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Hurricane Sandy vics fighting insurance companies

Bronx Times

Sharon and Nelson DeGracia certainly don’t feel they are in “good hands” with Allstate insurance company.

The Edgewater Park couple has been waiting for help from their insurance company for nearly six months since Hurricane Sandy wrecked their waterfront home.

They’re not alone.

At least seven other homeowners in Community Board 10 are suffering during long drawn out battles with their insurance companies for compensation from storm damage.

Community Board 10 district manager Kenneth Kearns said the board office has received many complaints from constituents dealing with the same issue.

“We have forwarded their names to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), who have done follow-up work with the homeowners,” Kearns said. “FEMA had a crew stationed in Board #10 for several weeks and contacted people and offered assistance.”

In the DeGracia’s case, they have not been able to return to their home since October 2012, when the Super Storm left just a shell of what it once was.

Floors, walls, and ceilings had to be stripped from the interior as Sandy’s crushing tides destroyed everything up to three feet from the floor, leaving just a frame of mold and rotting wood.

Sharon said she filed a claim with her homeowner’s policy adjuster immediately after the storm.

After waiting three or four months for a quote from the company, the couple was offered $21,000.

“It seemed like a slap in the face” the DeGracia’s said.

The couple said several contractors estimated it will cost up to $60,000 to fix the damage.

The DeGracia’s grudgingly accepted the $21,000, but insisted Allstate send another insurance adjuster, hoping to receive additional financial help.

“They said it would be six to eight months before we received another offer, and offered no instructions on how to file an additional claim,” Sharon said.

They then decided to call Councilman Jimmy Vacca’s office for help.

“The DeGracia home, which sits right on the waterfront, took immense damage,” said Vacca, adding he was outraged over Allstate’s initial settlement offer.

As of last week, the DeGracia’s were offered an additional $15,000.

“They’re getting better, but they still aren’t offering what they should to be,” Sharon said.

Vacca said he hopes to continue working with the couple to “help them receive the proper amount that they need to fully make the repairs on their home.”

But this may be just the beginning of a long list of headaches for homeowners, as FEMA released its new advisory base of federal flood zone maps for the Bronx earlier this month.

New stretches of shoreline properties in Country Club, Spencer Estates, Edgewater Park, Silver Beach, Clason Point and Harding Park all saw flood zones added or expanded.

FEMA is recommending in many cases that individuals in communities where flood zones have been changed either elevate their homes and/or strengthen their structures, officials said.

People choosing to ignore the new elevation guidelines could be stuck paying insurance premiums of $9,500 a year for a typical single-family home, compared to $1,410 a year for a homeowner whose house is built at the recommended level. Building a home three feet higher than the recommended guidelines could bring premiums down to $427 a year.

Homeowners who find themselves added to a flood zone will now face a storm of insurance premium increases if the final revised maps are adopted after a public review. The regulatory maps will not be release for another one to two years.

As of March 22, FEMA has held one meeting at the Bronx YMCA to discuss the new maps.

Kearns said he has contacted FEMA. asking them to attend a board meeting and discuss the flood mapping but “they have indicated that they may not be able to do so.”

A FEMA spokesperson said “at this time, there are no other public meetings scheduled to discuss the new Bronx maps.”

Kirsten Sanchez can be reach via e-mail at ksanchez@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 742-3394

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