Though Irvington Mayor Brian Smith tried to keep the situation in perspective—as there was death and massive destruction in other places like Staten Island, the Rockaways and the Jersey Shore—he was stunned by the serve impact Hurricane Sandy had in Westchester.
Many of the businesses on Irvington’s waterfront were shut down for weeks.
Some of Eileen Fisher’s key designs were destroyed along with a significant amount of stock; a biotech firm’s sensitive instruments and equipment were waterlogged; three restaurants had to close their doors during the busy holiday season; while a printing firm lost all of its inventory. The sea wall at one of Irvington’s two waterfront parks failed and the buildings on Bridge Street had not been flooded for a hundred years, when the storm surge passed over the Metro-North train tracks.
“I saw this as an impact on a crucial piece of our region's infrastructure,” said Smith. “If there had been lasting damage to the trains, the entire region’s economy would be effected. Not to mention what unreliability of the trains would do to property values in Irvington.”
Smith hopes that communities like Irvington will have some protection against future storms with U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer's request to have Hudson River communities north of New York City included in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineer’s $20 million study of flood prone coastal communities that were hard hit during Sandy.
According to Schumer, the $20 million would be enough to include Westchester, and including Westchester would not divert funds from Long Island and New York City.
“In addition to New York City and Long Island, Hudson River waterfronts from Newburgh to Irvington were hit hard with flood water, and the Army Corps’ investigation of the most vulnerable areas and the best manner to mitigate future flood risk will be critical when the next disaster strikes,” said Schumer, during a press conference at Scenic Hudson Park in Irvington on Tuesday.
The study would include the following counties on the river eligible for public assistance: Westchester County, Orange County, Putnam County, Rockland County, Ulster County and Greene County.
Smith said the study could be crucial to keeping the more than 700 jobs in the village’s Bridge Street complex, since many business owners who met after the storm said they were considering leaving the waterfront and that the village does not have the funds or expertise to take on a study of this on their own.
“The issues we face as a Rivertown are the same issues faced up and down the Hudson River," said Smith. "So, it would not only be inefficient for us to try it on our own, it would not be cost effective either. Additionally, if every municipality were to conduct their own independent study, we would likely miss macro solutions to our individual problems. Lastly, the Army Corps of Engineers is uniquely skilled to conduct this type of study.”
Dobbs Ferry, which had its waterfront restaurant sustain water damage during the storm, has taking matters into its own hands and has had a shore stabilization project in the works for years, which the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is involved in and is funded on several government levels.
“I hope that other communities can learn from what Dobbs Ferry has done in taking a lead roll and initiating its own shoreline stabilization project and that other communities can learn from the things we did do right, and the things we didn’t do right,” said Dobbs Ferry Mayor Hartley Connett.
Connett said he has spoken with Smith and supports the effort to have the Hudson River Communities be included in the study.
Hastings-on-Hudson’s waterfront, including a tennis club, boardwalk and restaurant, were also affected by Hurricane Sandy. Hastings-on-Hudson Mayor Peter Swiderksi said that the village is interested in finding out what could be done on the waterfront since there will be construction on the village's waterfront in the future.
“I believe government on all levels, local, state and federal, must show our commitment to ensuring that we are doing everything we can to protect our waterfront and the associated businesses as well as public areas,” said Smith. “We owe it to our residents and business to do all we can to preserve our wonderful waterfront.”