MAMARONECK, N.Y. -- Jim Bilotta told Westchester County legislators holding a press conference in his Bilotta Kitchens show room Friday that he spent $3 million repairing flood damage in 2007 and another $1 million after Tropical Storm Irene.
While Legislator Judy Myers (D-Larchmont) called for a renewed focus on flood reduction projects Friday morning, only one of four such projects proposed in 2009 have been completed. Six more haven't gotten out of the preliminary phases, including one in Larchmont's Pine Brook neighborhood.
Many residents, including Charles Love, feel they have been ignored too long and are considering leaving the area for higher ground.
"It's getting worse, it's not getting better," said Love, who lives on Shore Drive, bordering Larchmont's shoreline. "With the hurricane, the Sound came all the way up to my driveway."
Bilotta, whose business is on Mamaroneck Avenue, warned that if nothing is done to stop future flooding in Mamaroneck, businesses won't spend money to rebuild. Instead, he said, they will leave.
"We need more flooding projects moving forward from communities being hardest hit," said Myers. "It's just not fair to make people wait for help when they desperately need it now."
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is conducting a 30-month study of Westchester's flooding problems. However Myers and legislators Bill Ryan (D-White Plains) and MaryJane Shimsky (D-Hastings-on-the-Hudson) are calling for more immediate action.
Four flood mitigation projects began in 2009 as part of a $4.5 million bond. The Gardens Lake project in the Town of Mamaroneck was completed while the rest have been stuck in design and planning. Six others - in New Rochelle, Yonkers, Briarcliff Manor, Harrison, Larchmont, Pelham and Bronxville - are still in the preliminary stages.
Further complicating things, all three legislators noted, is County Executive Rob Astorino's proposed $34 million decrease to the funding committed in 2007 over five years to flood mitigation projects. In 2007, county legislators approved more than $54 million for the Flood Mitigation Initiative, which would partner with local governments and other agencies on flooding projects.
"It is absolutely critical to begin making progress on flood mitigation, which is becoming a persistent problem in too many parts of Westchester," Shimsky said.
Down the street from Bilotta's custom cabinetry business, the owner of Tri-City Auto Parts, Vincent Marconi, is fed up with the flooding on Mamaroneck Avenue.
"Where we sit seems to be a dumping ground," he said.
Myers, tongue-in-cheek, said she will ask Astorino to tour Mamaroneck's flooded areas for the first time when he attends the Mamaroneck Library's ribbon-cutting ceremony Saturday. She noted he did tour the City of Rye, which had around 200 businesses damaged from flooding, a comparable amount to Mamaroneck, she said.
We are going to lose businesses here," Myers said. "We cant afford to lose businesses and the jobs they create or homeowners."
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