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A year later, still homeless in Bellmore after Superstorm Sandy
With their house razed, Len Drive couple fight their insurance company
Scott Brinton/Herald Life
Rona and David Weiss

When Superstorm Sandy submerged Len Drive in south Bellmore last Oct. 29, it was particularly cruel to the home of David and Rona Weiss, who are in their mid-60s and bought their 2,450-square-foot high ranch in 1983.

Sandy’s floodwaters breached the Weisses’ downstairs, soaking their belongings in a pool of murky, brown saltwater. When Rona returned home after the storm, she found her wedding dress and album floating across her downstairs.

The Weisses’ cleanup contractor removed more than three feet of water by lifting a bathroom toilet and letting it flow into the sewer. When workers started ripping up linoleum tiles downstairs, they discovered a spider’s web of cracks –– some hairline, others deep –– radiating across the cement floor and up the foundation walls. In one section, the floor collapsed into a small pit.

The Weisses could not return to their house, they were told. It was uninhabitable and would have to come down.

Now it is gone, and their 60-by-100-foot lot is barren except for weeds. The couple are living in a rented house in Levittown, hoping to begin building a new home soon, but they are uncertain when they will be able to.

David, an attorney with an office on Bedford Avenue in Bellmore and the chairman of the Town of Hempstead Board of Zoning Appeals, grew up in Bellmore and graduated from Kennedy High School in 1968. He met Rona, who was raised in Hewlett, while the two were students at the University of Buffalo, where they graduated in 1972. They married in 1976, after David finished Hofstra Law School. Rona, who majored in political science, stayed home to raise their three children, who are now adults.

The past year, Rona said, has pushed the Weisses to their limits. “You think you’re crazy,” she said. “You think this can’t be happening.”

An earth-movement exclusion in the Weisses’ National Flood Insurance policy, which they first purchased 30 years ago, has held up their settlement for nearly a year. Estimates are that the Weisses’ home would cost $430,000 to rebuild. Their flood insurance is supposed to cover $323,000 in structural and personal property damage, according to David. But Travelers has fought the claim virtually from the time it was filed, shortly after the storm last year.


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$430K to rebuild? They should get a 2nd, 3rd, and 4th estimate.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013 | Report this

This is one of a number of outrageous stories that are going on all over the south shore of Nassau County. I attended rallys against the "earth movement exclusion" and am cautiously optimistic about the program announced by Governor Cuomo last week. I know the Weiss family, and the Bauer family, whose story was told in the Herald papers weeks ago. The toll taken on these families is unimaginable and it is shocking that the federal government can send billions of dollars overseas to prop up governments in Egypt, Libya and other nations run by people who would destroy America if they had the chance, yet that same government will actively deny American families the relief they need to recover from a catastrophic natural event like Superstorm Sandy.

This should be a wake-up call to elected officials at every level of government that our priorities are terribly out of whack and that reforms are needed to compel thorough oversight of claims handling by banks, insurance companies and FEMA and to hold individuals within these companies/agencies responsible for unnecessary delays and unfair practices in denying homeowners the relief that they paid for.

Your elected officials should be held accountable as well. We don't need phony solutions to problems that look appealing on the surface, yet accomplish nothing in real life. One such example is Legislator Denenberg's "Sandy Bill" which purported to require banks and insurance companies to process Sandy-related claims faster. Unfortunately for homeowners, the bill accomplished nothing other than getting the Legislator some good press. He was and is well aware that Nassau County does not have the jurisdiction to regulate banks and insurance companies, and rather than working with state and federal officials who would have the power to make such changes and actually help affected homeowners, Denenberg introduced a bill that, from the start, had no chance of helping anything other than his own chances at re-election.

I would urge voters and the Herald to look past the image and public persona of elected officials and objectively analyze those candidates whose ideas are actually protecting middle-class families and improving our communities, and those whose record of high taxes, high spending and empty promises are making it harder for the average person to live, work and raise a family here in Nassau County. The issues facing Nassau County are too important to continue to support officials whose primary function is re-election, rather than coming up with real solutions.

Steve Rhoads

Thursday, October 10, 2013 | Report this

I couldn't have said it better. My kids were victims of Sandy and it was awful. What did the Insurance companies do with all the money collected through the years? Someone should be investigating this issue.

Friday, October 11, 2013 | Report this

Way to go Steve..I,m still not fixed..why? I was told by FEMA mitigation not to . Don't waste my money fixing so we froze last winter ripped out with utility costs that shot up after we did some repairs but didnt get the money to make big changes & Because my damage claim was never evaluated properly in the first place with all the post storm.& it's still a revolving door of no help - help by me,there's so much paperwork Confusion & difficulty getting help unless you knew the right people & got them fast.alot of contractors don't want to take it on it's expensive & if there are problems in the future ,they're on the hook for it,they google my location & I don't even get a call back,so I do whatever damage control I need to to have a roof over our heads & some consistency in our lives,the settlement I finally recieved did not representative of all the damage so my house is still a mess of papers & it's impossible for me to dig thru the proofing.. The insurance co passed it off to national flood ,,wind before water seems to not have been recognized ..the whole system is a confusing , frustrating, frightening, inconsistently based , ego crushing nightmare we still have to pay high taxes to deal with all too frequently,

i was told by FEMA mitigation at cedar creek that the government would fix my house .. just keep throwing out,but the town says I don't have enough damage based on the settlement my lawyer told me to accept. Oh right & I know Bauer s they live close ..pass the now empty lot ..it's .a shame I watched that kid grow up ,his parents moved but he wanted to live here & bought a few doors from the house of his youth..that houses owner walked away from in frustration after being slammed by Irene & sandy,I knew them too & didnt blame those people.not every1 can handle the stress of you need help now but it doesn't come til sometimes it's too late.

The town of hempstead doesn't have a repetitive damage option which means that we' re at the mercy of the insurance companies storm per storm decisions...& , sorry that's not covered,too bad you lost tens of thousands of dollars worth of property..each time,,answers..eat it along with the super high flood insurance rates.

We need and have need repetitive damage inclusion down here, people have sustained first floor flooding for the past few years..watched their value & re salability dwindle in the flood zone."the writing is on the wall..the tides ARE higher.

There's so much paperwork we don't know what to do first & god help I'f you don't have a disaster lawyer, public adjuster or contractor in the family.

keeping the house with a lien on it for 5 years to satisfy a lien on a grant with New York rising is chaining people who are in dire straights already to more years of anguish if they were planning life changes sooner.

I personally have flood nightmares every week,,nocturnal anxiety attacks,,,day ones ,when I look out the window,,,in my dreams ,I see my house if it's risen, with a boat docked under it,,to take out to a main road instead of a car in the no to distant future.. . This is a quality of life issue for many of us as well as a repetitive flood nightmare fight where you live from disaster to disaster ..it's just not a normal way to live.

Friday, October 11, 2013 | Report this
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