Friday, January 27, 2012

A Deficit of Distrust

President Obama’s new buzz-phrase, A Deficit of Distrust, was driven home by several residents at Wednesday nights Town Board meeting, taking direct aim at the Town Board and specifically the Supervisor. Guilty eyes shifted downward by all on the dais as residents pummeled the recent and all-too-familiar incompetence and guilty verdicts rendered against The Paul and the Town Board. Newly elected Councilman Kenneth Jones sat next to The Paul, probably wondering how could things have deteriorated for him so quickly? After all, didn’t he just win an election? Technically, yes. But with no opposition, the Board and The Paul waltzed right in unchallenged. Incompetence breeds incompetence. Welcome aboard Mr. Jones, grab a life preserver.

In an unusual reversal of bad and habitual “rule”, last nights meeting started at 7:30 PM, even though residents began filling the outer room at 7 PM. The early time was to accommodate a “brief” meeting and explanation by Jonathan Raser, a Hazard Mitigation Program Manager from Tetra Tech, of possible future actions regarding flooding in Greenburgh. His was the company hired by the Town to study the flooding problem in the Town, draft a Hazard Mitigation plan with the police chief and now act on the Towns behalf to try to acquire flood relief funds. Conflict of interest? You decide. We’ve posted about this earlier. He made his presentation to the residents filling the room, mostly from the Fulton Park and Babbitt Court neighborhoods. Several people from both neighborhoods asked pertinent questions, generating bureaucratic non-answers, leading some to believe this would be nothing more than an exercise in futility.

Raser was asked about validating damage to qualify for funds and responded that it was between the homeowner and the insurance company. Yet, the homeowner or small business cannot be the party seeking the funds, only the Town can do that as an intermediary. The Town will seek the funds, not the homeowners. But if a buy-out is the goal, the resident will only be offered 75% of the value of their homes - not at market value before the flood. One example given, without using accurate numbers, was if a house was valued at $100k, they now start at $75k and there’s no guarantee that the homeowner will receive $75k. These same residents, with mortgages and the losses they’ve suffered, will lose much more than $25k. Stacked deck? You decide.

Several County legislators were in attendance. Newly elected Mt Pleasant Republican Michael Smith, Democrats MaryJane Shimsky and Alfreda Williams as well as several representatives from higher level politicians apparently too busy to waste their time with a few residents suffering from flooding in Greenburgh, were in attendance. Smith didn’t offer anything, but since he was just elected, ABG will give him a pass. Williams, in typical form, offered nothing. Shimsky was the shining star from the County last night. She touched on progress made with the cleaning of the Saw Mill River in Greenburgh and Elmsford (ABG previously posted this). Then she proceeded to describe her investigation of the Bronx River and how it is in a much worst condition than the Saw Mill River and needs a tremendous amount of attention. ABG hopes that Shimsky will continue her efforts to improve the conditions for the flow of water. It’s apparent to ABG that now that the TV cameras have disappeared, The Paul has stopped worrying about the Bronx River flooding, Fulton Park, etc. In fact, he’s back to dumping on Fulton Park with Westhab, as well as his deflecting tactics, with the Tappan Zee Bridge petting zoos, bungee jumping decks and the like, all to be financed either by the state or the Unincorporated residents of Greenburgh, who won’t have exclusivity or right of way usage.

Once the flooding presentation and follow-up questions and answers appeared over, Raser adjourned to the cafeteria per The Paul to discuss flooding issues with residents one-on-one. After that meeting, many left with few returning for what the uninitiated might refer to as the regular order of business. We understand its a stretch. The G8* were in attendance, along with a few other masochists, who shared the podium during the public comment. At some point, the Board decided to suspend the posted hearings, wasting residents, developers and employees time. See our previous post entitled The Process of Waste.

During the public comment session Bob Bernstein chastised the newest Board member, Councilman Jones for something we weren’t aware of and will not comment on. Yet his scorching barrage had Jones visibly uncomfortable. Then he brought up the guilty verdict for the Dromore Road case. This is another in a long list of guilty verdicts levied against the Town because The Paul feels he can do whatever he wants when it suits him. The Paul’s answer to all is if you don’t like what he’s doing, you can sue him. Since The Paul knows he cannot personally be held liable, he ignores doing the right thing and just does what he wants. Bernstein pointed out that The Paul’s arrogance and the Legal Department’s incompetence under Timothy Lewis is costing the Unincorporated residents a fortune in guilty verdict fines! When will it stop? Bernstein also lamented that he and others had offered information and help to challenge and even win the lawsuit but were shunned. He closed by saying he may wind up fixing their screw-ups by working on behalf of the Town as he and Herb Rosenberg did with the WestHelp case where The Paul illegally funneled money to the Valhalla School District. Admirably, Bernstein and Rosenberg were able to get a court decision to return $1.2 million back to Greenburgh. He closed by saying it is no wonder the residents of Greenburgh have such a deficit of distrust.

