University receives $2.7M in reimbursement for 2011 flood repairs
U.S. Sen. Charles "Chuck" Schumer garners the reimbursement from FEMA
U.S. Sen. Charles “Chuck” Schumer made a stop at the University Downtown Center Thursday with good news for Binghamton University: $2.7 million in funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will reimburse the University for repairs made to the Downtown Center after the 2011 flood.
“Six years ago this Downtown Center sustained very heavy damage during Tropical Storm Lee and required costly repairs that left the building useless for about a year,” Schumer said. “FEMA originally earmarked $3.1 million to do the repairs, but mistakenly deducted more than $2.7 million from the reimbursement because it thought Binghamton would get insurance reimbursement.”
Binghamton University is self-insured, so it wasn’t possible to recoup insurance money, “so FEMA left the University in the lurch,” Schumer said. “The University had to reallocate millions for repairs to put this beautiful building back to life and improve downtown because FEMA made a paperwork error.”
Schumer said that FEMA has finally admitted its mistake and is handing over $2 million to the University, but noted that there’s still work to be done. “There’s about $700,000 left, but we’ll continue to fight for the remaining money,” he said.
“Found money is always exciting,” said President Harvey Stenger. “We were lucky to have a rainy day fund for the repairs in 2011. As you can see, the river is 25 feet below the Downtown Center, so our fund was saved for the right thing to do, and we were able to restore the building in less than a year.”
Stenger said the “found” money will be used to advance community engagement. “What better use of found money than to follow the original purpose of what this college [CCPA] was built upon – engagement with the community.”
The money will be used for two projects, Stenger said. “One is a community-led center at Nuthatch Hollow, where we’re building one of the first certified living buildings in the country,” he said. “The second one, because it can be a bit hard to find your way into campus, is for a welcome center at the front entrance of the campus where people will feel welcome, maybe park their car and have some coffee, before they venture onto campus. These projects fit CCPA’s community engagement goals.”
Laura Bronstein, CCPA dean, spoke of how the school really belongs in downtown Binghamton. “During the end of the year the building was being repaired, we really realized how much we appreciate being here,” she said. “It’s more than a building, it’s a symbol of our commitment to the community.”
Binghamton Mayor Richard David and Broome County Executive Jason Garnar each spoke of the value the University Downtown Center brings to the city and county. David called the building “a symbol and catalyst for the transformation of downtown Binghamton,” while Garnar said that “Binghamton University is the key to our revitalization.”
“Binghamton is on the right track,” Schumer said. “There are exciting things going on here, and just as years ago when this region was at the forefront of cutting-edge technology with IBM and others, it is once again with all of the new programs that Binghamton University has taken the lead on.”