Push For Storm Aid Begins

Adam Hotaling, Philipstown’s highway superintendent, spreads gravel on a storm-damaged section of Old Manitou Road. (Photo by L. Sparks)

Adam Hotaling, Philipstown’s highway superintendent, spreads gravel on a storm-damaged section of Old Manitou Road. (Photo by L. Sparks)

Hochul asks federal government to declare major disaster 

By Leonard Sparks and Michael Turton

The neighbor’s text at 4:46 p.m. on Sunday (July 9) shocked Susan de Beer as she and her husband visited her father-in-law’s place in New York City. 

The photograph showed the floodwaters girdling the house in Cold Spring where de Beer, Sanjay Thakur and their two children have lived for the past five years. 

They made the arduous drive back to the village on Sunday, but stayed with friends that night. By the time they visited the property in daylight on Monday, the waters had receded, leaving a mark 3 feet up the walls. But a dumpster overflowing on Thursday with appliances, furnishings and personal items attests to the damage left behind.  

Among the losses was a grandfather clock that belonged to her paternal great-grandmother. “Things like that are sad, but I think the difficulty is that the damage to the building is so extensive,” she said. 

Her family’s accounting will be part of a larger assessment that has gotten underway since Sunday’s rainstorm, which dropped more than 6 inches on Cold Spring and caused widespread flooding that damaged properties and roadways, and shut down part of Metro-North’s Hudson Line for two days. 

Public officials have turned their attention to documenting the damage and lobbying the federal government for a federal disaster declaration so Putnam County and its municipalities and property owners can qualify for disaster assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. 

New York State and Putnam County have both declared a state of emergency. On Friday (July 14), Gov. Kathy Hochul announced that she has formally asked President Joe Biden’s administration for a federal disaster declaration that would unlock FEMA financial assistance to municipalities and private-property owners.

Hochul’s request for a disaster declaration initially covers Putnam and 11 other counties: Albany, Clinton, Dutchess, Essex, Hamilton, Ontario, Orange, Oswego, Rensselaer, Rockland and Westchester. She said other counties could be added as the assessment of damages continues. 

The governor also said she has asked for federal support for homeowners in Ontario and Orange counties and an expedited damage-assessment. The state will also pursue low-interest loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration that would help businesses with repairs, she said.

“I have spoken with The White House, our senators and FEMA leadership about the need for a swift approval of this disaster declaration, so we can help New Yorkers recover quickly and efficiently,” said Hochul. 

Kevin Byrne, Putnam County’s executive, said on Friday that his administration is working the towns and villages on a preliminary damage assessment and has hired a consultant, Meridian Strategies Services, to “assist in maximizing potential reimbursement” from FEMA.

The company will give a presentation to town supervisors and village mayors, said the county on Friday.

In an update posted on Facebook on Thursday (July 13), Foley said Cold Spring has been told by its liaison to the state Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services (DHSES) that there is “low confidence” New York will meet the federal government’s thresholds for aid.

Damage to the first floors and basements of private properties is “unlikely” to qualify for FEMA disaster aid unless it is “catastrophic,” said Foley.

The liaison “spoke very frankly, wanting to ‘temper expectations,’ ” from property owners, she said. “This isn’t what anyone wants to hear right now, but I am grateful for the honesty and straight talk from DHSES.”

Flooding left the Cold Spring home of Susan de Beer and Sanjay Thakur uninhabitable

Flooding left the Cold Spring home of Susan de Beer and Sanjay Thakur uninhabitable (Photo provided)

If a major disaster is declared, FEMA will open an online portal where private property owners can submit expenses to determine their eligibility for federal aid. “Right now, private property owners should be carefully documenting damage and expenses,” and keeping receipts, the mayor said on Wednesday.

Help with submitting complicated insurance claims is available through the New York State Department of Financial Services. Hudson Valley residents with insurance-related questions can call the department’s hotline at 800-339-1759 or visit its online resource webpage at dfs.ny.gov/consumers/disaster_flood.

New York is also collecting reports of damages to local homes and businesses to support an application for federal disaster relief.

