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April 9, 2014

Sens: Sidney to see $1.7M in FEMA funds

By Jessica Reynolds Staff Writer
The Daily Star

---- — Sens. Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand announced Tuesday that $1.7 million in federal funding will go toward buying and demolishing severely flood-damaged buildings and properties in the village of Sidney, officials said. 

In the wake of Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee, many buildings and properties in Delaware County, and particularly Sidney, were damaged beyond repair, the release said. It doesn't make sense to rebuild because the area is a flood hazard zone where there is consistent severe flooding, the release said. Demolishing the structures was the preferred plan of Delaware County.

John Redente, a village of Sidney trustee, said the village has been waiting for this funding for some time. The Federal Emergency Management Agency allocates the federal money to the county, which will buy out the property and turn it into “green space,” he said.

“This is something we've been planning and wanting to do for a long time,” Redente said.

“Green space,” Redente said, means the pieces of land will be "recycled" and turned into well-kept, park-like parcels of open space, where building will be prohibited. The village is hoping, specifically, to turn the land into an “edible walking trail,” he said.

Sidney's mayor, Andy Matviak, said he is very excited to hear the news.

“This is a really positive step toward helping us reduce the impact of future flooding,” Matviak said. “Our residents have been waiting for more than two years to get this funding and it is very promising for them and the entire village. I want to thank Sen. Gillibrand and Sen. Schumer for working very hard to secure this funding.”

Matviak said the village wants to relocate residents who qualify for the buyouts.

“We'd like to keep them in the village,” he said, “but we are looking into building a community outside the village where they can be transplanted.”

The FEMA Hazard Mitigation Grant will cover 75 percent of Delaware County’s project to buyout and tear down the properties in this flood-prone location, the release said.

“The double whammy of Irene and Lee damaged a lot of properties — and sometimes tearing down these blighted properties and opening up space is the best path forward for the community, especially when those properties are in a high flood-risk area,” Schumer said.

The funding is pursuant to the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, Section 404 and 44, the release said. Funds were previously awarded for this project on March 26, 2013, in the amount of $3,154,612 and on September 24, 2013, in the amount of $265,661.

Gillibrand said she feels Delaware County deserves the funding after enduring some of the “very worst of back-to-back extreme weather.” Flooding has cost the county farmland, crops, homes, businesses, roads and bridges, she said.

“This is an important investment that can go a long way in strengthening the resiliency of our communities, and preventing big costs down the road,” Gillibrand said. “In the place of flooded buildings, we will gain new green space in our community.”

After acquiring the properties and demolishing all structures, the county will fill any basements, place topsoil over the sites, grade and seed. The properties then will be turned over to the municipality to be maintained as open space.

Said Schumer: “I’m glad we could get federal funds behind Delaware County’s plan to take down these flood-prone structures, remove the black mark they put on the neighborhood and open up green space in their stead.”