New York Rising is a Scam

As most people who know me are aware, my house, on Long Island’s south shore, suffered heavy flooding on October 29, 2012 as a result of Hurricane Sandy, when the water level of a nearby bay rose several feet above its historic high and filled my house up like a bucket. My house was not in a flood plain – even today it’s not considered a flood risk according to the latest maps – so we didn’t have flood insurance.

We stayed as long as we could, and planned to ride out the entire storm in our house, but once water started pouring down the driveway and filling up our garage and first level (finished living space) we decided to vacate. We spent the night at a friend’s house, far from the water.

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The driveway, which slopes down from the street to the first level.
The next morning, I drove back to my house to check out the damage. There was about a foot of water still in the house, but the high water mark inside the house showed it had gotten to about 40 inches – level with the street outside. Everything downstairs was ruined. Washer, dryer, fridge, boiler, water heater, couches, TVs, video game systems, computers – the lower level was a living area, bathroom and our home office. Everything had been submerged in brackish water from the bay.

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I went back to the house where we’d spent the night, and as soon as President Obama declared an emergency, I logged onto FEMA’s website and requested aid. The details of the next few days are murky in my mind almost 5 years later, but the inspector came on Halloween. We received some emergency money from FEMA relatively quickly, which let us get heat and hot water back once the power was restored, but it was well below the cap of $31,000, and far short of what we’d need to get everything fixed and replace what we’d lost.

I should add that our homeowner’s insurance explicitly didn’t cover any flood-related damage, and as I said above, the area had never flooded before and is even today not considered a flood risk.

We were without power for 9 days, which we spent hauling waterlogged stuff out of the basement and onto the curb. It was depressing work, but since there was no power at home or at work (in lower Manhattan at the time) it at least gave us something to do. Our lifeline to the rest of the world was our iPhones, which we charged using solar chargers we’d picked up at a county fair the previous year. In hindsight, we were lucky it was a warm few days, since we had no heat.

I had some contractors come by and asked them to give quotes to repair the damage. Since hundreds, maybe thousands of houses in my area had been damaged by the storm it was really difficult to get anyone even to return our call. We finally had three different contractors come by, and they gave verbal quotes ranging from $40,000 to $80,000, but each of them refused to give a written quote unless we agreed to hire them first. This seemed backwards, and frankly shady, but it was their market and they had hundreds of other jobs they could do.

We went back and forth with FEMA about increasing their award but they refused. Ultimately they directed us to the Small Business Administration about getting a loan. We really didn’t want to take out a loan, but on November 22nd I filled out the application beginning the months-long process of securing a disaster relief loan.

At some point, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo put together the New York Rising program to handle disbursement of federal funds for storm recovery. Going through my email history, I applied for this program on September 16th, 2013. On October 12, 2013, I received a letter from New York Rising informing me of my award of $193,728.73. We were pretty excited, as this meant we wouldn’t need to move forward with the SBA loan, and could use grant money for the repairs. By this point we had settled on a contractor, one who had been highly recommended by friends and had no problem getting all necessary permits, inspections, and most importantly, doing everything to town code. We were told he was very good, but also expensive, and his quote was over $80,000. We informed SBA we wouldn’t be moving forward with the loan since the NY Rising grant would more than cover the repair cost.

Several months passed and we didn’t hear anything from NY Rising, until February 7, 2014, when I received an email from NY Rising informing me of my award in the amount of $16,633.30. This was confusing, so I called our NY Rising rep to ask if this was in addition to the $193,728. She informed me that the $193,728 was “a mistake” and I should ignore that letter. NY Rising estimated that my total project cost should be $36,362.91. I was shocked. That amount was lower than the lowest quote I had received. I asked repeatedly for further explanation but never got one, and eventually they stopped returning my phone calls. I ended up actually receiving $12,689 from NY Rising – 75% of the $16,633.30 they gave me in their “revised” award.

In the end, I secured the SBA loan and the repair began on March 15, 2015 – two and a half years after the storm. The work was completed that July. The final bill for the repair and replacing furniture and appliances inside was well over $100,000, which I’ll be paying off over the next 27 years. The lower level is nice, and it’s nice to have that half of the house back after having been crammed into the upstairs for two years. But most importantly, as part of the rebuild, we filled in the driveway. Prior to Sandy, the driveway sloped down from the street level to the garage, which was what made the flood so disastrous for us in the first place. With the driveway filled in, another similar flood shouldn’t affect us so badly.

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That’s not the end of the story, however. On Feb 21, 2017, I received a letter from NY Rising informing me that because I had received an SBA loan in the amount of $117,543.20, and their estimated cost for the repair was $36,362.91, the entire amount they had given me was considered “duplication of benefits” and I had to repay the $12,689 I had received.

