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Larchmont Taxpayers Wary of Flood Mitigation

LARCHMONT, N.Y. -- Charles Love is tired of having his front lawn flooded every time it rains and wants to see his flood-prone neighborhood fixed. But he understands that revamping the area's 100-plus-year-old infrastructure could cost hundreds of millions of dollars, likely driving middle-class residents like himself out of the county in taxes alone.

"You're stuck between a rock and a hard place living in this area," said Love, whose Shore Drive home runs along the shoreline.

Not only has his lawn and backyard flooded regularly since moving to Larchmont and building his home in 1981, but his taxes go up roughly $1,000 to $1,500 each year, he said. He said this makes him a tad weary of a bill like Assemblyman George Latimer's (D - Rye) State Flood Mitigation Fund that calls for $30 million over the next three years to fund various capitol projects.

The bill -- A.00044 -- was originally proposed after the 2007 Nor'easter flood and is currently gathering signatures. It looks to fund projects that would reduce future flooding in southern Westchester through a state-wide grant program run by the Department of Environmental Conservation, taking some of the burden off local taxpayers, like Love.

"Westchester County has previously committed to an annual allocation for flood mitigation, but the state needs to do its share," wrote Latimer in a press release, acknowledging that the money "comes from all of us as taxpayers."

While Love said he would love to see new water-retention systems, pipes to carry more water away from homes, dredging narrow streambeds, raising low bridges and other public works projects identified in Latimer's legislation, he doesn't believe the state or federal government would get behind the bill, which the press release states could easily total over $100 million in Westchester alone.

"Every affected community is working on projects, but no city, town or village alone can undertake the kind of public works projects that are needed," wrote Latimer. "These are the kinds of projects that this state fund must help support."

Local officials, like Larchmont Mayor Josh Mandell, have sought federal aid for such projects. Richard Slingerland, Village of Mamaroneck manager, also continues to pursue federal aid for several projects comparable to those proposed in Latimer's bill.

"We're constantly making applications to the federal government," Slingerland said. "We're in the process of upgrading our flood emergency plan to an all hazard emergency plan, and that'll improve our chances to get federal aid and state aid for emergency repairs and damage prevention as well."

Last year, the village spent between $90,000 and $100,000 on drenching and cleaning the Sheldrake and Mamaroneck rivers, which run through both villages. Over the next three months, they plan to spend $3 million, in cooperation with the Town of Rye, on improving the Jefferson Avenue Bridge, which was one of the areas that had to be closed Thursday due to flooding.

Love, who owns his own plumbing business, was inundated with calls to pump out basements Thursday after seven inches of rainfall over the course of 48 hours caused flooding in many Larchmont homes. Although Love's backyard received three feet of water, his basement didn't flood like many of his neighbors.

"We're in a flood zone," said Maryann De Feis, of Flint Avenue. "The water table is very low and it can't sustain all this rain in a short amount of time."

De Feis, whose basement flooded with one foot of water Thursday and five after Hurricane Irene, is also skeptical.

"To alleviate this would take a heck of a lot of money," said the 16-year Larchmont resident. "If there was an answer we would know about it, we would have done it already. Mother nature trumps everything."

While Latimer gathers sponsors on his bill, standing water sits idle on Love's front lawn, an issue he has tried to address over the years.

"I've been after the village for 10 years," said Love, who has suggested installing more than one storm drain on his street. "The back floods, then it all comes out here and it sits for days."

Was your home or business effected by this week's heavy rainfall? Comment below, on Facebook and Twitter.

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