Editors Note: We wonder if the Town didn't have all these court cases against them and the guilty verdicts against them for the dozen or so illegal actions by The Paul, and we had that money to balance the 2012 budget, if Scott Uzzo might still be alive? See our post: Ex-Greenburgh Worker Jumps From Tappan Zee Bridge. 

Fulton Park Vice-President Tom Bock got up and berated The Paul for issuing a building permit to Westhab, and not notifying the neighborhood. He continued that it was The Paul who promised at numerous Town Meetings, on TV and in written articles and letters to the residents that he was going to prove to the neighborhood that they are wrong about how he feels about Fulton Park and he was going to turn their opinion of him around, proving he cares. “Is this how you show you care?” asked Bock who then told the Board and specifically The Paul that WestHelp closed. He repeated, WestHelp closed, because the need isn’t there any more! The need of low and no income subsidized housing isn’t necessary in Greenburgh. Plus, The Paul’s reason for putting it where they did was because there were two supermarkets nearby - which he helped to close - with which those residents could shop. So the reasons never mattered. It was all about giving back to a developer. Bock closed with the fact that The Paul mandated the Fulton Garden Apartments develop a flood mitigation plan for the Fulton Park neighborhood simply to increase the height of their buildings but made no such demands of Westhab who is increasing the amount of impervious space on the entire property. The Westhab building will have a negative impact to flooding, housing values, traffic congestion, crime, and a lower quality of life. This is how The Paul proves his concern for Fulton Park.

Fulton Park President Maria Gomez got up and chided The Paul for not only letting Westhab get a building permit, but not mandating them to do anything about flood mitigation when the Fulton Gardens and Deli Delicious were told they’d have to. Why the double standard? She also questioned if Westhab had filed all the necessary covenants prior to the building permit application? Again, nothing but silence.

Ella Preiser, criticized The Board for their actions on the Dromore Road guilty verdict and then mentioned the Caratozzolo victory verdict against The Paul, The Town Board and the fact that they still haven’t corrected the issue - even after being found guilty! She questioned whether or not everyone throughout the Town might be paying more than they should and what were they going to do about it? Again, silence. She finished by asking was it any wonder the residents don’t trust this Board?

It seemed throughout the night as others spoke, the theme of distrust, dishonesty and disbelief was the topic de jour. If and when the Board and The Paul thought they might not cause themselves any more trouble, they would occasionally speak to low-level questions raised. Otherwise, all that was received was silence. We had hopes for Ken Jones that he might do the right thing. But sitting in between the muscle and the moron, we doubt anything will change. We can only hope.

* The usual resident “assessors” at the Town Board meetings, aka the Greenburgh-8 (G8).

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Process of Waste

When it comes to waste, The Paul never ceases to disappoint. He wastes our time at Town Board meetings with talent shows, poetry readings, kid-produced movies, certificates of appreciation and anything else that will thin the angry crowds through exhaustion and frustration. In fact, the regular attendees know that arriving on time is, wait for it... a waste.

Wasting time would be an issue for most politicians as they have other events and people they want to see. The Paul’s goal, however is to reduce the amount of people he sees at the Town Board meetings so he can continue to spend and make costly decisions unencumbered by either the law, a moral compass or the protestations of the public. Moreover, its the residents who are wasting his time. Most people just accept his lack of management skills and ill-will by ignoring him. The stalwarts won’t accept his poor performance and behavior and continue to challenge him, therein creating his problem.

Another well-honed way The Paul continues to discourage the public from attending the Town Board meetings is to over-book the meetings. This Wednesday night’s Town Board meeting is chocked with more than enough items for an exhaustive evening. Even if there were no talent shows, dog tricks and magic acts, we would be hard pressed to finish quickly or even in a timely fashion. In fact, due to the amount of things to go through, The Paul has decided to have a Presentation from Jonathan Raser begin at 7:30PM and then move to the Lee F. Jackson conference room. You might wonder if The Paul is just tired of getting home at 2AM after every Board meeting and trying to expedite the meeting? Not at all. It’s how he will remove his numerous detractors from the other hearings where they might slow his rubber stamp approval machine.

