It was a full year ago that more than 100 houses in South Ozone Park were flooded with filth in a sudden sewage backup just after Thanksgiving. To add insult to injury, the city at first blamed the victims for causing it, only later admitting that the collapse of a major sewer pipe was the real culprit.
And after all this time, the city still hasn’t done right by the residents by making them whole for their losses. Out of 101 claims for damages — which of course can never make up for things like the loss of treasured heirlooms and the intangible impacts — the Comptroller’s Office has settled only 61, by its own admission. By our calculation, the total payout to date of $755,012.88 only equals an average of $12,377. That doesn’t sound like nearly enough to make repairs. There are another 25 settlement offers that residents have not accepted, and 15 more claims the city hasn’t even made an offer on yet. That may not be all: Area activists say the number of claims is actually way above the 101 the Comptroller’s Office acknowledges.
People are being treated “as adversaries,” according to the legal organization helping them pro bono. A Queens College professor also assisting them says they’re getting low-ball offers and feel pressure to accept them.
This is no way for the city to treat residents it harmed by neglecting the infrastructure their taxes pay for. Comptroller Scott Stringer should step in and fix this, especially if he wants this community’s votes next year in his run for mayor. We’ll remember what he does now, and whose side he’s on.