Robert Reiffel of Cayuga Road and a group of his neighbors addressed the Scarsdale Board of Trustees at their August 9th meeting about flooding on Seneca, Oneida, Cayuga, Canterbury and Kelwynne Roads and urged the Village to prioritize this area for flood mitigation work. On behalf of the Murray Hill Middle Heathcote Neighborhood Association Reiffel sent the following letter, a week BEFORE Hurricane Irene, to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
Ms. Lynn Gilmore Canton
FEMA Regional Administrator, Region II
Federal Emergency Management Agency
New Jersey and New York
26 Federal Plaza
New York, NY 10278-0002
I would like to point out a serious situation to you, one that has already cost your agency millions of dollars and has the potential to cost millions more – all because of inaction.
The Sheldrake River runs through the town of Scarsdale, New York, and has flooded several times in the past decades because the headwaters of that river, in the region of Seneca, Oneida, Cayuga, Canterbury, Catherine Kelwynne, and other roads in Scarsdale, were developed in the 1960’s without adequate foresight in terms of floodwater drainage. Existing ponds were filled and streambeds were enclosed in small culverts under driveways and roadbeds. With increasing development, the infrastructure inadequacies have become stressed beyond their capacity, causing major flooding on several occasions, resulting in your having to pay out significant sums in flood damages. The last major flood was on April 15, 2007, and the current structural situation is substantially the same as it was then, or even worse, because of additional development and construction of impervious surfaces.
The Village of Scarsdale has been remiss in terms of not only allowing this excessive development beyond the capacity of the infrastructure to support it, but also has been negligent in not correcting the situation by performing necessary infrastructure improvements, despite numerous warnings, and despite having already commissioned a survey, which pointed out the significance of the danger in the above geographical area. However, the Village has chosen to ignore our area in favor of other areas where damage to personal property and injuries to individuals was less severe during the most recent flood. They have made a list of projects to perform and placed us at number 15 out of 16, despite the fact that our first project is estimated to cost only $260,000.00, whereas some of the others are projected to run in the millions of dollars.
Moreover, while blaming the existing problems on mistakes made 50 years ago, the management of the Village is ignoring legislation that was recently enacted, requiring that they supervise testing of groundwater measurements for current construction to prevent additional problems.
I am requesting that you investigate this inaction on the part of the Village of Scarsdale in order both to secure the safety of the residents of this area as well as to mitigate the possibility that you will be required to expend additional sums of money to reimburse flooded homeowners, which you would not have to do if the needed repairs were undertaken in a timely manner. I must reiterate that local homeowners have expended considerable personal funds to maintain the streambed of the Sheldrake River, but the major obstructions, under Village roadways, still exist and pose a real and imminent danger to the residents, as evidenced by the fact that two residents were injured during the flood of 2007 in an area that was inaccessible to ambulances because of the flooding.
Either funds will be spent to correct the structural problems that have been allowed to exist far too long or you will be forced to pay out additional flood related benefits to reimburse homeowners whose property, and personal, damages could have been prevented.
Robert S. Reiffel, M.D.
Chairman, Water Management Committee
Murray Hill Middle Heathcote Neighborhood Association
Cc: Mary Colvin, National Flood Insurance Program Contact
Scott Duell, Risk Analysis, Flood Hazard Mapping and Mitigation Planning Contact