Village of Penn Yan Applied to FEMA for $2.5M for Repairs, But More Than $410,000 Needed for Most Visible Repairs Has Yet to Be Approved By FEMA 

Owl’s Nest Community Center In Yates County, Collapsed Shortly After Being Severely Damaged By May 2014 Flooding Leaving Behind a Hole and Exposed Culvert; Village of Penn Yan Requested More than $410,000 to Fix “Owl Hole” Site and Make Other Critical Repairs to Rebuild Sidewalks, Road Surfaces, Retaining Walls and More Throughout The Village  

Schumer to FEMA: Approve Penn Yan Repair Requests Before Construction Season Window Closes 

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today urged the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to fully fund repair work the Village of Penn Yan requested following devastating floods that destroyed local buildings, including the Owl’s Nest. FEMA agreed to reimburse repair work with federal funds following the May 2014 floods and approved 12 of Penn Yan’s funding requests. While other towns and villages in Yates County have been able to complete their repairs, the Village of Penn Yan is still waiting on their final five requests to be approved. The village already completed a comprehensive review of the damage many of their buildings, roads, and infrastructure sustained and is now waiting on FEMA officials to conduct an independent site evaluation next week to determine whether two of the five projects intended to repair washed out roads will be approved. The village is awaiting approval from the State Historic Preservation Office on one project, and is awaiting final FEMA administrative approval on that project and two other projects intended to repair the Owl Nest site, Clinton Street, and the Central Avenue Spur. In a letter to FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate, Schumer urged FEMA to expedite approval of these final Penn Yan funding requests.

“For more than a year the Village of Penn Yan has waited to receive funding it needs to make critical repairs to buildings and roads in the aftermath of devastating floods. The poster child for this inaction has been the Owl’s Nest building, which collapsed leaving behind a gaping hole in the middle of the Village. The site has sat unrepaired for so long, local residents have even now dubbed it ‘the Owl’s Hole.’ While Yates County has already completed all of their repair projects, Penn Yan has waited too long for the funding they need to rebuild,” said Schumer. “I am calling on FEMA to cut through the red tape, expedite Penn Yan’s requests and provide the funding this village needs to complete the reconstruction process.”

Schumer explained that the Village of Penn Yan requested more than $410,000 to complete repairs on several buildings, roads, retaining walls, and sidewalks following heavy flooding in May 2014. The village submitted 18 applications for $2.5 million in FEMA aid. FEMA has already approved twelve of those applications, but the village awaits final approval on the five remaining projects. Schumer said these 5 applications represent damaged buildings and infrastructure that were among those most affected by the flooding and that serve as a daily reminder of the flood’s damage. Schumer said one of the applications is to repair the Owl’s Nest building site.  The Owl’s Nest building, which eventually collapsed weeks after the flood due to the severe damage it sustained, left behind a gaping hole at the site and an exposed culvert.  The site has sat unrepaired for so long, local residents have now dubbed it “the Owl’s Hole.” Schumer said the village also submitted requests for sidewalk repairs that needed to be made as soon as possible to avoid inflicting further inconveniences onto pedestrians. Schumer said FEMA has scheduled a visit to Penn Yan to assess the damage and make a final assessment on the amount it would reimburse the village, and urged FEMA to promptly review and approve the applications after that site visit.

On May 11, 2014 Yates County was hit by heavy floods that damaged roads and infrastructure along with a number of buildings, homes, and businesses. The county, including the Village of Penn Yan, submitted funding requests for various repair projects. FEMA quickly approved applications from Yates County, which has since completed the necessary repairs. Penn Yan, however, has yet to begin repairs on five projects more than one year since the floods were designated a federal disaster that enabled municipalities to seek FEMA repair funding.

In total the village submitted 18 Project Worksheet (PW) applications for approximately $2.5 million in aid after the storm. Twelve of the applications were approved, but the village is still waiting for final approval for 5 of the applications. PW 00544 requests $183,000 to repair the Owl’s Nest community center and PW 00558 requests approximately $106,000 to fix 80 feet of sidewalk and a retaining wall on Clinton Street. Both of those projects are in FEMA’s final review process. PW 00557 requests approximately $84,000 to repair a wall and road along Central Avenue that currently blocks access to local businesses, and is currently being reviewed by the State Historic Preservation Office. PW 00193 and PW 00256 requests approximately $19,000 and $18,000, respectively, to complete other repair projects such as repair roads in the village; FEMA has scheduled a site visit to examine those damages, and Schumer urged FEMA to review and approve those applications once the site visit is complete.

A copy of Schumer’s letter to FEMA appears below:

Dear Administrator Fugate:

I write to urge you to swiftly review and approve the Village of Penn Yan’s request for funding to finally repair damage caused by the May 2014 flooding (DR NY 4180).  It has been over a year since the devastating floods hit Penn Yan and yet five of the most visible and most major repair projects within the Village of Penn Yan have not received final approval from FEMA.  I request FEMA work to diligently review and approve these applications so that the repairs can be completed now before the current construction season window closes so that repairs are not delayed an additional year. 

In May 2014, heavy rainstorms caused severe flooding across Yates County and the entire region, including the Village of Penn Yan. Power lines were knocked down, roads were flooded and washed out, buildings were destroyed and on July 8, 2014 the President issued a Major Disaster Declaration.  The Owl’s Nest community center building in particular faced such significant flood damage that it collapsed several weeks after the storm, leaving behind an exposed culvert and a large hole in the ground where the building once stood.  In total the Village submitted 18 Project Worksheet (PW) applications for approximately $2.5M in FEMA aid last year, and while I appreciate that twelve Project Worksheets were approved, the Village is still waiting for FEMA to approve five of the applications totaling over $410,000 in requested FEMA aid. 

Specifically PW 00544 seeks approximately $183,000 to repair the Owl’s Nest site to address the exposed culvert and add backfill and regrade the site for reuse, PW 00558 seeks approximately $106,000 to fix eighty feet of sidewalk and a retaining wall on Clinton Street, and PW 00557 seeks approximately $84,000 to repair a retaining wall and road that was washed away along the Central Avenue spur which is the main access way to the local business, the Birkett Mills. I understand that PW 00544 and 00558 are under final FEMA review, and that PW 00557 is currently being reviewed by the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO).  I am hopeful that the reviews will be completed quickly and ask FEMA’s continued diligence to expedite their approval. 

Similarly, PW 00193 seeks approximately $19,000 and PW 00256 seeks approximately $18,000 to complete several smaller repair projects including mostly washed out roads and shoulders. I understand that FEMA has scheduled a site visit to evaluate the damage, and I appreciate FEMA’s decision to examine the damage firsthand. After conducting this site visit, I urge FEMA to review and approve these two PWs along with the other three outstanding PWs as quickly as possible. These PWs represent the final projects that Penn Yan needs approved for its rebuilding process from the May 2014 flooding.

Thank you in advance for your attention to this important matter. Should you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me or my staff.


Charles E. Schumer

United States Senator

cc: Ruth L. Pierpoint, Deputy Commissioner for Historic Preservation, State Historic Preservation Office


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