Published in
The Empire

Cuomo and Napolitano promise relief to struggling upstate New Yorkers

Governor Cuomo with Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, right, in Prattsville Wednesday. (Karen DeWitt / WXXI)

By Karen DeWitt, WXXI Capitol Bureau Chief

Tom McGlynn stood on the main street of his flood-ravaged town, waiting for Governor Cuomo’s helicopter and the visit from the federal officials. The street bustled with National Guard troops, emergency medics, fire trucks and police. Dust from drying mud, gas fumes from fuel leaks, and the first wafts of rotting garbage filled the air.

McGlynn says he is still trying to process what happened, three days after the waters destroyed his home.

“There’s nothing left of it,” said McGlynn. “The whole first floor is gone, and a two-car garage with a room over it, that’s in my neighbors’ yard.”

McGlynn says he and his wife escaped with their lives.

“What I have on me is what I left,” McGlynn said. “It’s unbelievable”.

Governor Cuomo and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano toured the devastated Catskills Mountain community of Prattsville Wednesday, as both promised financial aid and a determined rebuilding effort. Despite the reassurances, some residents were feeling tired and defeated.

“This is one of the first areas to be declared a presidential major disaster,” said Napolitano.

Napolitano says residents can begin applying to FEMA for grants, a FEMA bus was stationed in the center of town. But FEMA officials say there won’t be enough to make residents “whole” again.

The governor says money is tight but the repairs will have to be done and the funds found. He says he hopes that the state, working with the federal government, will come up with financing for communities that were already down at the heels from years of economic depression.

“We’re not just going to rebuild, we’re going to rebuild back better than before,” said Cuomo, as many local officials cheered him on.

But after three disorienting days, residents aren’t so sure and some are wondering if they have the heart left to do so.

McGlynn, who says he raised 10 children in the house that is no longer habitable, says his wife saw the wreckage, and told him “no”.

“She just took a look, turned around and said to me ‘I’m never coming back here again’,” said McGlynn.

McGlynn is in his 70s and has lived through other floods in his 30 years in Prattsville. He’s not physically able to rebuild, and mentally not certain he’s up to it.

“You know we might change our minds,” he said. “But, it’s just heartbreaking.”