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Irene Brings Bad Memories to Hartsdale Businessmen

HARTSDALE, N.Y. -- Friday afternoon, Joseph Floriano and Wayne Chessler were both at the King Aristocrat dry cleaner, on East Hartsdale Avenue. Sitting relaxed on a bench, both in shorts and under a cool breeze from the ceiling fan, they chatted with owner Phil Benincasa, who stood behind the counter, a few feet from them.

When the conversation turned to the nearing Hurricane Irene, it became clear that a storm four years ago that flooded all the businesses on the block, including his own, is still fresh in Benincasa’s mind.“All my equipment was ruined,” he said, adding that he lost around $100,000, not counting the six weeks the business remained close, between May and June 2007.

“The Chinese restaurant was pouring water out of the front door,” said Chessler, one of the managers of Harrys of Harstdale, the restaurant down the block.

He was talking about the nearby Hunan Village II, which at the time had a different name and a different owner, and that was sold after the flood.

Floriano didn’t suffer with that storm. On the contrary, he bought a bakery that also got flooded. Last year, he closed the bakery and opened Enrico’s, the pastry shop and café next door to Benincasa’s dry cleaner.

“I came after. It’s all new to me,” he said.

Now, it’s his turn to worry about Hurricane Irene causing another severe flood.

“Let’s hope the town did a good job cleaning out the drains,” Floriano said, after Benincasa recalled that the 2007 flood was caused by a drain that flowed into the Bronx River getting clogged with “all kinds of debris.”

The town did inspect the drains in that area this week, said Victor Carosi, Greenburgh commissioner of public works. But he emphasized that it’s the landowners’ responsibility to take care of their own drains.

“We do that as a courtesy,” he said. “We continue to urge property owners responsible for the drainage to make sure they perform their own inspections.”

Benincasa said that there hasn’t been any flooding there since 2007, so he is not worried about Hurricane Irene.

“From 2007 to now, we’ve had heavy storms, heavy rains, but not a drop of water in the basement,” he said.

Floriano, on the other side, said that he is worried, but there’s nothing he can do about it. He is not even considering closing the store.

“Like I say, expect the worst, hope for the best—and I will be open,” he said.

Did you witness the 2007 flood in Hartsdale? Are you afraid it could happen again? You can answer in Facebook .

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