Wantagh residents Ron and Maryann Daly, like thousands of others, were victims of Superstorm Sandy, their home ripped apart by the flooding.
Now the Vietnam combat veteran and his wife of 47 years are victims of a contractor who took $70,000 in state and federal funds they received from NY Rising to lift their home and didn’t finish the job.
The contractor, the couple say, was recommended to them from an approved list on NY Rising’s website.
Their Sycamore Avenue home is now nearly 20 feet in the air, with no foundation, pilings or way to reach the front door. The couple wonder whether they will ever get back into their home — or where they will live until the issue is resolved.
They have no way to pay to finish elevating their home and are in limbo, along with at least 37 other families they know of, whose storm-ravaged homes were allegedly left in various stages of work by the same contractor. The Dalys filed a hardship application, as directed by NY Rising, as victims of “potential contractor fraud.” The financial crimes unit of the Nassau County district attorney’s office is currently investigating the contractor, who has been hit with multiple complaints, but the D.A. has yet to file criminal charges.
The contractor is Cody Lawrence, of Turnkey Contractor Solutions, formerly of Bohemia. Records show that his license was suspended by the county’s Department of Consumer Affairs in January, and that he took his business website offline, as the agency directed.
The Dalys estimate that the 18 families with whom they have met gave Lawrence a total of about $2 million in deposits and contracted fees. Most of the group members are still not back in their homes. All are in the process of turning over relevant documents to investigators from the district attorney’s office.
Meanwhile, Lawrence closed his Long Island business and appears to have relocated to another state.
Jerald Carter, an attorney representing Lawrence, said his client’s “intent is to make good outstanding obligations either by restitution or by completing the work.” He declined to elaborate.
The Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery, which oversees the NY Rising program, the Nassau Consumer Affairs Division and the district attorney’s office all declined comment about this story.
Meanwhile, the Dalys are living in a bedroom of Ron’s brother’s house in East Meadow, sharing one small dresser. They have only the winter clothes they took out of the home with them at the end of October. Most of the belongings from the first floor of the house are in storage, for which they pay $500 a month.
“We just want to be able to get back into our home, without going into more personal debt,” Maryann said.
“It’s stressful every day,” her husband added.
The Dalys moved to Wantagh in October 2011 to be closer to their son, daughter-in-law and grandchildren. It was soon after Tropical Storm Irene, and neighbors told them there hadn’t been a flood in their homes in the past half-century.
When warnings came out about Sandy, they were ready with two sump pumps. They weren’t that close to the water, after all.
Then Sandy struck on Oct. 29, 2012.
“It was high tide. The water went from the ocean to the bay to Wantagh Park, and then up and out of the storm basins like geysers,” said Maryann Daly, who stands 5 feet 2. “The water came up to my neck.”
The first floor of their home was destroyed.
They got out of the house and into the street, as furniture and belongings from neighbors’ homes floated past.
Ron Daly said the scene looked like a war zone. “In that moment, I was back in Vietnam,” he said. “With the electrical wires falling down, hitting the water and sparking, debris floating by, it felt like a Vietnamese village during the war.”
“I didn’t know I had PTSD until then,” he said.
The Dalys remortgaged their house, and along with repair money from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, restored it. Their son, daughter-in-law and grandchildren moved in with them for nearly two years, until they were able to return to their own home.
The Dalys then decided to begin the elevation process that was required by federal law because their home was “substantially damaged” during Sandy. Others on their block moved away instead, abandoning their storm-ravaged houses.
In July 2017, the Dalys signed a contract with Turnkey, giving the CEO a $35,000 deposit.
The couple were unable to get temporary housing help from NY Rising and moved into the bedroom of their niece, who is away at college, in October. In December, Lawrence asked for a second payment, and they gave him another $35,000.
A safety work fence was erected around the house, the driveway and walkway were broken up, and a subcontractor lifted the structure.
And it stands now, in the air, without a foundation beneath it or a staircase.
The subcontractor said he wasn’t paid by Turnkey, and had to remove the fence he put around the raised house. So the Dalys had to put up their own fence so as not to violate Town of Hempstead construction code.
And they continue to wait.