Mamaroneck Family Still Displaced By Irene, Seeks Variance From Village

The Witt family came before the Village of Mamaroneck Planning Board last Thursday to ask the board to issue a variance allowing work on their home to be completed.

Almost six months after Tropical Storm Irene unleashed a brief but destructive force in Mamaroneck—evidenced by the mounds of sodden and ruined furniture left curbside in certain neighborhoods in the village—many, if not all, of the families displaced by the storm have returned to their homes.

One family, however, is struggling to hold on to their home on 615 First St. before it slips away.

For David and Kinuyo Witt and their 8-month baby, the trouble began on Aug. 28 when the first floor of their home—located parallel to the Mamaroneck River—flooded from Irene.  From there, bad luck and a series of missteps conspired in such a way that repair work being done to their home came to a grinding halt way due to the lack of proper permits. 

According to Clark Neuringer, an architect retained by the couple that appeared before the planning board on Feb. 8 seeking a floodplain variance, his clients were never advised that they needed the variance and are now in a precarious situation where only a portion of the necessary repairs have been done to make their home habitable.

“My clients have absolutely zero alternatives left—we are petitioning for a floodplain variance based on the requirements in the code that we have to demonstrate hardship—the hardship is we have no place to live,” said Neuringer pleadingly, speaking on the Witts’ behalf.

A floodplain variance is a grant of relief from floodplain management regulations and is typically only granted for a property with unusual characteristics that would cause hardship to owners or surrounding property owners.

Advised by the village that they were not eligible for Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) grants that would pay for the elevation of their house—a presumably more permanent solution to an ongoing flooding problem—the Witts’ proceeded to file a claim with their insurance company for repairs to be made.  Despite the issuance of a building permit from the village in November, the department then backtracked and ordered work to be stopped in January for lack of the needed variance, causing a delay in the anticipated completion date of repairs.

“This was our first home—we were moving from the city.  This was our dream to move here and start a family,” said David, adding that the home had previously flooded in 2007 according to the previous owners.

Members of the board, although sympathetic to the plight of the Witts, questioned why they had a general contractor prepare the spec drawings for the repairs.

“I’m very sympathetic to the story that you told…but it’s also true that we ordinarily don’t rely on the building inspector in order to figure out what’s required.  We would expect an applicant to have a professional advise the applicant,” said board member Steward Sterk.

Board member Louis Mendes echoed Sterk’s concerns more bluntly.

“You have to hire an architect or an engineer—you’ve got a plan that basically isn’t worth anything,” he said.

“I don’t know how much more we can spend…we’re paying the mortgage and rent at the same time,” said David, continuing, “We’re running on empty now.”

Though board member Lee Wexler argued in favor of granting the variance at the meeting, other members argued that it would be necessary to prove, in writing, that all conditions of Village Code Chapter 186 were met before issuance of the variance.  The next step would be for the Witts to obtain a floodplain development permit issued by the building department.

“We will do everything we can to get this moving for you,” said Board Chair Michael Ianniello.

The Planning Board will hold a special meeting in the Village of Mamaroneck courtroom tonight at 6:30 p.m. to discuss 615 First St.




