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A Year After Hurricane Irene, Greenburgh Prepares

ELMSFORD, N.Y. – Hurricane Irene devastated many businesses last August, but some owners are not happy with the way several municipalities handled the situation.

“I’m not an engineer, but I’m sure that if they can go to the moon, they can fix this problem,” Luigi Guida, owner of Casaletto’s Ristorante on South Central Avenue, said of the flooding. “This is a big problem. The water is too much.”

After Hurricane Irene, Guida was critical of the government’s actions, and said that nothing has changed since last year. He noted that the biggest problem with businesses in central Elmsford is that they are more than 10 feet lower than the Saw Mill River, allowing the water to flow toward them with ease.

While the inside of Casaletto's did not receive much water damage in last year’s hurricane because it is raised above ground level, no customers visited the restaurant for several days because four feet of water surrounded the building.

“Yes, I am worried that it might happen again – oh, yes,” Guida said. “They need to bring engineers from the state to take a look at it and see what the best thing to do for the taxpayers is. There are a lot of businesses here, right next to the river, that have been flooded. But this government cannot find a solution?”

Elmsford Mayor Robert Williams does not see a long-term solution to the flooding problem without the state’s help.

Last year, Elmsford Square — the ever-busy cross-section between Main Street and Route 9A — was flooded so badly that it looked like the bottom of an undrained sink. If a flood occurs, Williams said, it blocks cars from crossing the village and, because so many highways and major companies are in Elmsford, it loses the county money.

“Do we worry about flooding? Yes, every time it gets cloudy out,” Williams said, adding that the village gets about 10 knee-high to waist-high floods every year.

However, after state lawmakers visited Elmsford to see Hurricane Irene’s devastation, Williams has never felt more confident that the state will partner with the U.S. Army Corps to fix the flooding.

“I have never been more optimistic about a plan happening to fix the Saw Mill River in my entire life,” Williams said. “I have never been more optimistic than this, with the conversation that has taken place. That has never happened before.”

Greenburgh Police Chief Joseph DeCarlo noted that the town is undertaking several projects to either help prevent flooding or streamline its plans in case of flooding. The town also has been cleaning storm drains and making inspections more frequently. In addition, the police department is enhancing its community notification system, allowing the department to contact residents via landline, cellphone, text or email in case of an emergency.

“We continue to train our personnel in compliance with the National Incident Management System,” DeCarlo said in an email interview, “and equip our Technical Rescue Team – composed of police officers and firefighters from Fairview and Hartsdale – and we have a very active and well-trained volunteer [Community Emergency Response Team].

DeCarlo urged Greenburgh residents to have their own emergency plan. Ideas for evacuation and survival can be found on the town's website.

Town Supervisor Paul Feiner could not be reached for comment as of Sunday afternoon.

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