LOCKPORT – Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said today that a state flood recovery team is on the way to Niagara Falls to begin the same process that has produced flood aid from the state to Lockport home and business owners.
Cuomo made the statement to reporters in a brief question-and-answer session in Lockport City Hall, where he gave a brief speech saluting local officials and first responders for their work in the June 28 downpour.
Cuomo said the same procedure to assess damage in Niagara Falls from Friday’s heavy rains will be used as in Lockport.
The state will also request help from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which approved aid for damage to municipal property but not to private property.
“We said, ‘The State of New York will step up to the plate,’” Cuomo said. “We did it without a piece of legislation. We did it on the phone and we took each other’s word for it.”
The result was $2 million allocated to Niagara County for flooding that occurred last month, almost all of which occurred in the City of Lockport.
State representatives remain in Lockport City Hall until 8 p.m. today, taking applications for aid.
Cuomo said he talked to Niagara Falls Mayor Paul A. Dyster this morning, and a state team will meet with city officials today.
“They’ll be working with the mayor’s people to do an assessment of the damage there, and then, again, we’ll go through the same process. The federal government, we’ll ask them for assistance. But we want to make sure the state is there to help, especially on an individual level. We don’t want homeowners who had their homes devastated, their memories destroyed, to be left on their own. It’s just not how New Yorkers operate,” Cuomo said.
But Cuomo said response to extreme weather is something the federal government ought to be taking care of.
“This has historically been a federal responsibility,” Cuomo told reporters. He acknowledged that FEMA has rules it must follow, under which Lockport property owners did not qualify for help.
“We wanted to make sure that New Yorkers didn’t pay the price, and we wanted to make sure that New Yorkers weren’t left to their own devices.”
The governor said the seemingly increasing incidence of extreme weather is putting pressure on the state.
“It’s taxing the state system overall. It’s taxing our expertise. It’s taxing our ability to provide emergency services,” he said. “To the extent that it’s financial assistance, we’re going to have find savings in the state budget. We’re not going to be raising taxes. We’re trying to do the exact opposite. We’re trying to lower taxes, so if we’re providing emergency services, it means we’re going to have to squeeze the dollar tighter in Albany, and that’s what we’re there to do.”