Friday, April 18, 2014

Lloyd's of London dramatically lowers its flood insurance rates in Florida

Thursday, April 17, 2014 6:34pm

Here's something that might shock many Tampa Bay homeowners:
Flood insurance rates are falling.
Lloyd's of London and other private insurers have muscled into the market, picking up customers stunned by rate hikes under the National Flood Insurance Program.
The decreases can be dramatic:
• For $146,000 of coverage on a house in St. Petersburg, the federal program quoted a renewal rate of $6,685. The Lloyd's rate: $1,367.
• For $188,000 of coverage on a St. Pete Beach home, the flood program rate: $9,004. The Lloyd's rate: $1,489.
• For $250,000 of coverage on a Tampa home, the flood program rate: $6,342. The Lloyd's' rate: $2,192
The emergence of private companies into the market could be a boon for thousands of Floridians who face huge rate increases under the federal program because their homes were built decades ago in low-lying areas.
Lloyd's, the venerable London-based institution, began offering flood insurance in Florida last summer, as the impact of the 2012 Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act began to be felt. This week, Lloyd's sweetened the deal, telling insurance agents that it is lowering its flood rates "significantly'' because it had expanded into other states and lessened the risk from any single storm.
Evan Hecht, CEO of the Flood Insurance Agency, a Gainesville company that markets Lloyd's policies in Florida and 18 other states, said applications are pouring in at the rate of more than one every 15 minutes.
"We're talking millions of dollars in premiums,'' Hecht said.
Lloyd's new rates were a godsend for Kimberly and Drew Andrews.
The couple bought their Shore Acres home in 2013 after Biggert-Waters was passed, which meant they stood to lose their lower, subsidized flood rate of $1,406 immediately upon renewal this month. The new rate under the flood program, run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, was nearly $9,000.
"A real punch in the gut," said Kimberly Andrews.
In stepped Lloyd's. The insurer's new rate: $1,383, undercutting even the old, subsidized FEMA rate.
"It's a blessing," said Andrews, 33. "I don't know how else we would have done it."
Lloyd's even offered some relief for its customers who secured policies before the rates dropped this week.
"Lloyd's doesn't have to help them, but they are taking everyone with a 12-month policy and extending them out to a 15-month policy… at no extra cost to help equalize the rate," said St. Petersburg flood insurance agent Jake Holehouse.
Congress passed Biggert-Waters to help remedy a $24 billion deficit left in the flood program by losses from Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy. Although Florida has paid four times more into the flood program than it's received back in claims since 1978, the state is heavily populated with the types of older, low-lying properties being hit with the highest rate hikes under Biggert-Waters.
Starting May 1, FEMA is lowering rates for some owners of older homes that were targeted by Biggert-Waters. The rollback, which is tied to a law passed last month, intends to restore rates of subsidized homes to levels before Biggert-Waters.
Over time, however, those older homes are still on a path to see dramatically higher rates, with premiums rising up to 18 percent a year.
Holehouse said that steady annual increase gives Lloyd's and other private insurers flexibility to emerge as a full-fledged competitor to the national flood program.
"The private marketplace is already undercutting FEMA rates for identical coverage," he said. "Now that we have private competition, I think you're going to see rates become very stable."
FEMA doesn't object to any emerging competition, quite the contrary.
Congress created the national flood program decades ago "to fill a gap in insurance coverage that was not widely available," FEMA spokesman Lars Anderson said. "The NFIP program is not in competition with private insurance companies and will continue to set its rates as directed by Congress."
There is a big distinction between the public and private marketplace, however. Unlike FEMA, private insurers can be very picky about who to insure. Lloyd's won't take condos, mobile homes, properties with unrepaired flood damage or those that incurred more than $250,000 in flood damage.
"If you've had more than one loss in the last five years, they won't take you, so it will dump the nonprofitable polices on FEMA,'' said Chris Weaver of Florida Strategic Insurance, a Pinellas Park agency that writes Lloyd's polices.
Another potential problem with Lloyd's: As a surplus insurer, it isn't regulated by the state. That means customers have fewer rights, and Lloyd's doesn't need state approval to dramatically increase rates when a policy expires.
Holehouse, for one, doesn't expect that to happen. He thinks it more likely that Lloyd's and other private insurers will continue to be a cheaper option.
"I think this is the future of the flood insurance marketplace," he said, predicting the federal program could devolve into an insurer-of-last-resort that only writes coverage on homes with multiple flood losses and other problems the private marketplace doesn't want.

De Blasio announces Sandy recovery overhaul

By Cristabelle Tumola
Thursday, April 17th, 2014

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a major overhaul to speed upSandy recovery Thursday, along with the release of a detailed report on the city’s response to the storm.

