Judy Cartwright writes the Community Watchdog column
The aftermath of superstorm Sandy finds us with problems we didn't have just a few weeks ago. The solutions aren't always apparent.
Long Islanders who have contacted us are quick to say they are the lucky ones: They were simply without power for a week or two.
But now they're coming to grips with the potential impact on their pocketbooks.
"Other people have much more serious problems," said Marian Spitzer of Wantagh when she called about the ruts left in her lawn by a utility truck. They extend from the front curb to the back corner, where a utility pole and transformer had to be replaced. In the process, the truck "knocked out my bushes, sprinklers, tore my fence to shreds," she said.
In Greenport, Phyllis Musto needs to replace appliances ruined by a power surge.
"When they put the voltage on, the whole house smelled of rubber," she said. "I ran outside and told him that it smelled like everything is burning. He said, 'You'll have to get an electrician.' "
So, is LIPA liable for the cost of such repairs?
Here's an official statement: "LIPA is not liable for food spoilage or damage to customer property resulting from outages due to causes beyond its immediate control, such as 'Sandy,' spokesman Mark Gross said in an email last week.
Spitzer and Musto were stymied in their efforts to recoup the cost of the various repairs. Musto had spoken with someone at LIPA who told her she could file a claim form. But when she tried to call the number to get a form, she learned that "you can't get through to anybody."
Spitzer said she, too, tried to get a claim form, but "nobody seems to know what I'm talking about."
Spitzer needs a new fence and landscaping to level out the deep tire tracks. For Musto, it's a new oil burner and kitchen appliances.
"It cost me over $900 to have the burner fixed," she said. "The electrician checked everything out" and told her the power surge was too great, even for appliances with a surge protector. The damage extended to the clock in the bedroom: "Now I don't even have that."
Speaking off the record, a LIPA official said customers who experienced a loss or damage as a result of the storm "should contact their homeowner's insurance company to see what may be covered."
And yes, the official later added, customers also may file a claim with LIPA.
When I spoke with Musto a second time, she was hopeful that, between claims to her homeowners insurance carrier and to LIPA, she would get results. When I visited Spitzer, she, too, expressed optimism: Her insurance agent told her the office would file a claim with LIPA on her behalf.
She had already arranged for a landscaper to repair the lawn. After all, she said, the tire ruts posed a hazard to anyone who might encounter them -- the oil delivery man, for example. After several days without power, she wasn't about to take a chance on losing heat.
-- JUDY CARTWRIGHT
Intersection's safer now
Almost a year ago, in December 2011, we wrote about David Penso's concerns regarding a traffic light just south of Green Acres Mall, the one on West Circle Drive between Walmart and BJ's Wholesale Club. Penso, who lives in Lynbrook, said the heavy traffic volume makes it especially difficult for drivers turning left into the adjacent parking lots.
In response to our query, the county's Department of Public Works conducted a traffic study and determined that a left-turn arrow in the westbound lanes would help, as would pedestrian-crossing signals. County spokeswoman Katie Grilli-Robles said at the time that installation would "take place in the spring when warmer weather allows for mixing and pouring of concrete."
When August arrived, and the work hadn't been done, Penso sent a mass email to county officials, including County Executive Ed Mangano, calling the progress "shameful." Last month we asked the county why the work had been delayed. A few days later, Penso told us the work had just been completed.
Delay? County officials insisted there had been none.
Regarding the earlier reference to spring, DPW spokesman Mike Martino said: "The project began in the spring when the county ordered equipment and materials. As the administration pledged, this project will be done well before the start of the holiday season."
Since the county's statement last year did not mention "holiday season" as a potential target date, we contacted Martino again about the apparent delay. "There was no delay," he replied. "That was the process."
Nassau residents with traffic signal concerns on county roads should call 516-572-0465.
-- MICHAEL R. EBERT