BY MICHAEL RICONDA
SUFFERN – As part of the ongoing effort to prepare Suffern for future weather emergencies, representatives with NY Rising’s Community Rising program hosted a public information and input session on July 22, offering many options for the village’s $3 million in grant funds but few which residents say match the urgency of residential flood remediation.
Though presenters with NY Rising presented broad goals for the grant, residents seemed intent on directing the money first and foremost toward storm resiliency in high-risk residential areas.
The latest progress on the plan involved the identification of assets within the town. Broadly speaking, the NYRCR hoped to pinpoint businesses, residential areas, public utilities, emergency services, cultural and recreational spots, industrial facilities and areas with particularly vulnerable aged populations.
Other critical issue which NY Rising hopes to include in the plan relate to emergency access, erosion, road and business closures and other storm damage and emergencies. The scope of the project will be limited to Suffern’s village limits except for a small parcel of land south of Suffern along the Mahwah River where flooding can back up into the village itself.
The goals, however, were perceived by many as loftier than anticipated. Initially dedicated to flood resiliency in the areas of the Squire’s Gate community and residences near Lake Antrim, draft goals now include elements such as enhanced infrastructure, revitalized downtown businesses and the promotion of cultural attractions alongside other flood remediation priorities.
Not all residents consider broad distribution of the relatively meager $3 million grant to be wise. Suffern resident Lynn Connery agreed the money should be used as efficiently as possible, but maintained flood mitigation in problem areas needed to be a top priority.
“We were under the impression that it would be used for flooding not only for Squire’s Gate but for the other areas that flood,” Connery explained. “Now everybody wants a piece of the pie.”
Robert Wiater, who also resides in the Village, agreed. Wiater explained many of the secondary goals could be addressed with large-scale projects meant to make the most of the grant.
“I’d like to see flood mitigation as the principal goal, which really has not been emphasized in this presentation,” Wiater said. “If we want to plan for reducing the effects of future hurricanes or flooding, we should try to mitigate. We should focus on doing what we can to use the quarry or other systems that can lessen the negative impact of flooding.”
Resident Richard O’Neill was open to limited spending for emergency services, but agreed anybody who was flooded deserved priority treatment in accordance with the initial grant announcement.
“It’s a personal issue and I’d like to see it squared away,” “Until you live through it, you don’t know what it’s like.”
With the community asset inventory progressing nearing completion, New York Rising will soon assess risks to these assets with the hopes of addressing as many problem areas as possible.
The plan is still in a preliminary stage and will not be set in stone until December 2014 at the latest. It is being designed by a nine resident committee with input from the public, assistance from consultants and state officials and foundational information from prior plans and studies.
The $3 million subsidy for development and implementation of the plan came courtesy of the federal government via the state’s Community Development Block Grant program. About $4.4 billion will be distributed throughout New York, with $664 million going through NYRCR.