Larchmont Gazette
1942 Year in Review


Year in Review interprets Larchmont history year by year. Larchmonters speak for themselves through news reports, pictures, and official documents.

 

August 20, 1942

FLOOD SUFFERERS ORGANIZE, PROMISE SUITS FOR DAMAGES

150 Residents Of Flooded Areas Unite In Demand For Control Measures; Some Will Press Legal Proceedings.

About 150 residents of the Larchmont and Mamaroneck postal areas attended a mass meeting Saturday afternoon at the Weaver Street Firehouse and unanimously voted to form a flood protective association.

Julien Elfenbein of 47 West Brookside Drive, Town, was elected chairman of the meeting and spoke at length on the conditions suffered by the people whose homes are in the Sheldrake and Mamaroneck River basins.

At the close of Mr. Elfenbein’s statement of conditions, Alfred Stoddard of 14 East Brookside Drive, Town, moved that there be formed a “Mamaroneck Flood Protection Association” to be chartered by the State of New York as a permanent organization to protect the property and health interests of flood victims and potential victims and to protect the future security and health of all people living in the area in which the Sheldrake and Mamaroneck Rivers constitute a potential and actual menace. This will include not only homeowners and householders but also commercial interests.”

The meeting was then thrown open for discussion, but Mr. Elfenbein had previously stated that “we’re not here to discuss individual complaints nor to file petitions of protest but to form a strong protective association for the present and future.” There was little discussion of the motion, therefore, and Austin K. Griffin of 826 Soundview Drive, Mamaroneck, moved that a vote be taken.

Cards were passed out to be signed by all persons willing to pledge “support and cooperation to the Mamaroneck Flood Protective association” and “to join its membership and subscribe to its objectives,” Mr. Elfenbein asked that all persons who wished to take the cards home, mail them as soon as they were filled out to him at 47 West Brookside Drive, Town.

Several people said they would hold the cards pending their signature until the suit be associated him was renamed “Larchmont-Mamaroneck Flood Protective Association.” Mr. Elfenbein said that the association would work for the protection of all flood sufferers in the area whether in the Town of Mamaroneck, or the Villages of Larchmont and Mamaroneck. They received 79 signed cards before the meeting closed, many of them representing the joint signature of a husband and wife.

The meeting was called to order shortly after 3:00 P.M. by Anthony Russo, acting vice president of the Larchmont Gardens Association, who described the efforts made by the Association in the past to cooperate with the Village to obtain a government survey of conditions. He declared that the meeting had been called for the purpose of organizing the people for action and asked that a chairman be elected to lead the meeting. John King of North Brook Road, Town, nominated Mr. Elfenbein, chairman of the flood committee for the Larchmont Gardens Association. Miss Lillian Venezia of 618 Van Ranst Place, Mamaroneck, volunteered to act as Secretary.

In his introductory talk, Mr. Elfenbein said that the experiences he had suffered were representative of the experiences of all flood sufferers. He described the floods which have occurred during the past few years and said they were becoming increasingly frequent, since three have occurred during fourteen days July 27, August 9 and August 11. His neighbors had called upon him, he said, to direct some action in the matter. Many of them were bringing individual suit and others spoke of filing joint sue for damages against the municipalities. Others, he said, were talking about organizing to bring about a 50 or 75 percent reduction in taxes. “If we are just poor white trash,” he quoted neighbors is saying, “living in shacks on a river bottom, let us pay our taxes accordingly.”

Any legal claims against municipalities must be filed before August 27, Mr. Elfenbein said, and he expects to file a suit against the Town of Mamaroneck and Villages of Larchmont and Mamaroneck and the City of New Rochelle. In reference to the proposed suit he pointed out several facts. When the water was pumped out of his neighbors’ basements, he said it flowed directly into his furnace room.

