New York State’s commissioner of the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services, Roger Parrino, joined local elected and school officials on July 27 in touring flood-prone areas in Island Park for the purpose of seeing firsthand the types of storm hazard mitigation projects his department would be responsible for administering in the coming years.
The tour came following Parrino’s April appointment to the position, and local officials expressed hope that through it, he would have a better sense of the flooding the village and surrounding unincorporated sections face on a regular basis.
Parrino’s division is tasked with managing a Federal Emergency Management Agency grant of up to $40 million earmarked for the village and surrounding areas as part of its Hazard Mitigation Grant Program. The program’s aim is to reduce long-term risk to people and property from future natural disasters, and the projects currently being considered include replacing aging tidal flex valves and expanding the capacity of the area’s storm drain systems.
Officials hoped the tour would help expedite the process of approving the projects, which have yet to enter the design phase, and during Parrino’s confirmation hearing, State Sen. Todd Kaminsky reportedly issued the invitation to see the area firsthand.
In addition to Kaminsky, Island Park Mayor Michael McGinty, Assemblywoman Missy Miller, town Councilman Anthony D’Esposito, county Legislator Denise Ford, Island Park school Superintendent Dr. Rosmarie Bovino and Island Park Board of Education President Jack Vobis were present to show Parrino the flooding the community regularly faces.
“Everyone in Island Park deals with the water,” Vobis said. “Some people more so, some people less so.
“With the school,” he continued. “We’re dealing with everyone’s children’s safety when kids are entering school or leaving school. We have a moon tide at around 6 or 7 in the morning and at 3 to 4 in the afternoon the tide can come right up to the door at the Hegarty School. How do you get kids in and out safely?”
But he said he felt the tour went well, and that Parrino was actively engaged throughout. “We were standing outside when he first arrived,” Vobis recounted. “And he said, ‘show me where the problems are.’”
“Hopefully [it will] cut through the bureaucracy and red tape,” he added.
McGinty said the plans are in-between phases following a completed study that included an assessment and cleaning of the current storm drain system, but would potentially feature the expansion of lateral storm drain pipes from six to 15 or 18 inch diameters, as well as the installation of larger storm drain basins. The goal, he said, would be to increase the system’s storm water capacity from roughly 34 cubic feet to around 189 cubic feet per 100 feet of pipe. Additionally, the replacement of tidal flex valves would prevent seawater from reentering the system.
Other projects being considered are road elevation and retaining wall enhancements, according to DHSES spokeswoman Kristin Devoe.
DSHES is currently in the process of working with FEMA, McGinty said, which has the final say on project approval, in order to move into the design phase. “I felt the tour was very successful,” he recalled, adding that he thought concerns were adequately represented through the presence of so many local officials.
“As someone who has lived in Island Park my entire life, I thank Commissioner Parrino for visiting our community to get a ‘boots on the ground’ look at our issues,” D’Esposito said in a statement after the tour. “Standing side by side with partners in government, we urged the commissioner to expedite the administration of Hazard Mitigation Grant Program funding to the Village of Island Park.”
“This tour allowed the commissioner an opportunity to see firsthand the need for the projects to help alleviate the flooding that occurs during normal rainfalls especially around the Hegarty School to be given priority,” Ford said, also in a statement. “I appreciate the time the commissioner and his staff gave and this reinforces the support that New York State has promised us.”
Miller too released a statement thanking Parrino and expressing hope the hazard mitigation projects will be underway as soon as possible.