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Hudson Valley leaders lobby in Albany for Sandy funds

Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino announces the 2013

Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino announces the 2013 county budget during a news conference in White Plains. (Nov. 14, 2012) Photo Credit: Faye Murman

Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino on Tuesday became the latest Hudson Valley politician to lobby Albany for state and federal funding to cover damages related to superstorm Sandy.

While in the capital to attend the annual conference of the New York State Association of Counties, Astorino, a Republican, asked state officials if they still expected to pick up a portion of the bills related to the storm, said Phil Oliva, a county spokesman.

Under federal law, the Federal Emergency Management Agency compensates state and local governments for up to 75 percent of costs related to natural disasters.

In the past, Oliva said, the state has covered an additional 12.5 percent of the remaining costs, with local and county governments picking up the rest of the tab.

"We're hopeful and expecting the state will do what they historically do," Oliva said. "We just make the case and asked our lawmakers and state leaders to continue that historical precedent."

In January, Congress passed a $50.5 billion relief package for storm survivors across the tristate area to rebuild homes and businesses and repair infrastructure. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced Tuesday that New York City will receive $1.8 billion from the pot and the rest of the state will get $1.7 billion for housing and community rebuilding.

Local governments will have to apply to FEMA by March 2 to receive funds, but it will be Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo who doles out the checks.

Westchester County suffered an estimated $69 million worth of damage in the Oct. 29 storm, according to Oliva, meaning county government is in line to receive more than $8.6 million from the state.

"It's a lot of money for the state, and it's a lot of money for the county," he said.

Around $30 million of Sandy damage was to county parks, including $12 million worth of destruction at Rye Playland, the county-owned amusement park.

Meanwhile, Rockland, the hardest-hit county in the Hudson Valley, has estimated response and repair costs from Sandy at $16 million, which doesn't include an estimated $35 million in damage to housing and $90 million to businesses.

Since the storm, Rockland County Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef, another Republican, has been actively lobbying state officials for money to cover Sandy-related damages, said his spokesman, Ron Levine. However, Levine wasn't sure whether Vanderhoef also took his case to state officials Tuesday while attending the same conference in Albany as Astorino.

In Stony Point, where a total of 80 homes have been deemed uninhabitable, Stony Point Supervisor Geoffrey Finn is planning to trek up to Albany next week to fight for his residents.

"I don't want Stony Point to be forgotten about. We have a lot of damage. A lot of homes took a big hit during that storm," said Finn, a Democrat. "My concern is that Stony Point is just a small little dot on the map, and we have to be loud and heard.

"People have lost everything they've worked their whole lives down there for, and they deserve to get repaid for it," Finn added.

Piermont Mayor Christopher Sanders, also a Democrat, said he's still assessing damage to homes in his area and may consider a trip to Albany himself.

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