BG7 February 16, 2012 at 02:17 PM
Right, I'm sure they were rushing off to hire some expensive professional after a disaster in their home. They just needed the place fixed. 40 years ago you'd just get the builder to fix it and it'd be fine. Now its not allowed to be ok unless three people have signed off on it and you've sacrificed a goat. I fell sorry for them, isn't this meant to be the friendly village?
Harold R. October 07, 2012 at 05:31 PM
A friend of mine sent me this. She went to the Sunoco station to get his paper this morning and there was a stack of these letters there. Some one is getting it in the Village. It is long I will put it up in sections "Open Letter to All Village Home Owners This is a must read to all We could call this either the nightmare on First St., or the Unfriendly Village of Mamaroneck. It has to do with a young couple from Queens expecting their first child and a dream home in Mamaroneck. The date is some time in late 2010 when they purchased 615 First st. a very modest older two bed room home on the bottom of N. Barry ave. Everything seemed fine for this was their first starter home, and the baby was due withing months. But as we all know hurricane Irene hit the village and as always First St. was flooded from the river over flowing the bank. Their dream home was flooded two feet above the first floor level, a scant two feet lower than in 2007 when it was over four feet, with eight feet in the street.
Harold R. October 07, 2012 at 05:37 PM
Eleven houses suffered damage on First st. from the flood, and within days of the water receding ten started the customary rebuild process as before. To live on First st. means you understand the river, and the weather, it is just how it is. But this new member of the community trying to do the right thing, went to the Village Building department and obtained every necessary permit from the current inspector John Winter to rebuild. Something the other ten house owners did not do, nor ever would do, for they understood this Village only too well. Well now it gets interesting, for the inspector that signed the permits moved on to another job and the Village placed Mr. Robert Miello in the position of head of the department. Miello in his infinite wisdom shut down the job and rescinded all the permits, claiming they were erroneously obtained and should have not been issued by the past head of the department. He cited an obscure and arbitrary rule, that I might add has been recently rescinded, that required this couple to raise this house five feet in the air if it is to be rebuilt. The young couple could not afford the additional work and after spending all they had to start the rebuild process went into foreclosure and not only lost their first home their credit rating also. Now let's take a few seconds to review the facts...
Harold R. October 07, 2012 at 05:39 PM
The young couple obtained all required permits from the villlage to rebuild to code from the then head of the Building Department John Winter. Something the other ten home owners did not do. Getting reputable contractors, and with all interim inspection done, they pour money into the project. John Winter moves on and specifically does not recommend Robert Miello for the position of head of the department. as an aside the last head of the department Richard Carroll did not recommend Mr. Miello for the position either. Mr. Miello is appointed months later as head of the department then has the audacity to not only stop the job on First st. but rescind all the permits signed by John Winter,the head of the department and a Village official at the time. He now makes them jump through hoops with submission to every board in the village insured that they( remember the only one wo ten other identical house on First S ) must raise their house 5 feet to comply with a new ordnance by the village. They with representation fight the ruling and lose, to a deck stacked against them, they can not afford the the costs, and walk away from their dream home in the not so Friendly Village. Months later this law that drove them into foreclosure administered by Mr. Miello after and Official of the Vvillage issued valid permits was removed from the books. Too late for this couple and their suburban dream home...
Harold R. October 07, 2012 at 05:40 PM
There is ample documentation on this case and a notice of Claim against the Villlage and the arbitrary and capricious actions of Mr. Miello that started the action. Just search 615 First st. for the legal notice. Too late for the couple and too late for the tax payers of the Village, for it is us that must pay in increased taxes for the mistakes of all our officials to act properly. When the couple win their law suite and they will win, it is us that must pay all legal expenses and awards. Not Mr. Miello that does not even live in town, but us. I find fault , as you must, not only with Mr. Miello but with all our Village officials from the Mayor down for not taking a stand as a Human Being and stopping this before it began. This is not the only case of official abuse that has occurred from this department by Mr. Miello, but it should be the last. The Village will claim he has since been demoted to assistant building inspector, but this is a sham for he has just as much power to asbus as always. A lifetime resident of this Village who has been around from the days before WWII I am disgusted with what t we have allowed our elected official to become. They appear driven not for the good of the community but for their own self serving goals. It is past time to act and to change and correct from within...
Harold R. October 07, 2012 at 05:40 PM
Unsigned for the obvious reason that I know nothing will change, and Mr. Miello will be trying hard to punish the outspoken resident having the audacity to challenge his ego and Vanity. He has in the past, and will do so again, perhaps to you if you do nothing"
Carlo Thomas December 01, 2012 at 02:04 AM
I have researched this and indeed found the Notice of Claim against the Village from the Whitt's that coroborate the statements Harold R. has posted. I also can't understand how the Mayor, and trustees can allow an individual the calibre of Mr. Meillio to continue in this capicity, for he is a disgrace to the comunity that pays him. What has become of our elected officials that have so little regard of our basic human rights that they can condone actions like this against the people that make the Village what it is. Have they no shame ? Every Village resident reading this must take a minute and try to remember what it was like just starting out with a new family and first house. Then think of how this would have changed your life if it happened to you. Write a comment or better still print this and send it to the Mayor and trustees at Village hall. Ask him one question for us all " Ok Mayor, how are you going to stop this from ever occuring again to another young couple who are miss informed in believing this is the Friendly Village". I know what I would do if I were the Mayor, Mr Meillio would be put in charge of inspecting and enforcing the Dog Feces laws until he gets the message and quits. Carlo T.
LifeLongResident December 01, 2012 at 12:45 PM
I had not seen this article having only discovered the Patch shortly before Sandy and consumed with clean up since.. A friend met Kiyuno after they were both flooded out during Irene and says their family has been devastated by this experience. My friend is convinced that the Whitt's problems were not driven by the building inspector but by complicated political issues surrounding an ocean front home, but then again my friend is kind of a conspiratorialist. I don't think people should just blame Melillo solely, that is too easy. I looked for the legal notice like Harold said but couldn't find it, maybe Carlo can put up a link to it. I did see the other day in lohud that someone else is suing the village over civil rights.


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