After a drainage improvement project allegedly caused damage to properties in East Rockaway, property owners were told to file damage claims. But what they weren’t told is that an unknown claims deadline would lead to frustration and financial hardship.
East Rockaway resident Alison Castardi learned she wouldn’t be reimbursed for her damage claims after exchanging dozens of emails with the Nassau County Department of Public Works. In a January information session at East Rockaway Village Hall, DPW Commissioner Ken Arnold told residents the procedure to file claims. He left out a critical detail.
It was later revealed through Castardi’s email exchanges that the claims must be filed within 90 days of the incident occurring, which residents say they were not aware of.
“This community has suffered so much,” Castardi said regarding the frequent flooding. “We’ve been through so much hardship. This project is supposed to better our lives and instead it’s done nothing but give us an incredible amount of grief and put us more financially behind to restore the damages they’ve caused us.”
Arnold told Castardi in an email that the claims were denied due to the claims not being filed within 90 days. However, Castardi said she complied with the 90-day window, but the claims she filed right away went unaddressed by the project manager for more than 90 days. Arnold directed Castardi and other residents to send their claims to project manager, Juan Medina. According to Castardi, Medina sat on these claims for months.
“He said it’s taking a very long time to review the claims because I have so much proof that I supplied,” Castardi said. “Once he was done reviewing the claims, he denied it so I went to the county court and they said because 90 has passed since the damage occurred, they’re denying the claim. So everyone else who had all these damages are also being denied due to the same reason.”
Castardi called the process “unfair” as she followed Arnold’s instruction and her claims were still denied.
“Even when I asked them who do I submit claims to, they took two weeks just to answer that question,” Castardi said. The lack of fluid communication between Castardi and the DPW as well as Medina has been a serious issue.
At the public information session on Jan. 25, several residents addressed Nassau County representatives regarding the damages that they have had due to this project. “I think just about everybody has the same sentiment,” Castardi said of the residents’ frustration with the project. “Different people have different degrees of damage.”
When contacted for comment, Arnold redirected inquiries to the county communications team, who failed to return repeated calls.
However, Arnold again told Castardi that the procedure for filing claims is still the same, which is to email Juan Medina.
The project is to mitigate flood damage from storms, but for Castardi, it has only increased the flooding in her home. “We were disconnected from the storm drain in the streets pretty much through the entire duration of the project,” Castardi said. “We haven’t had access to any form of drainage on Franklin and as a result of that, the water got really high.”
Castardi said she had multiple flooding incidents where the contractors of this project, DP Civil, had to “come and pump the water out.” The water climbed as high as her crawl space and the only time this has ever happened before was during Hurricane Sandy and Hurricane Irene.
“I have mildew and mold forming because I can’t keep up with cleaning it as this flooding happens so frequently,” she said. “And when I put that claim in, I was told that they can’t see the mold, but it’s not visible to the naked eye. It’s something that you could only smell right now.”
Castardi now has to deal with people walking through her property. “This week, they’re pouring the concrete in front of our houses,” she said. “So they blocked access to everyone on my side of the street and they don’t have access to their home without stepping on wet concrete. So without my consent, the only way my neighbors can get to their home is by walking through my private property and trampling through my bushes.”
Castardi contacted Arnold asking him if he’ll be offering any legal protections due to this situation, but her calls and emails went unanswered. Now she has Uber drivers, Amazon workers, and other delivery people walking through her property as well. She is frustrated that she wasn’t notified or asked her permission.
District 7 legislator Howard Kopel joins Castardi and other residents in their opinion that DP Civil was not the correct choice for the project. At the January public information session, Kopel said, “we didn’t get somebody who’s most experienced.” The county picked the lowest bidder to this project, which was DP Civil and Kopel agreed with residents that they were not skillful enough to take on a project like this.
Brian Doherty, president of DP Civil, said “this is a Nassau County DPW project” and he doesn’t have anything to do with the engineering, residents, issues, or complaints.