KEENE - Gov. Andrew Cuomo has suspended state Adirondack Park Agency and Department of Environmental Conservation permit requirements so people in flooded towns can rebuild from the devastating effects of Tropical Storm Irene.
"I understand the regulations, I understand the permitting process, but I also understand we need businesses up and running tomorrow, we need homes," Cuomo said Tuesday at a press conference in front of the wrecked Keene fire hall, surrounded by local officials and emergency personnel.
"I think that's going to be very, very helpful," state Sen. Betty Little told reporters after the press conference.
Mariah Cuomo, right, daughter of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, shakes hands with Ann Shaw in front of Shaw’s home in Keene Tuesday. They then went behind the house, and saw how Sunday’s flooding, prompted by Tropical Storm Irene, destroyed Shaw’s backyard and basement.
(Enterprise photo — Nathan Brown)
If the permitting requirements had been left in place, she said, "It would take forever to get anything accomplished."
In a short speech at the press conference, Little also praised Cuomo's response to the disaster.
"Sometimes, when you're all the way up here, you feel like you're getting forgotten," Little said. "And we're not getting forgotten by this governor this year."
Suspending the requirements will allow property owners and municipalities to make repairs even in environmentally sensitive areas such as waterfronts and wetlands, according to a press release from Cuomo's office.
Keene was the Essex County town hardest hit by the storm, with many towns and roads damaged or destroyed Sunday when the AuSable River and its tributaries flooded. Cuomo visited Keene Valley, then went to Keene, where he walked from roughly the intersection of state routes 9N and 73 to what's left of the fire hall. He met with several people on the way, including local residents whose properties were devastated by the flooding.
Local congressmen Bill Owens and Chris Gibson also visited the area Tuesday. Owens visited AuSable Forks, which is in his district and was also hard-hit by the storm, and Gibson visited Keene, which is in his district.
Many other towns elsewhere in Gibson's district, which stretches from Essex County south to the outskirts of Poughkeepsie and Cooperstown, were also hit hard. He toured three of the southern counties Monday.
Gibson spent more than 20 years in the U.S. Army. His last deployment was in Haiti, helping with humanitarian relief after the devastating earthquakes there.
"What I have seen in the past 36 hours in some areas of our district is a level of devastation I have not seen since that time," Gibson said at a town hall event in Lake Placid later Tuesday afternoon.
However, Gibson said he had seen much to inspire him over the past couple of days, too - neighbors working together to help each other. He said Cuomo said some "very inspiring words" in his speech Tuesday.
"In our darkest hours, New Yorkers shine brightest," Cuomo said.