The report includes recommendations that are expected to provide financial relief to businesses and homeowners, and revamp current recovery programs, the mayor said, as well as details on the city’s infrastructure rebuilding and storm mitigation efforts.

“We can’t stand idly by as red tape and bureaucratic bottlenecks prevent far too many New Yorkers from getting the relief they need. That’s why, from day one, we prioritized more efficient recovery,” de Blasio said. “And now, we’ve laid out a blueprint to provide critical financial relief to homeowners and directly engage communities in the rebuilding process—all while continuing our work to ensure a stronger and more resilient New York.”

Part of the engagement process will involve appointing borough directors in Queens, Brooklyn and Staten Island, who will have the authority to direct city agencies to increase community engagement and coordination, and bringing Build It Back staff directly into affected communities, according to the mayor’s administration.

“These latest announcements from the administration have brought new hope to many of our residents who have been displaced and are fighting to put their lives back together and move forward,” Borough President Melinda Katz said. “My office will continue to focus resources on the issues and challenges still outstanding for these residents, so we may collectively find solutions.”

The report additionally highlights other improvements the mayor announced last month to Build It Back, a federally-funded program to assist those whose homes, offices and other properties were damaged by Sandy.

Comptroller Scott Stringer also just announced the formation of a Sandy oversight unit and an audit of the Build It Back program.

“It is critical to have an accounting of how government has responded to this event, and what we can do to better prepare for the future,” he said.

Stringer also said that he will be holding town hall meetings in affected neighborhoods during the upcoming months to get community input on what his office should be examining as it comes up with an audit plan of issues on the city’s Sandy response.

The meetings will include the following locations in Queens, with future town halls to be announced for June:

April 30, 6-8 p.m., Bay House, 500 Bayside Dr., Breezy Point

May 20, 6-8 p.m., Mt. Carmel Baptist Church, 348 Beach 71st St., Arverne

For updates on town halls, click here.

Broad Channel to City's Build It Back Program: Please Put Money Where Your Mouth Is...


Broad Channel resident Ed Phillips created this sign, which he placed on Cross Bay Boulevard, after Mayor Bill de Blasio and U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer vowed to help residents still struggling to move back into their houses destroyed during Hurricane Sandy. City officials told Phillips last week that his house would be rebuilt. Photo courtesy Ed Phillips
Broad Channel resident Ed Phillips created this sign, which he placed on Cross Bay Boulevard, after Mayor Bill de Blasio and U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer vowed to help residents still struggling to move back into their houses destroyed during Hurricane Sandy. City officials told Phillips last week that his house would be rebuilt. Photo courtesy Ed Phillips
After Hurricane Sandy destroyed the Broad Channel home where Ed Phillips lived with his wife and young daughter, he was determined to rebuild.
After all, he grew up in Broad Channel. Practically all of his family and friends live in the close-knit community. There was no other place he wanted to call home.
But, after facing the initial shock that his house had been completely devastated by the storm, he quickly learned that the worst was yet to come: the seemingly never-ending battles with insurance and the city over accessing funding that seemed to be getting strangled in limitless amounts of red tape.
As of now, he still hasn’t been able to rebuild his home and has instead had to renovate his sister’s house in Broad Channel and live there. As for moving back home, Phillips said he had almost given up on the idea.
Which is why when Mayor Bill de Blasio and U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) announced at the end of March that help was on the way for residents impacted by Sandy, Phillips – along with many others in places like South Queens, Rockaway, South Brooklyn, and Staten Island – scoffed. Why, after more than 17 months of little to no help from the city, would things change, people asked.o and Schumer announced the city’s newly appointed Hurricane Sandy recovery team, which they said would oversee a sweeping overhaul of the rebuilding process. Additionally, de Blasio said the city would reallocate $100 million to fund the rebuilding of all homes destroyed by Sandy. Until now, many homeowners had been told by the city’s Build It Back program – set up by Mayor Bloomberg to help Sandy victims rebuild – that they make too much money to qualify as a priority for receiving aid from the program, leaving many middle-class families hemorrhaging financially.
And, it appears that change may actually be happening. Build It Back officials told Phillips and his family last week that their house would be rebuilt – though that statement came after city officials said they had, once again, lost the Phillips’ family’s Build It Back paperwork, something that has happened for literally every single Build It Back applicant with whom this newspaper has spoken.
“We’re cautiously optimistic,” said Phillips, who credited Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder (D-Rockaway Park) and state Sen. Joe Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach) with helping him navigate the Build It Back system. He noted that he emailed both the offices of de Blasio and Schumer about his issues accessing help following the storm but has not received any word back from them.
Addabbo too said Build It Back seemed to be turning around – perhaps slowly, but nonetheless improving.
“No one’s gotten serious money yet, but there’s been a better procedure to date,” he said. “I’m more optimistic my people will be helped.”
“I have residents who’ve exhausted all their savings; I have residents still not in their home,” Addabbo continued. “People should be back in their home. They should be given the fiscal help they need.”
On Thursday, de Blasio is expected to give an update about the Sandy recovery experts and discuss further ways to cut red tape.
For Phillips, and thousands of others waiting on help from Build It Back, these pronouncements are worth something when the words becoming reality – when he finally sees the walls of the house he loves return. When he can walk through a front door and, more than 17 months after Sandy, say, “I’m home.”
By Anna Gustafson