ABG has listed below three hearings that promise to bring much involvement from the public.

Jonathan Raser/CFM - “Flood Relief – Hazardous Mitigation” 
After the presentation, residents who would like further information can meet with Mr. Raser in the Lee F. Jackson Conference Room for a Question & Answer Session.

MANY of these same flood victims/residents will be interested in speaking with or meeting with Raser because it’s directly impacting their largest investment: their homes. This meeting alone might be able to fill an entire evening. These are many of the same people who wish to be at the other hearings below as well. Again, this is just another of The Paul’s tactics to reduce the opposition during a hearing!

• To consider the applications of NextG Networks of NY, Inc. for special permits for antennas to be placed at various locations in Unincorporated Greenburgh 
• To consider the proposed Draft Scope for the Draft Eenvironmental Impact Statement to be prepared for the application by Eastview Holdings, LLC for (1) amendments to the Zoning Ordinance creating a new DS-50 Design Shopping District containing 50 acres or more and (2) the proposed re-zoning of real property located at 777 Old Saw Mill River Road (Parcel id: 7.71-6-2) to the new DS-50 Zoning District and approval of required actions related thereto.

ABG has posted before about some of the issues the cell towers pose to the safety and well-being of Greenburgh residents. There have been numerous comments made at previous meetings and ABG believes Wednesday night will not be any different. Everyone has asked that the cell tower application be turned back to the Cell Tower Committee for further investigation and review. 

Note: ABG has just learned at 8:58PM that this hearing is postponed until Tuesday, February 7th at 7:30 PM at Greenburgh Town Hall. The February meeting will be held on Tuesday evening, not Wednesday evening. 

The Draft Scope for Eastview Holdings is for retail space to coincide with the proposed 400+ condominiums at that same location. All the studies they will be required to submit will all pass the official muster. They’ll provide the same beautiful and soft watercolor drawings of their proposal, similar to what we’re shown from every developer. There will be the requisite oohs and ahhs by the Town Board. In fact, Francis “The Pocket” Sheehan will even go out on a limb discussing not only the benefits of this proposal and the jobs it will create, but he’ll even explain how their precautionary measures won’t add to the flooding the 9A corridor suffers from. He won’t be discussing how FEMA will have to raise the houses in Babbitt Court to a ten foot height to avoid the flood waters, but The Paul has proven it really doesn’t matter what happens to the Unincorporated residents, does it?! It’s really about accommodating his developers. The Paul won’t mandate they address a flood control program like he did of the Fulton Garden Apartments in Fulton Park, when all they wanted to do was add several floors to existing buildings. 

There’s a remarkable double standard for how things work in Greenburgh if you’re “donating” (wink-wink) to The Paul and his causes. And then there’s everybody else. We’re all wasting The Paul’s time. Our certiorari adjustments along with a few other pay-outs at this meeting totals $2,266,997.39. This is real waste and a real shame! If The Paul would show some mettle and do a revaluation of the Town, we’d be able to stop the hemorrhaging of real dollars and get on the correct tax-track. We’d also need to stop losing lawsuits initiated against The Town simply because The Paul can’t be held liable. ABG will discuss this at a later date.

The Town is imploding more and more every day. The next election may hold some hope for us if somebody other than The Paul runs for the supervisors position. It’s time. Actually, it’s long overdue. The residents of the Town need relief, not increases and more taxes. If you are concerned about our Town, please come to the Wednesday night Town Board meeting and be part of the solution. We need everyone’s help! We can only hope.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Greenburgh Library - Management Overdue!

Listed on the back of a (campaign) letter The Paul mailed out to residents on the Town’s dime, as well as on his blog, is another glaring indicator of his incompetence! He is asking the public to donate in-demand books to the ski chalet, aka the library, as well as audio books, DVDs and CDs. The Paul and his Stepford crew recently cut the $3.5 million library budget by some $570,000 in what some have said is another political, not financial move. Because there is now a budgetary shortage, the library has placed the purchasing of books on hold. Even in Greenburgh, ABG believes this to be preposterous!

