2006-03-17 / Editorial/Opinion

Rockaway Left High And Dry By AllState Insurance

The Rockaway peninsula and Broad Channel has apparently become expendable, as far as the AllState Insurance Company is concerned. The state's largest provider of homeowner's insurance began last week to drop all of its policies in areas where there is an increased danger or a devastating hurricane. That includes all of Rockaway and Broad Channel. Those local residents who want to buy a homeowner's policy will need to look elsewhere. Those of you who already have a homeowner's policy with the company will most likely find that it will not be renewed. Don't blame John Lepore, the owner of the local AllState Agency. It is not his fault. This is "orders from headquarters." This, despite the fact that the last devastating hurricane to hit our area was the 1938 "Long Island Express." "We have made a very difficult decision to manage our exposure by reducing our market share," the company's regional counsel told a New York Times reporter. Howard Mills, the state superintendent of insurance, told the reporter, "We are condemning this action in no uncertain terms. We feel [AllState] took this action prematurely. This is a sudden action." What can a homeowner do? First of all, experts say, look for another company to handle all of your insurance needs. Some companies still write homeowner's insurance in Rockaway, but delete the flood insurance portion of the standard policy for areas nearby water, which all of Rockaway certainly is. Those who cannot get flood insurance may turn to either the federal or state governments for help, albeit rather expensive help. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has a plan called "The National Flood Insurance Program" that makes money available for insurance in communities that are addressing the flooding problem. More available, perhaps, is flood insurance under the New York Property Insurance Underwriting Association (NYPIUA), which now provides insurance to many locals. The problem with that plan, however, is that the money to run it expires each year and has to be renewed by both the Assembly and the Senate. A bill to make the money permanent passed the Assembly on February 24. A similar bill died in the Senate in January. Perhaps that august body will rethink their vote in light of the recent events. There are a number of other bills floating around the state legislature that would make it mandatory for homeowner's insurance to include flood insurance and one that would add wave action to the definition of floods. Those latter bills will not help any local who cannot get the insurance that their mortgage company demands. Perhaps we should all write our state legislators - Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer, Assemblywoman Michelle Titus and State Senator Malcolm Smith, telling them that we can no longer afford to wait for insurance. Then, perhaps we should send a strong message to AllState so that the company understands that we will not be abandoned for the sake of higher profits.

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