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The Scarlattos are a happy family but live in a broken home.
Their Astoria duplex began sinking two years ago after a water main broke near their house on 47th Street, washing away the foundation. After the line broke again last January, the family spent more than $20,000 repairing damages only to have the city offer $4,800 in compensation.
I spent two years in a house with an infant where plaster is falling off the walls in his bedroom, said Jean Marie Scarlatto, who lives in the house with her husband and 2-year-old son. Its definitely an anxiety-ridden feeling and then to have the city of New York tell you its not their fault theyre not negligent.
The Scarlattos are among six homeowners with water-damaged houses who have enlisted a local legislator to help them get more money from the city.
State Assemblyman Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria) has been working with the homeowners for nearly a year to help them get compensated for damages they say the broken water line caused to each of their houses.
The water line broke in February 2002 and in January 2003, wreaking between $80,000 and $100,000 in damages to six houses on 47th Street between Ditmars Avenue and 23rd Avenue, Scarlatto said.
Four of the homeowners filed claims with the city comptroller after the second break and were offered compensations between $4,500 and $5,000, Gianaris said.
Thats not even enough to hire an architect to look at a place, Gianaris said. Bottom line is the city caused this problem. The city needs to make sure that these people are living in safe homes that are not sinking into the ground. ... What we want the city to do is reconsider what they offered to all of the residents.
Since taking up their cause, Gianaris has run up against a bureaucratic brick wall, saying the comptrollers office has not responded appropriately to his queries.
Mark Kitchner, the comptroller employee who handled the Scarlattos claim, said he could not comment on their claim or any of the other 47th Street residents claims. He would not discuss how the claims were determined or if they will be reviewed again.
With cracked walls and sunken floors, Rocco Mastrocolas house on 47th Street looks like it has weathered an earthquake. A giant crevice runs along the backside of the house. The entrance hall has dipped nearly 2 inches, separating the floor from the wall.
An engineering survey attributed the damage to the first water line break in 2002. After the line beneath the middle of the street broke, an underground water flow washed away some of the Long Island sand, salt and silt the house rests on, according to the July 2002 report by Rand Engineering, P.C.
Mastrocola said it will cost him roughly $12,000 to fill in his foundation and fix his broken walls.
The Scarlattos have spent nearly twice that amount to level their home. Last summer they had a firm fortify their foundation by drilling holes along the entire first floor and filling them with concrete. The construction permits, engineering fees and labor cost them more than $20,000, Scarlatto said.
She estimated that additional cosmetic and structural repairs would cost as much as $60,000. Her family accepted the $4,800 compensation, but now she wants to return it and renegotiate a better deal. The city owes them more money, she said, for the physical and emotional damage their crumbling walls have caused them.
If my in-laws didnt own this house and this happened, I would have been out of here two years ago, she said. Its been a lose-lose situation for the longest time.
Reach reporter Matthew Monks by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.
©2004 Community Newspaper Group
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