AREA NEWSThe Northern Westchester Examiner

Trailer Home Residents Accuse Cortlandt of Storm Tactics

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Donna Turner stands in front of her trailer home in Verplanck.

Residents of a trailer home park in Verplanck claim the force of Hurricane Sandy was nothing compared to the wrath of town officials in the aftermath who threatened to disconnect electricity for unsafe safety conditions that residents insist don’t exist.

“We’re extremely distraught and distressed over it,” said Donna Turner, treasurer of the Riveredge Owners’ Association (ROA), who has lived on the town-owned site near the Hudson River for 17 years with her ailing husband, Harry, president of ROA and a 57-year inhabitant of the park.

“After the storm the electricity, cable and phone were on. Nothing was off. Water did not get into the electrical system,” she said. “I feel like they’re trying to cut us off at the legs. Most municipalities try to help people like us. We don’t have a lot of money and they know that.”

Turner and ROA attorney Jessica Bacal maintained Cortlandt officials lumped the 30 trailers and its approximately 50 residents with the nearby seaplane base where five trailers were destroyed and condemned. In fact, Bacal said the original letter received by ROA residents informing them of the town’s intent to disconnect the electricity on December 3 contingent on an electrical inspection was addressed to the seaplane base.

“They said they were shocked to get the letter from the town,” Bacal said of her clients, who she indicated were primarily the elderly, disabled, single mothers and military veterans. “There was no meaningful damage by the storm. The water wasn’t knee high, it wasn’t ankle high. It didn’t get into any of the trailers.”

On the contrary, Town Attorney Thomas Wood said the town received reports from the Verplanck Fire Department and others about many mobile homes submerged under water and lifted from their foundations. He stressed five trailer occupants accepted the town’s $3,000 offer for their trailers and a $1,500 relocation fee, while at least three others received $10,000 apiece from FEMA for damage.

“How did they get FEMA money if the trailers weren’t under water?” Wood asked. “The only time we have had issues there is with a life safety issue.  If the town does nothing to ensure that it’s safe and somebody gets electrocuted or there’s an electrical fire, who are they going to sue? They’ll sue the property owner.”

Turner said the town was exaggerating its claims to justify its repeated inspections that have been unnerving residents.

“It would take a miracle for my trailer to float and then get back on its block,” Turner said. “They were misinformed and they’re going by misinformation. If our homes were unsafe, don’t you think someone would have been zapped by electricity?”

There appears to be some resolution to the dispute as an electrician representing ROA filed for necessary permits Friday to upgrade the electrical system at the park.

“That’s recognition on their part that there were problems,” Wood remarked. “If you apply the current code, none of them should be there. A lot of them are grandfathered in the way they are. If they do repairs, they have to meet the current code. None of the trailers there were meant to be a home.”

Under a life estate agreement with former property owner Jim Martin, the trailer home occupants were allowed to stay on the property for 10 years after his death. The deadline for residents to relocate is 2016.

“They were promised another three-and-a-half years and they want to stay as long as the agreement allows them to,” Bacal said.

“I do believe they (town) want this property right away,” Turner said. “Over the years we have maintained this property. The only thing the town does for us is pick up the garbage and plow the road. In the past we’ve had a cooperative relationship. Now I think they’re being unfair.”





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