Our library boasts many features. It has tall glass windows, computer classes, unheated easy chairs in the new great hall of space-waste, new restrooms, beau coup offices for the staff, a poorly organized area of DVDs downstairs and musical CDs upstairs, a typically unattended second floor librarian station, a children’s area, art exhibits, and an incredibly large community room that sits vacant more often than not. Alas, in the end, our library will boast everything except books – unless we donate them.

Quoting The Paul from his letter, “In order to keep the Library open six days per week the Library Trustees decided to ELIMINATE the materials budget. That means there are no new books, DVDs, audio books, or music CDs, being purchased for the Greenburgh Public Library. Please help the Library purchase the in demand books. If you make out a check for $25 to the Friends of the Greenburgh Library they can purchase a new popular book. If you advise the library of the book you would like them to purchase with your $25 donation – they will try to accommodate your request.” ABG is curious how long The Paul will let this charade continue before he “hits up” the Lanza Foundation for the necessary money?

The list supplied from The Paul via the Library totals a combination of 31 children and adult books. Given the budget problems The Paul faces, we thought we’d “lie” out the math we are using. It’s simple: 31 books x $25 = $775. Let’s be generous this year and triple the amount of books we donate to 93 (@$25). That figure would now be $2,275. If we apply the same amount to DVDs ($2,275) and CDs ($2,275), it totals, without shipping, $6,825. This figure doesn’t make a dent into the $570,000 that has been eliminated. So, how is the $570k cut actually forcing the Town to NOT buy books. It doesn’t make sense. Anyway, now that we only need $563,175, what to do? Well, there will be $200+k taken from the library’s reserve fund, so now we’re only down 200+k. Not quite the dismal picture we were (mis)led to believe by The Paul – one of his common tactics.

The library is required by state mandate to be open six days a week. If they showed any initiative or caring, they would be open seven days a week. But they obviously wanted another unscheduled day off. So the library lays dormant on Sundays. ABG learned Mondays is one of the library’s busiest days according to the Board and that’s why the library stayed open on Mondays. To see what “busy” might be, ABG had a staffer go to the library on Monday. On this particular Monday, the library was barren in some areas and had a smattering of people in others. ABG understands that activity cannot be predicted and it may have simply been a slow day anyway. It might be like when you take your car to the mechanic because it’s making a noise and then doesn’t make the noise for him. Then, as soon as you leave, the noise is back. Regardless, ABG maintains the library should be open on the weekends, when children and most other taxpayers are more able to use it than the weekdays. This closing seems more a matter of convenience to the staff than their clients. Apparently, the library Board isn’t interested in the public that pays for the library through taxes - and now will be purchasing its books! Why didn’t the Board trim time off of the other days with delayed openings and/or early closures to gain the seventh day?

ABG doesn’t want to see people lose their jobs to balance the budget whenever and wherever possible. But there seems to be an awful lot of personnel employed in a library with limited hours and no new books and other media that would need to be placed on shelves. Perhaps we can lower the heat a few degrees during the winter and raise the air-conditioning a few degrees during the summer for some savings. Maybe we can add a freestanding interior level in the chalet area, foregoing the award winning and wasteful design and utilize all of the unused space “up” there.

The design of the building lends itself to nothing of substance for the library experience. They’ve added little usable space for books and other media, which may not be all that bad since we cannot afford to purchase more books anyway. Many have been critical of the operation of the library and stated openly for the Library to create its own taxing district. ABG doesn’t believe we need any more taxation of anything. We need management at the library. We also need management in the Town. We continue to hope that someone will beat The Paul in the next election. We can only hope.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Leafing Neighborhoods Alone

ABG wrote about the yearly lack of timely leaf pickup throughout the Town in a post on December 17, 2011, entitled More Mismanagement or Another Knee-Jerk Reaction? This morning, as we crossed Rt 119 and were driving north on Old Kensico Road to Old Tarrytown Road, we saw the Town picking up the leaves at the corner of Old Kensico and Randolph Roads. Interestingly, the leaves have been there for so long, it appeared that a worker was using a pick or shovel of some sort and heavy duty rake to break up the leaves so they could be vacuumed up. It seems to ABG that if the leaves have become that compacted, the Town has certainly missed the proper pick-up date for them.

