Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Super Storm Sandy - The Bureaucratic Nightmare Continues in Broad Channel

Super Storm Sandy 
 The Bureaucratic Nightmare Continues
in Broad Channel

As we approach the 4th anniversary of the destruction and heartache visited upon our community of Broad Channel, the nightmare lives on as evidenced by the below message from our neighbor, Nick Pierro who resides on Church Road detailing his continuing difficulties with his Build It Back situation (Application #2439).

Imagine you were planning to do the biggest renovation of a house you owned and lived in. Now imagine a contractor showed up one day that you didn’t hire. He told you to move out, he took your keys and he said to be back in 7 months and by the way, he hoped you’re going to like what he does with your house.

Well, that is exactly what is happening to thousands of home owners in New York City. We were all victims of Super Storm Sandy. Now we are victims of Mayor DeBlasio. The mayor held a press conference in 2015 and he promised to have everyone effected by Superstorm Sandy elevated, fixed and back in their homes by 2017. Anyone with sense knows that there are thousands of homes effected and this is unrealistic. To do it correctly would take years. 

After the storm, I received $82,000 from Allstate. After spending that, I went through my life savings, then I borrowed and used credit cards. When I was done, I had the interior of a home that I dreamt about when I bought my house in 2008. This included new oak wood floors throughout the house, a pantry with California Closets, a $5,000 boiler installed with all new plumbing, a $20,000 bathroom, a new laundry room, new walls, windows, doors, moldings appliances and furniture. I still needed a roof and siding and my house had to be elevated or I would have to pay 20 to 30 thousand a year for flood insurance. 

The city created the Build It Back program with FEMA money. They are giving grants to people to elevate their homes. This was wonderful news. That didn’t last long. In November of 2015, a team of men and women arrived at my door. They were from Build It Back, IBTS Contractors and NYC surveyors. When the lead architect discovered that the rear of my house was built on a concrete slab, he told me that they would have to demo the rear portion of my first floor. This includes my bathroom, boiler room, pantry, laundry room and half of my kitchen. 

At that time, a representative from Build It Back told me that there’s an option. He said that demolishing the work that I had done would be “criminal” as he could see the money and time that went into it. That is the first time I ever heard the name Ducky Johnson. He told me I have to sign up with the Choose Your Own Contractor program and then hire Ducky Johnson.  Everyone in that meeting agreed they can raise my home, easily. So I chose that. Ed Magenheimer from Ducky Johnson came to my home. He signed me up. We filled out the CYOC paperwork and it was submitted. 

A month later I was called to a meeting. When I got there, I discovered that this was not Ducky Johnson. This was IBTS. I was given new blue prints to my home. I was told they were going to raise my house but they were going to demo the rear. I pleaded my case. He agreed this made no sense.

I then continued to make calls. Ed from Ducky Johnson assured me they inquired, but got nowhere. I finally got in touch with the head of BIB in Queens, Rudy Giuliani. He told me to keep fighting and he could help if I ran into trouble.

Then, another team of people came to my house. This time it was Tishman Contractors. The same exact meeting took place that I went through with IBTS. I was confused and I was told they now have the job. Again, they took pictures, measure and surveyed. They, too, said that to destroy my house would be a travesty.

In a panic, I called Rudy Giuliani many times. He never answered his cell or office phones nor did I get a return call. I called more people. I went to BIB in Howard Beach and I spoke with Tiffany McDonald. She, too, agreed with me and gave me a packet of forms to fill out if I wasn’t happy. She told me not to fill out the forms until I spoke with Giuliani. I wrote a letter to Ducky Johnson explaining the runaround I was getting. They forwarded it to someone in BIB and Giuliani called me. After an hour phone call, it ended with “wait for the Tishman design team to tell you what’s going to happen.” I did. 

I was called to a meeting with Tishman inside the BIB building. I was given a new set of blueprints. IBTS said they needed to replace my roof. Tishman said I was not getting a roof, even though now the roof is leaking. IBTS said by code I need new egress windows in my son’s and my bedrooms. Tishman said they were going by “old code” and they are not replacing the windows. IBTS was keeping the layout of my house exactly the same and even re-hanging my California Closets’ shelves in my pantry and laundry room. Tishman said that my boiler room was going to be moved adjacent to my kitchen and to access the laundry room and pantry I am going to have to walk through my bathroom. This is 100% unacceptable and will not happen. 

IBTS said they were going to raise my house 5 feet and push it back 9 feet. Tishman said they were going to raise it a minimum 7 feet or maximum 8 feet and push it back 5 feet. IBTS said I did not need a sprinkler system. Tishman said at 8 feet, an open foundation did not require a sprinkler system but a closed foundation did. I chose open. Then I was told that the foundation didn’t matter and it had to do with raising the house another story. I said to lower the house to the minimum to avoid the sprinkler and they said okay. Then they said the height didn’t matter and it was because my street wasn’t wide enough, so I needed the sprinkler. The stories changed by the hour and IBTS and Tishman handed me two sets of blueprints – both, completely different and both, according to them, by “code.” 

I have all new walls and ceilings in my home. Tishman told me they were going to build soffits around the plumbing for the sprinkler system. This is unacceptable. I paid very close attention to detail when I rebuilt this house. Now they want to destroy it. My original contractors would not have moved an electric outlet one inch without consulting with me first. Now, I have no say. I ripped out all the soffits in my house to replace the ceiling and I added new recessed lighting and ceiling fans. I offered Tishman to channel out the joists myself so they can install the plumbing the right way. They said no without an explanation. What this program is doing to my well being is worse than what Sandy brought. 

I asked if they could build a mechanical room outside my house, attached to the rear for the boiler and the sprinkler. I was told it’s possible and I would get a call back on that. I haven’t heard a thing. Instead, this weekend, I got an email telling me my move-out date is September 13. How is this possible when I have no idea what the finalized plans are? 

I need help. Having a kitchen with half a wood floor and half vinyl floor, and replacing all my moldings, tiles, doors and paint with Section 8 material, and having to walk through a bathroom with food or to do laundry and having soffits running through my home will devalue my home’s worth. One architect told me, “So what? Once we leave, you can redo everything we did.” 

My response: How? I have no more money.

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