Insurance help for Howard Beach homeowners

THE COURIER/Photo by Maggie Hayes

Residents in Howard Beach are still seeking relief for Sandy damages that, at the moment, seem irreparable.

“Everything we’ve worked for was gone within three minutes,” said Judy Hintze, an area homeowner. “The water filled up to the ceiling.”

Hintze’s elderly mother lives in her basement, which was inundated by seven feet of water during the storm. She has since sought any kind of compensation from her insurance company, the Federal Emergency Management Authority (FEMA) and most recently, the NYC Department of Financial Services (DFS).

The DFS set up shop in their mobile unit outside of St. Helen’s Church in Howard Beach on Wednesday, November 28 to help residents contact their insurers if they have been unable to do so, answer questions about homowners, renters and business insurance coverage, and give them advice on where to go from here. DFS representatives were also stationed inside St. Helen’s, welcoming and advising the many people who came in.

“It’s a very rewarding feeling to be able to help consumers that have been directly affected by the storm,” said Martin Schwartzman, senior advisor to the superintendent at the DFS. “If someone hasn’t been treated fairly or hasn’t gotten what they believe they are entitled to, we are able to intercede.”

Under the leadership of Governor Andrew Cuomo, the DFS mobile unit has been able to travel to a different storm-affected area daily.

Hintze received $10,000 from FEMA for her damages, but knows that unfortunately that is not enough to restore everything that was lost. Her mother, at 81 years old, had open-heart surgery three weeks prior, and is only left with a pair of pajamas.

“We had to scoop her medication out of the water,” said Hintze. Her mother’s prescriptions have since been refilled, free of charge, but only after Hintze physically picked out pills from the flood.

“I feel like I have [post-traumatic stress disorder],” she said.

The DFS was in Howard Beach to help people like Hintze, looking to give advice and explain the process for applying and receiving coverage.

“I think there’s been a lot of confusion about insurance, the process to go through and coordinating with disaster recovery,” said Schwartzman. “A lot of people have complained about the timeliness to get an adjuster to do an inspection [on their home].”

Schwartzman also said they wanted to clear up any confusion regarding what is covered by a homeowners’ policy and flood insurance.

“I’m just trying to get the funds to get me back,” said Hintze. “Any little bit will help.”

More from Around New York