Maspeth family still out of home over a month after collapse

THE COURIER/Photo by Salvatore Licata

Steven and Danielle Maher will be spending their Christmas in a hotel room — and not because they’re on a holiday vacation.

The couple and their 15-month-old daughter, Keira, were forced out of their home and into a hotel when a sinkhole suddenly caved in a portion of their sidewalk and house on Oct. 24. They have not been allowed back in the home, located at 69-11 158th Road in Maspeth, and a dispute with their insurance agency has left them with no timetable on repairs or a return to their home.

“It’s been really hard to get along since this happened,” said Danielle, 26. “We need answers because we haven’t been in our house since it collapsed and want to fully secure it to stop more damage or from it falling completely.”

The couple bought the house, which was built in 1928, three years ago. There were never any signs of damage or a faulty structure, which is why their insurance provider, State Farm, approved their application for homeowners insurance with no problems, Danielle said.

On the day of the collapse, their uncle was downstairs and noticed the sheet rock covering the wall was bulging. Upon further inspection, he saw a crack in the foundation and heard movement inside the wall. He notified Danielle immediately and she evacuated the home with her daughter and two dogs. Minutes later, the sinkhole caved in and a portion of the house’s wall went with it.

To make things worse, the Mahers just finished putting in over $100,000 in renovations around their home and had just bought a door, which would have put the finishing touch on their makeover.

Photo courtesy of Danielle Maher
Photo courtesy of Danielle Maher

After the collapse, they put a claim in with the insurance company for the collapse. The Mahers figured it would be a quick process of approval, but the claim was denied. The insurance agency said the foundation was doomed to eventual failure on the day it was constructed and because of that, it is not covered in their policy.

Since the structure was built so long ago, the couple was never able to find any records on the house.

“We had no idea that there were any problems with the house and had no problems prior to this,” said Danielle. “Now, they won’t cover the claim and we don’t know what to do next.”

State Farm declined to comment on the claim, saying it was still open and must remain private.

At the time of the denial, the Mahers were already living in the hotel, which was being paid for by State Farm. But they have been told the insurance will stop covering the expenses, which would have pushed them out on the streets.

They quickly hired a public adjustor who was able to prolong the insurance payments covering the hotel expenses.

But the couple is worried that if they cannot get their insurance to pay for the repairs, they will be forced out of their home for good as the cost of fixing their home is upwards of $250,000.

To help out, some quick-thinking friends got together to throw a fundraiser for the Mahers in hopes to raise some money for the repairs.

Vincent Addeo, the couple’s friend and their daughter’s godfather, said it’s the least he can do to help.

“I did it for my goddaughter,” he said. “They should not be treated like this. They had no control over the situation.”

The fundraiser will take place at Bridie’s Bar and Grill, located at 63-28 Woodhaven Blvd. in Rego Park, at 8 p.m. on Dec. 20.

At this point, the couple has hired their own private engineers to take a look at the house to fight the denial of their State Farm claim. They will remain in the hotel for as long as their insurance will cover it.

They are unsure of their next step, or how they will be able to live if they do not get the insurance money to fix their home. But, even though these have been hard times, they have not been able to take a smile off of Danielle’s face thanks to her daughter Kiera.

“We just want some sort of normal back,” said Danielle. “My daughter though, I don’t know what I would have done without her. She’s holding us together.”