Homeowners in Oceanside are feeling like they have been victimized twice in the wake of Hurricane Sandy; first by the forces of nature, which flooded area homes, and a second time by a deceptive mailing featuring the town seal sent from a private company that processes building permits for homeowners looking to rebuild or repair their houses. The beleaguered Oceanside homeowners who are cleaning-up after the storm recently received a phony Town of Hempstead Building Department document that offered helpful information for those whose homes were substantially damaged by the super storm. The document was an actual town flyer that was altered to include a listing of services that could be provided by a private company, “My Expediter, LLC,” for a fee. The company mailed the town “copy cat” flyer to Oceanside homeowners.
Hempstead Town Supervisor Kate Murray and Senior Councilman Anthony Santino were outraged that a private business would use town letterhead and alter a government document to mislead the public into thinking that Hempstead Town was recommending, endorsing or had contracted with this company to handle building permit applications for homeowners looking to rebuild after the storm. The officials have referred the matter to the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office and have requested an investigation.
“Oceanside homeowners have been victimized twice in the wake of Hurricane Sandy,” stated Murray. “They were slammed by mother nature, and then by a business that attempted to deceive storm-battered homeowners into thinking that they needed to use this private company to process home renovation applications with Hempstead’s Building Department. I think this company is preying on victims, and that’s disgusting.”
The Supervisor and Councilman told neighbors that they do NOT endorse or recommend any specific private company to file Building Department applications. Additionally, the officials noted that residents can file their own applications and avoid the fee advertised by “My Expediter, LLC”. In fact, town Building Department personnel are available to assist residents in the application process. The $499 fee for services advertised in the town “look-alike” mailing is NOT a town-established rate, and homeowners should not be misled by the mailing.
“This type of misleading mailing is unethical,” said Santino. “We’re telling homeowners that they should beware of flyers that appear to be from the government while advertising a private company.”
The town officials also pointed out the irony of the deceptive mailing in light of the fact that Hempstead Town is actually waiving Building Department application and permit fees for “in-kind” reconstruction and replacement of homes damaged by Hurricane Sandy to aid victims. What’s more, Murray and Santino are doing away with a requirement that a variance be obtained to increase home foundation height and overall home height to comply with FEMA flood height guidelines.
“We’re working hard to streamline the building permit process and eliminate costs for homeowners affected by Sandy,” said Murray. “It’s sad to see that others would seek to take advantage of storm victims for financial gain.”
Murray and Santino have referred the matter and forwarded a copy of the mailing to the Nassau County District Attorney, concerned that homeowners may retain the business’ service based on a misapprehension that Hempstead Town is requiring or recommending the private company. In fact, homeowners have spoken with town Building Department staff, indicating that they had believed the mailing to be a genuine Town of Hempstead document. Further, Murray and Santino have directed the Building Department to NOT accept applications from “My Expediter, LLC” until the matter is investigated by the District Attorney. The Supervisor and Councilman thanked the District Attorney for her interest and concern on this issue.
“I am very concerned that homeowners will retain the services of this company based upon a deceitful mailing that creates a false impression that our government recommended or endorsed it,” stated the Supervisor. “Please, don’t be fooled by a government ‘copy cat’ brochure or flyer. If you have any doubt about the legitimacy of a mailing that appears to be from the town, call Hempstead Town Hall before paying a private company one-cent for its services.”