WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y. – With the one-year anniversary of Superstorm Sandy and the Nov. 5 general election around the corner, hurricane and political winds are both picking up in Westchester.
Hurricane Sandy, among other storms last year, highlighted the county’s notorious reputation for easily flooded parkways and prolonged power outages. County Executive Rob Astorino (R) and New Rochelle Mayor and county executive candidate Noam Bramson (D) recently told The Daily Voice how they plan to handle both fronts moving forward.
“The problem with flooding is that engineers and the leaders way back when decided to build a parkway system in valleys next to rivers that tend to overflow,” Astorino said. “This creates problems at the usual suspects – Saw Mill, Bronx River, areas of Hutchinson and Taconic.”
Astorino said that, while the county has proactively asked experts what it can do about flooding, no feasible plan of action is going to immediately fix the problem. Instead, he said there is likely to be a combination of creative actions over the course of time.
“We recently started a program called River Rescue, where we put boots and coats on with a couple hundred volunteers and clean out debris, including a lot of trees and garbage,” he said. “Some were big items that were clogging the flow of a river, causing it to back up in a lot of location.”
One of the most flooded locations, the Saw Mill River Parkway between Marble Avenue and Pleasantville Road, has become the county’s main flooding priority, Astorino said.
“The problem is dredging is extraordinarily expensive and re-channeling is even worse – and takes literally decades to complete,” he said.
Bramson said his short-term solutions would include cost effective measures that would at least mitigate problems at hand, such as clearance of the county’s man flooding culprit areas. He said gray infrastructure projects would be aimed at expanding Westchester’s storm water capacity, while green infrastructure solutions would capture and prevent storm water runoffs using natural habitats and turning impermeable surfaces into permeable surfaces.
As for preventing mass power outages in the county during storms, Astorino and Bramson both agreed solutions start with the utility companies.
“We’ve discussed items that came up during Sandy that need improvement from Con Edison,” Astorino said. “Communication is the biggest one. They were awful in communicating with their own customers. They have promised they have a plan in action for the next storm that it will be different than last time.”
Bramson said the county must work alongside companies like Con Edison and NYSEG to get a better handle on the issues at hand.
“The issue of losing power and what to do with wires is primarily the responsibility of the utility companies,” he said. “The county needs to serve as an advocate for the issues at hand and work with these companies to find out what solutions make the most sense and are cost effective.”
Bramson and Astorino are also both open to the idea of burying wires in places it makes sense economically.
Bramson and Astorino will get a chance to go head to head in person in their first debate Oct. 2 at the Reckson Metro Center in White Plains.