Tag Archives: insurance

Maspeth family still out of home over a month after collapse

| slicata@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Salvatore Licata

Steven and Danielle Maher will be spending their Christmas in a hotel room — and not because they’re on a holiday vacation.

The couple and their 15-month-old daughter, Keira, were forced out of their home and into a hotel when a sinkhole suddenly caved in a portion of their sidewalk and house on Oct. 24. They have not been allowed back in the home, located at 69-11 158th Road in Maspeth, and a dispute with their insurance agency has left them with no timetable on repairs or a return to their home.

“It’s been really hard to get along since this happened,” said Danielle, 26. “We need answers because we haven’t been in our house since it collapsed and want to fully secure it to stop more damage or from it falling completely.”

The couple bought the house, which was built in 1928, three years ago. There were never any signs of damage or a faulty structure, which is why their insurance provider, State Farm, approved their application for homeowners insurance with no problems, Danielle said.

On the day of the collapse, their uncle was downstairs and noticed the sheet rock covering the wall was bulging. Upon further inspection, he saw a crack in the foundation and heard movement inside the wall. He notified Danielle immediately and she evacuated the home with her daughter and two dogs. Minutes later, the sinkhole caved in and a portion of the house’s wall went with it.

To make things worse, the Mahers just finished putting in over $100,000 in renovations around their home and had just bought a door, which would have put the finishing touch on their makeover.

Photo courtesy of Danielle Maher

Photo courtesy of Danielle Maher

After the collapse, they put a claim in with the insurance company for the collapse. The Mahers figured it would be a quick process of approval, but the claim was denied. The insurance agency said the foundation was doomed to eventual failure on the day it was constructed and because of that, it is not covered in their policy.

Since the structure was built so long ago, the couple was never able to find any records on the house.

“We had no idea that there were any problems with the house and had no problems prior to this,” said Danielle. “Now, they won’t cover the claim and we don’t know what to do next.”

State Farm declined to comment on the claim, saying it was still open and must remain private.

At the time of the denial, the Mahers were already living in the hotel, which was being paid for by State Farm. But they have been told the insurance will stop covering the expenses, which would have pushed them out on the streets.

They quickly hired a public adjustor who was able to prolong the insurance payments covering the hotel expenses.

But the couple is worried that if they cannot get their insurance to pay for the repairs, they will be forced out of their home for good as the cost of fixing their home is upwards of $250,000.

To help out, some quick-thinking friends got together to throw a fundraiser for the Mahers in hopes to raise some money for the repairs.

Vincent Addeo, the couple’s friend and their daughter’s godfather, said it’s the least he can do to help.

“I did it for my goddaughter,” he said. “They should not be treated like this. They had no control over the situation.”

The fundraiser will take place at Bridie’s Bar and Grill, located at 63-28 Woodhaven Blvd. in Rego Park, at 8 p.m. on Dec. 20.

At this point, the couple has hired their own private engineers to take a look at the house to fight the denial of their State Farm claim. They will remain in the hotel for as long as their insurance will cover it.

They are unsure of their next step, or how they will be able to live if they do not get the insurance money to fix their home. But, even though these have been hard times, they have not been able to take a smile off of Danielle’s face thanks to her daughter Kiera.

“We just want some sort of normal back,” said Danielle. “My daughter though, I don’t know what I would have done without her. She’s holding us together.”



Alleged bilking of insurances going on post-Sandy

| aaltman@queenscourier.com

Along with floodwater and debris, Sandy swept in windows for individuals to take advantage of the storm and the suffering of others. At a meeting in Howard Beach on Tuesday, November 27, one woman said she witnessed someone hose down the interior of his car in an attempt to claim the vehicle was damaged by Sandy and get a new one through his insurance policy.

“I was like ‘wow.’ I had never heard anything like that,” said Cindi Strauss after listening to her neighbor’s story. “But I guess people try to get away with what they can. You draw a line in the sand and people try to tip toe over it.”

The Howard Beach resident said she’s seen a lot of new automobiles around the neighborhood lately, but chalked the new rides up to car insurance companies replacing damaged vehicles at a swift rate.

