NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Scores of Breezy Point homeowners have filed a major lawsuit against the Long Island Power Authority and National Grid.
According to the suit filed by 120 homeowners, the utility companies failed to de-energize the power grid ahead of Hurricane Sandy.
As CBS 2’s Derricke Dennis reported Tuesday, the images in Breezy Point during Sandy are unforgettable. Nearly 130 homes burned to the ground in Breezy Point and in Rockaway Beach, Queens, after electrical fires broke out.
Many neighbors have since said the fire should never have happened, and LIPA and National Grid are squarely to blame.
The sand dunes of Breezy Point now cover the barren expanse of land where rows of homes once stood, and only concrete foundations remain. And homeowners such as Kieren Burke remained furious more than eight months later.
“It passed through generations of my family,” Burke said. “If you count my children, it would have been the fourth generation.”
The massive Breezy Point blaze broke out around 8:30 p.m. on Oct. 29, right as Sandy and the ensuing storm surge made their impacts felt in New York City.
Fire crews were unable to reach the area due to severe flooding. That allowed the fire to burn for several hours, and the flames were fanned by hurricane-strength winds, according to the FDNY.
The lawsuit claimed LIPA and National Grid – which serve the Rockaway Peninsula even though it is part of New York City – did not shut off the electricity as a precaution before the storm as they should have.
“Salt water and electricity do not mix,” said attorney Keith Sullivan. “That resulted in electrical arcing, sparks and flames, and it ultimately resulted in an absolute inferno.”
Hannah Sweeney, 77, of Belle Harbor, said she also counts herself as a victim. All that is left of her house is a foundation full of sand.
“They were notified to turn it off at a certain time and didn’t do it,” Sweeney said. “Why didn’t they do it? I mean, that’s outrageous.”
The suit claims residents have suffered damages in excess of $80 million, but Sweeney said there are also losses that simply cannot be counted.
“All your belongings, all my pictures, all the things you can never replace — 36 years,” she said.
The power companies released a statement in response to the lawsuits, which read: “The actions during Sandy were reasonable and appropriate, and we don’t believe that these claims have merit.”
Burke said a lawsuit will not bring any houses back, but it will still benefit those who suffered losses.
“It won’t bring the physical house back, no — they destroyed that. That part of my life, I have to get past. I have to go forward,” he said. “But going forward, I’m going to need to build a new home.”
Earlier this year, 17 homeowners had announced plans to sue the utilities for failing to cut power ahead of the Oct. 29 storm’s landfall.
At the time, residents argued that if LIPA had turned off the power ahead of time, all they would be facing now is flood and wind damage and not a neighborhood wiped off the map by flames. They said homeowners’ insurance will cover much of the damage, but not the loss of so many irreplaceable items.
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