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Sandy Response Update: Contractor Issues Emerge — by Victor Tello

The City Bar Justice Center legal clinic for Sandy victims is now firmly in place at the Arverne Restoration Center in the Rockaways. The presence of the Justice Center at the Restoration Center has  attracted hundreds of Sandy victims, and the legal volunteers staffing the clinic are making a big impact in providing much needed information and help dealing with complicated legal issues. City agency employees as well as FEMA representatives staffing the Restoration Center have been incredibly pleasant and helpful in providing assistance to Sandy victims. The mood is definitely one of mutual cooperation to help out as many people as possible. Having all of these services available in a single location has helped to streamline what would otherwise be a much more complicated and difficult process.

Arverne clinic

Attorneys from Hughes Hubbard, IBM and Nixon Peabody with Justice Center Executive Director Lynn Kelly (standing) at the Arverne Restoration Center in the Rockaways

As time passes, the focus of the legal clinic  changes as the legal needs of the community change. In previous weeks, the main issues were FEMA appeals and insurance disputes. However, there is now a small trickle of what could potentially be the next big issues: contractor disputes and contractor fraud. As residents slowly get back up on their feet and try to rebuild their lives and homes, contractors will be needed to do a significant amount of work. In fact, many residents have already advised that contractors are so busy that it is difficult to schedule any services. With this high demand for work and little supply in labor comes the possibility of disputes and fraud. According to those who experienced the relief efforts in the Gulf Coast states after Hurricane Katrina, contractor fraud was a serious problem, especially with at-risk groups such as the elderly. Here in New York, there is also a large, non-English speaking immigrant population that could be vulnerable to fraud. We hope to advise as many people as possible to prevent this from occurring and to help those who have been the victims of these practices.

In other news, the Justice Center fortunately has been able to place nearly two dozen insurance- and FEMA-related cases with pro bono attorneys. By taking on these cases, the New York legal community has really demonstrated great generosity with its time and resources. We hope to continue this trend going forward.

Great thanks to Peter Beardsley, Karen Abravanel, Ralph Stone, Brenna Greenwald, Brandi Sinkovich, Jeremy Dorin, Maureen Dollinger, Amy Tridgell and Ann McEveily for helping the residents of the Rockaways as they struggle to put their lives back together.

 

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