Howard Beach residents, businesses fuming over lack of insurance, gov’t assistance

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THE COURIER/Photo by Alexa Altman
THE COURIER/Photo by Alexa Altman

Frustrated Howard Beach homeowners and merchants gathered at Roma View to file Sandy insurance claims.

At $9,000 a year, JoAnn Ambrosio thought she had the “Rolls Royce” of insurance. But when four feet of water flooded her Howard Beach home during Sandy, she was left scrambling.

Living in Zone B, Ambrosio was not required to purchase a policy that provided protection from floods — a service that for $400 extra, she wished she owned.

“My insurance company doesn’t even want to talk to me,” said Ambrosio. “I put in a claim and they denied it.”

The realtor, whose rental property was destroyed in the storm, said FEMA refused to offer help with the property she leases because it is registered as a business. She is awaiting notification about a small business loan she requested.

Ambrosio estimates she lost $250,000 between her home and her rental property.

“I’m just looking for every resource,” said Ambrosio. “I did receive help from FEMA but it’s not enough to cover both pieces of property. They did give me a check but it’s not enough to cover the extent of the damage that occurred there — I don’t understand why FEMA doesn’t help small businesses. That just adds insult to injury.”

At a forum at Roma View Catering Hall on Tuesday, November 27, Ambrosio and roughly 50 other homeowners and merchants filled out claims and spoke with Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, expressing their frustrations over underperforming insurance companies and lack of government assistance.

“This will not be quick, although we wish it was. We’ve got to stick with it until it’s done,” said de Blasio.

One homeowner, who only received $6,000 from FEMA to cover $17,000 in damages, said her insurance company refused to cover anything because Sandy was a storm and not a hurricane.

Angelo Gurino, owner of Ragtime grocery store on Cross Bay Boulevard, hoped the meeting might bring some clarity among the mess of insurance paperwork. The small business owner said his electrical system — newly installed for $68,000 — experienced the most damage. Gurino estimates rebuilding will run somewhere between $50,000 to $75,000.

“I hate to see the bill when I get it,” he said.

Assemblymember Phillip Goldfeder, whose home and office were damaged by Sandy, said the event was to ensure residents that they have not been forgotten.

“The government hasn’t forgotten about them,” said Goldfeder. “There are still people who care about them and the community and about finding ways to rebuild — it’s not the end of the road.”