LOCKPORT – Patricia Garver, of Lockport, opened the envelope Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo gave her Thursday, gasped and started to weep.
It was a check for $31,900, the maximum under the state’s flood aid program.
“Oh, my God! Oh, my God! Oh, thank God!” said Garver, whose Pennsylvania Avenue home’s basement had waist-deep water during the June 28 flash flood that hit Lockport with six inches of rain in an afternoon, overwhelming the city sewer system.
“The windows in the basement, they’re leaking because the water was pouring down. I lost every appliance down there: my washer, my dryer, my furnace, my sump pump. I had sludge in my basement. The walls were finished, I had to have all that removed because of the mold, so I’ve been working on this all summer. I’m running out of money,” Garver said.
She and her daughters, Amy and Lyndsay, posed for photos with Cuomo after Thursday’s speech in Lockport City Hall, in which Cuomo announced that 313 Niagara County property owners are receiving a total of $2.27 million in aid checks from Albany.
Another pleased recipient was Martin Olivieri, co-owner of the Widewaters Drive-In, a Market Street restaurant put out of business by the flood.
Olivieri said he and his business partner, Louis Antonacci, received the maximum allowed by law, which Cuomo said was $50,000, just as the Garvers received the maximum for a homeowner.
Olivieri said it gives him a chance to try to reopen the restaurant next year.
The money was passed out just over a month after Cuomo spoke in Lockport on July 23 and promised action for property owners. The Federal Emergency Management Agency refused to pay for damage except for public infrastructure.
“I have never seen this complicated a governmental task done this quickly,” said Cuomo, whose administration approved a total of 1,206 checks, totaling $13.6 million, for flood damage in Niagara County and four counties in the Mohawk Valley that were hit by June floods.
Cuomo said he received approval by phone from state legislative leaders of both parties to offer the flood aid, without any voting or anything being put in writing.
He said the leaders told him: “Do it, and we’ll figure it out later … It is about working for the people without getting caught in red tape.”
The Albany largesse changed the views, at least for the day, of some conservatives who normally question the role of government.
“I’m the first one to criticize state government. That’s why I ran for government five years ago,” said Assemblywoman Jane Corwin, R-Clarence, “It doesn’t always work. But in this situation, disaster relief, New York State has been awesome.”
“You work for the people,” Mayor Michael W. Tucker told Cuomo. “I can tell you that us in Lockport know that is true.”
“He remembered us,” State Sen. George D. Maziarz, R-Newfane, said of Cuomo.
Garver said, “I have never had much faith in government. I didn’t expect anyone to really help me, but the work of Gov. Cuomo and his entire team has been nothing short of a minor miracle.”