By Ted Waddell
LIVINGSTON MANOR October 8, 2004 "It's all bull----," screamed Patricia Born, one of the enraged survivors of the third major flood to hit her community since 1996, as the hard-pressed Town of Rockland Supervisor Pat Pomeroy opened up the floor to public comments during last Thursday's (September 30) town hall meeting at the Livingston Manor Firehouse.
The gathering was convened to discuss what happened to local folks during September's flood and what officials planned to do about it so people's homes wouldn't yet again be washed away or severely damaged by a raging Willowemoc and Little Beaverkill.
Pointing her finger at a panel of local, state and federal officials, Born made her feelings a lot clearer than the muddy waters that forced Born and her son to flee for their lives.
"I've got an autistic son to worry about," she yelled. "You've been conning everybody, and that stinks . . . and you won't do a damn thing, but I am going to get you for making me lose my home.
"You don't give a s--- because you're all nice and cozy," she added forcefully as some folks shushed for quiet, while others voiced their approval at her strongly expressed sentiments.
Nancy Vitale said she's known the river since she was a year old and over the years has watched it change.
"I lost a lot of land," said Vitale. "Now I've got 2,000 logs and a tremendous amount of erosion."
Comments rose like angry hornets toward the officials, as folks in the audience weren't having any of it when Andrew Feeney, deputy director of the State Emergency Management Office (SEMO), said of disaster aid response, "It was a lengthy process, a lot of regulations."
Bill Rudge of the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) drew a round of boos when he said his agency has issued 20-some work permits to dredge the Willowemoc and Little Beaverkill to ease future flooding only to have Town of Rockland Highway Superintendent Bowman Owen add that, yes, he's got a stack of permits, but they're only good for dredging where roads, not people's homes, were lost, so fire apparatus and school buses can get through.
"I get it both ways," said Wendy Zayas, a resident of a local trailer park ravaged by the most recent flood.
"I had to drag my daughter through waist-high water . . . and now she cries every time it rains," railed Zayas. "Forget the trout, think of the people."
Many folks in the standing-room-only meeting carried handmade "No Trout" signs reading "Fix the River. Save Our Town."
A 20-year resident of Pearl Street said she's one of the first to get wet when the river floods, so she pays attention to it.
"I watch it like a hawk," the intentionally anonymous woman said. "Livingston Manor does flood, but not to the extent we've seen recently rivers are a moving, living force, but nothing is being done to protect us."
She suggested the town implement an early flood warning system "other than me."
Directing his ire towards a rep. from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (the agency that can build dams and move rivers), Gus Eklund said, "You ought to take a walk down that river and see what needs to be done you ain't done nothing in three years."
The USACE rep. said studies were underway to help affected area communities, and his agency was working with Congressman Hinchey's office to help resolve the problems.
Joann Carlino moved to Manor from Queens five years ago and brought with her a biting wit.
"Let the friggin' fish die who cares?" she said. "Nobody told me this was a flood zone when I bought my house."
John Parker said he needs to "move some huge rocks so the river can't go through my house . . . but nobody explains how to get help.
"If we don't fix the problem, we won't have a Livingston Manor," he said with an eye on the next flood. "What I want to see is not just promises but somebody on the river doing something."
George Fulton, a local surveyor, offered an idea that, if workable, might ease the impact of flooding by diverting high water to a dry lake bed at an old airport to the east of town.
Richard "Dick" Martinkovic serves Sullivan County as Director of Emergency Management/Homeland Security and Fire Coordinator.
He said that of initial flood damage estimates in the county of approximately $19-20 million, the Town of Rockland sustained about $3 million.
"We know we had serious damage here to more than 30 pieces of property, and another 60 or more sustained damage," said Martinkovic.
He said that if the president declares the region a disaster area, that decision will open up the resources of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in two areas: (1) Public Assistance (PA) to build roads, bridges, etc. and (2) Individual Assistance (IA) to help folks rebuild/replace damaged or lost homes.
Martinkovic didn't hold out a lot of hope for quick action locally, as he said FEMA is currently trying to cope with the ravages of four major hurricanes to strike Florida and other Southern states.
"They are stressed and stretched," he said. "They will come, but people just have to be patient."