Mamaroneck Flood Mitigation Plan Secured

Funding Ends Battle that began with Initial Derailment By Trump Administration


Rebecca Herzberg

Extensive damage caused by the flood destroyed homes in the Mamaroneck-Larchmont community.

Leah Brody and Joe Robb O'Hagan

On September 1st, 2021, Mamaroneck was devastated by flooding from the remnants of Hurricane Ida, and families across the community saw their homes and belongings destroyed. According to a press release from New York Senator Chuck Schumer, streets, cars, and homes in the hardest-hit areas of the Village of Mamaroneck were inundated with at least 14 feet of water. The flood, which hit 535 homes, required 150 water rescues, displaced 1,000 community members, and took the life of one community member.

James Weiland (‘22), president of the Fuller Center club at MHS, a collective of volunteers who work with the Fuller Center organization on Ida recovery, detailed how extensive these damages were. “Even a few weeks after the flooding, there were still people that had standing water in their basement. A lot of people were exposed to black mold that grew from the damp basements.” In addition, “all the local organizations are broke and they need money, (meanwhile) people still need help… and homes are still being rebuilt,” explains Weiland, so outside funding is critical.

The Village has reported over $18M in damages from village payouts and commercial damage. Many residents of the Village are not equipped to deal with this financial strain, and due to difficulties with insurance, “they had to pay out of pocket for all the recent repairs, or they had their insurance premiums jacked up,” explains Weiland. Unfortunately, this type of flooding is not an isolated event for the Village, which, according to a 2017 assessment from the Army Corps of Engineers, has experienced flooding of this caliber 4 times in the 54 years between 1954 and 2008, with an additional 4 events in the past decade. There were also 19 somewhat severe floods took place between 1989 and 2017.

For years, the Village suffered as flood risk management construction plans got stuck in bureaucratic pipelines at the federal level. Specifically, in 1986, a flood risk mitigation plan for the same rivers that caused September’s flooding was approved but never reached construction.

Therefore, in July 2017, when the Army Corps of Engineers generated a plan to develop the infrastructure surrounding the Mamaroneck and Sheldrake River basin, the Village of Mamaroneck was hopeful. The weakness in the local flood mitigation framework that made the Village vulnerable and caused millions in damage was at the forefront of the new plan. The budget, adjusted for inflation, totaled $88,057,000, split between the federal government, covering 65%, and the remaining 35% being covered by the state government and Westchester County. The plan notably had nearly 50% price reductions compared to the shelved plan from 1986, which would have cost around $160,000,000.

However, in February of 2020, the project was omitted from the Trump administration’s annual budget plan. In a statement from the Village of Mamaroneck Mayor Tom Murphy, “news that the federal government has backed away from the project, despite years of study and involvement, shocked us all.” Murphy was quick to refute the White House’s reasoning for derailing the plan, in which they claimed that the project’s cost-to-benefit ratio had changed since the Army Corps report. He commented, “We – along with our federal representatives – believe that the Corp’s [new] formula fails to account for human costs, which are always our most important consideration,” and questioned if the White House was allowing “political retribution to play a role in [their] spending decisions.” The claim is not unwarranted, with Mamaroneck joining a long list of budget cuts New York State was subject to in the Trump administration’s budget, including over a billion dollars in healthcare and infrastructure projects.

Lack of funding went largely under the radar for the majority of Village residents. However, when the people of Mamaroneck woke up to their lives destroyed by the flooding disaster on September 2nd, talk of why this happened was on everyone’s minds. This prompted the convergence of New York’s highest elected officials at the Mamaroneck firehouse one day later. New York Governor Kathy Hochul, Senator Chuck Schumer, Senator Kristen Gillibrand, Congressman Jammal Bowman, Westchester County Executive George Latimer, and Village of Mamaroneck Mayor Tom Murphy all gathered to encourage the White House Office of Management and Budget to, in Schumer’s words, “move heaven and earth (to) get Mamaroneck the funding they need and make the village resilient from future storms.” Additionally, Senator Schumer reinforced Mayor Murphy’s claim that political retaliation from the Trump administration halted the original plans, saying the lack of funding was a “mendacious act by a president who didn’t care.”

Based on previous abandonment, Mamaroneck residents were skeptical of the promise from New York’s elected officials to fast-track funding. However, the plea was met successfully, and on October 5th, 2021, Senator Schumer secured $1.5 billion dollars in funding for Army Corps projects in Ida-impacted communities. This bypassed many bureaucratic hurdles that imprisoned the Mamaroneck project, and other similar projects. In a press release announcing the milestone, he stated, “I’m proud to deliver funding for Ida-affected communities, and am also pleased about getting the feds to finally greenlight the Mamaroneck and Sheldrake River Flood Risk Management Project.” Most recently, on January 20th, 2021, Schumer announced that he, along with Representative Bowman and Senator Gillibrand, secured $88 million dollars in funding specifically for the Mamaroneck project, out of the larger $1.5 billion. With this amount, the federal government will cover 100% of the funding, which covers the restoration of damages from the September flooding, and build infrastructures to protect Mamaroneck in the future. This is an achievement for Westchester County and the Village of Mamaroneck, which previously had to fund 35% of the project, or approximately 30 million dollars, but now will not foot any of the bill, thanks to the Disaster Supplemental Appropriations Bill. Latimer credits this as an unbelievable act that will save lives and property.

It’s unclear when the project will begin, but it is shovel-ready and a major achievement for Village residents, bringing resilience and future prosperity to a community that has suffered for too long.