By Anessa V. Cohen
I bet you thought there was nothing left to talk about regarding Superstorm Sandy. We should stop being surprised about the crazy things happening with the programs supposedly instituted for the good of those who need government assistance for all the damage they sustained on their homes, right? Well, sorry to tell you, but one more twist has come about that is just so unbelievable that I must share!
The New York Rising Program, instituted by New York State, came into the “we are here to assist all those who suffered Superstorm Sandy damage” game a little late. FEMA and the flood-insurance companies already tortured all those affected by this violent storm on their medieval torture racks for months and months on end.
The New York Rising Program, we were told, was instituted by the powers-that-be in New York State to try and help homeowners that were shortchanged in the amounts settled either by FEMA or their flood-insurance carriers. When I say shortchanged, I mean that both FEMA and the insurance carriers, due to budget-cutting in Congress, created so many restrictive exclusions to their coverage conditions that many owners of flood-damaged homes received only a portion of the funds needed for them to be compensated as they replaced items they lost due to flooding from the storm.
To give but a small example, when homeowners had flooding in a finished basement, the only thing covered in the flood insurance policies, and by FEMA, were the heating systems, sheetrock, electric, sump pumps, washers and dryers, and such that were in the basement. New flooring would not be covered. The funniest item in this mix is that although they would cover a freezer in the basement, they would not cover a refrigerator in the basement if there was a flood. They would only cover a refrigerator that was in the garage and got flooded. Figure that one out!
Anyway, going back to New York Rising, after being promised funds to actually finish rebuilding and replacing things that were not necessarily covered in those policies, Sandy victims ran to fill out yet more applications and file more receipts and estimates on completing the work needed on their damaged homes. They hoped that the remaining funding would finally be available to finish up whatever repairs and replacements were still needed to once again be whole.
Things started to look very promising. After filing applications online and in person, homeowners were assigned counselors to assist with the gobs of new paperwork needed under the New York State guidelines.
After bringing in reams of copies of documents and receipts—another repeat of what had previously been done for FEMA and for the various insurance companies—the homeowners trying once again to get the additional funds necessary to get things back to the way they were pre-Sandy waited. New York Rising counselors set up yet more inspections and new interviews to review and itemize independent appraisals of what each homeowner still needed in funding to catch up and finish getting their homes back to normal.
Okay, so we get that this was needed in order to satisfy all government guidelines, whether for the federal government or New York State government. Even though this was again very time-consuming, everyone went with the flow, figuring the ends justified the means if the state would come through and give these Sandy victims the additional funds needed for repairing the damage to their homes and for mitigation work towards preventing future flooding damage.
Yet as of the last few weeks, suddenly the New York Rising team members stopped returning phone calls and e‑mails and were nowhere to be found. So, what happened?
I called the main number, asking for a manager to explain why so many homeowners calling their counselors couldn’t find them or get a response. The answer I got was not to be believed! It went something like this: “I am sorry you were having so much difficulty getting in touch with the people on your team. The contract we had with these workers ended and we hired a new company, whose workers now must be trained to learn the ins and outs of this program before they can take over and continue processing all the applications that still remain to be taken care of. You will not be able to reach anyone yet, since we have not given out the files, so we do not know who will be handling your file. Please wait patiently until your new counselor and team are appointed and contact you.”
I have no words! I basically was given a polite “Don’t call us, we will call you.” So here we go once again, waiting to see how this will all end. v
Anessa Cohen lives in Cedarhurst and is a licensed real-estate broker and a licensed N.Y.S. mortgage originator with over 20 years of experience, offering full-service residential, commercial, and management real-estate services (Anessa V Cohen Realty) and mortgaging services (First Meridian Mortgage) in the Five Towns and throughout the tri-state area. She can be reached at 516-569-5007 or via her website, www.AVCrealty.com. Readers are encouraged to send questions or comments to anessa.cohen@AVCrealty.com.