Strauss, who attended the meeting with her husband Michael, said instances of fraud make it incredibly difficult for those rightfully seeking assistance to get the help they need. Strauss said her husband has lived in their house since he was born and an insurance claim has only been filed once before, sometime in the mid-80s.

“It’s just not right for them to turn their backs on people like this,” said Strauss. “I don’t see how anyone could defraud the system with their homes. They come in and see everything isn’t working and they can see it’s damaged.”

Elizabeth Stelzer, a spokesperson for Nationwide car insurance, said she was unaware that people were attempting to submit fraudulent claims. She said because the screening process for claims is rigid, it would be difficult for someone to slip a false one past.

“When we go through claims process it’s a very thorough process so each claim is based on its own merits,” said Stelzer.

The spokesperson said that even during times of disaster, the process remains the same, regardless of the increase of claims filed.

“This is what we prepare for,” said Stelzer. “After a catastrophe you have more damaged cars, but this is what you train for all year round.”

Businesses recovering after Sandy

| tcullen@queenscourier.com


When Sandy’s wrath started to hit Howard Beach, the channel — one of the main links of the community — started to flood. Pockets of low-lying areas of Cross Bay Boulevard became pools of icy water.

The result was catastrophic damage to area homes and to the string of small businesses that characterize the neighborhood.

Several forums and information sessions have been held to help businesses get back on their feet. Many have been able to get grants or loans from the Small Business Administration (SBA), which is a federal office to help businesses nationwide. Some loans are at low rates and have repayment periods that stretch as far as 30 years.

And while some shops on the west side of the bay only suffered damage to property or lost some supplies, some east side stores have had to rip out everything and start from scratch.

One landmark eatery that took the brunt of flooding was Lenny’s Clam Bar, which had prepared for the storm with sandbags and other measures. When the water turned Cross Bay Boulevard into a canal, the valet booth was pushed, floating, into the street.

A decent amount of equipment was damaged by the storm, owner Joe De Candia said, and some walls were damaged from the salt water. The floors, for the most part, remained intact. Destroyed or damaged equipment ranged from computers to ovens to stoves.

The Tuesday after the storm, as strong winds were still gusting through the waterside neighborhood, De Candia and the Lenny’s staff got back to work repairing walls and getting new machinery.

“I wanted to get open as soon as the power was on,” he said. “We did a lot of work in the three weeks [since the storm].”

By Friday, November 16, the Clam Bar was back open serving foodies in Howard Beach.

De Candia said he did not go through any kind of insurance, rather, opting to pay out of pocket. But even with an insurance policy, it would not have ensured Lenny’s would be open as fast as it did. While he could not estimate how much total repair would end up costing, De Candia said so far rebuilding has cost an upward of $200,000.

And although business is not as busy as normal for this time of year, the restaurant is up and running and De Candia’s staff is back at work.

“We’re definitely off from our normal flow of business,” he said, “but we’re up, we’re open and my employees are back to work.”

While many businesses are still reeling from the loss of property and economic activity, other Howard Beach services were drastically damaged by Sandy.

A brand new facility of the New York Families for Autistic Children (NYFAC) in Howard Beach was set to open two weeks after Sandy struck. The larger facility on Cross Bay Boulevard was set to expand the services of the organization.

The building took on four-and-a-half feet of water to the first floor, ruining the sheet rock, floors and furniture, according to NYFAC CEO Andrew Baumann. The building’s elevator system was severely damaged by the storm, and the entire electrical system for the lift has to be replaced, Baumann said.

“I had to replace sheetrock,” Baumann said. “I had to replace floors, desks, computers. We were two weeks from opening. We had furniture that came in that got ruined. We took a big hit.”

But while there is no time frame for the facility’s delayed opening, originally intended to by November 16, Baumann said construction was pushed back at least six to eight weeks while the elevator system is repaired and then inspected.

The cost of repair came out to about $165,000, Baumann said, adding he’s not sure where these funds will come from. Baumann said the facility was not insured for flooding so the organization is essentially on its own to finance repairs. The nonprofit has been looking into loan programs, particularly from SBA, but repayment is the problem.

“I have no problem finding the money,” he said. “I can borrow the money from a million different places. Where do you get the money to pay it back? That’s the problem.”