I called the latest NY Rising representative assigned to my case and asked about this and was told that I was free to appeal the decision. I sent in my appeal on March 30, 2017, explaining that the repair cost well over $100,000 and their original estimate of $36,000 was absurd. I also explained that filling in the driveway alone cost over $10,000, and it would have been foolish to do any repairs at all without filling in the driveway, as it would just leave us open to flooding again in the future.

I received a letter on April 19, 2017, informing me that my appeal was denied:

The Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery’s (GOSR) NY Rising Reconciliation Evaluation Team met on April 18, 2017 to review the appeal received on March 30, 2017. After careful consideration, your appeal is denied.

When you applied to the Program for assistance, an Inspector came to the damaged property address to calculate the extent of the damage to the property from the storm. The total of this amount was the Total Project Cost and is reflected above as $36,030.74. Subsequently, your Total Project Cost increased to add an additional design allowance for work completed prior to inspection. Your Reconciled Total Project Cost is $36,362.91. The documentation submitted with your appeal was reviewed and it was determined that even if all of the repairs in your contractor’s estimate were Program‐eligible, the total DOB funds you received would still exceed your Total Project Cost. Your current Total Project Cost includes a 10% design allowance to cover expenses such as architect’s fees. Additionally, content, such as furniture and personal property, and driveway repairs are not eligible for Program funds.

Since receiving that letter I’ve contacted every elected official I can think of, from federal through county representatives, and received responses from Congresswoman Kathleen Rice’s office and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s office. However, I have little expectation anything will change before NY Rising puts the account into collection, as they’ve threatened to do with each letter.

I hope that by writing and sharing my experience, others who have had similar issues with NY Rising changing their award amounts out from under them repeatedly, and ultimately demanding money back that was used to repair their homes, as it was originally intended, will similarly speak out and convince Governor Cuomo to stop this recapture program.

 

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15 Replies to “New York Rising is a Scam”

  1. I hope more people come forward to help right the wrong that is happening to you guys. Good luck with everything.

  2. Unfortunately you’re going to have to go to a higher court. Drop the furniture and driveway part, don’t give them any single part they can counter or explain away, focus on what they said they would cover, those actual costs for the prices you paid and the letters they sent promising you a certain level of aide for those pieces.
    I would sue on false information based on the original estimate they gave you and include any cost from having lost access to 1/2 your house for 2+ years as well as emotional stress from dealing with their bullshit as well as harassment. Unfortunately $12k isn’t worth that hassle but until someone takes a stand in that way they’re just not going to care. The fact is they have jerked you around for 3 years, giving you 2 letters of differing amounts from the amount they eventually awarded you and that you made plans based upon and after all of that demand it back. It’s beyond fraud, it’s negligence that has lead to extreme stress on your part.

  3. I received my NY Rising “Final Award” amount to elevate my house nearly two years ago. I finished the project in September 2016. However, because the Town of Hempstead was slow to issue the COO I did not get the final payments from NY Rising.

    Last month, out of nowhere, I get a letter saying they reduced my award by $20K (so instead of owing me $12K, I owed $7K). The reason give was my contractor filed for some cost overruns and that entitled NY Rising to reevaluate my award under their current standards. My position is that the “Final Award” should not change based on changes to policies after it is determined.

    I have appealed this decision and I’m awaiting a reply. However, my contractor is owed by me on the full amount of the award no matter whether its reduced under my contract. Crazy!!

    I’ve written to Gov. Cuomo and Todd Kaminsky. Kaminsky was responsive but he people say a lot of people are in the same boat.

  4. We have lost our battle to pay back the $66,000 we were given by NY Rising. Our story is very different—but i have rock solid proof that the money is not a dupliction of benefits, however, after 2 years of fighting, the breakup of my marriage and being forced to sell the house we have run our of options and money to fight them. It is an aboslute horror show and Gov Cuomo could care less. 😦

