NYLAG: Rebuilding After Superstorm Sandy

Nicholas Dorman, firefighter. First call we received that night was
for a car. Stuck in the water. There was a car that was submerged up to its windows We have to get the people out. When we’re doing our
rescues we’re just trying to Get the people on the single-level
houses. Yell at other people to just go as high as they can. A lot of screaming, a lot of crying. Wires everywhere were just falling down to the water, trees were snapping in half, Flying all over the place. It was just something you’d never think you’d ever see. We saved at least 40 people that night. Day before the storm I sent my wife and kids To my friend’s house in New Jersey The next morning when I got off I went to my house, See what happened. as I walked up to my house, I saw a 60-foot yacht in the backyard. The water line was about
six feet high in my house. All the siding on one side of the house
was completely gone My whole yard was destroyed, I had no fence left When everything first happened, they told us to make sure you registerd with FEMA And they’ll come in and assess it And then from that assessment they’d tell you How much money they were gonna give you. I was a prime candidate since I lost everything. It wasn’t until about a month later when I was still waiting for FEMA to show up About that time I just started getting angry. I spent literally three months every
day on the phone Fighting with insurance companies and
FEMA just trying to get something, any type of answer for anything. I received an email from Senator Lanza’s office, About NYLAG, and how they’re looking to help people. With problems from Sandy. They helped me work with all my insurance companies and Try to help me get what I’m supposed to
get from them. In the immediate aftermath of the
storm There was a lot of crisis management.But
that’s not the case now. Now we’re helping people who’re having
problems. In many ways Nicolas and his family Are emblematic of what many of our
clients are facing. It’s not at all Unusual to have a client who is having a
problem with their homeowner’s insurance, At the same time as they’re having a
problem with their flood insurance, FEMA benefits and an SBA loan This is a house that did everything
right.They paid their insurance premiums They paid their mortgage And yet they still are struggling to
recover From the impact of Sandy on their home and
on their family. We’ve helped nearly 5,000 clients so far
in the Storm Response Unit, and we know That that number is only gonna continue
to grow. We ourselves were displaced during the
storm. Our main offices in lower Manhattan had
significant damage, We were out of the office for ten weeks, we
had to rebuild our entire communications, Computer network, in order to be able to
continue to provide The quality services that we’re known for
to our existing clients, While at the same time launching our
three-pronged approach To helping those impacted by the storm. First we launched a hotline so that those in Long Island, New York City, even in New Jersey could call us up and say, “What do I do now? I’m in this situation.” In addition we were able to send lawyers
out To those community-based organizations
which were up and running immediately Following the storm. Finally we had our Mobile Legal Help
Center. We think of it as a mobile SWAT vehicle It has three Law Offices, and a mobile legal
courtroom So that we can immediately address
urgent legal services needs for those Impacted by the storm. So the first step
is establishing that trust, Letting them know that we are here to
help them, we’re on their side, Despite, you know, what barriers they
have faced so far in their lives The Mobile Legal Help Center acts as a triage. We go into various communities and provide
free legal services To the members of those communities.
Right after the storm, the Mobile Legal Help Center was able to get out into the community within one week. So the core of what we do is 1-on-1
financial counseling, Which can include a number of things,
predominately budgeting and money management, Building and improving someone’s credit,
medical debt Loss of a job, loss of a family member,
things like that. We did everything from allowing people
to charge their cellphones, To providing heat, now, seven months after the storm, we are seeing Clients come on board with complicated
insurance questions And problems as to what to do next. The Mobile Legal Help Center is a symbol of NYLAG and the services that NYLAG offers. What motivates me personally is
knowing that on a daily basis We’re helping hundreds of individuals
improve their lives Through providing quality civil legal
services in a myriad of issues If it wasn’t for the email I would’ve never known That there was an organization out there that helped people like us. They’re very supportive and very helpful with everything It’s just nice to know that I have NYLAG to help me throughout thiswhole process. From now to the end. NYLAG is committed to working with
Nicholas until he doesn’t need us anymore. That’s the same commitment we bring to
all of our clients who have reached out to us In the aftermath of Sandy.

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