Schumer demands FEMA help for local hotel; Two mayors not sure if hotel was damaged during storm

Tony Washer

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-NY, wrote a second letter Tuesday to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), demanding them to immediately approve public assistance funding for the Kingston Hotel in Canaseraga.

A severe storm system passed over New York state in late July 2003, leaving damage across 14 counties, including Allegany County. These counties were declared eligible for FEMA funding due to the levels of damage left by the storm.

John Tucker, Allegany County director of emergency services, confirmed that there had been a federally declared disaster in Allegany County from July 21, 2003 to Aug. 13 of that year. Tucker said that the county would not, however, have a record of private claims made to FEMA since they are submitted to the agency by each private owner, so no file of the hotel’s claim would be available.

According to William Dibble, president of Allegany Trails, the storm of 2003 caused approximately $300,000 of damage when the northeast section of the hotel collapsed.

Previous reports indicate that the same section of the building had begun to deteriorate when it collapsed in June 2001 “sending rubble from the roof and second floor into the basement.” The building is dated as far back as 1905, as seen on a cornerstone located on the building.

Current Canaseraga Mayor Robert Ames said the building has merely had normal wear and tear and had suffered from a lack of attention indicating that it was not the storms that may have caused the damage. Ames said the building is currently boarded up and fixed so the building won’t collapse.

Allen Phillips, a former Canaseraga mayor, said that he could not remember any damage to the hotel caused by the storm in 2003.

When told the mayor’s comments on the storm, Dibble responded, “I’m sure he’s aware of it.”

Allegany Trails, which runs the hotel, originally applied for and received funding from FEMA shortly after the storm.

As the clean-up process of the hotel began, it was discovered that the building was contaminated by asbestos, and clean-up costs would be higher than initially expected.

Allegany Trails then submitted an appeal to receive more funds from FEMA, but were denied and a second appeal was filed within 60 days in order to comply with FEMA regulations.

“The bottom line is that the Kingston Hotel has suffered damage and cannot afford to wait much longer,” Schumer said in the release. “FEMA’s neglect of this issue is inexcusable and must be rectified as soon as possible.”

Schumer originally wrote to FEMA Jan. 24 explaining the situation of the hotel and campaigned for a quick review of the hotel’s application. Since then, according to Schumer’s release, his request has gone unnoticed.

Allegany Trails is still awaiting FEMA’s decision on their second appeal.