Harrison Nabs $2.6M State Innovation Grant For Flooding Restoration Project Improvements

HARRISON, NY—Anja Porto recalls the terror of the rising flood waters that she and her husband Robert lived through during Hurricane Ida last September.

“We ran in our pajamas door to door, pleading with our neighbors to evacuate immediately and move their vehicles to higher ground,” she recalled more than a year ago. “We counted 18 cars we were able to save.”

In the weeks that followed the one-two punches of Hurricanes Ida and Henri back in August-September of 2021, mounds of ruined personal property was piled up, next to heaving dumpsters all over town, which Ms. Porto described as “heartbreaking.”

“You just can’t imagine how surreal it all was. You think, ‘This could never happen to me.’ And then it does,” she said.

The ensuing surge of water that swamped basements and first floors of houses adjacent to Brentwood Brook Park—even destroying a town fire engine as floodwaters crested to its windshield during rescue attempts—was a nightmare, said Harrison Mayor Richard Dionisio, who recently returned to the once-flooded neighborhood to share some good news with Ms. Porto. The Town/Village of Harrison was one of only two communities in the Mid-Hudson region named in 2022 to be awarded a Green Innovation Grant Program from 

Flooding caused by Hurricanes Ida and Henri in 2021 swelled the Brentwood Brook in Harrison, NY to as much as 10 feet of water, to the level of the footbridge in the background.

New York State. The monies for the Brentwood Brook Floodplain Restoration project will be used to restore flood plains within an existing town park. The town’s upcoming public works project will provide additional storage during wet weather events to alleviate flooding and help to improve the water quality of the Brentwood Brook, he added.

Mayor Dionisio explained the $2.6 million from the state will also help to protect hundreds of Harrison residential and commercial properties as well as to mitigate damage to local thoroughfares, public schools and facilities.

Joining Mayor Dionisio for the site visit was Harrison Deputy Mayor Fred Sciliano, who said that following the devasting impacts of the two hurricanes in 2021, town and village officials engaged in several flood studies to make environmental protection and green infrastructure a priority. With experience in civil engineering himself—he’s an executive with LeChase Construction Services in Armonk, NY and chairman of the Building Contractors Association of Westchester & The Mid-Hudson Region—Mr. Sciliano explained that a team of local, county and state officials worked with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the New York State Environmental Facilities Corp. on a grant application and also with the support of state Assemblyman Steve Otis, whose district abuts Harrison.

The Town applied to the Green Innovation Grant Program, which is managed through state DEC and EFC. The special grants program supports projects across New York State that utilizes unique federal EPA-designated green stormwater infrastructure design and installs advanced green technologies. Competitive grants are awarded to projects that mitigate the effects of climate change through the implementation of green practices, including green stormwater infrastructure as well as energy efficiency and water efficiency. In 2022, $15.8 million was awarded to eight projects across the state. (In addition to Harrison, the City of Yonkers was named for $1 million for its Phase 4 of the daylighting of the Saw Mill River to improve water quality.)

“The $2.6 million of the GIGP funding certainly helps to begin prioritizing equitable flood mitigation investments,” Mr. Dionisio noted. He also pledged additional investments to the town’s infrastructure upgrades. “We are one of eight grants given out in the state,” he told Ms. Porto during his visit. “We put in for six grants and we have one so far. And now we understand that there’s another allocation of money for flood mitigation. We’re poised to be right on top of it.”

State Assemblyman Otis said the grant will allow needed floodplain projects to move forward, noting that the plan will benefit other downstream communities in Westchester.

“I am so pleased that you guys are working on this,” Ms. Porto said. “This is great news…Unless you’ve actually lived it, you can’t imagine what it’s like.”

Eligible municipal applicants can apply for the grants via the Governor’s Consolidated Funding Application. For more information and details, contact the Environmental Facilities Corp. at [email protected] or call 518-402-6924.

—George Drapeau, with municipal reports.

Town neighbors Anja Porto and Mayor Richard Dionisio return to the site of massive flooding along the Brentwood Brook, left, in September 2021.
From left, Harrison Deputy Mayor Fred Sciliano and Mayor Richard Dionisio visit the town’s Brentwood Brook Park area where a flood mitigation project is expected to being in 2023.
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