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NY insurance mobile center stops in Long Beach

Long Beach residents line up at the state

Long Beach residents line up at the state insurance department’s Mobile Command Center at city hall yesterday. The van offers Internet and phone service for residents without power to contact insurers and make claims. The van will be there this morning. (Aug. 29, 2011) Photo Credit: Charles Eckert

New York State’s top insurance regulator was in Long Beach this morning to assess the damage from Tropical Storm Irene.

“We’re surveying people about damage to homes and businesses, talking to residents,” said Benjamin Lawsky, the financial services superintendent. “We want to make sure people know what their rights are and how to handle the insurance claim.”

Lawsky said his department’s mobile command center would be stationed at Long Beach City Hall Monday and probably Tuesday. It was to open around 2 p.m. Monday.

The center, a 50-foot van, is equipped with high-speed Internet and telephones for residents who have lost electric or phone services and need to contact insurers. Department personnel will be on hand to answer questions and help with claim filing, he said.

Long Beach is the center’s first stop, and Lawsky thought it would next be moved to the Rockaways.

“This is why you pay for insurance,” he told Newsday, gesturing to the damaged walls of the boardwalk and nearby Allegria Hotel. “We want to make sure insurance is working for people.”

Lawsky said he spoke with State Farm Insurance Cos., representatives this morning and was told 1,400 claims had been received from customers on Long Island so far. He planned to have a conference call with multiple insurers Monday afternoon.

“The insurance system has to function,” he said in an interview.

Lawsky also warned homeowners to be mindful of cleanup scammers. He said homeowners should get multiple estimates for cleanup work before hiring a contractor. They should ask for the estimate in writing and have a written contract before work starts.

“I know residents just want to get the work done and put the storm behind them,” said Lawsky, a former top aide to then-state Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo. “But it is better to take some time and make sure the contractor is legitimate.”

Photo:  Homeowners needing help with insurance line up at the New York Financial Services mobile center that parked Monday at Long Beach City Hall to offer local service. (Aug. 29, 2011)

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