TUSTEN, NY — On September 12, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced that Sullivan County had been added to the Major Disaster Declaration that provides federal funding for recovery from Hurricane …
TUSTEN, NY — On September 12, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced that Sullivan County had been added to the Major Disaster Declaration that provides federal funding for recovery from Hurricane Ida.
While Sullivan County qualified for the Public Assistance portion of that declaration, as assessed by the state and by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, it did not qualify for the Individual Assistance portion.
The funding will help municipalities across the county recover from the damage caused by Hurricane Ida. But the lack of individual assistance leaves communities like Luxton Lake behind.
Located within the Town of Tusten, Luxton Lake is a private community with history stretching back to the 1900s. The community experienced a boom in the 1950s, as the area was marketed as an African American vacation destination, and began to decline following the demolition of its dam in 1983 and the subsequent draining of the lake.
Luxton Lake has been a growing community in the 21st century, with new construction and new homeowners coming in. But the community remains cut off from funding, with infrastructure issues that it cannot handle on its own.
Part of the problem comes from Luxton Lake’s proximity to NYS Route 97. The problem stems largely from a culvert that directs water away from Route 97, sending it directly through Luxton Lake property. The amount of water that comes from that culvert is too much for the ditches and the culverts of Luxton Lake to handle, sending water flooding up onto the roads and washing parts of them away.
It’s been a problem for years, says President of the Luxton Lake Property Owners Association (LLPOA) Anie Stanley. But the hurricanes this past year and the amount of stormwater that has come through Luxton Lake has caused excessive damage, undoing all the work the community did in getting those roads ready for winter.
The LLPOA requested help from the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT), either in the form of changes to the stormwater management of that stretch of Route 97 or through funding to repair the damages caused by stormwater runoff. NYSDOT personnel did come to the area in 2020, meeting with members of the LLPOA and surveying the affected roads.
But the NYSDOT ultimately concluded that there was nothing it could do. The affected roads were private roads, and renovations to those roads—including ditches, crowned roadways, and larger culvert pipes—could resolve the problems they faced.
Additionally, the NYSDOT said that “the NYS 97 drainage system and water patterns have essentially remained the same since original construction of the roadway in 1931. The department has not introduced any additional water into the system by our operations in the area.”
For the LLPOA, the lack of change is part of the problem. The increasing severe weather events of a world affected by climate change—including the three most recent hurricanes—place previously designed water management systems under excessive stress.
And even without the impacts of climate change, the lack of a maintenance plan for the area is concerning, says LLPOA Vice-President Anthony Marsanico; “How do you just walk away from a system you designed?”
Luxton Lake has had difficulties in getting help from the town, as well.
While the town cannot maintain private roads, the road that leads into the community from Route 97, Luxton Lake Road, is a town road, and the ditches along that road contain some of the runoff from Route 97. In the view of the LLPOA, those ditches are inadequate for the amount of water that goes through them.
According to Town of Tusten Tusten Supervisor Ben Johnson, the problem isn’t with the ditches, but with where the ditches meet the private roads. The culvert pipes on the private roads aren’t of sufficient size to handle the water that goes through them, he says.
The community members of Luxton Lake don’t have the private funding to make that kind of improvement, says the LLPOA. The last overhaul of the road cost $12,000, and that was eight years ago.
The lack of community means makes it harder for Luxton Lake to find funding or support, says Stanley; “If this was a gated community, would they do it?”
“Is Luxton Lake a forgotten community?” asks Marsanico.
The community has received some outside support, including a Sullivan Renaissance grant for the renovation of two historic flag pole monuments.
The town provided some help after a 2017 tornado, when the roads were filled with fallen trees, and the previous supervisor Carol Wingert agreed that, in the event of a natural disaster, the town would provide additional assistance.
But Luxton Lake is still in search of some kind of state funding for communities with infrastructure problems that they can’t afford to fix.
They’re all paying taxes, says Mansanico. Where is the money being spent? What do the communities get out of it?