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The Endless Recovery: Sinkholes Proving To Be Big Problem On Staten Island

As One Family Is Finding Out, FEMA, Insurance Companies Are A Dead End
A family on Staten Island has a sinkhole problem, which may be related to Hurricane Sandy, but FEMA and the insurance company is not helping out. (Photo: CBS 2)

A family on Staten Island has a sinkhole problem, which may be related to Hurricane Sandy, but FEMA and the insurance company is not helping out. (Photo: CBS 2)

Superstorm Sandy

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — It’s gone from bad to worse for some storm-weary Staten Island residents who are trying to rebuild after Hurricane Sandy.

Now, they’re coping with a sinkhole nightmare. And as CBS 2’s Steve Langford reported Tuesday, not even insurance coverage may help.

On the recently renovated ground floor of Diane Spoto’s Sandy-battered home, there’s a sinkhole.

“According to the engineer, he said the floor could collapse if not fixed properly,” Spoto said.

Beyond the obvious fear that her home might cave in, Spoto said she’s getting stuck with the repair bill.

“This one is from FEMA, which you can see personal property total grant zero, and the other letter is from Allstate, which is also a denial,” Spoto said.

The estimate to repair the sinkhole is $12,000, money Spoto said she and her husband no longer have after struggling to pay to repair their flooded home.

There’s no telling how many homes in the Sandy-ravaged neighborhoods may have developed sinkholes without their owners knowing.

Engineering expert Joseph Pasaturo said in his experience insurance doesn’t cover sinkholes.

“In most case I’ve been involved in the answer is no because the insurance policy covers the structure and the contents of the house, not the land the house is sitting on,” Pasaturo said.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency did not respond to a phone call and email from CBS 2’s Langford, and Allstate insurance referred him to the Insurance Information Institute, which indicated sinkholes are generally not covered by insurers in New York. Over the weekend Sen. Charles Schumer told CBS 2 from Coney Island almost all Sandy-related losses should be covered.

“Whether you’re, you know, you own the Cyclone or you were just living in public housing and lost furniture you’ll get reimbursed,” Sen. Schumer said.

But that is not what Spoto has found.

“We need some help from somewhere. Someone has to help us here,” Spoto said.

Spoto said she received $30,000 from her insurance policy to cover some of her repair work, but nothing to fix the sinkhole.

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