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‘It’s been hell’
In Five Towns, recovery from Sandy drags on into ninth month
Courtesy Patty Vacchio
Inwood resident Patty Vacchio has been living without a kitchen and living room in her Bayswater Boulevard home since Hurricane Sandy hit nearly nine months ago.

The day after Hurricane Sandy struck the Five Towns, Cedarhurst resident Gail Siciliano began rebuilding her Westminster Road home. Nearly nine months later, she and other Five Towns residents are still picking up the pieces.

As Siciliano sat at her kitchen table on July 5, with the air conditioner blasting, keeping the humidity outside at bay, her frustration at being unable to return to her normal life was apparent. “We’ve lived here almost 30 years and we’ve never, ever experienced anything like that,” she said of the storm. “Things can be replaced, but memories can’t.”

The entire first floor of her home remains barren, with plywood covering the foundation as Siciliano, her husband and two children finalize flooring plans. “The tile in the kitchen has to be regrouted, hopefully not replaced, and the bathroom we’re waiting on because we need it,” she said. “We’re doing one room at a time.”

The most vexing problems have been with her home insurance. “The whole process left us so angry, so we stopped pursuing money,” she said. “We had flood insurance for our structure but not for our contents. We’re required by law to have flood insurance, and because we did what we were lawfully supposed to do, we didn’t receive help from [the Federal Emergency Management Agency] or any other agencies. We’re very frustrated.”

Sheldon Smith, of FEMA’s External Affairs Office, said that once a homeowner completes an application for assistance, the damaged property is inspected to verify the loss, and the approval can take several weeks to be processed. “Audits are done later to ensure that aid went only to those who were eligible, and that disaster aid funds were used only for their intended purposes,” Smith said. “These federal program funds cannot duplicate assistance provided by other sources such as insurance.”

Sandy also destroyed the home Inwood resident Eleanor Grimando grew up in on Bayswater Boulevard, and it had to be demolished. “It’s been hell; there’s no other way to say it,” Grimando said. “It’s played on every emotion: anger, loss, frustration, everything you could possibly imagine.”


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Couple of mistakes in article. You are not required by law to have flood insurance. It is a FHA/VA/Fannie/Freddie/SBA requirement to have flood insurance if you borrow from Govt.

Folks who have private mortgages or no mortgages have no legal obligation to have flood insurance.

FEMA $31,900 payout to folks without flood insurance was for bare bone things, furnace, electrical panel , sheet rock up to around 24 inches above flood line. FEMA does not give you a nickle for contents, painting, mold removal etc.

Folks with insurance got covered on all that stuff. That is why FEMA is not paying them. Also FEMA assumes you do the work yourself. FEMA actually calculates the cost to do all the demo work at Minimun wage afterall it is unskilled labor.

Believe it or not I had five feet of water in my house. No flood insurance. Same as my two neighbors once spent 150K other spent 135K. Identical houses, indentical damage. I got $31,900 from FEMA and repaired it all for a total of 35K.

Basically FEMA paid me 100% for all the material. I have flood insurance now to the max, but guess what it was a great learning experience.

Only downside is my house has received the once in a lifetime payment from FEMA, even 600 years from now a owner has a flood and does not have flood insurance my house wont get a nickle and legally by law I have to disclose this information when I sell it.

That is a big negative on my house. Folks with flood who got quadruple what I got fixed their homes better to mitigate against future flood loss. When flood rates rise they could go ahead and drop flood or cut back as they have the $31,900 FEMA safety net.

Part of problem is Contractors widely overcharged for services. I had a few ring my bell or had neighbors "insurance guys" contractors ring my bell. I got quotes like 15K from ServePro for demo and mold remediation. Cost me $500, rented equipment bought mold spray and threw everything to curb with no dumpster myself. Quotes for 10K for electrical, which I got done for 1k. Quotes to pump out oil tank and remove for 2k, which DEC pumped out for free and local scrap yard took away old tank for free once I pushed it to side of house. I got quotes to nail up siding, fix gutters as I need quotes to apply for grants that I never got anyhow. For like 2k, which I just went on ladder and nailed back in for zero three months later.

Next flood now that we all know what to do we wont have insurance issues, folks with insurance will watch their budgets better and keep Serve Pro, Mold guys, and fly by night electricians out of house.

Did you know that when you electric box is coated in salt water, you can just detach it clean it with soapy water and hose it off, let it dry and put new breakers in. Electricians will tell you it has to be replaced. Salt takes days/weeks to ruin components. Did you know you can take vinyl siding down with a two dollar tool pull a few lats, yank out instalation and spay for mold and put back new instalation for a few bucks rather than take apart main level if water has not reached electrical.

My favorite is wood floors warp all over the place and takes up to three months to dry. I had a pine subfloor with oak on top my two nieghbors ripped out with insurance. FEMA told me dont touch if for three months run dehumidfiers and molds spray and scrub subfloor and it should me find. Both neighbors said FEMA and I was insane guess what floor are perfect again.

Read the FEMA handbook after the flood. Great tips on how to redo your house.

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