Rita Kestenbaum, candidate for Nassau County’s 19th Legislative District, joined with Laura Curran, legislator from the Fifth Legislative District, in front of a home on a canal in south Bellmore to call for more transparency from federal agencies to help residents who have still not been made whole by the agencies in providing funds for rebuilding get back into their homes, calling on Nassau County to make these residents’ issues a top priority in the Legislature.
19th Legislative District candidate Rita Kestenbaum and Fifth Legislative District Legislator Laura Curran stand in front of two Bellmore homes on the canal that have not been made whole again from insurers or FEMA, possibly to fraud.
The house on Alder Road is jacked up on stilts the required 12 feet set by FEMA, but no one has lived in the house for two-and-one-half years because the contractor stopped the work after payments from private insurers stopped. The private insurers are contracted by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to provide flood insurance to residents living in federal flood zones.
Two engineering firms hired by the private insurers, one on Long Island, are alleged to have rewritten original damage reports to deny funds to the homeowners, and are now under investigation by state’s Attorney General’s Office for fraudulent claims.
Kestenbaum told those assembled she has first-hand experience in being denied funds because her home, near the bay, was damaged during superstorm Sandy. She remarked that her husband is on his third session with insurers to try to get funds to pay for damages.
She told this magazine website in an earlier interview that as soon as it appears there is some headway, “The agency replaces everyone with new employees” and the process has to start all over again.
She pointed to the unoccupied house on stilts, saying “This is unacceptable that this is still going on!”
Legislator Laura Curran said she wrote a letter to county Public Works Commissioner – and Bellmore resident – Shila Shah-Gavoudias requesting any and all documents that “will shed light on the range of services performed by GEB/HiRise, particularly in connection with post-Hurricane Irene and Sandy Disaster and Debris Management, as well as the Sheltering and Temporary Essential Power (STEP) pilot program.”
Both Legislator Curran and candidate Kestenbaum made clear that investigations being conducted by the state against the engineering firm were only allegations, and also had nothing in particular to do with the house on Alder Road.
Kestenbaum did say the engineering firm does have ties to the current county administration, and that’s why the call for transparency was necessary.
Curran said she would also ask for a public hearing “to allow those affected by the storms to speak in an open forum, in an effort to ensure all the parties involved in storm recovery are accountable to the victims and to the taxpayers.”
A special runoff election will be held on March 10 to decide a new legislator for the 19th Legislative District. Kestenbaum in running on the Democratic ticket against Republican Steve Rhoads for the seat, after David Denenberg resigned.