“That is not an Act of God, but of Mr. Flood of the Town of Mamaroneck,” he said referring to the Town Engineer. There were many items of expense which he proposed to offer including dry clearing bills, cabinet work for the restoration of furniture, and exterminator fees for treatment of rats and vermin. His living room had to be cleared of garbage and other refuse, his oil burner and furnace room needed extensive repairs, groceries were destroyed, an outboard motor ruined and damage done to his vegetable garden. They were also bills from druggists, doctors, electricians and plumbers.

You may ask why I am suing the Village of Larchmont and the City of New Rochelle,” Mr. Elfenbein continued. “I’d like to point out one fact. In March, 1936, the City of New Rochelle filed a claim against the Village of Larchmont for damage from floods and in November, 1937, the Village settled the claim for $1,600. The Village naturally wished to prevent future trouble with the residents of New Rochelle and I guess - I’m only guessing - that they decided the best way to do it was to build a dike to prevent Larchmont Reservoir from flooding the homes in the Pinebrook area. Now only a trickle of water goes in that direction, but a spillway carries thousands of gallons per minute to Larchmont. That is not an Act of God.”

He exhibited photographs taken of the reservoir which were published in the Daily Times on April 23, 1940. At that time Mamaroneck Village Manager William H. Johnson declared that the two and three-quarter square miles of water spilling into a lower pond and thence into the Sheldrake River caused the floods.

Another fact Mr. Elfenbein pointed out in connection with his proposed suit against the four municipalities was that “in January, 1933, Westchester County made a deal with the Town of Mamaroneck whereby the sanitary sewage system was to use the sewers of Mamaroneck as a terminus to carry Westchester County sewage to the Sound.” Permission was granted for $400,000.00, he said. “I’m not saying that the facilities were not equipped to carry it,” he continued. “That fact can be determined in a court of law. All we know is that we are being flooded with increasing rapidity.”

The meeting was not called to hear engineers discuss problems of flood control or to file petitions of protest or to form committees to sit in on Town Boards, he said. “We’ve done that before and what did it get us? We are here to organize everyone who values his home, his health and his life. People on the hill are not immune,” he continued,” as long as there and germs carrying spinal meningitis and infantile paralysis. The time is over for listening to explanations from supervisors, engineers and other officials except in a court of law. Impartial judges shall consider the problem and decide what is to be done about it. A court of law will decide whether these conditions are due to an Act of God or to the stupidity of man.”

During the brief period of open discussion, Martin E. King of 527 Monroe Avenue, Mamaroneck, was introduced by the chairman. Mr. King, an attorney acting for Albert Miller recently won a suit against the Village of Mamaroneck for flood damages. “It is a remarkable and heartening thing”, he said, “to see such an intelligent group settled here to discuss the subject. I’ve never heard a better speech that was delivered by your chairman. If you form a permanent organization and stick to it, you’ll get results.”

John E. McDonald, of 1317 Stony brook Avenue, Mamaroneck, said that his driveway had been destroyed by water gushing from a sewer on Stonybrook Avenue and that although the Village had repair the damage after one flood, they had not built a wall to protect that in the adjoining property from the Guion Creek.

Before Mr. Griffen moved that a vote be taken, he said that he would gladly corroborate Mr. Elfenbein’s story of the dam built by the Village of Larchmont to hold back water of the reservoir from the Pinebrook area of New Rochelle.

In closing, Mr. Elfenbein said that in addition to the organization which had just been formed, residents were free to take any individual action they pleased. “Only remember,” he said, “that claims must be filed before August 27.” Another meeting will be called soon, he said, and committees will form to present a slate of officers and directors, to draft a constitution, and to draw up bylaws and a charter.

Among those who attended the meeting from out of town was William T. Deitz of 409 Highbrook Avenue, Pelham Manor. Mr. Deitz said that a similar procedure was being started in Pelham Manor. He would be glad to hear from anyone, he said, who wished to call on the county for action, since he believed that much of the local flood trouble originates in Scarsdale and White Plains.


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