By Connor Adams Sheets
The state Insurance Department was deployed in Queens last week as one more measure to help residents navigate the aftermath of the tornado that swept through Queens Sept. 16.
In the days following the storm, which caused millions of dollars worth of damage to Queens businesses and homes, many residents called state Assemblywoman Grace Meng’s (D-Flushing) office looking for advice on insurance claims.
She and spokeswoman Linda Sun carried a cell phone, serving as a mobile “hotline” for residents with such questions, but soon became overwhelmed since they felt they were under-qualified to give guidance on some of the more complicated issues.
Meng called in the Insurance Department, which dispatched the state’s only high-tech Mobile Command Center outfitted to help residents with insurance queries.
“People have had questions about their premiums and how much coverage they had, and we felt that these are questions for experts,” Meng said. “I’m not an insurance expert, so we requested that they come out to address people’s concerns.”
The mobile unit — an oversized RV packed with amenities including several stations with computers, broadband access and a printer for residents to conduct insurance business free of charge via satellite, voice, video and data capabilities, satellite cable and more — was parked at the Queens Crossing building at 38-10 138th St. in Flushing late last week. It was filled with helpful experts who addressed residents’ concerns. The unit also helped residents Friday and Saturday at Juniper Boulevard South and 78th Street in Middle Village.
“Usually insurance covers trees falling on your structure, but they might want to know about their premiums, car insurance for fallen trees or other things,” an expert said while on site in Flushing. “If there’s any problem related to insurance, they can come talk to us.”
“You can get all of your insurance questions answered. We’ve had a lot of people who’ve been calling about trees that fell on their houses and things,” Sun said. “It’s great [the department’s] here because we’re not experts on insurance, so now we can direct people to them.”
Meng agreed, saying that the department was able to help her office — which provided the experts with translators in a number of languages — deal with the deluge of inquiries her office has had since the storm hit. The mobile center also consolidated insurance services in one location, making it more convenient for her constituents to get help.
“A lot of our constituents have two jobs and they might not ï»¿know the Insurance Department even exists,” she said. “So we’re glad they’re here in the neighborhood to address their questions.”
Residents with insurance questions can call the Insurance Department’s toll-free disaster hotline at 1-800-339-1759.
Reach reporter Connor Adams Sheets by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4538.