Horton’s bid for FEMA aid falls short

Although Riverhead Town was denied a $3.6 million grant from the federal government to purchase properties on flood-ravaged Horton Avenue earlier this month, officials say they are hopeful a similar grant from the state will come through.

Last year, the town applied for hazard mitigation assistance from both the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the State Office of Emergency Management.

The state money, if awarded, would be used to purchase the parcels, demolish the now uninhabitable houses and turn the land into constructed wetlands.

About a dozen families were left homeless last March after a three-day storm dumped about nine inches of rain on the region and flooded the low-lying block for weeks.

Riverhead Town Police Chief David Hegermiller, who filed both applications on behalf of the town, said the town expects to have a much better chance of receiving aid from the state.

“If you think about all the disasters nationwide, I think we have a better chance statewide,” he said. “That’s my assumption.”
Chief Hegermiller said state officials toured the area earlier this month. The town expects to hear from the state sometime in May.

Jon Schneider, an aide to Congressman Tim Bishop (D-Southampton), said his office was not surprised to learn the federal agency had denied the town.

“It was something worth applying for under the age-old maxim, you don’t apply, you don’t get,” he said.

He said Mr. Bishop had met recently with state and federal officials who indicated that Horton Avenue was the number one priority for aid in New York State.

“We remain very encouraged that this project will be selected,” Mr. Schneider said.

Linda Hobson, a Horton Avenue flood victim turned community activist, said if aid does not come from from the state she and her neighbors would consider a lawsuit against the town.

“Hopefully the state part comes through or we will have to move forward  with a contingency plan,” said Ms. Hobson, a social worker whose house was destroyed in the flood.

She stressed that a lawsuit would be a last resort.

“When you have people who have lost everything, that’s what they will do,” she said.

[email protected]

Looking to comment on this article? Send us a letter to the editor instead.