Letter: Playing Politics With Superstorm Sandy Victims

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This letter is in response to Call For Supervisor Saladino Resignation.

Imagine if your whole life was destroyed by a hurricane, all of your possessions gone, and you return home to find your house filled with water, thick mud, a broken deck, wood beams, debris and even a small boat. This is what I came home to on Oct. 30, 2012—the day after Superstorm Sandy struck Massapequa.

I endured among the very worst damage of Superstorm Sandy victims. My home was completely destroyed. Before I could deal with insurance adjusters, contractors (both honest and dishonest), I had to sift through the debris to find bits and pieces of anything I once cherished in my life. It took months to dry out my home so construction could finally begin—but that’s not the worst part.

As we have seen in news reports, the process of fighting with insurance companies and trying to obtain government benefits was infuriating and burdensome as rules continuously changed and caseworkers turned over. The mismanagement of the program was an absolute nightmare. It made victims feel like second class citizens. Like most others, I had to spend an enormous amount of personal funds as my insurance did not cover the cost of repairs and the assistance provided by NY Rising was minimal.

Political opponents suggest I took benefits that I was ineligible for. This is farthest from the truth! They claim I did not disclose insurance awards, when in fact, my application to NY Rising indicates I reported both homeowners insurance and flood insurance. These inaccurate accounts—based on statements from my political opponents—are infuriating as they omit important details and attempt to create a negative spin and damaging emotions in the minds of my constituents.

Here are the facts. Like other storm victims, I struggled to make sense of the assistance programs—all while I was dealing with the loss of all of my belongings. In fact, I spent my hours helping a countless number of constituents navigate the process as an Assemblyman while putting myself last. When it came to NY Rising, I applied and qualified for assistance just like everyone else. Nearly 5 years later, the program tried to claw back the little assistance they provided me. I spent a great deal of time speaking and meeting with NY Rising representatives to resolve the fact that they greatly underestimated the actual cost of rebuilding my home.

Insurance adjusters and contractors agreed I had much greater damage than NY Rising estimated. I had an opportunity to challenge their decision. I was unable to submit the paperwork until my home repairs were complete. This was the only way to know the true cost of repairs. I communicated this with them, and I only finished repairs 5 months ago (yes, in August 2018). In fact, NY Rising commenced proceedings against me just weeks after I got my Certificate of Occupancy. It’s ridiculous and unfair! My complaint is the same we have heard from everyone who dealt with the devastation of the storm. I did not have an opportunity to present the work that was completed on my home.

NY Rising discontinued their proceeding without prejudice after they learned I returned their full assistance. For me, the cost of hiring an attorney, engineer and architect would far exceed the $15,803 in assistance they originally provided. While it is still my belief that I am eligible and entitled to recovery assistance, I will not accept a single dime from New York programs toward rebuilding my home and replacing my belongings. I simply can no longer continue the fight.

I remain hopeful that other families will have greater success with NY Rising in rebuilding their homes. For so many of us, recovery continues to be a struggle. In closing, I’ll ask that my political opponents stop the political rhetoric. My life was already destroyed once, and I won’t allow it to happen again by letting political opponents create doubt in the minds of our residents.

—Oyster Bay Town Supervisor Joseph Saladino


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