Baumann said the NYFAC board will hold an emergency meeting to figure out fundraising methods to ease the cost of repairs. One way is the annual NYFAC dinner dance, which will be held on February 28.

“We’re going to see what we can come up with, some kind of innovative idea. I don’t know what we’re going to come up with,” said Baumann.

Cuomo announces plans to speed up Sandy insurance claims

| brennison@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Terence Cullen

Insurance companies will need to answer Sandy insurance claims quicker or face poor grades in the state’s new online grading system for insurers.

Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the new measures yesterday to help expedite insurance payments to victims of Superstorm Sandy. The Department of Financial Services (DFS) issued a new regulation that will cut insurance companies’ time to follow up on claims from 15 days to six days.

Companies that do not begin investigating within six days face a fine of $1,000.

“In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, it is vital that New Yorkers receive their claim settlements as soon as possible, so that they can rebuild their homes, businesses and lives,” Cuomo said. “There simply is no substitute for speed when it comes to insurance payouts after a storm. We must do everything possible to make sure we hold insurance companies accountable to their customers.”

In addition to speeding up claims, the governor announced an online grading system assessing insurance companies to hold them accountable. The reports cards can be found at www.NYInsure.ny.gov.   The criteria insurance companies will be judged on is:

  • Number of claims and dollar amount of claims
  • Average time for an adjuster to inspect
  • Number of claims closed with and without payment so far
  • Total number of consumer complaints
  • Number of complaints as a percentage of number of claims

Queens Morning Roundup

| brennison@queenscourier.com


Friday: Increasing clouds, with a high near 47. Light and variable wind becoming east 6 to 11 mph in the morning. Friday night: A slight chance of rain or drizzle after midnight. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 41. East wind 9 to 11 mph. Chance of precipitation is 20%.

EVENT of the DAY: Shirley Valentine at Queens Theatre

The Tony and Olivier Award-winning play, written by Willy Russell, is about a middle-aged housewife who finds herself unhappy and wondering what happened to all the joy in her life. But when she’s offered the chance to go on the vacation-of-a-lifetime, Shirley is introduced to the adventure, hope and, ultimately, love she had been missing. Click here for more info or to submit an event of your own

Citizens group demands ‘overdue’ stormproof measures to prevent future devastation of Rockaways beaches

Just hours after Superstorm Sandy devastated Rockaway Beach, someone angrily spray-painted a message on the wall of a battered handball court: “John Cori warned you.” Cori, who grew up down the street on Beach 92nd St., has spent the past few years advocating for beach replenishment, new jetties and other reforms to protect the dangerously eroded shoreline. Read more: Daily News

NY1 Exclusive: Red Cross Worker Charged With Alleged Sexual Abuse Of Woman Who Lost Her Home To Sandy

A Red Cross worker is charged with sexually assaulting a woman who turned to him for help after Hurricane Sandy destroyed her Queens home. NY1’s Dean Meminger filed the following report. Evergreen Washington says a Red Cross worker should be stripped of his red and white uniform and put in a prison jumpsuit. Read more: NY1

Romney lunches with Obama at White House

Bitter campaign foes just weeks ago, President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney met for lunch at the White House on Thursday, sitting down with an eye on overlapping interests rather than the sharp differences that defined their presidential contest. Read more: NY Post

Rockaway Residents Frustrated With Crowded Buses, Longer Travel Times

Rockaway residents say they’re fed up having to wait an extra 30 minutes or more each morning for a bus to work. “I don’t get paid if I’m not there,” said one commuter. “It’s crazy.” In some cases, buses are so packed, they have to bypass stops. Read more: NY1

St. John’s University dean Cecilia Chang expressed “suicidal ideations” a month before she killed herself

Ex-St. John’s University dean Cecilia Chang talked of committing suicide little more than a month before she hanged herself during her criminal trial, according to court papers. A female friend of Chang’s asked to have her name removed from the bail bond because of the defendant’s increasingly bizarre behavior, defense lawyer Joel Cohen told a judge at an emergency hearing held on Oct. 1. Read more: Daily News

