At Hoboken disaster relief meeting, talk of what’s next for basement/garden apartment dwellers

HOBOKEN — A meeting for Hoboken residents was held on Monday night to answer questions and provide resources regarding Hurricane Sandy relief. Over 200 members of the community gathered in the Hoboken High School auditorium to hear important announcements from Mayor Dawn Zimmer, the FEMA, the SBA (Small Business Administration) and other specialists. All of the speakers also answered questions from the audience.

The issue of flood insurance riled the crowd, specifically those who live in basement apartments. Several residents expressed concern that their homes would not be appropriately compensated due to the limited amount of insurance offered for a “basement.” These residents were told by FEMA that if they are denied flood insurance, or do not get adequate compensation, they can appeal, stating that the basement is their living quarters.

One resident stood up and said, “Why are we forced to buy flood insurance, but yet it doesn’t cover a flood?” This comment got a huge round of applause from those already frustrated by the process.

It was explained that flood insurance covers damage from surface water over normally dry land, five acres at minimum with two (or more) adjacent properties on the land, at least one of which is insured. It does not cover seepage or sewer back-up unless it is proven that the sewer backed up or lift stations failed due directly to the flood.

This animated many members of the audience, who expressed concern over how much was actually sewage back-up. One resident said that 120 cars were totaled in her parking garage due to the water that rose up from the grates. Some people then questioned whether the city would offer documentation to prove that the sewage backed up as a direct result of the flood.
Mayor Zimmer said that she will meet with the legal department, city engineer, and flood insurance commissioner to inquire about such documentation.

FEMA explained that the first step is to register with them as an individual either by or by calling 1 (800) 621-3362, even if you have flood insurance. A disaster recovery center is also available at 59 Washington Street B, next the Office Depot. The recovery center is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Those with questions on the appeal process, ineligibility decisions, or other situational issues are encouraged to go in person to the center.

FEMA is potentially able to recover a portion of what the flood insurance cannot, provided there is documentation first from the insurance carrier stating what they will or will not cover. SBA, is also an option if FEMA and flood insurance are still not enough, offering low interest loans to homeowners, renters, businesses, etc.

A female resident who experienced damage from Hurricane Irene vouched for the process, calming down some angry members of the crowd. She advised others that by hounding all of the agencies and making sure she received the proper documentation from each, a deposit was placed into her bank account from FEMA almost immediately.

FEMA also advised community members to beware of scams and their personal safety by making sure that anyone who comes to their home to conduct an inspection is wearing a badge. They said to ask the inspector their name so that FEMA can verify them afterward and only show them a state ID/license, nothing with personal numbers on it.

After the assembly, anyone who wished to break out into a one on one to discuss more personal questions, was invited to do so.

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