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Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo pressed to extend New York Rising deadlines

Freeport residents Lois Howes, left, and Eva Rowan,

Freeport residents Lois Howes, left, and Eva Rowan, embrace on May 18, 2018, before a news conference to ask Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo for an extension of New York Rising claim deadlines. Credit: Barry Sloan

Deadline extensions have been granted for homeowners seeking disaster recovery funds to rebuild their homes after superstorm Sandy, state officials announced on Friday.

Residents choosing to elevate their houses with money from the state-operated New York Rising program and facing a June 1 deadline will have until Jan. 1, 2019 to show inspectors they have made progress toward structurally raising their homes.

“The Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery has already extended the deadline for certain homeowners who have filed contractor fraud claims, and is now expanding that opportunity to accommodate those facing difficulties that are delaying the work,” said Catie Marshall, a spokeswoman in the state storm recovery agency.

The announcement came as several Republican lawmakers in Nassau County pressed the office of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to intervene Friday.

Earlier Friday, Legis. Steve Rhoads (R-Bellmore) and Legis. Denise Ford (R-Long Beach) gathered in front of a partially finished home on Wilshire Court in Freeport with about two dozen homeowners, mostly from South Shore communities, calling on the state to work more closely with families to ensure they are not denied funds if work on their homes is incomplete by the deadlines.

“There is no way that many of the 900 families who still have to have their homes lifted here in Nassau and Suffolk counties . . . are ever going to be able to get that done in those time frames,” Rhoads said.

“And it’s not because you’ve done anything wrong as homeowners, it’s because of the process,” Rhoads said.

The June 1 deadline was for homeowners who chose to elevate their homes to make them more storm resilient. Of the 2,010 people participating in the “optional elevation” program, 1,820 have completed construction or made substantial progress, state officials said. A total of $392 million in federal funds has been awarded. The program is closed to new applicants.

The deadline of Sept. 1 for homeowners who are required to elevate their houses — because they live in a 100-year floodplain and suffered more than 50-percent damage — was also extended to Jan. 1, 2019, state officials announced Friday.

There are 271 homeowners in the mandatory program who have yet to pass an interim inspection showing substantial progress, officials in Cuomo’s office said.

If the necessary permits are not obtained and substantial work to elevate the home is not finished by those dates, homeowners risk having to repay reconstruction money they have received from the state.

Long Island homeowners have said they cannot meet the deadlines due to construction delays stemming from contractor scams and the inability to get permits in a timely fashion from local building departments.

Homeowners, gathered on the block near a canal where houses are in various states of completion, shared stories of construction delays, financial hardships and the emotional toll of being displaced five and a half years after the storm.

“I can’t afford to rent and pay a mortgage anymore. I can’t. I just can’t,” said Freeport resident Eva Rowan before bursting into tears.

Rowan has been out of her home for 18 months while participating in NY Rising to elevate her home.

But the contractor working on her Branch Avenue home has completed only 60 percent of the job and she worries about the impending deadline. She has gotten three quotes from new contractors to finish the work, all at about $90,000, she said. Her husband, recently had a heart attack from the stress and anxiety he’s suffered and she said her son with special needs “just wants to go back to his bedroom.”

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