‘We didn’t ask for this’: 74th Street residents ask for compensation after city construction damages property in Middle Village

Cracks in a 74th Street home in Middle Village are not covered by liability insurance after major construction on the block damaged multiple homes. (Photo by Danny O’Neill)

After a major construction project along 74th Street and Penelope Avenue in Middle Village damaged multiple people’s property, local residents are calling on the city to look into why some homeowners were compensated and others were not. 

Construction began in 2016 to improve stormwater drainage and upgrade the city’s infrastructure system. The $32 million project, contracted by CAC Industries Inc., consisted of replacing the water main, reconstructing sewers, installing catch basins, manholes, sidewalks, roadways and more.  

The liability insurer for CAC Industries, Travelers, settled 11 claims from homeowners concerned about property damage after construction ended in 2020. However, an additional 13 claims were denied, leaving homeowners with thousands of dollars in damages that many cannot afford. 

Councilman Robert Holden got involved and sent a letter to the Department of Design and Constriction (NYC DDC), which previously oversaw the construction, to ask them to audit the project.

“My constituents deserve more transparency and an understanding as to what evidence was used in denying or approving the claims of homeowners,” Holden said. “Auditing the 74th Street sewer project will not only be useful to the homeowners who suffered property damage but will also help ensure future projects are conducted more responsibly.”

Installing sewer trench on 74th Street. (Photo taken from DDC website)

A DDC spokesperson told QNS that they plan to respond to Holden’s letter after reviewing the project and subsequent claims. 

One resident, Danny O’Neill, was previously compensated for damage to his water heater but denied payment for cracks sustained to the front stoop and his home’s foundation.

“There was massive machinery here every day, pounding the ground over and over again. Our houses were rattling and shaking,” O’Neill said. 

After incessant pounding, O’Neills water heater burst. CAC Industries took responsibility and O’Neill was compensated $1,000 for a new water heater. However, O’Neill’s damaged front stoop, only a few feet away from the construction, was not covered. 

“The water heater, on the other end of the house, was paid for, admitting they were the ones who did the damage,” O’Neill said. “Yet, the stoop damage, where all the work was being done, they are completely denying they are responsible for.”

O’Neill said that there are also cracks in his front door and up the sides of his house. 

“Countless times I wrote [to Travelers],” O’Neill said. “They completely deny and say the damage was done beforehand. But, we take very good care of our home; we always did.”

O’Neill estimated damages would cost him around $7,000 for foundation cracks and fixing his broken sprinkler system.

“We don’t have the money for that. We didn’t ask for this work to be done,” O’Neill said. “We had to deal with it. They damaged our property and didn’t help us out. We’re such an easy-going family. I don’t want anything more than what they did. I’m not trying to add things up, I just want what is rightfully ours.”

Joe Berinato, another resident of 74th Street, claimed that his stoop was also destroyed by construction but he replaced it on his own since CAC Industries denied responsibility. CAC Industries did however replace a fence they broke on Berinato’s property. 

“I have internal damage, which they said was preexisting, which is horses**t because I have pictures of everything,” Berinato said. “They had a crane the size of a mountain on top of my property.”

Berinato has been a blue-collar worker his entire life and said he knows from experience that major construction will result in some property damage. However, he is furious that he has not been compensated for what he feels he’s owed. 

“There’s always collateral damage, I understand that, but somebody’s got to be responsible for destroying all this crap,” Berinato said. “There was so much vibration and the house shaking, I had to get a new door [and] the windows don’t close properly.”

Work occurred on 18 blocks, adding five new underground chambers and 16 catch basins to increase the holding capacity of sewer discharge and stormwater runoff. The project was completed $3 million below the original budget.

Installing sewer trench on 74th Street. (Photo taken from DDC website)

Michael Capasso, president of CAC Industries, said that he was not familiar with any of the claims being made and didn’t wish to comment further.

Travelers did not respond to QNS’ request for comment before press time.