Lindenwood says flood claim money slow coming

By Sarina Trangle

After a sewage treatment plant malfunction, Lindenwood says the city is not helping it emerge from the deluge.

The city Department of Environmental Protection claimed responsibility in a memo for the April 30 incident that flooded hundreds of Lindenwood homes, some at deeper depths than those caused by Hurricane Sandy.

Still, the DEP has not completed a final report the city comptroller’s office says it needs to begin processing and paying residents’ water damage and property loss claims.

“The people in the neighborhood did exactly what they were told to do. The only one that hasn’t done the right thing is the DEP,” said Joann Ariola, president of the Howard Beach-Lindenwood Civic Association.

Frustrated at the DEP’s pace, the Howard Beach-Lindenwood civic sent a letter to City Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park), state Assemblyman Phillip Goldfeder (D-Rockaway Beach) and state Sen. Joseph Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach) asking them to spur DEP into finalizing its report.

“We keep hearing two weeks, two weeks, so it’s imminent,” Addabbo said. “Some of the applicants’ were the same hit by Hurricane Sandy and have drained their savings account, their credit cards.”

DEP declined to comment on the final report, but said it would continue to dispatch staff to the plant every time it rains to ensure the overflow is not repeated.

Rudy Giuliani, Ulrich’s chief of staff, said DEP has indicated it needs to be meticulous in preparing the final report because it would serve as the basis for any attempts to recoup money from manufacturers of the plant’s parts or insurance providers.

He also said it was unclear why Comptroller Scott Stringer’s staff had to wait for further confirmation following DEP’s admission of responsibility.

The comptroller’s office said its engineers had inspected at least 101 homes believed to have been damaged by the flood since Stringer attended the May 27 Howard Beach-Lindenwood Civic meeting.

“Additionally, the comptroller’s office bureau of law and adjustment is moving aggressively and thoroughly to address these claims,” a spokesman for Stringer said.

It remains unclear whether there is a regulation or law that requires the office to wait for a final report to close out claims.

In the May 16 memo, DEP said it circulated literature about mold prevention and claim forms while telling residents they must be submitted to the comptroller within 90 days of the flooding.

“DEP found that the new electronic system malfunctioned and releases into the bay did not promptly occur. As a result, stormwater and wastewater backed up into streets and homes in parts of the New Lots and Lindenwood neighborhoods,” the document said.

The comptroller’s office said it has received 422 claims — 326 are from Queens — as of July 3.

Stringer’s team legally has a year and 90 days to review the submissions and pay substantiated claims.

Reach reporter Sarina Trangle at 718-260-4546 or by e-mail at [email protected].