| JAY, N.Y.
JAY, N.Y. May 5 Rebecca Hoskins poked through
the debris in her flood-wrecked house: a TV here, a light
fixture there. Someone had been in and taken down the curtains.
She blinked back a tear. It was a crisp early spring day and her
first visit in year-and-a half to what had been her home for 15
Hoskins, a supervising bus driver from Essex County in New
York State's Adirondack mountains, is one of 43 homeowners in
the area still waiting to be made whole after Hurricane Irene
blew through in August 2011, turning the babbling mountain
brooks into a furious wall of water that washed away their
After Irene, and Tropical Storm Lee the following month, 957
New York homeowners volunteered for property buyouts funded by
federal disaster assistance money, most in a corridor stretching
from the Catskills north to the Canadian border.
Twenty months after Irene not one property sale under the
plan has closed, state officials say. Their experience is being
watched closely by New York City area residents hoping to join a
similar program for Superstorm Sandy victims. [IDn:L2N0D41QP]
The delay in Jay underscores the difficulties the state
faces in dealing with major storms that New York's Governor
Andrew Cuomo says are likely to become more frequent. The state
has also started warning investors buying its bonds about the
risks of "more intense storms" due to climate change.
For Hoskins the wait has been agonizing as she and her
husband, a laborer at a apple orchard in nearby Peru, rebuilt
their lives from scratch, bouncing around in temporary housing
and fighting off foreclosure on their destroyed home when they
could no longer afford to pay both rent and the mortgage.
"When you live from pay check to pay check anyway it's
almost like you're robbing Peter to pay Paul all the time to try
to pay one against the other," said Hoskins, standing on the
grass outside her old home. "You just get to the point when you
can't do it."
Three villages make up the Town of Jay - Jay, Upper Jay, and
Au Sable Forks - huddled by Whiteface Mountain, training ground
for U.S. Olympic skiers and host of the Olympic alpine events in
the 1980 Winter Olympics. About 2,500 people live there.
The area draws skiers in the winter and anglers and hikers
in the summer. It is home to pricey summer camps where the
wealthy send their children for several months a year.
Randy Douglas, Jay's town supervisor, is no stranger to
disasters. Occasionally stopping to mark the height of the water
on his waist, he points out large junks of his town earmarked
for demolition. He recalls streets where air boats ran rescue
missions and shows a visitor where he was forced to turn back
his truck because the flood waters were getting too deep.
"I've been here nine-and-a-half years now and I have had
nine declared states of emergency, so there's an issue here,"
Standing by playing fields and a bare river bank, all that
remain of around 20 houses that were demolished after a previous
flood in 1996, Douglas said the effect on the community is often
greater than the financial blow. Accepting a federal buyout
means the land can never be built on again.
Many that left Jay after Irene are not coming back. Jamie
Zeno, a ski lift operator at Whiteface, saw his entire lane
flooded. The majority of the houses there are set to be torn
down and Zeno now lives in rental accommodation in Lake Placid,
about 20 miles away.
He is stoic about the buyouts, recounting the first meeting
he and other residents had with officials.
"There ain't nothing I can do about it," he said. "They told
us right from the beginning, the first meeting that we went to
that it was going to be a long drawn out process, so everybody
(Editing by Dan Burns and Leslie Gevirtz)