Each year the Town claims to pick up leaves throughout the Town, complaining that scheduling this seemingly guaranteed event is difficult because they never know when the leaves will fall. Forget the lunacy of this statement momentarily. Usually, the Town doesn’t really pick up the leaves in many neighborhoods. The reality is they wait until the first snowfall and then plow them away with the freshly fallen snow. There’s a certain logic to that if we get an early snow. It allows the Town representatives to boast that they would have picked up the leaves if it hadn’t snowed. We imagine the leaders in a break room, laughing nervously saying, “Thank God it snowed! Now we don’t have to deal with the leaves!”

The Fulton Park neighborhood has long maintained their neglected status within the Town and this administration in particular. After the crippling flooding this neighborhood suffered with storms Irene and Lee, The Paul said repeatedly that he was going to convince this neighborhood that they were important to him and his Board. He said his goal would be to prove it. The leaders of the neighborhood didn’t believe him and yet he continued to repeat it. So here is just one more example of his lack of responsiveness to one community within the Town. If the Paul wants to convince residents that he truly cares, he’ll have to do quite a bit better. ABG believes they had to pick up the leaves even at such a late date because we’ve had such an unusually warm winter so far, with no snow, and they couldn’t plow them away. It was time for them to “get off the pot”! Finally, The Paul changed the local ordinance to keep the leaves on the edge of homeowner property, and out of the roadways. So much for plowing them away!

It’s no wonder that Edgemont is looking to get out from under The Paul incompetent thumb by incorporating and becoming a Village. We’re not sure how much longer the Town can endure under The Paul’s administration. Things need to improve. We can only hope.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Fool Me Once

As the saying goes, fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me. Having learned nothing during the recent events with the now former Court Administrator Regina Hill, The Paul is back at giving away “the farm” once again. Annu Jacob, 35, the chief court clerk in Spring Valley, will assume the administrative lead position for the Greenburgh Town Court on January 23, 2012. In her position in Spring Valley, her salary was $59k. She’s practically doubling her salary with this move to Greenburgh. Hill was originally hired at $75k – which she agreed to – only to tell The Paul she wanted more! He then raised her salary, we believe unethically, if not illegally, to $100k plus benefits! As the other saying goes, nice work if you can get it.

So after this massive personnel search has found the Town’s next court administrator, what will the final costs be to us? ABG is sure the base salary will soon not be enough for Ms. Jacob and The Paul, who has just laid off two employees, will bring it right back to $100k, matching Hill’s coup-like move back to her old job at a hefty increase. In an article we read elsewhere, The Paul claimed that there were still 80,000 unpaid tickets in need of attention. The Paul told us that Hill was hired to address this. We were also told interns were brought in, in lieu of hiring personnel as requested by Hill, to address the unpaid tickets fiasco. The Paul had his media machines in high gear touting the great job being done by all. If Hill was such a good deal for us, why are there still 80,000 unpaid tickets? Maybe we got the better deal by her leaving.

If The Paul had kept Hill’s and now Jacob’s salary at $75k, ABG wonders if he could have kept at least one of the two laid off employees on staff? Perhaps Scott Uzzo, despondent after losing his Greenburgh Water Department job with the Town, wouldn’t have killed himself  by jumping off the Tappan Zee Bridge in December.

While the tragedy of Scott Uzzo cannot easily be dismissed, we believe there were numerous ways for The Paul to save these two positions. But politics and what The Paul desires spares no expense, nor people. Here, we see the unfortunate results of his lack of management skills. At best, he could have preserved the position and cut somewhere else; and at worst, offered Mr. Uzzo counseling after termination and as much assistance as could be had. But like the neglected residents of the Town, he got nothing but a pink slip and a boot out the door. The sad reality of this years budget hijinks had real and ABG believes fatal, results. It has to stop.

The New Year is upon us. While we can only hope The Paul learns how to do the right thing, we’re not holding our breath. We are hopeful to see some leadership qualities from newly elected Town Board member Ken Jones and will reserve an opinion until we’ve had a chance to see him in action. We can only hope that Annu Jacob keeps her job without too many pay increases from The Paul. We pray and are hopeful for the Uzzo family for strength and closure. We are hopeful about Mr. Jones. We are hopeful for our Town. ABG thinks that’s probably the best outlook to have for The Town. We can only hope.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Transparency in Greenburgh, A Brave New World?

