NYC on Every Single Hurricane Ida Claim: Sorry, Nope

City says it's not liable for damage from excessive rain, leaving residents with huge bills
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 17, 2022 9:10 AM CDT
NYC on Every Single Hurricane Ida Claim: Sorry, Nope
In this Sept. 3, 2021 file photo, people clear debris and damaged belongings from their homes in the Queens borough of New York.   (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

(Newser) – New Yorkers filed 4,703 claims against the city for home damage caused by flooding during Hurricane Ida, citing negligence in sewer maintenance, and every single one was denied. Nearly a year on from the storm, the comptroller's office issued denial letters citing precedent set by a 1907 case that found municipal governments aren't liable for damage from "extraordinary and excessive rainfalls," the City reports. More than three inches of rain fell on Central Park in a single hour during the storm, which triggered flash flood emergencies. The city's sewer system could only handle under two inches per hour.

The foundation of Amrita Bhagwandin's home in Queens was compromised when water flooded her basement and reached two feet deep on her first floor. She told the city she was "up to my wit's end here trying to get a contractor with a decent price because everything's going to cost me more than $125,000." But the letter she received Monday said the city "is not responsible for losses arising from Hurricane Ida, and your claim must be denied." "This decision—which I encourage homeowners to explore their options about—is an unfortunate encapsulation of the city's negligence and sheer failure when it comes to extreme weather preparedness," Queens Borough President Donovan Richards tells The City.

Though Bhagwandin received a few thousand dollars from FEMA, it's not close to enough to cover the needed repairs. FEMA has approved payments of almost $223 million to 88,718 people across the state, with $158 million going to 61,696 people in New York City, but the average payment was $2,500, per the City. Forced to live inside sewage-soaked homes, or with family and friends, residents are fearful of what the next storm might bring. On Tuesday, as city councillors questioned whether officials were prepared for disaster to strike again, the city said it was developing a flood sensor system that wouldn't be finished for five years, reports NBC New York. (Read more New York City stories.)

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