February 10, 2011

Schumer, Gillibrand Urge Fema To Issue Disaster Declaration For New York City, Long Island And Rensselaer County Following Historic Christmas Storm; Clean Up Costs For New York Taxpayers In Tens Of Millions

Schumer and Gillibrand Press for Quick Approval of New York State's Disaster Declaration Request

Today, U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten E. Gillibrand urged President Obama to quickly approve Governor Cuomo’s request for a Disaster Declaration for New York City, Long Island and Rensselaer County after the devastating storm on December 26th and 27th that buried the areas in over two feet of snow, shut down public transportation for days, and left thousands of streets completely impassable. These cities and towns incurred millions of dollars in costs due to serious damage to homes, businesses, and infrastructure as well as incurring significant emergency costs. In an effort to help local communities and expedite aid, Schumer and Gillibrand today, in a personal letter to President Obama, pushed for an immediate Disaster Declaration, which would allow for millions in federal assistance.

“New York City, Long Island, and Rensselaer County need immediate aid to help recover from this devastating Christmas storm,” Schumer said. “Our first responders and emergency workers worked day and night to clean up after the storm and help the people of New York get back on track. But they shouldn’t be the ones to foot the bill.”

"We've experienced some of the worst weather in recent memory,” said Senator Gillibrand. "Now that Governor Cuomo has requested a federal disaster declaration, I will urge FEMA to come through with the resources New Yorkers need to recover. Residents in Long Island, New York City and Rensselaer should not be left shouldering all of these costs alone.”

The violent storm that slammed New York City and the surrounding areas on December 26th and 27th left a path of destruction unseen in decades. Over 20 inches of snow fell on the area, leaving hundreds of residents stranded in subways and buses, shutting down all of New York’s airports, and leaving hundreds of roads buried in snow for days. On top of record snow, the affected areas were slammed by 30 to 50 mile per hour winds, creating poor visibility, large snow drifts, downed tree limbs, and beach erosion. Local and state officials tried to open the roads in Long Island and New York City, but the storm immobilized ambulances and caused major disruptions to the Long Island Rail Road, Amtrak, Port Authority Bus Terminal, and Metropolitan Transportation Authority. 

Preliminary damage assessments conducted by the New York State Office of Emergency Management and FEMA Region II indicated that the storm was severe, inflicting broad and significant impact. Specifically, these assessments noted that the statewide per capita damages were almost double the $1.30 threshold. Initial joint damage assessments show almost $30 million for snow removal and emergency response in New York City alone.

Emergency crews worked around the clock to clean up the damage.  The storm left cash-strapped communities across New York with hefty cleanup costs, business closures and home and infrastructure repair costs in the millions of dollars. The severity and magnitude of this storm is beyond the capabilities of the effected local governments.

If the President approves the disaster declaration, New York could be in line to receive federal reimbursements for public assistance and hazard mitigation support. These reimbursements cover a wide range of costs including debris removal; overtime reimbursements to municipal employees; repairing/rebuilding public roads, bridges, buildings; and funding to reduce long-term risks to life or property from natural disasters.

 

A copy of Senator Schumer and Gillibrand’s letter to FEMA is below:

The Honorable Barack H. Obama
President of the United States
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, DC 20500

 

The Honorable W. Craig Fugate
Administrator
Federal Emergency Management Agency
Department of Homeland Security
Washington, DC 20472

 

Dear President Obama and Administrator Fugate:

We write today to urge the approval of New York State’s recent request for a federal disaster declaration for Bronx, Kings, Queens, New York, Richmond, Nassau, Suffolk, and Rensselaer counties for the incident period of December 26-27, 2010. This severe winter storm resulted in record snowfall and severe beach erosion, and federal assistance is needed immediately.

Preliminary damage assessments conducted by the New York State Office of Emergency Management and FEMA Region II indicated that the storm was severe, inflicting broad and significant impact. Specifically, these assessments noted that the statewide per capita damages were almost double of the $1.30 threshold. Initial joint damage assessments show almost $30 million for snow removal and emergency response in New York City alone.

On top of record snow, the affected areas were slammed by 30 to 50 mile per hour winds, creating poor visibility, large snow drifts, downed tree limbs, and beach erosion. Local and state officials tried to open the roads in Long Island and New York City, but the storm immobilized ambulances and caused major disruptions to the Long Island Rail Road, Amtrak, Port Authority Bus Terminal, and Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

Federal assistance is absolutely critical to helping New York State recover, and I respectfully urge your expeditious approval of this request.

Thank you for your consideration of this very important issue. Should you need additional information, please contact Grant Kerr at 202-224-6542 or Kevin Fink at 202-224-4451.

     Sincerely,

Charles E. Schumer                                                                                         Kirsten E. Gillibrand

United States Senator                                                                                     United States Senator