More than 100 homeowners in Breezy Point and Belle Harbor are suing the Long Island Power Authority over fires that destroyed their homes. NY1's Ruschell Boone filed the following report.
Stephen McDade said he spent 20 years building his Belle Harbor house the way he wanted it before it was destroyed. He said the Long Island Power Authority should pay for it.
His house is one of dozens destroyed in a massive fire during Hurricane Sandy. But he's not blaming mother nature.
McDade and his Belle Harbor neighbors claim the Long Island Power Authority is at fault for not shutting down the Rockaway power grid during the the storm. Con Edison, which supplies electricity to most of the city, did shut down power to areas at risk from the floodwaters.
"Water and electric don't mix, so it should have been done," McDade said.
Fire marshals said the storm damaged utility wires in one of the homes, and the flames quickly spread. Heavy flooding kept firefighters from responding.
Many in the area said the water would have only damaged their property, as it did many others, not destroy them.
"The storm was the storm," said Joseph Napoli, a Belle Harbor resident. "But the fire did this."
"If they did what they were supposed to do, we wouldn't have had the fires," said Hannah Sweeny, a Belle Harbor resident. "Our houses would still be here. We could've rebuilt them."
Sweeny cried while looking at her home with her attorney, Keith Sullivan, who said his firm has filed what now amounts to more than $50 million in claims against the utility. He said he represents 18 residents in Belle Harbor and about 60 in Breezy Point, where fire destroyed 120 homes.
"Some people were wholly underinsured, and they have hundreds of thousands of dollars that they are going to be out of pocket in order to get back into their homes," Sullivan said.
And the suits are piling up. Nicholas Papain said he represents 17 Breezy Point residents who are also suing the power authority, including Linda Strong.
"We have been contacted by other families, and we intend to file applications with the court to file late claims on their behalf," Papain said.
"I'm angry and disappointed," Strong said. "We paid our bills on time."
The Long Island Power Authority said it is reviewing the claims, but it is not commenting on them.