Government transparency is a goal that many agree upon, but implementation has been stifled or non-existent. Promises of transparency from our political leaders have thus far yielded little, if any, tangible changes or results. The exception is their ability to increase the public’s frustrations, anger and ultimately, abandonment. Where is the outbreak of information that informs and creates stronger public oversight of their respective local, state, and federal governments, offering involvement by the public? John and Jane Q., so desperate to even creep toward reformation of a broken and failing system, can find none! While our political “leaders” routinely offer their vision of transparency with requisite braggadocio, the reality resembles a Hollywood set, dressed with a nice facade offering no substance beyond what you can see.

One reason for this is the absence of specificity with the prescribed data practices that might foster transparency. A crucial mandate should require producing data as near to its origination date as possible, and as promptly as possible, enabling a forsaken public to rely on it’s publication to be the best sources of data. Another factor would be availability, ensuring consistency and confidence in the data. Information must be arranged so that a computer search can discover the data and its user follow linkages within it. This data must be presented utilizing a consistent methodology with a host of standards as to how data is identified, referenced, named, etc., culminating with documents and files, following accepted protocols for communicating data, and the organization of data within these files. It will require a revamping of websites to enable this into an actionable overhaul.

Finally, a critical channel for success with transparency, as well as governmental operations, is readability. It must foster the understanding of the data presented to be disseminated. Readable data must be logically structured so that the constituency can easily navigate the myriad of information and discern its practicality and usability in the constructs of its intended purpose. Can this be done? We can only hope.

Too often the media expounds the virtues of transparency only to coagulate suggested ideas and muddy the message. At the same time they will espouse champions of their choice who claim transparency and open government who will only participate when the convenience is apropos to their cause or not of any real consequence. Is this what the public hungers for or are there realistic and tangible needs they are seeking? At ABG, we know of few if any of our politicians interested in true transparency except for its verbalization. 

At ABG, we feel The Paul has done a grave disservice to the residents by touting open government and transparency, but offering little but nibbles at the entire pie. With a newly elected Town councilman, we can hope he might forge a new direction. ABG will remain hopeful until witnessed otherwise. He will be just one voice trying to turn a perfidious giant and go against his entrenched colleagues. We can only hope.

Monday, January 2, 2012

A Resident’s Commentary

Our region suffered severely at the end of August 2011 with Tropical Storms Irene and then Ann. For the amount of devastation and destruction experienced, we were relieved to see so many survive and forge ahead. Almost as soon as the storm hit our region, the emergency calls began to pour in. Volunteer fire, ambulance and rescue personnel all stood by in their respective headquarters at “the ready” to respond to those in need, giving of their time and leaving leaving their families to cope with the weather without them. The water proved to be the larger issue for many, while trees, limbs, wires and debris littered the area, making travel, power and “normal life” virtually impossible.

Here’s a neighbor’s recount of what happened and what is still happening to her and her family some five months later:

“Our home was flooding as were ordered out during the early morning arrival of Irene. Our basement was filling quickly, not allowing us to grab more than a change of clothing, our wallets and keys. My neighbor came by to see that we were okay and turned off the power and gas to our home as we exited. Driving during the heavily flooded roadways was extremely risky and outright dangerous. But that didn’t seem to deter the SUV owners in their luxo-boats, as they came barreling through our flooded roads. Some met with debris, forcing them to slow down a bit. But, you know the type. They think they can go through any adverse conditions because they have 4-wheel drive. I learned with my husband’s Jeep Patriot 4x4 that four wheel traction allows you to go almost anywhere with relative ease. I learned quickly that stopping was more difficult.

The police department evacuated our area. The fire department came, blocking the road with their fire truck and then left. Just before we left our home, we looked into our basement (a full 8ft tall) and saw it was filling quickly, about halfway up, with our possessions floating. We left in tears. Our quick departure took us to a neighbor’s house slightly elevated to us, enough to be dry. We then made arrangements and got a hotel room for us.

All of our important papers, computer equipment (in a home office), tools, books, music and videos, washer/dryer and such were stored in the basement. We could have salvaged most of it had it only been the flood water seeping in through every porous crevice in the basement. Even with two sump pumps, they were overwhelmed once the water forced open the basement windows and poured in through them. We lost everything that was in the basement. Yes, we have flood insurance, underwritten by FEMA, and to this day are still awaiting payment for damages! While flood insurance is underwritten by FEMA, you must purchase it through a “regular” insurance company. Homeowners insurance doesn’t cover anything flood related. Flood insurance comes in two flavors: structure and/or contents. We had structure insurance because of the $5k deductible and the fact that we never had more than a couple of inches of water during our worst rainfall or spring thaws.

