April 6, 2012

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Process of buying out flooded Ulster County homeowners moves forward

ELLENVILLE – Ulster County took a significant step forward in beginning the process for homeowners flooded by the New York City Department of Environmental Protection aqueduct to have their homes bought out as County Legislature Chairwoman Terry Bernardo signed an agreement that calls for the DEP to provide $3.1 million to be applied toward those purchases.

The state will kick in another $3.8 million for the voluntary program, which Bernardo has been working on for the last several years.

“This is not justice today for the residents, but it is significant,” Bernardo said.

Wawarsing Town Supervisor Scott Carlsen said the selling of homes by residents may not work for every impacted homeowner.

“The buyout is one phase to relieve the victims in Wawarsing, who first of all have the financial ability to leave,” Carlsen said. “It assumes that their homes are mortgaged to a point where they can take the buyout and leave. There are a lot of people who can’t in this real estate market. There is a need for funding to address the flooding.”

Laura Smith, one of the impacted homeowners who have been in the forefront of the effort to have the DEP fix the leaks and pay the homeowners, said the payment is a start.

“This is flooding because of an influence of nearly 36 million gallons of water a day – we don’t know exactly between Roseton and here [Wawarsing] how much of it gets in the ground here or there makes no difference,” Smith said. “The DEP has known since almost the beginning that this tunnel was leaking and didn’t say anything to anybody, not even the town.”

If a homeowner agrees to sell for an agreed upon appraised price, the land would remain forever wild.

The DEP is also funding a multi-million dollar, multi-year project to repair the aqueduct leaks.


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