Updated 04/05/2012 06:43 PM
Buyout offer for victims of DEP aqueduct leak
Flood victims near New York City's leaking Delaware Aqueduct now have access to $9 million in buyout funds, provided by the state and the DEP. But as YNN's John Wagner reports, weary residents still aren't happy.
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WAWARSING, N.Y. -- Homeowners say today is a step in the right direction, giving some the option to finally move on from mold, sinkholes and constant flooding. But it's not the end of their battle with New York City's DEP.
"Obviously, it's about quality of life and getting out of harm’s way. That's still the bottom line, but financially, can you do that without completely starting over?" asked Michael Rosselli, a 27 year homeowner along the leaking Delaware Aqueduct.
Michael Rosselli is one of many flood victims, struggling with how to move on by moving away. Thanks to the signatures of Ulster County Chairman Terry Bernardo, $9 million now sits in the buyout pot. But officials believe that will only cover 30 buyouts and 68 homes applied. Each home would be paid today's market value, not 2007's.
"The question still remains, what will the appraisals be, what happens to people that owe more, you know, on their home than the offer is," said Wawarsing Town Supervisor Scott Carlsen.
"It's bittersweet," said Ulster County Chairman Terry Bernardo. "It's not justice, it's not justice at all. The DEP is the responsible party and they should be paying for all of these expenses for these residents."
Buyout properties would become forever wild, never to be developed and gone from the tax rolls. Homeowners get a ten percent bonus if they agree not to sue the DEP, but they say it's not nearly enough to repay them for years of flood damage.
"It's the absolute least that they can do, they should be doing more," said eight year homeowner Laura Smith. "But until they're forced to be made to do more, this is all we have to work with."
"It's the big guy, city DEP throwing us a small bone and thinking we're going to go away," said Ulster County legislator T.J. Briggs. "I assure you, this is only the beginning."
A number of homeowners say they can't afford to leave on the DEP terms and want the leak fixed. For others it comes down to the size of the check.
"What's happening here and what's continuing to happen and what will continue to happen, still needs to be addressed," said Smith.
"To be honest, until we hear that number and find out if it works for us to relocate and move on, we're hopeful, but we have to be realistic," said Rosselli.
The 68 homeowners who applied for the buyout will meet next Wednesday to discuss their next moves and home appraisals will begin by the start of May.