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‘07 Flood victims seek help

Almost 11 months after the Aug. 8, 2007, storm that swamped Queens and put the borough on the city comptroller's radar for compensation for damages, Sunny Tam is still waiting to see if he will receive any of the money he claimed after his Fresh Meadows basement apartment flooded.

After the federal government declared Queens a disaster area in the wake of the August 2007 storm, and the comptroller's office said the city would also handle claims for damage caused by infrastructure, Tam filed claims with both, as people were encouraged to do.

"I was reimbursed from the federal government last year. Nobody showed up from the city" to examine and assess the damage, which Tam estimated at $67,000. He has not received any money from the city, he said.

The two storms last July and August wreaked havoc on Queens, so when residents found out they could file claims with city Comptroller William Thompson's office to be reimbursed for the damage, several hundred did.

Thompson's office said in May that for the July 18, 2007, storm, Queens residents filed 328 claims totaling $10,827,988.86, while 76 claims did not specify a dollar amount. The impact of the August storm was greater: 811 people filed claims, 164 of whom did not specify a dollar amount, for a total of $15,675,614.42, Thompson's office said.

The comptroller's office did not say how many of the claims had been paid or what the cost to the city was in May.

Thompson's office did not return repeated calls for comment on the status of the city's reimbursement of last year's storm claims. Calls to Public Advocate Betsy Gottbaum's office also were not returned.

Tam, a management information systems expert whose apartment is on Utopia Parkway near the intersection with 65th Avenue, said the water pours in every time heavy rains flood the streets and overwhelm the sewers. Prior to the August 2007 storm he used to keep computer equipment at home, "but that was before. I had to throw everything out," he said.

Besides computer equipment, Tam had to toss his washer/dryer, bed, mattress, desk and couch, none of which is inexpensive to replace. "And I think the boiler's not working now," he said in the days after the June 14 storm.

City Councilman James Gennaro's (D-Fresh Meadows) office is aware of the problem.

The councilman's staff is inquiring with the comptroller's office case by case, a Gennaro spokesman said. "We're being told that each claim must be investigated individually and that's why it's taking so long."

Around the corner, Nancy Yudelson has lived on 65th Avenue for more than 50 years and is fed up with the repeated flooding of her basement. She said that in recent years, "it's gotten worse."

The basement of Yudelson's two-family house suffered damage from the flooding, due in part to a downward-sloping driveway and sewers that bubbled up into the basement. She keeps the receipts in a clear acrylic folder and photocopies from Home Depot and other stores for items she had to replace, such as $900 for the garage door and $859 for the washer/dryer.

"My son is a model airplane enthusiast," she said, pointing to a back room in the basement where award plaques adorn the wall and a red wing hung forlornly from the ceiling. "This is thousands of dollars' worth of planes ruined."

In the folder is a letter from her insurance company, Allstate, showing it paid Yudelson $5,000 for flood damage — but that does not cover what an assessor totaled up as almost $35,000 in destruction to the property.

Yudelson also said she has not seen any money from the city for the claim she filed with the comptroller's office.

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