MAMARONECK, N.Y. – Although a year has passed since Hurricane Irene hit the New York coast line, one neighborhood in Mamaroneck still feels the effects of the damage.
Howard Avenue, which sits in between Mamaroneck Avenue and the Mamaroneck River, has always been a neighborhood prone to flooding issues, according to Executive Director of the Westchester County Habitat for Humanity Jim Killoran. But, the impacts of the 2007 nor’easter and Hurricane Irene left the neighborhood devastated both physically and emotionally.
“You can’t even image what this area looked like,” homeowner Keith Wizar said as he pointed to the row of houses on the street and then to the river. “You can’t imagine what this little creek looks like when it’s running like a torrent.”
Wizar’s home was under about 7 feet of water, the house down the street had to be evacuated in the middle of the night by firemen in boats, the shed from the Baptist church on the corner was picked up and moved 1,000 feet down the road. Also, Myraim Valle’s foundation was disconnected from the main part of her home; she still hasn’t been able to return.
“I think we can take this neighborhood back and fix this problem instead of it being this long-term solution and blaming it on the taxpayers,” Killoran said.
Local laws now prohibit new developments to be built on ground level on Howard Avenue and other flood-prone areas, but the laws don’t really help home and business owners who are already there, they actually hinder them.
“The law says now that we have to raise these houses, but there’s no way to raise these houses; some of them have basements,” said Wizar.
Both Wizar and Killoran said they felt that overdevelopment in upstream cities, such as White Plains, is the main cause for the massive flooding that occurs in Mamaroneck. Wizar, who has lived on Howard Avenue for decades, said he had seen the neighborhood flood before, but never to the extent that it did during the 2007 and 2011 storms.
“They have taken the brunt and the burden of the overdevelopment in White Plains and other upstream places. The lack of cleaning in Saxon Woods, all the concrete and parking lots contributed to this flooding,” said Killoran about Howard Avenue. “These people lived here before the malls. This isn't fair to them. I’m not against White Plains or anything, but we can do better.”
Most of the damage on Howard Avenue, thanks to help from the Habitat for Humanity, has been fixed. The Habitat for Humanity bought the property of one condemned home on Howard Avenue, tore it down, and rebuilt a new home above flood level. But for some, like Valle, who is still forced to live with her parents, the memories of Irene haven’t faded away just yet.