Immediately after the storm, we called the insurance company to get our claim initiated. Everybody was pretty understanding and said my case would be assigned to an adjuster. The adjuster would be in contact with me within three days to set up an inspection appointment. The insurance carrier I had been assigned to purchase the flood insurance from was Selective Insurance. After not hearing back from anybody after more than three days, my husband called them. They gave us the name of the adjuster assigned to our case and that she would contact us within three days. From then on, every three days we received a call from Selective that an adjuster would be contacting me within three days. They said they were busy with the amount of claims they had to process. This went on for over a month!

We went to the County Center FEMA help center and complained to anybody that would listen and finally connected with a FEMA representative who suggested we file a complaint against the insurance company. We did. Each time either of us dealt with a FEMA representative, the following day guaranteed a follow-up customer service survey, asking if the FEMA employee we had worked with was courteous, and answered all our questions. At no point did they ask if the FEMA representative solved our problem, offered a solution to the problem or actually helped us! FEMA does nothing but refer you to other agencies, paid and volunteer. For instance, they said we should apply for a low interest loan from the Small Business Administration for repairs. They also said we should apply to the Red Cross for clothing replacement for any clothing we lost in the flooding. This was not new clothing but used clothing they’ve collected. Fortunately, we had clothes and didn’t need this, allowing their efforts to help those who truly needed clothing. We’re just glad we didn’t need a Katrina-style trailer. Who knows how long that might have taken? And the Town probably has an ordinance against it and a fee charging you for using an emergency trailer on your own property.

We finally got a visit from an adjuster in October, here from Mobile, Alabama. We showed him new cracks in our foundation that a structural engineer later looked at and told me were not threatening. Since they are there, and not threatening, no action will be provided under my structural insurance provided by FEMA. We’ll just have to live with more points of entry for water into my basement during the next storm. Thanks for nothing! The adjuster for the flood insurance requested a list of lost or damaged items, with costs associated for them. We conservatively estimated over $42k worth of loss. He did his inspection and said since this was all contents, we wouldn’t get reimbursed for it. His estimate for the furnace, hot water heater and a/c condenser, flooring, insulation and cleanup costs were $19k. Of that, there is a $5k deductible which is the lowest deductible they offer. In effect, FEMA is saying don’t bother us each time it rains and you get some water. Then there’s a $4k depreciation amount that contradicts the replacement value clause in the insurance policy. In the end, they say we will receive a check for $10.4k. We’re still waiting – five months later.

To add insult to injury, our Town Supervisor visited the neighborhood while we were cleaning up. Talk about rubbing salt into an open wound. We all just wanted him to leave. He began telling everyone that he would ask FEMA to buy us out of our homes and turn our neighborhood into a park. Interestingly, he could have made a small park nearby but chose instead to allow an oversized building be put on a strip of land that would require non-adherance to our building and zoning codes. This isn’t a flooding solution. No, it’s a way out of a bad situation he’s been ignoring and helped create. Buyouts are not the answer for the homeowners who would not only receive below market value for their homes, but then need a place to live and still have a mortgage to pay off. Honesty in Greenburgh politics appears to be a thing of the past.

Our neighborhood believes, and I agree, that his endorsement and encouragement of over-developing the area without regard to water runoff is the leading cause of our flooding problems! It’s the same on the other side of Town by Elmsford and Ardsley. In fact, both entire unincorporated corridors have flooding problems because of over-development and infrastructure abandonment in the unincorporated Town! We also found out that for FEMA to purchase homes in a flood area, the TOWN must do an assessment of the properties before any flooding or claims, enact laws, have state and federal buy-in, etc. In effect, the Supervisors sound bite was nothing more than a ploy to get publicity for himself. What happened to GREENburgh? It’s been sold to the developers.

We’re a few of the “lucky” ones. My husband and I, both downsized, are working and have some income. I feel for the seniors on a fixed income, or the single parents with little or no extra who have lost much or everything to Irene. And how about the people who don’t have flood insurance and will get nothing, compared to our pittance – if and when it ever arrives? Before you permit any more building in the Town, fix the infrastructure - but build it for twenty or thirty years from now. We need relief, not sound bites!

Thanks for allowing me the opportunity to write on your blog. ”
– Rose H.