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Boro residents have options to recover damages

Homeowner's insurance likely covers many of the burnt houses in Breezy Point, though homeowners in the area should also be covered by federal flood insurance and have other financial options available for rebuilding. AP Photo/Mike Groll
TimesLedger Newspapers

The total economic impact left by Superstorm Sandy will not be known until farther the road, but there are several ways for Queens homeowners to get financial help rebuilding their lives.

“The picture is starting to become clear,” said City Comptroller John Liu, whose office has been assessing the monetary destruction the storm has wreaked on the city and comparing it to Hurricane Irene last year.

The city creates about $2 billion of economic activity on a daily basis. On Monday, the city was generating only about $400 million, or 20 percent of the normal pace, although the numbers were slowly ticking upward with each passing day.

About $100 million to $200 million of that is permanently lost each day that the city remains crippled, Liu said. The hospitality and restaurant industries will never get back the people who would have eaten or stayed in hotels, for example, but as eating spots sporadically open in parts of the city with power, that number should increase, he said.

But the majority of the city’s daily economy output will simply be delayed as people wait to purchase the goods and services they need at a later date, according to Liu.

As of Wednesday evening, the city had spent about $30 million on emergency services, more than double what was spent during Irene last year, he said.

Liu hoped the federal government would pick up the tab for 75 percent of that number, while Gov. Andrew Cuomo said at a news conference Wednesday afternoon that he would fight for the Federal Emergency Management Association to pay for all of it.

Both lawmakers predicted property damage to be in the billions, but home and landowners have several options about how to go about starting the repairs.

Robert Hartwig, president and economist at the Insurance Information Institute, an industry trade association, said most of the coastal areas around where Sandy hit, including parts of the Rockaways and Long Island City, should be covered under flood insurance issued by the federal government, since it is required if a federally backed mortgage is taken out on a high-risk property.

In some cases, homeowners may be out of luck if the insurance expired and no one noticed, but the institute said last year saw a spike in homeowners in the Northeast who either brought their insurance up to date or signed up in the first place.

“That is one of the silver linings,” Hartwig said. “More people were prepared financially for Sandy as a result of that decision to buy flood insurance in the wake of Irene.”

Standard homeowners insurance does not cover flooding, he said, although it would cover the fires that tore through about 100 homes in Breezy Point.

Anyone who sustained damage should begin documenting it to make a claim to their insurance companies, Hartwig said.

But Tom Brauner, who owns a home in Broad Channel, never got any insurance money from last year’s disaster.

“The insurance company still to this day hasn’t paid me for Irene and now I’m going to have to file another claim,” he said.

Homeowners can also apply to FEMA for financial aid, as well as various loan programs offered through the federal and city governments. For businesses, the U.S. Small Business Administration, the city Department of Small Business Services and the city Economic Development Corp. are offering loans and even open office space in Brooklyn.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at januta@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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