02.23.17

SCHUMER’S INTERVENTION SECURES MORE THAN $2 MILLION FOR BINGHAMTON UNIVERSITY, AFTER DOWNTOWN CENTER SUFFERED DEVASTATING DAMAGE DURING TROPICAL STORM LEE; SENATOR SUCCESSFULLY PUSHED FEMA TO APPROVE REIMBURSEMENT FOR CRITICAL BUILDING REPAIRS AFTER FED ERRONEOUSNESS

Binghamton University’s Downtown Center Was Inundated by Flood Waters ?During Tropical Storm Lee, Which Caused Extensive Damage to Electrical and Mechanical Services That Support Key Building Functions

Senator Says FEMA Mistakenly Deducted Nearly $2.8 Million From That Total For Insurance The University Did Not Have – Now, Binghamton Received Some Of The Federal Investment But Is Still Owed More

Schumer: NY Taxpayers ?Will No Longer Be ?Left ?Holding The Bag For FEMA’s Error

Standing with the Binghamton University President Harvey Stenger and local officials, U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer announced he successfully pushed the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to reimburse Binghamton University over $2,080,000 for damages sustained during Tropical Storm Lee in 2011. Schumer said the flooding caused by the storm nearly destroyed the Center’s basement, causing extensive damage to major electrical and mechanical equipment that support the building’s functions. Schumer explained that FEMA initially approved a total project cost of $3,188,766 in funding for repairs to the Binghamton University Downtown Center. However, following this decision, FEMA then mistakenly deducted $2,778,462 from the federal funding the university received assuming the University would get reimbursed from their private flood insurance provider. However, as a state entity, Binghamton University is self-insured, and under FEMA policy entitled to full federal funding. Even with this information, FEMA still only approved Binghamton University for $410,304, prompting the university to appeal the decision and Schumer to advocate for the school in a letter to the FEMA Administrator.

“During Tropical Storm Lee, Binghamton University’s Downtown Center sustained heavy damage, crippling its mechanical and electrical infrastructure, requiring costly repairs and shuttering the building for over nearly a year. When I got wind of Binghamton University being wrongfully denied reimbursement from FEMA after being forced to lay out millions of dollars for these critical repairs, I immediately got to work,” said Senator Schumer. “I strongly urged FEMA Administrator Fugate to swiftly review and approve the appeal. Today, after nearly 2 years of cutting bureaucratic red tape I’m excited to announce that FEMA has finally corrected its multi-million dollar mistake. While there is still work to be done as some funds are still owed to the university, I will continue to fight alongside the university to ensure that they receive every single penny they need and deserve.”

“I am pleased Binghamton University will get this federal funding to help cover the cost of repairing damages caused by Tropical Storm Lee,” said Senator Gillibrand. “Securing FEMA funds remain critical during rebuilding efforts and serves as an essential investment towards building the necessary safeguards for when the next storm hits. I will continue to fight for the funds necessary to reinforce our universities’ foundation to help keep our students safe.”

Schumer explained that though the total claim for the University Downtown Center was $3,188,766, FEMA only approved $410,304 following the storm damage from Tropical Storm Lee, after deducting $2,778,462 as covered by insurance. However, Schumer said, this paperwork error could have costed the University millions. FEMA approved funding for Binghamton University and other campuses in 2012, but SUNY soon noticed that FEMA had deducted large sums from some of the projects as “anticipated flood insurance proceeds.” According to SUNY, however, FEMA attributed this Dormitory Authority of the State of New York (DASNY) insurance to buildings like the Downtown Center that are not dorms and therefore not covered by DASNY insurance policies. This led FEMA to incorrectly deduct ?anticipated insurance proceeds from the grant. Schumer applauded this substantial reimbursement, but said he would continue fighting for the outstanding $700,000 that Binghamton University still needs. Schumer said he is hopeful ?that approval is forthcoming and is optimistic that the remainder of the federal funding will be approved after receiving word that the university has been contacted to produce receipts. Schumer promised to continue assisting Binghamton University until their total reimbursement is processed.

Schumer was joined by Binghamton University President Harvey Stenger, College of Community & Public Affairs Dean Laura Bronstein, Broome County Executive Jason Garnar, Binghamton MayorRichard David, and Broome County Legislature Chairman Daniel J. Reynolds.

“Binghamton University thanks Sen. Schumer for advocating on our behalf with the Federal Emergency Management Agency," said President Harvey Stenger. ?"This flood was a costly disaster for our entire community. The University was also dealt a huge setback when our Downtown Center – home to our College of Community and Public Affairs – was flooded and closed for nearly a year. We spent a significant amount of money to bring the building back online. As with any institution of this size, having a sizable amount of money tied up for this many years definitely had an impact. We are extremely grateful to finally have most of these funds returned to us."

This reimbursement of over $2,080,000 will untie Binghamton University’s hands, allowing them to move forward on several important projects for the community, including the Nuthatch Hollow Living Building project. The funds will also support efforts for a university welcome center that will provide an inviting gateway for thousands of guests, prospective students, and their parents each year.

A copy of Senator Schumer’s letter urging FEMA to swiftly review and approve Binghamton University’s initial appeal is included below:

 

Dear Administrator Fugate:

I write in regards to the appeals submitted by the State University of New York (SUNY) for damages to university buildings on several campuses after Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee. I urge you to adjudicate these appeals as soon as possible, and to ensure that the SUNY campuses receive all the FEMA funding to which they are entitled.

Numerous SUNY campuses were faced with significant amounts of damage in the wake of Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee. For example, the basement of Binghamton University’s Downtown Center was inundated by flood water during Tropical Storm Lee, causing extensive damage to all electrical and mechanical services that support the building’s functions. SUNY New Paltz also saw severe damage during Hurricane Irene; the basement of the Haggerty Administration Building flooded, causing severe damage to the building and knocking out power. These are just a few examples; other campuses across the state were also severely impacted by these storms.

While FEMA approved funding for many of these campuses in 2012, SUNY soon noticed that FEMA had deducted large sums from some of the projects as “anticipated flood insurance proceeds.” According to SUNY, FEMA attributed Dormitory Authority of the State of New York (DASNY) insurance to buildings that were not covered by DASNY insurance policies, which led to FEMA incorrectly deducting anticipated insurance proceeds from the grant. For example, when FEMA awarded funding to Binghamton University to repair the University Downtown Center Basement, FEMA deducted nearly $2.8 million in anticipated DASNY insurance proceeds, but the building was not covered by DASNY insurance. I urge you to adjudicate this appeal, and the other related SUNY appeals, to ensure that the campuses receive all of the funding they need and deserve to rebuild.

I appreciate FEMA’s past support of the SUNY campuses, and I thank you for your attention to these important projects. Should you have any additional questions, please do not hesitate to contact me or my staff.

Sincerely,

Charles E. Schumer

United States Senator

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