City Responds to Goldfeder and agrees to replace Broad Channel trees destroyed by Sandy

The city Department of Design and Construction agreed to allow the Parks Department to replant trees destroyed by Sandy after Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder urged the department to do so. Photo courtesy NYS Assembly
The city Department of Design and Construction agreed to allow the Parks Department to replant trees destroyed by Sandy after Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder urged the department to do so. Photo courtesy NYS Assembly
Following a year and a half of battling with everything from insurance companies to Build it Back, Broad Channel residents received some good news this week: the city has agreed to permit the Parks Department to immediately begin replanting trees destroyed by Superstorm Sandy.
The decision comes in response to a letter sent by Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder (D-Rockaway Park) last month, when he urged the city Department of Design and Construction to give the go-ahead to replace the greenery that residents said they have sorely missed since Sandy devastated the region at the end of October 2012.
“Spring is here, yet due to the absence of trees and bare sidewalks, we are still reminded of Sandy’s destruction each day,” Goldfeder said. “I want to thank DDC for agreeing to work around trees during their work and urge the Parks Department to immediately replace all the trees lost during the storm and beautify our community for our families to enjoy once again.”
In March, Goldfeder sent a letter to DDC Acting Commissioner David Resnick asking him to expedite the DDC’s resurfacing and sidewalk repair project in Broad Channel to allow for the Parks Department to replant trees. DDC responded by agreeing to make sure the timing of their street projects does not prevent the Parks Department from replanting.
Commissioner Resnick also told Golfeder that if the Parks Department begins replanting, officials will direct contractors to install proper protection around the trees before the roadway work commences.
“I would like to thank everyone who got involved in this project,” said Judy Zack, a member of the Broad Channel Civic Association’s Beautification Committee. “The Beautification Committee’s objective was to get all the trees that were lost during Sandy replaced, and now it seems we are on the road to recover.”
“This tree replanting initiative will go a long way in improving our quality of life and bring the beauty back into our neighborhood,” Zack continued. “I encourage the Parks Department to act immediately.”
DDC’s street and sidewalk repair project was assigned in June 2013 to fix the areas from West 5th to West 20th Road in Broad Channel. Due to alternate construction work by the city Department of Transportation, DDC’s project to repair roadways and sidewalks along Cross Bay Boulevard has been delayed. Once work begins, it should take approximately seven weeks to complete. According to the DDC, the scope of the work for Cross Bay will not harm any of the potentially newly planted trees.
“We need to do everything we can to allow our communities to move forward and rebuild,” Goldfeder said. “DDC has agreed to work with Parks, and there should be no further delays in our recovery.”

Thursday, April 17, 2014

City Controller launching audit of Build it Back Hurricane Sandy home re-building program

After only six homes have been rebuilt with 20,000 Hurricane Sandy victims on the program’s waiting list, Stringer plans on putting the Build it Back program under the microscope.

The City’s troubled Build it Back program, which has only served a handful of Hurricane Sandy victims since the 2012 natural disaster struck, is going under the microscope.

City Controller Scott Stringer is launching an audit of the program as part of his office’s new Sandy Oversight Unit, the Daily News has learned.

“It disturbs me greatly there are 20,000 people on a waiting list and six homes have been rebuilt,” Stringer said during a visit to Rockaway on Wednesday morning. “This has gone on way too long.”

Stringer said he will hold town hall meetings in Rockaway, Coney Island, Staten Island and lower Manhattan to take testimony from frustrated homeowners who say the program has failed to help them.

“It will not work unless we are in the community listening to residents,” said Stringer.

“Everybody knows the horror story post—Katrina. I’m not suggesting we are anywhere near that but the goal here has to be that we don’t have people hit twice — once by the storm and once by bureaucracy and government inefficiency.”

Then Mayor Michael Bloomberg launched Build it Back in June 2013, promising it would be an easier way to funnel federal disaster funds to Sandy victims who needed help rebuilding their homes.

But people who have applied for assistance have complained that the paperwork is daunting and that inspectors are slow to act.

Of the nearly 20,000 homeowners who sought help, only six had begun construction and just three more had received reimbursement checks as of March 31.

“It was a bad experience,” said Patricia Andre, who showed Stringer her empty bungalow in Rockaway.

