By Eden Laikin
Nassau County Executive Edward P. Mangano joined a group of Nassau residents at a rally this evening, to demand that FEMA stop using a “nonsensical” policy provision that allows insurance companies to deny benefits to homeowners whose properties were damaged by “earth movement” during the floods of Hurricane Sandy.
And he told the crowd of about 75 people athered outside the Theodore Roosevelt Executive & Legislative Building in Mineola that he spoke today with US Senators Schumer and Gillebrand and they were on board.
Residents have been denied relief for damages caused when “earth” was moved by storm water – an exclusion in the National Flood Insurance Plan that Mangano called “ridiculous.”
The US Congress would have to change a statute to change the policy of the governmental insurance plan.
“This basis for denial of benefits is clearly contradictory to its mission,” Mangano said. “Hurricane Sandy devastated our great county, displacing residents, destroying homes, businesses, hospitals and government infrastructure. It is clear storm water was the primary destructive element. Storm water destroyed homes and their foundations. That is why we are rebuilding to strengthen against storm water intrusion — through elevation, raising utilities and in some cases buyouts.”
Tonight’s rally was led by a group calling itself SANDY VICTIMS FIGHTING FEMA. Many carried signs that said: “Homeless With A Mortgage in Seaford” and “A mortgage and paying rent” “Still homeless in Oceanside” and ““Strangled by red tape”
The group, dedicated to fighting the Earth Movement exclusion in the National Flood Insurance Plan (NFIP), says there are thousands of families along the South Shore who purchased flood insurance either directly from the federal government, or from private companies and that FEMA handles all NFIP claims.
The contention is that FEMA has chosen to “wrongfully deny many claims for structural damage- relying on a provision buried within the policy, known as the Earth Movement Exclusion. Essentially, this states that if a house was damaged by earth movement, even if the earth moved because of flood, they deny coverage.”
“This exclusion is causing pain and suffering for residents. It’s unacceptable,” he said. “I call on FEMA to immediately stop denying coverage based on this absurd exclusion.”
Homeowner Michele Mittleman’s Freeport home was condemned following Hurricane Sandy. She cannot rebuild because of this exception. Her family is now forced to live in a one-bedroom apartment, 10 months following Sandy. Her son sleeps in a closet.
One resident who attended the rally said “They are improperly relying upon this exclusion, even when there is clear evidence of damage caused directly by flooding – resulting in many people being forced to pay mortgages and flood insurance on homes they have not been able to re-build and pay rent.”
Also in attendance at the rally was Legislators Denise Ford and Dave Denenberg; Long Beach Councilwoman Fran Adelson and Long Beach Councilwoman Eileen Goggin.
“So….today….we stand strong…” Mangano told the crowd, calling for FEMA to make a policy shift. “We stand united…We stand with one voice…STOP THE EARTH MOVEMENT EXCEPTION NOW!”