Governor Andrew Cuomo was in Plattsburgh on Wednesday with some big announcements. He said the state will provide up to $7 million to help residents of a mobile home park that flooded last month.
An ice jam on the Saranac River in the southern part of the city caused the flooding in Underwood Estates, which is home to about 200 people.
Cuomo visited Underwood Estates mobile home community to see the damage for himself. It was a ghost town – more than half of the residents haven’t been able to return home yet. The governor stepped into one of the flooded trailers and it reeked of mold. “Nothing you can do here,” Cuomo said.
Outside, resident Earl Dresser was skeptical. To him it looked like a photo op. “The governor, it’s nice to see him, but you know, we’ve had a lot of people here,” Dresser said. “They’re here but that doesn’t mean anything.”
Dresser said he needs thousands of dollars in repairs and cleanup, and no one has been able to help with that so far. Officials have said the costs aren’t high enough to qualify for traditional sources of state and federal aid. But at his next stop at Clinton Community College, Governor Cuomo had good news for residents like Dresser.
“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,” Cuomo said.
The governor is proposing a new bill to help the Underwood Estates residents. Each family would be eligible for up to $100,000 to repair or replace their trailer.
Existing laws allow that kind of state aid for people who own both their mobile home and their land. Cuomo’s bill would change that rule so it includes people who lease their land. It will be a while before that actually happens, though. The state legislature needs to review the plan and pass it into law first. But Cuomo was confident.
“I give you my word that at the end of the day, by hook or by crook, one way or the other,” Cuomo said, “we’re going to get these 70 families the help they need.”
Other parts of the state’s relief effort are already underway. The state has launched a program to help cover displaced residents’ rent for the next three months. Cuomo also said the State Department of Environmental Conservation will fast-track a project to rebuild a berm along the Saranac River to prevent more flooding in the future.
Assemblyman Billy Jones and Senator Betty Little have been working with the city on the flood situation. Little thanked the governor. “It’s a very small number of people when you consider the millions of people that live in New York State, but today those people are just as important as anybody, any place in the state,” she said.
City Mayor Colin Read said the governor’s announcement was “transformational.”
“Giving people three months to start getting their lives put back together, as we do the rebuilding, was essential. Then to hear the great news of actually having a path for rebuilding – I thought that would take actually much, much longer,” Read said.
Cuomo said this funding is just for Underwood Estates, even though there have been more than 50 ice jam-related floods in the state since mid-January. He said state agencies have been working with local officials to help in those places.