Wednesday, April 18, 2007

WHAT SHOULD THE TOWN DO TO HELP MERCHANTS ON E HARTSDALE AVE WHO WERE FLOODED AND TEMPORARILY OUT OF BUSINESS?

I would like to invite you to provide me and other town officials with your thoughts re: how we can help merchants on E Hartsdale Ave.
As you all know, we experienced a horrible flood this past week. About half the businesses in the downtown area of Hartsdale (E Hartsdale Ave) experienced flooding and have been closed -- temporarily. Some could be out for days or weeks. Many did not have flood insurance and lost tens of thousands of dollars.
The county is seeking financial help from Washington & Albany to help those who experienced flooding. I spoke to high level county officials yesterday. However... that could take time. I'm working with the county to make sure that those who suffered financial losses receive the maximum dollars and help possible.
I am also planning to reach out to the Business Council of Westchester and other business advocacy groups seeking advice. I'm assigning student interns to research models that have been used by other communities around the nation --to help businesses that have experienced flood related problems.
I know that bloggers are full of ideas. Your suggestions are welcome and will be followed up.

19 comments:

Independent investigation required said...

One way to help the devastated businesses along East Hartsdale Avenue is for the town to launch an independent investigation into the reasons why the flooding in that section of town -- which does not abut any bodies of water -- was so severe.

An independent investigation is needed because there are reasons to believe the town itself may have contributed to the disaster.

The flooding resulted principally from water accumulating at the lower level of the Hartsdale Parking garage, then spilling over behind the stores, with no place to drain.

Town drains which could have removed the water appear to have been clogged, possibly with debris from the recent garage reconstruction.

As a result, water rose rapidly, flooding the basements and then, by around 9 p.m. Sunday night, water began pouring out of the stores onto East Hartsdale Avenue itself. So intense was the water pressure that firefighers and police had to force open the front doors to allow the water to escape.

Of course, no one can plan for a record-breaking deluge that happens maybe once or twice every 100 years.

But here, however, it appears that the damages could have been far less extensive if, before the storm, the town had cleared the drains.

On the Friday before the storm, the town supervisor issued the following statement, assuring the public and property owners that the town was being proactive to do just that. The statement said:

"The town is working - trying to be proactive. We want to address the anticipated storm (the weather service is predicting a storm on Sunday). We are clearing drains, basins, obstructions, brooks. Obviously, we won't be able to prevent flooding. But, we're trying to minimize the problem."

In fact, contrary to Feiner's assurances, it appears that the drains behind the stores on East Hartsdale Avenue were not cleared prior to the storm. There are also drains along the drainage canal behind the apartment buildings that apparently weren't cleared either.

Rumor has it that ever eager to pass the buck and shift liability from itself to others, the town is now saying it was the responsibility of the property owners for clearing the drains. Rumor has it that the town is even considering issuing citations to these property owners.

Hopefully that's not the case, but regardless, in light of the tremendous loss of property, an independent investigation into the causes of this disaster is required.

Anonymous said...

FYI bloggers are the people who write blogs. Those who comment on blog posts are just commenters.

Hartsdale Parking said...

The drains have been backing up long before the HPPD started construction on the Site A Garage. The HPPD actually did a video inspection of all the drains and the culverts from one end of the garage to the other - they are crystal clear. We provided the Town with a copy of the video inspection. There is one storm drain outlet under the Town's right-of-way which is completely clogged with tree branches, not construction material. If we were the cause of the clog our 48" underground drainage system would have debris in it. The only other blockage was behind 180 East Hartsdale avenue - the inlet to the culvert behind their property had no screen or grate to protect debris from entering and/or clogging the inlet. It was completely engulfed with branches, tree stumps, large rocks, debris., etc. Again, our system which runs from one end to the other is absolutely clear - 48" clear all around. You should verify facts before you make accusations.

Anonymous said...

I was on East Hartsdale Avenue when the water started backing up. The service road behind the stores was under water before the garage took on water. The water was gushing up out of all the storm drains in the area. It wasnt' that the drains were clogged. There was simply more water than the storm drain system could handle. East Hartsdale Avenue was not an isolated incident. Storm drains systems backed up all over the county. Overdevelopment is more likely a cause of the flooding. There is less and less impervious surface to collect and maintain storm water. All of the stores are pumping their water into the storm drains - the water is flowing. Nothing is backed up. If the drains were clogged the water wouldn't be flowing through the drainage system. Duh?

Independent investigation needed said...

Sounds like an independent investigation is definitely in order.

Hartsdale Parking says the drains have been backing up long before HPPD started construction, that its own drains were clear, that there was one drain on the town right of way that was clogged, and the inlet to the culvert behind 180 East Hartsdale Avenue had no screens and was "completely engulfed" with debris.

If true, sounds like all of that could easily have contributed to the severity of the situation.

Someone else said it wouldn't have made any difference because there was just more water than the town's storm drain system could handle, clogged or unclogged.

If true, that too is cause for an independent investigation.

This is not about finger-pointing, although Feiner's pre-storm press release assuring the public that the drains were being unclogged does raise issues about what the town actually did or didn't do.

This is instead about finding out what happened and making sure it doesn't happen again.

Anonymous said...