“An inventory of damages is needed to determine if the amount of private property damage in this region meets the threshold for FEMA reimbursement,” said Assembly Member Dana Levenberg, whose district includes Philipstown and Putnam Valley, in an email to constituents. “If you sustained any property damage during the recent storm, please report it as soon as possible. Note that this form is not an application for relief programs, but the information you submit will be helpful in our efforts to get more relief. Separately, be sure to document your damage in photos and keep receipts for costs related to storm damage in case you qualify for reimbursement.”

The Damage Self-Reporting Tool is located here.

Meanwhile, the post-storm assessment continues. 

Matt Kroog, Cold Spring’s water and wastewater superintendent, said a power outage on Saturday caused concern at the water treatment plant on Fishkill Road, but service was restored in time to lower water levels there in anticipation of Sunday’s heavy rains. 

After the rains, village reservoirs, which were down about 2 feet on Friday, spilled over, but the village dams appeared unharmed, he said. 

Foley also said actions taken by the water department prior to the storm, including releasing water from an impoundment created by a beaver dam upstream from the water treatment plant, helped ensure that Fishkill Road, unlike many other area roads, did not flood.

While the National Weather Service measured the storm’s rainfall at 61/4 inches in Cold Spring, Kroog said a manual reading indicated the village received about 7½ inches. A digital reading at month’s end will provide a more precise total, he said. 

In Philipstown, it was the dirt roads that fared worst, said John Van Tassel, the town’s supervisor. On Tuesday, Adam Hotaling, the town’s highway superintendent, used a skid-steer loader to spread a pile of gravel along Old Manitou Road, where deep gashes scarred the dirt surface.  

Manitou, East Mountain South and Philipse Brook roads were also washed out, said Hotaling. “This one of the worst [storms] we’ve had recently, but I’ve seen it worse,” he said. 

Not so for de Beer and her family. 

One of the first things she did after receiving the photo of her family’s property was to call her friend, Jennifer Zwarich, to say that she would not be leading the carpool on Monday to take Zwarich’s daughter to camp. Now, her family is the one being thought of by others. 

People volunteered to scrape the mud from the 1870 home’s original floors and to haul out damaged belongings. Zwarich and Nicelle Beauchene on Tuesday launched an online fundraiser for the family (bit.ly/deBeer-flood-relief). Donations totaled more than $19,000 as of Thursday. 

“That was so beautiful,” said de Beer. “My husband and I are incredibly grateful.” 

6 thoughts on “Push For Storm Aid Begins

  1. I noticed you cite the National Weather Service official rainfall reading for Cold Spring as 6.25 inches. That reading is the reported rainfall I submitted to the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network (CoCoRaHS) from our home station (a standard analog CoCoRaHS rain gauge) located 5 miles northeast of the villages in North Highlands. The National Weather Service posted that as the reading for Cold Spring in its rainfall reports for the flooding on July 9 and 10, presumably because it was the closest “official” reading to the village.

    Perhaps someone in the village would be willing to sign up at cocorahs.org to provide a more local official reading, which is the purpose of the “citizen science” volunteer organization.

    • I am also a cocorahs observer, here in Beacon. My station is NY-DT-23. Thank YOU for your reliable reporting. I’m an avid gardener and when I’m out of town I use your reports to determine if I need to remotely activate a sprinkler that I set up when I’m away. Yours is the closest station to mine, and it’s by far the most accurate report I can rely on.

      In the past I’ve tried to get other Beaconites to sign up for cocorahs. A couple of friends ordered the gauge, but I they haven’t signed up yet. I’d love to see more observers in our area. The variations in rainfall you can after a storm on the cocorahs map is pretty astounding. Thanks for your reports and keep up the good work.

  2. On the morning following the July 9, storm and flash flooding in Putnam County and other parts of the Hudson Valley, I was on the ground with my local, state and federal colleagues to inspect and assess the extensive damage suffered by Putnam Valley and Philipstown homeowners and residents. I continue to be in close contact with Rep. Mike Lawler, state Assembly Member Matt Slater [whose district includes eastern Putnam County and Yorktown] and local officials, discussing next steps and urging Albany to do more. Though I was pleased that our efforts yielded at least a state recognition of the emergency conditions in Putnam County, local property owners and others still require a full-court press consisting of state and federal resources to assess the extent of long-term damages there and fund a lasting recovery effort.

