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Co-op, condo owners face storm aid application hurdle

Scott Horodyski, a resident at the Town N

Scott Horodyski, a resident at the Town N Harbor co-ops in Freeport, near repaired bulkheads bordering the canal adjacent to the complex on Oct. 17, 2014. Photo Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

Sandy-damaged co-op and condominium complexes on Long Island can expect to start receiving funds next month to pay for repairs to lobbies, boilers and other common property.

But some residents of storm-hit complexes say the application process is so onerous that they are unlikely to get their full share of federal aid.

A key requirement for a complex to get full benefits is for the owners of two-thirds of the complex to submit applications to NY Rising, the state agency charged with distributing $4.4 billion in federal disaster aid. NY Rising funds are intended to help residents whose repair costs were not covered by insurance or other sources of aid.

"The things that they're asking people to do, it's enormous," said Assemb. Harvey Weisenberg (D-Long Beach), who lives in a 75-unit condo complex. "A lot of people there are senior citizens on fixed incomes, and if they can't get the resources that they qualify for, then the burden is going to be on them."

Under the program for co-ops and condos, NY Rising will pay for repairs to residential common property such as elevators and roofs, a spokeswoman for the agency said. Exterior or nonresidential features such as gyms, pools, parking and landscaping are not eligible for aid.

Each unit can qualify for as much as $300,000 to pay for repairs to individual units and common property, so a 30-unit complex could receive as much as $9 million.

However, in order to qualify for its full share of aid for common property, each complex must get the owners of more than 66 percent of common property to submit NY Rising applications. Failing that, a complex can get a proportional amount of aid. For instance, if half the owners apply, the complex will get half its share of aid.

Under federal rules, all applicants must meet certain requirements, such as using the home as their primary residence at the time of the storm, Oct. 29, 2012, spokeswoman Barbara Brancaccio said in an email.

The agency set the threshold at 66 percent rather than requiring 100 percent of residents to apply, she said. "NY Rising believes that just because some units are ineligible or nonresponsive shouldn't mean that the eligible residents don't get benefits," Brancaccio said.

Some complexes have suffered millions of dollars in damage, Beverly Jones, president of the Long Beach High Rise Association, said in an email. Many older residents struggle to apply for NY Rising aid because they do not have computer access, or they find it difficult to visit a NY Rising office, or they are reluctant or unable to produce the required documents, Jones said.

It's been difficult to get residents of the 160-unit Town N Harbor co-op complex in Freeport to apply, though neighbors have gone door to door to offer help, said co-op board member Scott Horodyski. "We were able to get almost half the people, which to me was a little disappointing," he said.

The three-building complex has spent close to $5 million on repairs, said Olivia Soltan, the board's treasurer. Under federal rules each building can only buy $250,000 in subsidized flood coverage.

Moreover, the waterfront complex has proceeded with bulkhead repairs, despite being notified in April that federal rules require it to stop work until NY Rising completes an environmental review, Soltan said. If the complex did not proceed with repairs, its roadway would be at risk of collapsing into the water, she said.

Six months after telling the complex to cease repairs, NY Rising still has not inspected the property, Soltan said.

The agency's spokeswoman said NY Rising will not do a review until Town N Harbor notifies it that its application is complete. She also said that two complexes are now undergoing environmental reviews and damage assessments.

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