I was traveling west on East Hartsdale Avenue at around 6:30 p.m. Sunday and drove behind the garage to turn around and travel east.

At the top of the road leading to the garage, water was pouring out of the culvert behind the apartments at 180 East Hartsdale onto the road and filling up the service road.

I didn't see any storm drains gushing down there. And I got a pretty good look too. The police had set up a barrier preventing motorists from using the road between Harry's and the bank. So, I had to drive through the lower level of the garage, which at that time was still relatively dry.

I came by a few hours later, at around 10 p.m., and saw the water gushing out of K-Fung's front door. I stopped the car, got out, took a look behind the buildings, and saw that the lower level of the parking garage was now completely under water, and rising rapidly.

At no time did I see any water gushing out of any drains behind the stores. For sure, there was water gushing from drains in other parts of the neighborhood, but not from behind the stores.

Watching the water fill up behind the stores was like watching an open faucet at full strength filling a bathtub.

I think the storeowners are owed an explanation as to what caused this.

Anonymous said...

I wonder what Al Regula will have to say about this.

hal samis said...

"Do you solemnly swear to tell the truth and nothing but the truth so help you God?"

"I do.

"Please state your name for the record."

"Anonymous".

"No further questions, your Honor."

Anonymous said...

I think the cause of the big flood on East Hartsdale Ave. is from all the tears from the people always crying in Edgemont.

Anonymous said...

once again, no heat in 150 e. hartsdale - flood related?

Anonymous said...

An investigation might be worthwhile if Greenburgh was alone. However, severe flooding took place in almost every town in Westchester and the tri state area. Greenburgh was hit as hard as other communities in the tri state region.

Anonymous said...

Three observations ...

To "Duh?" Water does flow through clogged drains, but at a slower pace, which is what the problem was in many locations.

The affected business owners aren't helpless. They can take the initiative, as well, to seek remedies.

Realize that in the big picture of Westchester County, East Hartsdale Avenue is probably a lower priority. So many other municipalities were hit significantly harder than Greenburgh.

Anonymous said...

Greenburgh has an unprecedented opportunity - let's not blow it again. Let the landlord on the even numbered side of East Hartsdale Avenue's commercial strip take his insurance money and abandon the property. The Town could then acquire it from the insurer (see Gerry Iagallo for instructions on how to commit a hostile takeover of an insurer's real property). With the land firmly under the Town's control, tear down the buildings. Then build adequate parking, a big supermarket and above that, hundreds and hundreds of units of affordable housing. In fact, the Town might consider condemning a strip three traffic lanes wide behind the old buildings and bulldozing and paving over everything all the way out to Central Avenue. Then make East Hartsdale Avenue one way and the new Paul Feiner Boulevard one way the other direction. This would provide the necessary roads and buildings for growth without impinging on any currently green space. Meanwhile, Mr. Feiner could propose a referendum which would allow him to remain Supervisor with dictatorial powers until the project is finished.

Anonymous said...

The DPW should have crews cleaning out storm sewers all year round. The town board refuses to pass an ordinance to bag leaves in the fall,because Edgemont says no.The leaves and small branches cause a lot of water not to flow easily.Where construction is taking place it should be a law that the street is cleaned at the end of the day by the contractor.Construction should not go on and on for years. Houses should have complete landscape done outside and then finish the house inside.Some of the catch basins near construction are loaded with dirt and gravel .The merchants are responsible to sweep in front of their place of business ,but the town must be responsible with the upkeep of the storm sewers. Bagging the leaves,going after any type of construction will help the merchants plus the residence that were washed out.

Anonymous said...

I think that a professional public works department would be helpful. Regula is a good guy, but Greenburgh DPW is old-school. It's time to catch up to the professional operating standards of at least the 1990s.

Rich White said...

I would like to start another dialogue about the same goal - helping our local merchants - but one about improving access to the parking lot behind the stores - by clearing a decent pathway (via condemnation)through the stores.

The current street parking is what it is, but there is parking behind, just no easy way to get there. Our merchants will be forever limited by this, with no hope for improvement unless this drastic step is taken.

Anonymous said...

The entire design of both the merchant garage and the station garage are absurd.

At night, commuters leaving the station garage are backed up two levels up exiting. What is needed is for the Town to be pro-active, and have a police officer let the cars out.

hal samis said...

Do any of the "merchants" have business interruption insurance?

Before anyone starts parroting the loss figures that are being promoted by the store owners, some responsible party needs to see their "books". There is a natural tendency to inflate losses, particularly those which can't be verified.

And the penalty for cash businesses in not reporting cash
is that they don't have a sustainable claim when they need it most. You can't have it both ways.

But the lost business does not end at the doors of the closed stores.
The stores across the street are losing business too as shoppers just don't come "downtown" when 50% of the stores are closed.

I will admit to a degree of indifference in the plight of shopkeepers. After all who is looking out for commericial mortgage brokers when their business is off. However, if this is to become an issue and a potential problem for the Town, then that concern should be extended to both sides of the street.

Anonymous said...

4/18--10:19 AM --almost word for word same letter as Bob Bernstein in the Inquirer which is sent to Edgemont residents. Glad to see that Bob spends day, night reading and writing the blog. Bob: Why are you afraid to put your name on the blog?