Press Release

Schumer, Gillibrand Urge FEMA to Approve Major Disaster Declaration for Westchester & Rockland Counties

Nov 1, 2012

Today, U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten E. Gillibrand urged FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate to approve New York State’s anticipated request and declare a federal state of emergency for Westchester and Rockland Counties in light of the severe flooding in the Hudson Valley following Sandy. In their letter, the Senators pointed out that neighboring counties in New York City and Long Island have already received a major disaster declaration, and that the devastation in Westchester and Rockland Counties, including flooding, loss of electricity, significant damage to businesses and homes, and even death, clearly warrants the same major declaration. Specifically, Schumer and Gillibrand are requesting approval of the state’s request for FEMA Individual Assistance and Public Assistance, Categories A-G, for Westchester and Rockland Counties.

“The Hudson Valley has been hammered with severe flooding and dangerous debris in the wake of Sandy, and Westchester and Rockland Counties have borne the brunt of the damage,” said Senator Schumer. “They deserve the same federal emergency resources that neighboring communities on Long Island and in New York City are getting, so that they can rebuild after this lethal storm. This federal disaster assistance is necessary because it will give reassurance to our communities that the federal government will be there to help as they continue their response efforts and begin to recover from the storm. We strongly urge the President and FEMA to grant this designation and approve New York State’s anticipated request as quickly as possible.”

“Hurricane Sandy left a trail of destruction in its wake that sadly didn’t spare the Hudson Valley,” said Senator Gillibrand. “We can’t let anything stand in the way of our effort to begin to clean up and rebuild. Let’s make this disaster declaration official and bring all necessary federal resources to bear without any delay.”

Westchester and Rockland Counties have been hit particularly hard by Hurricane Sandy. Three individuals from Westchester County were killed as a result of the storm. In addition, communities like Yonkers, Rye, Port Chester, Mamoroneck, New Rochelle and other Sound Shore communities have experienced massive damage. In Westchester County, there are about 200,000 Con Edison and NYSEG customers without power and tens of thousands of Rockland residents have also lost power. A significant percentage of the individual communities have gone without power since the storm hit on Monday evening. Throughout both counties, hundreds of roads had to be closed due to downed trees and power lines, many schools are closed for a full week. There are also a great deal of downed trees, infrastructure damage, road, bridge and drainage problems throughout the region. 

A copy of the Senators’ letter appears below: 

Dear Administrator Fugate, 

                We are writing in strong support of New York State’s request to add the Counties of Rockland and Westchester to Major Disaster Declaration FEMA-4085-DR. Specifically, we support the state’s request to add Individual Assistance and Public Assistance (Categories A through G), along with the state’s request to add Public Assistance Categories C through G for the already declared counties of Bronx, Kings, Nassau, New York, Queens, Richmond, and Suffolk. This request is necessary to meet the urgent needs of the residents of these counties, which experienced significant amounts of damage due to Hurricane Sandy. It is our understanding that this request is currently under review by FEMA, and we urge its immediate approval.

            It is clear to us that the amount of damage experienced by the residents of Rockland and Westchester Counties will exceed the county disaster thresholds. Both counties have experienced significant amounts of flooding, downed trees and power lines, damage to roadways and other infrastructure. The sound shore communities in Westchester and communities along the Hudson River in Rockland and Westchester were hit the hardest with extensive flooding of homes, businesses, and municipal facilities. Throughout both counties, hundreds of roads had to be closed due to downed trees and power lines, many schools are closed for a full week. Additionally, hundreds of thousands of residents have been without power for 3 days, with outages expected to continue up to another week in many cases. Local and state officials have expressed to us that FEMA assistance is urgently needed to effectively respond to the impacts of this storm and protect public safety. Furthermore, given the extent of damage to the public infrastructure of New York City and Long Island, we urge you to approve Public Assistance Categories C-G as expeditiously as possible. 

            We are grateful for the prompt attention that you and the entire federal government have given to quickly responding to this disaster, and for your commitment to cutting bureaucratic red-tape so that assistance can be provided as quickly and efficiently as possible. In that spirit, we strongly urge you to approve this request.