N.Y. Park Can't Survive Without Disaster Assistance
After 25 years in the aviation business in New Jersey, Robert Stoeckert thought it would be nice to try a more relaxing occupation.
For 10 years, his plan has worked, and he and his wife, Josie, have enjoyed life at their Ausable River Campsite at 367 Route 9N near Plattsburgh, N.Y., the northeast corner of the state.
Until this year.
"Our business is gone," Stoeckert said amidst the debris left over from Tropical Storm Irene, the Plattsburgh Press Republican reported.
"I'm just another unemployed American now."
SITES WIPED OUT
The campground was one of many properties in the area that was ravaged by Irene on Aug. 28 as water from the Ausable River rose to about 16 feet above flood stage.
About 100 of Stoeckert's 125 campsites were ruined. The bathhouse was demolished as the water gouged out blocks of concrete and destroyed the filtration system for the pool.
Electrical sites, the water system, picnic tables and the playground — including, ironically, a large pirate ship — all washed down stream.
"I'd say we got about $200,000 to $300,000 worth of damage," Stoeckert said.
"I need some kind of grant or buyout because I just can't do it."
The flood waters from Irene marked the second time this year that the campsite was flooded. The high waters in the spring from several weeks of steady rain, combined with snow melt, washed out the first seven weeks of the season.
"Insurance only gave us $5,000 for that, and we put about $40,000 or our own money into cleaning it up," Stoeckert said. "We just can't do that again."
HOPING FOR FEMA HELP
As the waters quickly rose last week, Stoeckert pulled as many campers out of the lower campsites as he could, but not all made it. The twisted wreckage of campers remain strewn about the grounds.
Individuals and businesses in New York were not granted aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for spring flooding because the threshold for property damage was not met. Only municipalities will get money for that.
Essex County was given individual and business aid almost immediately after Irene hit, but it took two more days for Clinton County to be added to the list.
"Just across river is Essex County, and the county line is in the middle of the river," Stoeckert said.
"But when it floods, where is the county line then? It's all the same."
Stoeckert is hopeful FEMA will come through this time around.
"It's not just our business. Our campers spend their money in town, and this will affect a lot of other people, too," he said.
EMERGENCY AID EYED
U.S. Sens. Charles Schumer (D-Brooklyn) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-Brunswick) were pushing Tuesday (Sept. 6) to get funding from the federal Emergency Conservation Program and the Emergency Watershed Program for agricultural businesses damaged by Irene.
"New York's farmland endured some of the worst of Irene, and much of our farmland is badly damaged," said Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee.
"When our farm families suffer, our whole state and whole economy suffers."
Congressman Bill Owens (D-Plattsburgh) toured Stoeckert's campgrounds Tuesday and also offered help.
"Two weeks ago, this was an active place with families enjoying themselves, and then 16 feet of water comes through here," he said.