Keene Gov. Andrew Cuomo spent part of his Labor Day in Essex County and visited with government officials, volunteers and residents in Keene.
The visit occured three days after Cuomo launched the “Labor for Your Neighbor” volunteer initiative, encouraging New Yorkers to help their neighbors recover from the damage of Tropical Storm Irene on Aug. 28.
"We had 2,000 volunteers," Cuomo said. "We had so many volunteers, we had to turn off the website."
Keene was one of the hardest hit towns in the state when flash flooding damaged bridges, roads, homes and businesses. Route 73 is still closed between Keene Valley and Exit 30 on the Adirondack Northway; vehicles are being detoured on Route 9N through Elizabethtown, which the governor said is "a tremendous inconvenience."
"The critical project in this area is Route 73 because Route 73 is the main access point," Cuomo said, adding that there has been significant damage along that state highway.
Cuomo spoke with contractors and state engineers about Route 73, and they initially said it would take several months to fix the road and open it from Keene Valley to the Northway. By working with state legislators, the governor said they could speed up that process by waiving certain state Department of Environmental Conservation permits and state Department of Transportation contracting procedures (i.e. going out to bid for projects).
If that happens, "I believe we can get one lane open in 10 days," Cuomo said. "After 10 days, I told the team in Albany, 'Either wheels are going to roll or heads are going to roll.'"
Full two-lane traffic on Route 73 is expected to be restored 10 days later.
On Sept. 5, the governor got a dose of what Keene residents endured on Aug. 28; the area was under a flash flood watch, and it rained steadily throughout the day. This is Cuomo's second visit to Keene in the past week. He was last here touring the storm damage on Aug. 30.
"It looks dramatically different from just a few days ago," Cuomo said of the cleanup and rebuilding process. "It is night and day. The amount of progress that has been made is breathtaking and it's inspiring."
Cuomo was joined by local officials, such as Keene Supervisor William Ferebee, National Guard officials, and state officials, such as Sen. Betty Little, Deputy Secretary of State for Local Government Dede Scozzafava, and Department of Agriculture & Markets Commissioner Darrel Aubertine.