Queens Racks Up $567,780 in Claims From 2010 Holiday Blizzard

The December blizzard in 2010 ended up costing New York City $1.855 million in accident damage claims, the most for any storm in recent memory—with Queens netting the most claims out of all five boroughs.

According to statistics released by New York City Comptroller John Liu’s office, the 2010 snowstorm—which blanketed most of New York City with between 15 to 18 inches of snow on Dec. 25 and 26 to close out 2010—resulted in approximately 1,198 snowstorm-related accident claims against the city, with an “overwhelming majority” of those claims involving property damage to vehicles and snowed-in homes.

Of those claims, 620 were settled, leaving the remaining ones still pending. Queens tallied 224 settlements, the highest number of settled claims out of the five boroughs.

That means that out of the $1.855 million snowstorm-related claims settled for the five boroughs, $567,780, or 30.6 percent, came to Queens. Queens netted the second highest amount of money doled out to accident victims from the snowstorm, with the highest claim netting $45,000.

Only Brooklyn—with the second highest number of claims settled, 217—garnered more money from the snowstorm’s settled claims with $856,737, or 46.2 percent, with $150,000 being earned in their highest settled claim, and the highest settlement in any of the five boroughs thus far. Meanwhile, Staten Island had 75 snowstorm claims resulting in $185,967 given to snow accident victims, while 58 claims were settled in Manhattan ($130,973) and 46 claims were settled in the Bronx ($113,693).

While the Comptroller’s office verified that other city departments were also involved in accident claims against the city from Queens and the other boroughs, in Queens the highest four claims —all of which were accidents involving Department of Sanitation (DOS) vehicles during the December 2010 snowstorm— accounted for $90,924 of the $567,780 of Queens claims settled.

According to records provided by the city Comptroller’s office, the highest Queens- based claim was one for $45,000, claimed by Alethia Cassiny of Rochdale, who was hit by a Department of Sanitation plow truck on Dec. 30 while crossing Guy R. Brewer Boulevard and 137th Avenue. Cassiny was said to have sustained “multiple bodily injuries” including a split lip that required eight stitches, according to the claim documents

provided by the Comptroller’s office. The second highest claim awarded was for $25,000 to Ana Herrera, of 79th Street in Queens. Records stated that Herrera was hit by a sanitation truck when it backed into her on Dec. 27 while she was walking on 41st Avenue. According to her personal injury claim form, Herrera—who works at NYC Health and Hospital Corp.—was taken to Elmhurst Hospital Center, where she was treated for a fractured arm and neck, back and knee injuries.

A claim for $12,510, the third-highest from Queens, was claimed by Nibia Martinez of East Elmhurst, according to Comptroller claim documents. Martinez’s car, a 2008 BMW 528i Sedan, was parked in front of her home on 83rd Street in East Elmhurst when it was allegedly hit by a sanitation vehicle on Dec. 28.

A claim for $8,414, ranking fourth on the Queens claims list, was awarded to Gaby Nakashan, whose 2007 Lexus LS 460 was hit on the driver’s side by a garbage truck, another sanitation department vehicle, on Dec. 30 while parked on 72nd Avenue in Douglaston.

“It was a terrible winter with lots of snow and ice, hence the accidents involving plows,” DOS spokesman Matthew LiPani said in response to questions regarding DOS’s involvement in the Queens accidents. In order to prevent such accidents this winter, LiPani added, the sanitation department has stepped up snow training of sanitation workers.

In the aftermath of the 2010 holiday snowstorm, DOS came under fire last year after long delays in plowing many streets around the city. Weather experts predict snowfall in New York City this year to reach 32 inches— three more inches than the average city snowfall of 29 inches.

At last month’s Community Board 10 meeting Vito Turso, deputy commissioner for DOS, told residents that part of the problem was that the sanitation department was unable to communicate with more than 1,900 of the 2,000 trucks and plows they deployed to cover the 2010 snowstorm.

To remedy that, Turso stated that the department had installed phones and Global Positioning Systems in many snow removal vehicles to help DOS keep in touch with drivers and their locations while partnering with the New York Police Department and the Metropolitan Transit Authority in order to tow vehicles on snow-covered streets that block sanitation vehicles from getting through and reroute buses from blocked streets. In addition, DOS is now able to contract private contractors to remove snow from tertiary streets, which are normally plowed last in favor of primary and secondary roads.

Regarding the snow claims, city Comptroller John Liu acknowledged that the record number of storm claims “are among the highest for any storm. There is still a cloud of additional claims hanging over the city, but the silver lining is that agencies have learned from last year’s blizzard and seem better prepared.”

By Jean-Paul Salamanca


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