Five years ago, post-tropical Storm Sandy struck at high tide, driving catastrophic storm surges into coastal New Jersey and New York unlike anything seen before. Thirty-four New Jersey residents lost their lives. Hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses were destroyed, causing over $62 billion in damage. Five years later some areas have recovered. Some have not.
But we don’t live on the coastal area and yet are equally impacted by storms. Newly re-appointed Town Councilman Sheehan discussed Hurricane/Tropical Storm Irene and its impact to Greenburgh specifically and the region in general as a 500-year storm. Sadly, his account was skewed for those residents and businesses that have suffered with just about every storm. But how could this 500-year storm happen?
Some say it’s simple. Development and over-development of our suburban communities has allowed and in Mr Feiner’s case encouraged over-sized buildings on every speck of undeveloped land. Where it is apropos, such as the super Stop and Shop on Rt 119 in the Glenview section of the Town near the Marriot and Sheraton hotels, it is conversely not apropos directly across the street with Brightview Assisted Living, and their oversized behemoth sized building smack dab in the middle of residential homes. Similarly, the proposed apartment building on Dromore Road and/or the Shelborne Assisted Living facility on Underhill Avenue, the site of the former Sprainbrook Nursery. There are more examples, but we’re sure you understand the point.
Many community leaders believe super storms are the new norm, and are increasing efforts to make communities more resilient—a critical component of all recovery efforts. NOAA points to two examples:
· New Jersey’s Brigantine Island community used the recovery phase as an opportunity to elevate the road off the island, strengthen barriers along the oceanfront and bayside, and improve zoning and floodplain ordinances.
· New Jersey’s coastal management program developed a Getting to Resilience program to help communities improve hazard preparedness. As a result, many communities instituted new policies that keep people and infrastructure safer, and also resulted in cost reductions for flood insurance premiums.
This information, while germane to New Jersey and possibly other coastal areas, does little to ameliorate the issues for those Greenburgh residents as well as others who, by proximity to the two major rivers used by the entire county for drainage, are routinely ignored unless a news crew is broadcasting from a flood victims home. And, if you read the various governmental agencies websites, specifically about flooding, they mention risk and vulnerability assessments, public outreach and engagement, planning integration, disaster preparedness and recovery and even hazard mitigation implementation. All of these are things a taxpayer can do after they are flooded and the literal and figurative damage has been done. Yet, the one real solution is missing.
The Bronx River and the Saw Mill River are the two rivers that every community within their confines drain into. As more and more development is squeezed onto any undeveloped property, their storm drainage is guided to one of those rivers – maybe not directly, but ultimately. Hence, with more impervious space unable to now absorb previous rain waters, the runoff is pointed to these two rivers. Ultimately, the lower lying regions that never used to flood before are now inundated by water. Many of those same residents have been flooded so many times that they are forced to sell their homes at a fraction of their original worth. So what’s the solution?
Most flood victims know that FEMA is a pathetic and bloated bureaucracy that is incapable of helping those already affected by flooding. Having lived through numerous hurricanes, we’ve watched FEMA shrug their federal shoulders and walk away from helping those in need. As a response, Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer sponsored and had passed legislation to increase FEMA flood insurance premiums to those in newly districted flood zones. So basically, the people needing help the most get walloped again after not being helped the first time.
The elections are over. The Democrats claim they came out and voted against President Trump. The Republicans are utilizing the same excuse while ignoring the country’s mandate for change by electing President Trump. Sadly, this is the state of politics in our state, county and municipalities. All of the newly elected candidates that won promised to “fight for you” or offered “a new direction.” Really? Not one of them, whether it’s County Executive-elect George Latimer or any County legislator that has one of the two rivers in their district will do anything about flooding because those constituents are too few and far between to be needed for their election/re-election.
The solution? First, a buy-in from every community. They need to participate in cleaning out the river in their community on a regular basis. Second, both rivers need to be dredged and their width and depth increased. Hopefully, the environmentalists will have more compassion for the taxpaying residents than the ducks and other limited wildlife in the rivers’ immediate path. Third, the storm water infrastructure must be upgraded and more importantly, maintained. Fourth, any new, expanded or additional construction must incorporate significant drainage solutions from that location that will not add significantly to the rise of either river during a storm that cannot be controlled. Fifth, variances, a key tool used by Mr Feiner, his Board and others, cannot be allowed for the benefit of developers. Finally, the storm water path to the rivers and the rivers themselves must be allowed to flow unimpeded. This will reduce flooding, damage, accidents and more. It’s time for some new leadership to step up and not bail on the river corridors. Only then will we get A Better Greenburgh.