Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

August 29, 2013

Cuomo drops off flood aid checks

Cuomo comes to Lockport to deliver checks for flood victims

BY BILL WOLCOTT
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal —

Patricia Garvin came to tears when she was presented a $31,900 check from Gov. Andrew Cuomo at Lockport City Hall on Thursday.

The Pennsylvania Avenue resident had given up hope of getting any help after the Federal Emergency Management Agency told homeowners no assistance was coming. Garvin's home was torn apart by the flood of June 28, as she was one of more than 300 local victims of the flood.

There were 313 checks for a total of $2,276,031 issued in Niagara County and 1,206 checks issued in state-wide for a grand total of $13.6 million.

"I didn't count on getting any money from the government," Garver said nervously while making a brief speech in the crowded city council chambers. "Then Gov. Cuomo stepped up and promised that aid would be  available for people like me and today he made it happen ... It was nothing short of a minor miracle."

Her house suffered structural damage costing $14,000 and the furnace and appliances were destroyed. Water was up to her waist and she was not getting help through insurance. She gave up after FEMA denied assistance.

"They just had me open the check up and I started crying," said Garver, who attended the meeting with her daughters Amy and Lyndsay. "I'm just flabbergasted...I'm so happy."

Martin Olivieri, the owner of Wide Waters Drive-in, got the maximum, a check for $50,000. His Market Street business suffered a loss estimated at $400,000. The money will help Olivieri rebuild the canalside business.

"We thought all hope was lost when the FEMA wasn't able to come in for us, but the governor stepped up and was able to fulfill," Olivieri said. "We're just grateful he was able to come to town and take care of it for us, step up and show leadership."

Mayor Michael Tucker gave the time line for events that began two months ago. First came the devastating storm, followed by FEMA's decision to deny recovery funding for homeowners. So the city reached out to the state, which prompted the governor's first visit to Lockport last month.

Tucker praised the governor and Cuomo lauded Tucker's teamwork and leadership. There was goodwill enough to go around.

Cuomo, who worked under the Clinton administration eight years in disaster relief, said he understands how life is turned upside down by flooding. He said the flood help was a very complicated issue that was resolved in weeks with bipartisan cooperation, calling it an extraordinary thing that happened in the state.

The governor needed approval from the state legislature to free up the money, but the state Assembly and Senate were not in session. Cuomo contacted Republican and Democrat leaders by phone and got a consensus.

"The state has been outstanding," Assemblywoman Jane Corwin said. "This is unprecedented, really special. The state government does not always work ... Now I'm proud to say I'm in state government."

Two months ago Tucker turned to every resource. "This is something we've never been through before," the mayor said. "Hundreds of people really were affected. It was our responsibility. We stuck with it. When FEMA couldn't help us, we went to the governor. It's played out better."

Checks from New York State Finance were issued to 12,006 homeowners and businesses of Herkimer, Oneida, Montgomery, Madison and Niagara Counties.