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Something is wrong with the way we help victims of hurricanesFamilies continue to suffer without a permanent home
The Fight for Legislation to Assist Flood Victims Continues --ALMOST TWO YEARS AFTER HURRICANE IDA GREENBURGH FLOOD VICTIMS STILL ARE HOMELESS AND THEIR HOMES HAVE NOT YET BEEN REBUILT
SOMETHING IS WRONG WITH THE WAY WE HELP VICTIMS OF HURRICANES
For most of us Hurricane Ida was an annoyance we recovered from, and forgot, long ago. For some, the severe storm of August 2021 that caused flooding significant enough in our county for it to be declared a FEMA disaster zone, continues and is felt daily. And there’s always the threat of the next bad storm.
In 2022 the town applied for, and awaits news on, FEMA funding to raise a handful houses in the Babbitt Court neighborhood along the Saw Mill River Road. Several of these homeowners have not been able to inhabit their homes since. We applied for a grant from FEMA but the process has taken a long time. We still haven't received a final answer whether funding will be awarded.
In the Fairview neighborhood, there’s the young family of Kimona Hanson-Amoah, her three beautiful children and husband, who also haven’t been to back to their Florence Avenue residence in years. They lost their home and all their possessions two years ago when the Manhattan Brook flooded and they have struggled with holding extra jobs to upkeep both a mortgage and a rental ever since. They ask for relief on their property taxes in the house they can’t even live in, for one thing, along with substantial aid to rebuild. Governor Kathy Hochul announced plans to help victims of Ida but the roll out of funding has been delayed until August.
In Albany, legislation that might have provided some relief to this and other families was unfortunately not approved recently in the Assembly, but we are hopeful that the effort to get this flood relief bill through will begin again in January. “If the legislation is approved in Albany it will provide the Hanson family with some good news and valuable help,” said Supervisor Paul Feiner. The legislation was approved by the Senate. But needs to also be approved by the Assembly and signed into law by the Governor.
Assembly Bill A 7748, introduced by Assemblymember MaryJane Shimsky, but which didn’t make it to vote in this season’s last special session, is referred to as the “climate change property tax assessment relief act” and would mean our town assessor in the face of “force of nature” events could apply property tax relief to certain eligible properties most severely affected. Governor Kathy Hochul announced last year plans to assist New Yorkers impacted by deadly storm Ida. It is anticipated that NYS will roll out implementation of assistance in August of this year. It's my hope that Kimona Hanson will qualify for the financial help from Albany so she can rebuild her home.
“Significant financial harm due to storm and flood damage has upended the lives of many people in our region,” said Shimsky. “Unfortunately, with climate change growing worse, we should only expect to hear from more people in Kimona’s situation. That is why I have submitted legislation to bring property tax relief to impacted homeowners, and will continue to fight for its approval in Albany.”
In Kimona’s words: “My family and I have faced unimaginable hardship in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida. Our home was severely damaged, and we lost everything. For the past two years, we have been homeless, working multiple jobs to maintain a mortgage and pay exorbitant rent. Despite our relentless efforts to stay afloat and preserve our credit, the burden of increased taxes has made it increasingly challenging. We find ourselves in a dire situation, with limited funds and a shortfall of $460,000 needed to rebuild our home.”
Every time there is a disaster like Hurricane Ida all levels of government pledge to provide help to the victims. But- as evidenced by the fact that some victims are still homeless almost two years after the hurricane --the process isn't working. We need to evaluate why it has been almost two years since the flood damage and the victims have not gotten their lives back yet.
PAUL FEINERGreenburgh Town Supervisor