Freeport residents baffled by $6 NY Rising payment

Janet Rubinstein and her husband, Lawrence, discuss the Janet Rubinstein and her husband, Lawrence, discuss the award issued by NY Rising on March 21, 2014. Photo Credit: Johnny Milano

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Janet and Lawrence Rubinstein thought the New York Rising Housing Recovery Program could help pay for repairs to their Freeport home after it was devastated by superstorm Sandy.

The retired couple recently got their answer: The state agency will give them $6. They are baffled, and say they can't understand why the state would spend so much time and money to give someone $6.

"Maybe I'm old. Maybe I'm senile. I don't understand what they are trying to do," said Janet Rubinstein, 79, a retired clothing store saleswoman.

She said Friday that she received a certified letter from NY Rising dated Feb. 6 stating that after the processing of the case, she and her husband were immediately eligible for the first half of the grant -- $3. The second half would be released after all the work on their home was completed, the letter said.

It also stated that if the couple were unable to pick up the check at NY Rising's Freeport office, a worker could be dispatched to deliver it.

"Don't you find this bizarre?" Janet Rubinstein said.

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A NY Rising spokeswoman said Friday that the matter was a misunderstanding of the facts, and the couple had not disclosed to the state agency all the information about other funding they had received to repair their house.

"We did exactly what was expected of us," spokeswoman Barbara Brancaccio said. "At the end of the day, they received a letter for the amount that was entirely appropriate. This couple is misleading the public."

Brancaccio said the $6 figure indicated the difference between what the couple already had received from other sources, including insurance and a Small Business Administration loan, and what NY Rising estimated would be the cost of repairing the home -- about $64,000.

Moreover, she said, the grant letter informed the couple that they are eligible for an additional $56,000 grant to help elevate their home on St. Marks Avenue. They have not applied for those funds, Brancaccio said.

Janet Rubinstein said they do not need to elevate their home, and that they turned over all pertinent information to NY Rising. They currently have private flood insurance.

"It's all in the records. Everything was aboveboard," she said.

She said she and her husband, 84, a retired accountant, were out of their high ranch for 5 1/2 months after it was flooded by 4 feet of water. They have moved back in, but the first floor and the attached garage still are damaged.

While their application was processed relatively quickly -- it took about three months -- she said the payout of grants should be speeded up.

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"If they are going to distribute it at $6 a pop," she said, "they're going to be distributing long after we are all gone."

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