Horton Ave. flood victims file suit against town, county

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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