Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his daughter walk with Keene Supervisor William Ferebee as he tours the damage in Keene Aug. 30.
When asked, New York State Sen. Elizabeth “Betty” Little was quick to respond to the 800-pound gorilla.
“They can’t deny us again,” Little said about the need for aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) following the effects of Tropical Storm Irene in the North Country.
“There is way too much damage. You talk about per capita numbers, we’re there,” she said.
Little was following Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who came to the North Country to survey damage in Jay and Upper Jay via helicopter and with a walking tour in Keene.
“I am declaring Essex and Clinton Counties as disaster areas,” Cuomo told those assembled near the destroyed Keene Volunteer Fire Department building Aug. 30. “It is really devastating up here. There is destruction everywhere.”
Cuomo said he is creating a task force that will directly deal with the problems caused by the tropical storm and its aftermath, as well as suspend any permitting process dealing with construction to recover from the event.
“I understand the need for a permitting process,” Cuomo said. “But I also understand the need for communities and businesses to be able to get up and running again.”
Cuomo said the state had, “two stories,” when it came to the storm.
“In New York City, they were largely spared from the massive damage,” Cuomo said. “In upstate New York, it is a totally different story.”
Cuomo toured the town of Keene, stopping a number of times to talk with property owners to hear their stories and tell them that the state would help however they could.
“The state will be a part of the reconstruction,” Cuomo said.
U.S. Rep. Chris Gibson, who was already scheduled to be in the area for the day and was with the governor, agreed.
“This will be a partnership between the federal, state, county and local governments to rebuild,” Gibson said.