Tag Archives: Congressmember Hakeem Jeffries

Rep. Jeffries wants investigation into FEMA flood insurance scandal


| agiudice@ridgewoodtimes.com

THE COURIER/File photo

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries is calling upon the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) inspector general to investigate potential fraud in the insurance claims process for people who were affected by Hurricane Sandy.

“Superstorm Sandy devastated many communities throughout New York City,” said Jeffries, whose district includes Howard Beach and other areas hit by Sandy. “Homes were destroyed, businesses damaged and lives turned upside down.”

“In the wake of this tragedy, FEMA failed to oversee a fair and expeditious processing of flood insurance claims,” he continued. “The public deserves to know what happened, why it happened and how we can prevent it from ever happening again.”

In New York, over 300,000 housing units were damaged and more than 260,000 businesses were affected in the 2012 storm. Jeffries charges that claims made by home and business owners were tampered with.

In a letter to FEMA, Jeffries penned, “It has become increasingly apparent that a systemic fraud was perpetrated on a vulnerable group of tax-paying Americans in need of immediate financial relief.”

“In multiple instances, engineering reports regarding storm damage were apparently altered without the knowledge of the author,” the letter continued. “Equally troublesome, in other cases engineers appear to have been pressured to inappropriately reach specific conclusions that would lower insurance company payments.”

The letter goes on to say, “Given the urgency of this situation, an independent and comprehensive review of the disposition of Superstorm Sandy-related flood insurance claims is critical. In light of the serious nature of the allegations, FEMA cannot serve as judge and jury of its own potential wrongdoing.”

Joining Jeffries in signing the letter are U.S. Representatives Charlie Rangel, Steve Israel, Gregory Meeks, Grace Meng, Yvette Clarke, Jose Serrano and Carolyn Maloney.

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South Queens residents seek help at post-Sandy town hall


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Maggie Hayes

Carl Teresa drained his retirement savings to pay for Sandy home damages and is tired of getting the runaround from city and state agencies, he said.

Eight months after the storm, south Queens is still not whole, and Teresa said he is just one of many still struggling. Homeowners gathered at a town hall forum in Howard Beach, hosted by Assemblymember Phillip Goldfeder and Congressmember Hakeem Jeffries, to ask pressing questions that still exist months later.

“You can’t get a straight answer from anybody,” Teresa said. “You talk to one person who has answer A, then another who gives you answer B. Nobody has the same answer.”

Teresa had his Rockaway Park home was inspected three times by FEMA agents before he received money for his damages. The first inspector, he said, left the state without relaying information. The second did not do an accurate inspection, he said, and the third was finally able to get Teresa a $31,900 FEMA assistance grant.

The basement apartment of his two-floor home was destroyed — inundated with over 30 inches of water — he said. The apartment is home to his mother-in-law, who has Alzheimer’s disease. She relocated to the first floor with Teresa and his wife until the repairs were complete.

Teresa estimated the damages cost him at least $70,000. He is on Social Security disability, and cannot return to work to replace the money lost.

“How do I support myself the rest of my life,” he asked.

Jeffries and Goldfeder advised people in predicaments similar to Teresa’s to register for the city’s Build-it-Back program, which is geared towards assisting homeowners, landlords and tenants whose properties were damaged by Sandy. It offers several pathways to relief, including reimbursement for out-of-pocket payments.

“People shouldn’t be forced to drain their bank accounts and decimate their savings in order to repair a home,” Jeffries said.

The two also discussed updates to FEMA’s flood and evacuation maps. Evacuation zones will be changing from letters to numbers, Zone 1 being the highest priority. Most of Howard Beach will be located in Zone 1, Jeffries said.

A rep from Neighborhood Revitalization NYC was also in attendance to speak about mold treatment. The program, which got cheers from the town hall audience, coordinates mold inspection and fixes free of charge. Members of the city’s Department of Financial Services as well as FEMA were also present to answer individualized questions.

Goldfeder, a notable advocate for Sandy victims since the storm, asked the Department of Environmental Protection to clean out catch basins in the hope to better preparing the area’s sewer system for any future storm.

“It has been a daily, daily struggle,” he said. “Almost every day is a new challenge.”

“Now, we need to make sure we are prepared for the future,” he added.

Those interested in the Build-it-Back program can visit www.nyc.gov/recovery for more information. To see the preliminary flood and evacuation maps, estimated to be released at the end of the summer, go to www.region2coastal.com. For those seeking flood insurance information and agents, visit www.floodsmart.gov.

 

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Commerce Secretary tours Sandy-damaged Rockaways, promising to get businesses back on their feet


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Terence M. Cullen

Assistant Secretary of Commerce Matt Erskine promises he will take what he saw in the Rockaways back to Washington, D.C. to ensure south Queens continue to get relief as it still reels from Sandy.

On Thursday, January 30 Erskine, along with elected officials, toured the still-devastated areas of the peninsula — including the Madelaine Chocolate Factory, one of the largest small businesses in Queens with 425 employees, which was heavily damaged by the storm. Erskine and the politicians applauded the staff at Madelaine for its efforts to get back to work.

“The president made clear that this was to be an all hands on deck effort,” Erskine said. “And that he was committed to making sure that we at the federal government are going to be with you every step of the way, and we’re going to look for new ways to work more effectively with our state and local partners to get this job done and get it done correctly.”

The visit came just days after Congress approved the second part of a $60 billion Sandy aid package almost three months after the storm swept through the area. Erskine, speaking before local leaders at Vetro in Howard Beach, which was also damaged in the storm, promised President Barack Obama was committed that everyone, from every agency, work together like never before to ensure the Rockaways get all the relief that’s needed.

Congressmember Gregory Meeks, who toured the area with Erskine, said he too had pressured the president for continued relief.

“Right before we went in for the luncheon on Inauguration Day,” Meeks said. “I mentioned ‘we’re still hurting in the Rockaways.’ And he says ‘I know, and I won’t forget it.’”

About 40 percent of the small businesses in the Rockaways will probably never reopen, said Jack Friedman, executive director of the Queens Chamber of Commerce. The goal of chamber members, along with local leaders, is to help as many businesses as possible get back on their feet.

“We see that same thing happening all over the Rockaway Peninsula, all over Howard Beach,” Friedman said. “Small business people trying to get through the loss of their homes, the loss of their possessions, the loss of their businesses, looking for help and support from government, private industry, from not-for-profits, just so they can go back to do what they do, which is employ a lot of our residents, make this borough work.”

Newly-sworn in Congressmember Hakeem Jeffries, who represents Howard Beach, Lindenwood and Ozone Park, said it was a top priority to get as many businesses back up and running.

“I’m particularly pleased that [Erskine]’s here today because essentially this is day one of the rebuilding and recovery process from the standpoint that the legislation was just signed into law,” Jeffries said. “And that should open up a level of resources for the city of New York, and the state of New York that will make its way to people who are in distress.”

 

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