Queens homeowner can’t get in touch with insurance company

Dark and damp, the smell of seawater left from Sandy is a reminder for homeowner Marcy Miller Bolden of the water which flooded her basement during the hurricane. “My basement is completely destroyed,” Miller Bolden said. “The seawater corroded my boiler.” Now Miller Bolden is living without heat and expenses she can’t afford. Read more: NY1

MLS seeks to build 25,000-seat soccer stadium in Queens

Major League Soccer is taking its plan to build a 25,000-seat home for a new team in New York City to the politicians in Queens who will decide the project’s fate. The league will present its plan for a stadium in Flushing Meadows Corona Park to Borough President Helen Marshall, Queens city council members and community leaders on Dec. 3, Dan Andrews, a spokesman for Marshall, said today in an e-mail. Read more: NJ.com

Affordable Care Act: What it means for immigrants

| lguerre@queenscourier.com

When Sunnyside resident Blanca Palomeque had ovarian cancer two years ago she didn’t have full health insurance to cover her treatment.

She enrolled in the Medicaid Spenddown program, but it only provided her with six months of assistance and she was forced to pay $15 out of pocket for each visit to Elmhurst Hospital and $150 for each CAT scan during the next year-and-a-half of her battle.

Even after winning the war with the disease earlier this year, Palomeque, 49, still didn’t buy an insurance plan.

“I don’t have medical care, because it’s difficult to have it,” Palomeque said. “I don’t qualify for Medicaid health insurance, because my income is a little too high, and it’s difficult to afford private care.”

Instead, Palomeque, who emigrated from Ecuador 11 years ago and is a documented immigrant, prefers to pay for hospital visits instead of committing to a plan.

However, like many Queens immigrants, she is rejoicing after the Supreme Court’s recent approval of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), praising its expansion of the health care system, which will benefit legal residents and may even help undocumented immigrants. “I think it’s a really good idea, because now the community will be able to act fast on health insurance,” Palomeque said. “Sometimes people have illnesses that last a long time and it’s really difficult to go and pay each time.”

“As an organization we believe that it’s a step forward, because it opens up access to health care and health insurance to many people who are uninsured,” said Theo Oshiro, deputy director of Make the Road New York, which is a non-profit organization that predominately supports Latin immigrants in the city.

Of the approximately 2.2 million residents living in the borough, nearly 50 percent are foreign born, according to the 2010 Census, and documented immigrants will receive the same benefits from the act as native citizens.

This means they won’t have to worry about getting insurance if they have pre-existing conditions, and now their children can remain on their current plans until age 26.

Documented immigrants must also follow the mandate that requires everyone to have insurance or face a tax.

But if they don’t already have insurance or qualify for Medicaid, they will be able to purchase health care from the state-run “exchanges,” or collections of low rate insurance options when they become available in 2014.

“They just have to worry about everything they worried about before,” said Stan Mark, senior staff attorney for the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund. “They have to struggle to get the minimal health care option that they can get.”

New York, which was one of the states that chose to expand its Medicaid coverage through ACA, will receive more than $2 billion in federal funding starting in 2014, and many immigrants will continue to receive care from it.

Immigrant groups officials say the down side to ACA is that it none of its benefits are available for undocumented immigrants, which could upset many foreign born residents.

But the law will affect them.

In 2003 Mayor Michael Bloomberg issued executive orders, (EO) 34 and 41, which replaced former Mayor Ed Koch’s EO124, but kept the same concept to protect immigrants.

The order “Ensures that all New Yorkers, regardless of immigration status, can access the city services that they are entitled to receive.” In addition, “City workers must protect the confidentiality of a person’s immigration status,” unless that person is suspected of illegal activity.

It was established so that undocumented immigrants would report crimes to the police, call firefighters, get medical treatment or send their children to school without fear of deportation.

Because of EO 34 and 41, undocumented immigrants have received care from public hospitals under the Health and Hospital Corporations (HHC), such as Elmhurst Hospital or Queens Hospital Center, and will continue to do so.

“For generations New York has been known as a city of immigrants, and for generations the public hospitals have cared for New York’s immigrant populations,” said HHC President Alan Aviles. “It is important to remind immigrant New Yorkers that they can get quality health care in our city without fear.”