December 03, 2009

Schumer, Gillibrand Urge State To Request Immediate Federal Disaster Declaration For Long Island Beaches Devastated By Recent Storms; Senators Pledge Support For Efforts

Initial Estimates Show Upwards of $35 million Worth of Damage in Suffolk Alone - Well Above Required Minimum to be Eligible for Federal Disaster Aid

Today, U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand called on New York State to request a federal disaster declaration as soon as possible for the Long Island beaches ravaged by recent storms in order to make them and other nearby beaches eligible for federal disaster aid to pay for the significant repairs required. Schumer and Gillibrand said that the initial damage estimates show that Long Island is well above the required minimum needed to be eligible for aid. After the State requests the declaration, Schumer and Gillibrand can push the Administration for swift approval. Damage and erosion up and down the Long Island shore line have created a near crisis situation, with dunes so severely eroded they are at risk for breach this winter.  FEMA is set to tour Suffolk's damage this week with State and local emergency management officials.

"We have to do a full court press at all levels of government because Long Island's precious beaches are in dangerous condition and need this disaster aid now," Schumer said. "The disaster declaration request will allow us at the federal level to push for quick approval of the desperately needed funding."

"It is critical that we open up additional funds for the replenishment of Long Island's beaches as quickly as possible," Senator Gillibrand said. "We cannot just sit here and wait for a severe winter storm to devastate our coastal communities throughout Suffolk County and Fire Island. Once Governor Paterson requests a federal disaster declaration, I will work with Senator Schumer to ensure FEMA comes through on their part. Long Island's residents should not be left shouldering all of the cost."

The Senators' letter to the Governor is below:

The Honorable David A. Paterson
Governor of New York
State Capitol
Albany, N.Y. 12224

Dear Governor Paterson,

We are writing to request your immediate attention to the storm damage that has occurred on Long Island recently and ask that you request a federal disaster declaration from FEMA. This declaration has the potential to open up federal dollars, which will aid the local communities in rebuilding the shoreline.

The effects of Tropical Storm Ida can be seen from Fire Island to Montauk Point to Gilgo Beach. On Long Island alone, the damage has been assessed at over $30 million. These areas consist of public properties owned by Suffolk County, townships and villages, mostly along the south shore.

As you know, Long Island's beaches are more than scenery; they protect homes and communities from dangerous storm surges. After all, Fire Island is Long Island's only natural barrier. In addition, these beaches are destinations for millions of visitors a year and generate millions of dollars in local economic activity. As a result of this storm, beaches have been left decimated and are extremely vulnerable to further erosion that may occur this winter should another storm hit. In some locations, the dunes have been left fully exposed - leaving no protection.

Earlier this year, the communities on Fire Island paid over $35 million to replenish their beaches in anticipation of considerable erosion this coming winter. Our offices have heard that more than half of this newly-deposited sand is now gone, only months after the project was completed. In the Town of Babylon, Gilgo Beach was hit particularly hard. The high tide line is now only 150 feet from Ocean Parkway. If the erosion there isn't reversed, the next storm could destroy the road and even the beach, causing the waters to wash over into the Great South Bay. 

State, Federal and local officials will meet to continue the damage assessment tour the shoreline damage in Suffolk County. We are confident that the results of the assessment will merit a request for federal funds and stand ready to urge FEMA to support an equivalent declaration so these funds can be accessed.

Again, we urge you to issue a disaster declaration so that these communities will not be left alone to shoulder these costs.

Sincerely,

Charles E. Schumer
United States Senator      

Kirsten E. Gillibrand
United States Senator