    As the state senator representing Philipstown and Putnam Valley, I am committed to getting results for our local residents already frustrated by the pace of the remediation. My office has put together a list of storm-recovery resources for families and individuals to use, including a self-reporting tool that puts them in touch with state agencies who can prioritize their needs. We will remain in communication with our local, state and federal partners to make sure that any and all available monies are redirected to the immediate concerns of Putnam County residents hardest hit by the storm. One place to start for the governor and others is spinning up unallocated funding from the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act as soon as possible.

    Only by working together can we achieve the results Putnam Valley and Philipstown residents deserve. I am grateful to Rep. Lawler, Assemblyman Slater and local officials for their robust efforts on behalf of our constituents. I look forward to continuing this rock-solid partnership as the recovery phase continues in the weeks to come.

    • It is the height of hypocrisy for Republican representatives such as state Sen. Rob Rolison, state Assembly Member Matt Slater and especially U.S. Rep. Mike Lawler to present themselves as local saviors in the aftermath of July’s flooding.

      All of them are members of a party that lies about climate change and actively obstructs climate action while the effects of man-made climate change destroy our homes, businesses, roads and other critical infrastructure. All participate in this obstruction in their roles as legislators at the state and federal level. But Lawler has particular nerve, given how often he spreads misinformation about gas stoves and whines about New York State’s environmental policies, and given his past work as a fossil-fuel lobbyist.

      These men are climate arsonists, and we don’t praise arsonists for putting out the fires they set. They should not get praise for spending our hard-earned taxpayer dollars on disaster recovery efforts if they continue to make more such disasters inevitable by obstructing meaningful climate action.

    • On July 12, Mike Lawler, our new U.S. Representative, engaged in an act of political misdirection when he sent out a mass email perpetuating MAGA fearmongering about crime. Lawler tries to generate fear of a mythical “massive” crime wave as he would like to distract us from his own party’s failed agenda, and his own problem behavior.

      First, some facts about crime in our area. Violent crime and most major crimes are actually down in our area, and the counties that comprise the NY 17th C.D. are among the safest in the state. New York is much safer than most Republican-led states — where lax gun laws and failed social policies lead to much higher rates of violent crime. Crime is an issue that is proven to “hijack” our emotions, which is why MAGA types and Faux news outlets talk about it non-stop. Though we are far less likely to be a victim of a crime today than we were 20-30 years ago, MAGA politicians want us terrified of a “massive crime wave” so that we don’t think clearly about real policy issues.

      On July 12, Lawler could have tried to provide information to his constituents about resources for people affected by the severe storms and the flooding in our area. Instead, he sent an email perpetuating myths about crime. Perhaps this was done because Lawler had just spent the prior day being ridiculed by major news outlets for having been blocked on Wikipedia for too much self-editing without verifying his identity.

      Don’t fall for Lawler’s low-rent “sleight-of-hand.” He’s not that focused on how you’re recovering from the flood. He’s interested in PR, fake crime waves, and MAGA nonsense.

  3. There is a forgotten street in Beacon. South Walnut Street, between DeWindt and Beacon streets, has been flooding for more than 40 years during moderate to heavy rainfalls, even if they last only 10 to 15 minutes. Stormwater is percolating through porous, antiquated sewer lines and backing up into basements, creating a hazardous condition. Yards, sidewalks and the street are being eroded.

    The city has ignored all pleas to take remedial action, except for cleaning the drainage structures, which has been proven not to be the solution. South Walnut Street has appeared on the capital plan several times but keeps getting replaced by less-dire projects. Even the master plan alludes to the problem of poor drainage on South Walnut.

    If funds had been procured when the problem surfaced, the repairs could have been completed. Now the excuse is that it’s too expensive. If current weather patterns persist, the situation will worsen and the city’s nonfeasance will be a major reason for the flooding and damage to property. If this area was on Main Street, the problem would have been resolved years ago. It shows where the priorities are situated. Homeowners are second-class citizens in Beacon. Businesses, tourists and development are the priorities.

    A petition has been forwarded to the city requesting relief from this intolerable situation.

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