Nearly 70 Families Displaced, Homes Damaged and Destroyed After Saranac River Flooded
New Homes Are Now Ready For Occupancy for First Five Families
Governor's Plan Includes Extensive Infrastructure Fixes to Reduce Risk of Future Flooding and Protect Residents
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced the first five families at Underwood Estates in Plattsburgh are returning home today, marking a major step forward in the community's rebuilding efforts since it was devastated by ice jam flooding on the Saranac River in January. The Governor visited shortly after the flooding and launched a comprehensive plan to provide short-term housing for displaced residents in the community, which serves low- and moderate-income families. The state's efforts are supporting long-term rebuilding plans and helping protect the community from future extreme weather damage.
The majority of residents will receive brand new homes as a result of emergency legislation passed by the state legislature and then quickly signed by Governor Cuomo shortly after the flood. The next seven homes are in the process of being sited and all homes returning to Underwood are expected to be complete by mid-September.
"This community is on track for a full recovery, and as we build homes stronger than ever before, our communities will be better equipped to withstand the threat of ice jams and flooding in the future," Governor Cuomo said. "New York is fulfilling a promise to the residents of Underwood Estates and I am proud of the state and local agencies who have stepped up and continue to help these Plattsburgh families return home."
This past winter, wildly fluctuating temperatures caused more than 50 ice jams across New York. State agencies were deployed to assess the severe weather damage and worked with local officials throughout the state to mitigate flooding near rivers and streams. In Plattsburgh, at Underwood Estates, nearly 70 mobile homes were evacuated when ice jams caused the Saranac River to flood.
To help the community recover and rebuild, Governor Cuomo:
- Advanced a program bill to make up to $7 million available for the repair or replacement of damaged homes, which made the delivery of the homes announced today possible;
- Provided emergency rental payment assistance to help displaced residents find safe, affordable housing elsewhere in Clinton County, which was combined with local support to provide consistent housing since the flooding; and
- Fast-tracked the reconstruction of the damaged protective berm on the property
Protections for Residents
As a condition of state funding for siting new homes at Underwood, the Governor negotiated a memorandum of understanding with the park owner that protects the long-term housing security for park residents, and ensures all improvements are executed and the park is properly maintained. The agreement limits how much the park owner can raise lot rents for existing residents and ensures that residents have the right to long-term renewal leases.
Repairing and Replacing Flood Damaged Homes
The Governor successfully advanced a program bill to modify the existing Homes and Community Renewal Mobile and Manufactured Home Replacement Program to make up to $7 million available to repair or replace damaged homes. The legislation enabled the New York State Department of Housing and Community Renewal to provide eligible residents with replacement homes at Underwood.
The rapid rehousing effort is being executed with local partners, including Friends of the North Country and Housing Assistance Program of Essex County, who have worked tirelessly to identify temporary relocation units, qualify displaced residents for the program, and assist in ordering new homes. Two locally based manufactured housing retailers, Plattsburgh Housing Outlet and Plattsburgh Wholesale Homes, have supplied homes for nearly all displaced residents and are now working full-time to re-site new homes at Underwood.
As new homes are sited, new foundations are being placed at an elevation no less than one foot above the base flood level to ensure that new homes remain protected. Improvements continue to be made throughout Underwood Estates to make it ready for the new homes, including replacement of the entire electrical system, upgrades to the drainage system, and removal of trees that posed health and safety risks. Park residents had the option to place their new home in Underwood Estates or another location that met requirements for the replacement program.
Launch Three Month Rental Assistance Program
New York State Homes and Community Renewal, Clinton County, the non-profit Housing Assistance Program of Essex County, and Clinton County Housing Assistance Program (HAPEC/CCHAP) have been providing grant funding for emergency rental assistance to displaced residents of Underwood Estates.
State funds disbursed by HAPEC/CCHAP have covered security deposits and up to 100 percent of rental payments up to the maximum Section 8 standard for the region and household size. Since federal law limits the subsidy to three months, State support has been combined with local programs to ensure that displaced residents have had a consistent place to call home while new homes were constructed and repairs to Underwood Estates made.
Expedite the Reconstruction of a Berm
At the Governor's direction, the State has been working with the private owner of Underwood Estates to expedite the reconstruction of the berm protecting Underwood Estates from the Saranac River.
The park owner has committed to making the necessary repairs to the protective berm by November of this year. State, county and city representatives have been working with the park owner and the owner's engineering consultant to meet that goal. Plans for repairing the berm include extending the length of the berm on the western portion of the property, repairing and providing necessary maintenance over the length of the existing berm, and addressing improvements to the drainage controls as part of the berm to prevent rising river waters from entering the park through existing infrastructure. In addition, as the new homes are being sited, the 'finished floor' elevations of the homes are set above base-flood elevations to provide additional protection.
HCR Commissioner RuthAnne Visnauskas said, "Thanks to Governor Cuomo's leadership, these five Plattsburgh families are back on their feet and living in new, safe homes with guarantees that they will remain affordable for the long-term. The monumental effort to build Underwood Estates back stronger and smarter continues, and we look forward to welcoming more families who will be able to enjoy their new homes free from worry before winter's return."
DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said, "When natural disasters strike, New Yorkers can count on Governor Cuomo to help communities in need. The severe flooding caused by ice jams this past winter resulting from another extreme weather event underscores the importance of sound disaster preparedness and response plans. Governor Cuomo responded immediately to ensure the people of Plattsburgh had the resources necessary to recover and rebuild their community. Today's announcement is bringing families displaced by flooding one step closer to home."
Senator Betty Little said, "I am pleased to honor our commitment to help the residents of Underwood Mobile Home Park recover from the catastrophic flood damage sustained this past winter. I am grateful to the Governor, State agencies and our many local partners for their collaborative efforts. It is truly gratifying to see these deserving families finally have a safe, decent and affordable place to call home."
Assembly Member Billy Jones said, "Seven months ago, roughly 70 families were displaced from their homes due to a natural disaster. State and local officials as well as members of the community quickly stepped up to help residents of Underwood Estates during their time of need. Today, we take a big step forward in rebuilding the devastated areas and putting families back in their homes."
Clinton County Chairman Harry McManus said, "Today's event is a culmination of a lot of hard work and a perfect example of how government can play a positive role an impact in the lives of our citizens I'd like to thank Governor Cuomo for realizing the need for state involvement and quickly putting together a team of state and local officials to ameliorate the devastation that occurred last winter. The Governor is a true friend and kept his word when he said no New Yorker will be left behind."
Plattsburgh Mayor Colin Read said, "I appreciate all that the Governor and his agencies have done to return a sense of normalcy to the lives so dramatically altered by this natural disaster. Sometimes, as in the case here, good public policy occurs to help a dozen or many dozen families at a time. Thank you, Albany, for coming to our rescue and by improving existing legislation so that it can help those similarly situated in the future. I would also like to extend my gratitude to Senator Betty Little and her office for all that they did to help facilitate."
Friends of the North Country Executive Director Scott Cambell said, "The response to the January flood at Underwood illustrates the resiliency and neighborhood spirit of the North Country - from the residents that endured the flood, the Governor, the human services response, the manufactured home vendors, the non-profit housing companies, the county, the city, our legislators, this event shows how working together - works."
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