Horton Ave. flood victims file suit against town, county

06/27/2011 3:13 PM |

VERA CHINESE | Linda Hobson and Marie Trent, two of the 12 Horton Avenue flood victims who are seeking financial restituition for their water-damaged homes. At right is their lawyer, J. Stewart Moore.

A group of Horton Avenue residents have served Riverhead Town and Suffolk County with a lawsuit alleging that the municipalities were negligent in their construction and maintenance of the block.

That negligence led to severe flooding in the area last March, the flood victims contend.

Standing in front of the state Supreme Court building on Griffing Avenue in Riverhead, the group’s attorney J. Stewart Moore of Central Islip said the 12 plaintiffs named in the suit are seeking financial restitution for the value of their flood-damaged properties.

Mr. Moore said the 11 properties referenced in the suit, which was filed in supreme court June 20, range in value from $300,000 to $350,000.

Most of the homeowners affected by the floods are from working-class, African-American families who settled in the neighborhood nearly 100 years ago, he said. The inland and low-lying area, commonly referred to as “the bottoms,” has had persistent problems with flooding over the years.

“These families came here from Virginia and purchased homes [in the 1920s,]” Mr. Moore said. “Many of the families that are here right now have experienced flood after flood after flood. We are asking the municipalities to make them whole.”

Of the 12 severely damaged houses, about half are now uninhabitable due to mold and water damage. The other homeowners say they suffered serious financial loses as well.

“At this point, we are at our wit’s end,” Horton Avenue flood victim and community activist Linda Hobson told reporters outside the courthouse.

The lawsuit, which alleges the town and county did not create proper drainage for rainwater even when it constructed a nearby catch basin, does not seek a specific restitution amount. And additional defendants could be named, Mr. Moore said.

The residents have pooled their money together to retain Mr. Moore’s services.

“I just want to get things over with,” said Horton Avenue resident Marie Trent, who has continued to live in her water-damaged home after the flood. “I want things to be normal.”

Riverhead Town attorney Robert Kozakiewicz said he had not yet examined the lawsuit and declined to offer an opinion.

A spokesperson for Suffolk County did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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9 Comment

  • Hooray for the Horton Avenue residents. Although I know Ms. Hobsen would have wanted a less drastic solution to the horror facing these residents, at this point in time, she and all other so affected have no choice but to seek compensation for damages and neglect. Let us not forget for one minute that the reason the residents were allowed to build in the “bottoms” was that “red-lining” practices in Riverhead prohibited them at that time from settling elsewhere. And today let us ask- why have those homes been allowed to fester and swell with toxic molds, a constant reminder of loss and hurt to the residents? Why has there been no effort to remove these homes and then seek a way, perhaps, to make the area habitable once more if that is at all possible? And why have not our trailer parks opened themselves to these 11 families with an offering of new residence? The ugly face of segregation and racism appears to be alive and hearty here in Riverhead.

  • Of course it was racism that forced people to buy these homes.

    I think a couple of million in damages, each, would be fair, don’t you? Is there any way to make sure that only white families property taxes go up to cover this settlement? After all, justice demands it.

  • I am very happy that these families have finally decided to seek restitution against the County and Town. While none of these homes are worth 300-350 thousand it’s long overdue for them to get some form of monetary compensation. For our town to give tax abatements to businesses who stand to profit millions of dollars on the backs of it’s taxpayers while basically turning their backs on Horton Avenue is borderline discriminatory. The town owes these taxpaying residents an apology on top of cash disbursements. Go after them and get everything you can!

  • What next, 20 acres and a mule on top of it?? It’s sad, but they have lived there for quite a long time now, and have seen “flood after flood after flood” according to their attorney. Why didn’t they move??? Just curious

  • Correct me if I’m wrong but…Didn’t the Town do that circle through a grant and didn’t the County engineers draw it up and do the work?

  • That enormous traffic circle and drainage ditch constructed a few years ago seems to have negatively impacted the flooding situation on Horton Ave. I’m sure that whole project was very expensive and all costs associated with it need to be reviewed. Unfortunately the hard-working, tightly-knot community existing on that road have suffered due to this mismanagement of our tax dollars. I hope the residents are successful in gaining restitution.

  • Show your support as the famous Horton Ave T-shirt is still available: http://www.hortonavetshirt.com

  • Show your support for the Horton Ave flood victims –
    The famous Horton Ave. T-shirts are still available.

  • The famous Horton Ave T-shirts are still available