By Chris Fuchs
The Briarwood residents whose houses began to sink in late January because of unsatisfactory soil have until Friday to file financial claims against the city, the first step in determining how much responsibility lies with government agencies.
Nick Paolucci, a spokesman for city Comptroller Alan Hevesi, said that as of Tuesday, six homeowners had submitted claims, their estimates ranging from $300,000 to $1 million. The claims can cover everything from how much damage, monetarily, the homes had suffered, to the fees charged by engineers and architects whom the homeowners had to hire to make those assessments.
Once the deadline passes the city gives 90 days from the time such an incident occurs to file papers the comptrollers office begins its investigation, drawing on reports from agencies involved in the case. Paolucci said the comptrollers office had begun a preliminary investigation, and was awaiting a final report from the city Department of Buildings, the lead agency handling the incident.
The incident happened in late January, when eight houses around the intersection of 84th Avenue and 159th Street in Briarwood mysteriously developed cracks, some more pronounced than others. Three days later, the city performed boring tests near the homes, a process in which holes are drilled in the ground, and soil is removed and analyzed.
The tests concluded that the soil was indeed unsatisfactory, also revealing that in some instances, the water table had erratically risen around the same time that the homes had shifted. Such a rise may have resulted from a broken water main, an event that city officials said happened the same day the cracks were reported.
Last month, the Department of Buildings sent a letter to homeowners, advising them to hire either a registered architect or a professional engineer to assess damage done to their homes. But if they did, they initially would have to bear the costs, at least until the comptrollers office concluded whether or not the city was at fault.
In general, city residents whose homes have been structurally damaged are given 90 days from the time the incident is reported to file claims against the city. To that end, the homeowners must submit photos of the damage, as well as documentation like receipts or structural reports, in support of their claims.
Each case is handled individually, Paolucci said, but there is no deadline by which the comptrollers office must reach a judgment. If the homeowners are not satisfied with the remuneration, they are provided other legal recourses, including challenging the decision in State Supreme Court
Reach reporter Chris Fuchs by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 156.
©2001 Community News Group
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