Sustainability Infrastructure

New York City uses 1907 law to deny all Hurricane Ida property claims

Over 4,700 property damage claims were denied using the precedent.
A worker wades through flood water in New York City
Getty images

Story at a glance


  • All 4,703 property damage claims filed by New York victims of Hurricane Ida were denied by the city Comptroller Brad Lander. 

  • The remnants of the Category 4 hurricane caused flooding in the city last September after dumping more than 3 inches of water in an hour. 

  • The water quickly overwhelmed the city’s sewer system, which can only accommodate about 2 inches of rainfall an hour. 

New York City is using a rule from more than a 100 years ago to deny property damage claims from victims of Hurricane Ida.  

A total of 4,703 claims related to the deadly storm have been filed, and every one has been denied by the city’s comptroller Brad Lander, The City first reported.

Comptroller Lander’s office confirmed to The Hill that all 4,703 claims were denied.  


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The Category 4 hurricane struck New Orleans in early September, and the remnants of the storm broke rainfall records for the Big Apple.  

The storm dumped more than 3 inches of water within an hour in Central Park, quickly overwhelming the city’s century-old sewer system which was designed to only handle rainfall of up to two inches an hour. 

The rapid influx of water caused flash flooding across the tri-state area, killing at least 13 people in New York City, most of whom lived in basement apartments in Queens.  

Most of the claims argue that it was the city’s negligence of its sewer system that led to the destructive flooding, and while the comptroller’s office pledged to investigate each claim to determine if it was indeed negligence that resulting in flooding, decisions were based on a 1907 legal decision that does not hold municipal governments responsible for damage due to “extraordinary or excessive” rainfall, according to the letter from Lander.  

“For over a century, courts have held that municipalities across the state of New York, including the City of New York, are not liable for damage from ‘extraordinary and excessive rainfalls,’ Where damage is caused by negligent action or omission on the part of the City of New York, the City may be liable; however, that was not the case here,” the letter states.  

“As a result, the City of New York is not responsible for losses arising from Hurricane Ida, and your claim must be denied.” 

New York City residents that wish to file a claim have until Nov. 30 to do so, Lander adds in the letter before writing that the city should do more to help them navigate the complex network of relief programs and insurance paperwork needed after a natural disaster.  

New York elected officials, including U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D), called for the city’s aging infrastructure to be updated and admonished the use of the old precedent.  

“NYC/NYS should use the billions of infrastructure $ we in Congress secured to fix our sewer infrastructure. New Yorkers experience flooded homes even without “excessive rain”,” Meng tweeted. “My constituents, including the families of those who died don’t have time for this blame game.” 


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