country, Southern Tier, western New York, Long Island and New York City have reconstruction programs that are eligible for federal grants.
In addition to the 2011 storms Irene and Lee, Superstorm Sandy last fall devastated parts of the city and Long Island.
Statewide, $750 million in federal funding is available to 102 communities. Schoharie County is eligible for up to $12 million.
Cuomo told attendees that the process should be educational and that it should have the end goal of protecting residents against future storms.
“How do we learn from this?” the governor asked. “How do we do preventive measures and resiliency measures? If this happens again — and I’m sorry to say I believe it’s going to happen again — we should be planning for the worst.”
Cuomo later said that grant requests are coming in.
“What I’ve been struck with is the variance of ideas,” he said after the meeting. “It’s the whole spectrum.”
Proposed projects include fixing up main streets, clearing debris from streams and buyouts for people whose homes are in flood-prone areas.
The buyouts pose particularly tough decisions for some people who might be tempted to simply leave the area or even the state if they get money to abandon their homes.
Local officials and boosters are grappling with the question, and are working to ensure that they don’t end up losing population.
“It may be a one-way ticket for many people,” said Republican Assemblyman Peter Lopez, who represents much of the region and who attended Tuesday’s meeting.
Aware of that challenge, Goodrich said the committee is working hard to put together financing or other means of helping people remain in the area if that’s what they want to do.
She said it is encouraging to see the governor come to her small, rural community.
“It represents hope, in the sense that the governor hasn’t forgotten us,” she said.