  5. DISABLED due to Storm & NOW THIS!!! I am JUST about to start my “FIGHT” as I didn’t realize everything would escalate so quickly to now Attorney letters and threats. My life is STILL deemed a disaster because every day is a reminder of Hurricane Sandy because I FELL THROUGH my rotted floor, into the 3 ft crawl space, severely damaging my hip, back and YES, my head. I live in pain 24/7, walk with assistance from multiple devices and have suffered seizures due to my head. I am now on Disability, ane Sandy because I FELL THROUGH my rotted floor, into the 3 ft crawl space, severely damaging my hip, back and YES, my head. I live in pain 24/7, walk with assistance from multiple devices and have suffered seizures due to my head. I am now on Disability, after once being a quite successful businesswoman( & single Mom for 25 years of 4 children, with no support!!) in Financial Sales. My mostly ranch-style home (I have 2 small bedrooms upstairs, with doggie-dormer windows & slanted ceilings, where the original cape-style “Summer” home, built in 1944 in Suffolk County-South Shore, & is also where 6 people lived for a year following the storm while repairs were done downstairs, including myself, my live-in boyfriend, my incredible now 11yo nephew I have had custody of since his birth, and then my now 32-year-old son, who moved back home from California, with his family,-his GF & her daughter he is helping to raise-, to help his Mother, out of pure love) also had 3-4 Ft of water with Homeowners Ins & Flood Ins. My issue lies with the foundation, the entire under-belly & supports for the house. Neither Ins covered it. This was found out after multiple people & then an engineer from the Ins Co. came out, and I too after giving ALL amounts of monies upfront, that I was receiving, to NY Rising, was given a $ amount and then check for $51K for the “Repairs”/ items (the foundation and other various repairs-ALL DOCUMENTED) NOT listed on the Ins Companies line-by-line accounting. My sister is on my Mortgage due to when the Recession hit, and I had to refinance because I had then taken a Massive hit to my Salary. Let me also mention that I also moved my father into my wrecked home with no sheetrock on the walls & plywood floors, to become his caregiver, within the 1st year after the storm, right before I succumbed to my injury after he was given 3 WEEKS to LIVE due to Cancer. God, the amazing Dr, all of us in the house, & his incredible WILL to LIVE helped him to live and give us another 3 years with him. As you can see I have & am STILL living through all this, now diagnosed with PTSD, and this CRAP is TRULY ruining my Life!! I am going to have to pull all the strength I have now to FIGHT these BASTARDS that have been threatening me with “Re-Capture” of ALL the MONIES. I am a very intelligent woman and I KNOW I know HOW to DO this, but I NEED HELP. If any of you are going through this as I know a lot of you are, then E-Mail me at “Geminifni@gmail.com” and we will FIGHT the GOOD FIGHT together because this is pure insanity…and also what is going to happen to those affected by “Harvey” & “Irma” if we can get the word out now, as it is happening to us & once “Katrina” victims. I want to hear from ALL the way up to President Trump, Ben Carson & others to find out if they know what is going on. I can DO that….. Thank you for your attention to this….With LOVE, Gina in Babylon – GEMINIFNI@GMAIL.COM

  6. Hi Evan,
    Can you give us a status update of your appeal?
    I’d recommend you request to broaden your scope of work to include items that may not have otherwise been initially included in your Repair ECR. This can offset the amount which NYR is attempting to recapture.
    Good luck,
    Beth

    1. We are also going through the same claw back problem with ny rising. Rices office was totally useless and waiting to hear back from schumers office. Has anyone reached out to an attorney to see if there is a class action suit to be brought? How can there not be a statute of limitation on what they can do five years later? They are incredibly incompetent, amoral and useless. They caused and created the issues and now we suffer

  7. We are also going through the same claw back problem with ny rising. Rices office was totally useless and waiting to hear back from schemers office. Has anyone reached out to an attorney to see if there is a class action suit to be brought? How can there not be a statute of limitation on what they can do five years later? They are incredibly incompetent, amoral and useless. They caused and created the issues and now we suffer

  8. One of the problems with an appeal is that there doesn’t seem to be any checks and balances in play. They do not appear to have an outside independent group handling the appeal process, it’s all internal ny rising people which means it’s in their best interests to deny any appeal. Total conflict of interest

  9. Thank you all for sharing!
    Your personal disaster stories are validating and very similar to ours.
    The system seems to be set up to collect funds regardless of the circumstances.
    NYRISING is a government sponsored scam preying on survivors of Super Storm Sandy.
    They have us all over a barrel because when we were extremely vulnerable we submitted copies of many personal documents, financials, SS#, bank accounts, insurance documents etc.
    They have the means to intimidate individuals to pay back monies that were used to restore damaged homes and properties. This is an abusive tactic on their part, adding insult to injury.
    We have a better chance to appeal if we stand together to face these bullies.
    I’ve been considering a class action lawsuit. Any suggestions? I would be open to pursue that path before considering how to pay back money already spent.
    My heart goes out to all of you. We had 5ft of water on the 1st floor and no power till Thanksgiving. It was brutal and now they want money back, what vultures!

  10. Me too, I am all for a class action lawsuit. Unfortunately, I was scarred and agreed to start making payments. I have more money going out then coming in because of these payments to NY Rising. Any suggestions?

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