Frustrated by the snail’s pace of the city program, she turned to the organization Friends of Rockaway, which dispatched volunteers to help rebuild her home.

“We couldn’t do it by ourselves any more and we couldn’t wait for Build it Back,” she said.

Flood program reform 'not the final step'

Ganett Louisiana6:32 p.m. CDT April 16, 2014

Recent reform of the federal flood insurance program was essential, but more changes are needed, U.S. Senate candidate Bill Cassidy said Wednesday in Alexandria.
Cassidy, the Republican congressman from Louisiana's 6th District, is challenging longtime Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu in the fall election. He visited the corporate office of Martin Companies in Alexandria on Wednesday.
The Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act was "a great first step, but not the final step," he said.
Cassidy and Rep. Michael Grimm, R-NY, crafted the amended House version of the bill that became law in March.
The legislation was a reaction to the Biggert-Waters Act of 2012, which was passed as a way to bring stability to the National Flood Insurance Program but surprised even many of its backers with the way it caused insurance premiums to skyrocket.
The Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act repealed some of the more onerous provisions of Biggert-Waters by reinstating grandfathering, capping premium increases at a lower rate and eliminating the trigger that raised premiums immediately to actuarial levels when a property was sold.
Surcharges of $25 on primary residences and $250 on businesses and secondary residences are expected to pay for the changes in Biggert-Waters, but NFIP is still more than $20 billion in debt.
To reduce that debt, Cassidy suggests streamlining the program so less money is spent on expenses related to overhead, leaving savings that can be used to return to financial solvency. He also suggests getting the private sector involved in flood insurance, which he believes will foster competition and lower premiums.
"We have to make this program more effective, more accountable and more efficient," he said.
Asked about other issues on the federal level that will affect Louisiana, Cassidy drew a line between himself and Landrieu by sharply criticizing the policies of President Barack Obama.
He called the Affordable Care Act "one of the most anti-growth pieces of legislation to come out of Washington in some time." By encouraging businesses to cut their employees' hours and keep expansion to a limit, he said, the law hurts the people it's supposed to help.
He also criticized Obama for discouraging oil and gas production.
"This is why I'm running for Senate — this president's agenda," Cassidy said. "I disagree with that agenda."

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Summer Youth Jobs at Coney Island....

100th Precinct Community Council Meeting - Updated....

UPDATE! On Our Guest For The 100th. Precinct
Community Council Meeting

The 100th. Precinct Community
Council Next Meeting

Wednesday April 23rd 2014
Time - 7:30 PM

Knights of Columbus Hall
333 Beach 90th Street
Rockaway Beach, NY 11693

Cop of the Month Awards Will Be Presented To
The 100th Precinct & Transit District 23

*Special Guests*
Commanding Officer of Patrol Borough Queens South
Assistant Chief David Barrere

New York City Fire Department
Chris Hogan, N.Y.F.D.
Fire Safety

President 100th Precinct Community Council
Danny Ruscillo Jr.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Mississippi drops lawsuit against Federal Flood Insurance Program..

JACKSON, Mississippi -- Mississippi's lawsuit against the Federal Flood Insurance Program will be withdrawn pending the Federal Emergency Management Agency's implementation of a new law passed by Congress meant to alleviate some of the dramatic rate increases facing Mississippi homeowners, Commissioner of Insurance Mike Chaney said today.

Chaney and the Mississippi Insurance Department filed suit on September 26, 2013, seeking to delay or stop the increases and were supported by several other states and entities, including Alabama, Louisiana, Florida, South Carolina and Massachusetts.
Partially in response to the Mississippi suit and a rising number of other complaints, Congress changed the law.

Lawyers for the Mississippi Insurance Department filed papers Monday that caused the lawsuit to be dismissed "without prejudice," meaning it can be refiled at any time should the provisions of the new law or the manner in which FEMA implements it is deemed unsatisfactory.

Meanwhile, MID lawyers will monitor FEMAs' implementation of the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act of 2014, passed as H.R. 3370, to ensure the new law does what is necessary to ease the financial burden on homeowners.

"I am very happy that Congress has acted to protect homeowners," Chaney said. "However, we will have to watch FEMA's implementation of it to be sure it actually fixes the problem. If it does, fine. If it doesn't, we are free to refile the lawsuit."

In 2012, Congress passed the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act seeking to address some of the shortfalls in the NFIP. The law drastically changed the way premiums were calculated, resulting in premium increases in some cases costing thousands of dollars 
and making the insurance unaffordable for many Mississippians.

Chaney said his staff will be monitoring FEMA's implementation of the law over the next several months.

NWS: Hazardous Weather Outlook

Hazardous Weather Outlook

447 PM EDT MON APR 14 2014