Monthly Archives: July 2014

Storm Preparation 101!

by Peter Andersen


There was a time when the idea of a hurricane in the tri-state area was not taken seriously. “A hurricane? In New York? Nope, not going to happen”. Until a few years ago, we were all pretty sure that any hurricane that ran up the east coast would weaken, reduce to a fraction of its former self, and become a glorified late summer storm. Sandy set us straight, though, didn’t she? A perfect combination of weather events allowed for a devastating landfall, as high tides rolled across Manhattan, trees tore down power lines across the region, historic covered bridges were washed away across Vermont, and much of the region went dark.

What did we learn? Hopefully, we learned enough to be better prepared the next time. We learned not to assume. We learned that even unexpected things happen at unexpected times (A hurricane in OCTOBER???). Hopefully, we also learned that we have to be smart and proactive to minimize the impact a storm like this can have on our lives.

From an insurance perspective, there are quite a few things you can do in preparation. Be sure your home is properly insured, your auto has comprehensive coverage (a co-worker here at Levitt-Fuirst had her car flattened by a tree during Sandy), and that you have documented your valuable articles in case there is damage to your home and its contents. Flood insurance was a key coverage for many during Sandy, if you haven’t already, give yourself a flood primer in our piece from July 21st.

Outside of the house, there is much you should do as well. Another of our posts mentioned keeping your trees trimmed for the summer, but this is really a 4 season rule. In the summer, we have regular heavy storms and occasional named storms that come through, and ice storms, snow storms and blizzards wreak havoc from October through April – it isn’t easy being a tree! Keep them pruned and healthy to minimize the damage they can cause to power lines, roofs, and other structures on your property. Also, be sure to clear your lawn of anything that could be blown by the wind – these can be dangerous projectiles in a big wind event.

Inside the home, close your windows, turn up your refrigerator and freezer to the coldest settings in case of a power outage. For short term emergencies, you should have supplies on hand such as plenty of canned food, water, and cash. After 9-11, myself and many other New York City residents were prompted to create Emergency Kits – first aid, food, money, water, flashlights, batteries, blankets. These were important items for the horror of those days, but they also would come in handy during any storm or event that takes out your power for more than a day or two.

Do you have a plan for those occasions when the power goes out for an extended period of time? Sandy saw homes without power for weeks! In those longer term power-loss events, perhaps a generator would be a worthy investment? Make sure to locate friends or family that would welcome you should you need to relocate, and make an evacuation plan. Be sure to gas up your cars! I think we all learned that the hard way – with major storms come major gas supply problems. If a storm is on the move, gas up your cars and use them as little as possible – when you need to get out of town, that foresight might be the difference between securely arriving at your destination, and using your last fumes searching for an open and operational gas station.

For so many years, we were lulled into a false sense of security that our region was secure from large scale events, be it hurricanes, terrorism, or huge regional blackouts due to a domino effect of power station problems from Ohio to New York. The idea is not to know exactly what will come next, but rather to be as prepared as possible for ANYTHING that could come next. Simple steps and precautions can help you as you endure events that are beyond your control, protecting yourself and your family, and speeding your financial recovery in the face of damage to your home or property.

 Hurricane Preparation Links:

Coverage of the week: Antique Auto Insurance

by A. Mani and K. Vargas


Welcome to this week’s “Coverage of the Week” blog where we discuss a particular coverage to educate and clarify a particular topic. This week’s topic…Antique Cars Insurance. Your 1958 Corvette Convertible can’t be insured in the same way as your 2010 Corolla. They are different, and therefore there are different coverages and rates. Allow us to tell you all you need to know about Antique Auto Insurance.

Generally for a car to be considered a collector car the vehicle will need to be 25 + years old. Some carriers do make exceptions to their guidelines based upon a cars rarity, uniqueness, collectability and/or historical significance. The details of the vehicle will normally need to be reviewed by the insurance company’s collector car specialist to determine its eligibility.

Collector cars are relatively inexpensive to insure compared to regular auto insurance policies. One reason for this is a collector car is maintained primarily for use in car club activities, exhibitions, parades, functions of public interest, or for private collection and is used infrequently for other purposes such as a joy ride. Generally, these cars are rarely driven and minimal mileage is tacked on annually. If a client has a collector car that is driven on a daily basis to and from work etc., the collector car eligibility would be declined. Some carriers also exclude damage to a collector car caused by a driver under the age of 25 years old.

These vehicles are normally insured on an agreed value basis. Agreed value is agreed upon by the insured and the insurance company before policy issuance.  In the event of a covered total loss the insurance company guarantees to pay the value agreed upon.   Normally the comprehensive and collision deductibles are “Zero” if this coverage is selected, and full glass coverage is included (varies by company/state). Photos of the car may need to be provided, and a vehicle appraisal could also be required if a client wants a higher agreed value than what the company helps determine.

The collector car policies usually include limited coverage for spare parts, for a direct or accidental physical loss or damage to spare parts you own that are kept as replacement for components normally part of your collector vehicle. Also, newly acquired vehicle coverage is included for up to 30 days normally. So if you purchase a new collector car and forget to tell your agent, you are covered for the first 30 days and some carriers will provide up to $50,000 in coverage for this newly acquired vehicle – but talk to your agent to be sure.

Policyholders are required to have an acceptable driving record as well as at least one regular private passenger vehicle.  It’s also important to know that most of the basic auto exclusions such as wear and tear, vehicles used to carry people or property for a fee, racing or track usage, or mechanical breakdown are excluded from this type of policy.

Check out a vintage auto race in Limerock, CT and these auto’s in Greenwich, CT.

What’s Happening In Our Region?

By: Peter Andersen

The weekend is here, and we hope you can take the time to enjoy the region’s events.  Levitt-Fuirst insures clients from Greenwich to Chappaqua, from Manhattan to Westport.  We love the region as much as anyone, and we hope you get out and enjoy the spoils our beautiful area offers.

This Week In The Region:


Tonight at 7 in Pleasantville, there is a rose wine tasting event happening at Best Wine Purveyors.  Rose, the oft maligned wine style, due to the over-sweet blush wines of the 80s, is actually a perfect accompaniment to summer.  Learn more about this underappreciated wine tonight – seats are filling up fast so register now!

On Saturday, July 26th, Peekskill has its 8th Annual Music Festival from 12:00 to 10:00, with a wide range of musical styles focusing on rock and blues.  Get out and dance in the beautiful weather we have in store.

Spending time in Westport with your poorly behaved pooch?  Perhaps a hands on dog training event in Westport is for you and Fido?  On Saturday, learn real world solutions to your canine’s problem behaviors with nationally known trainers.

See what else is going on at!  We live in an amazing area, so get out and experience some of the wonderful things available to you.


If I Had a Hammer……

By: Louise Rush

Pretty much everyone has heard of Habitat for Humanity, if only in a “oh, those are the guys that build houses” sort of way. For a few years, starting back in 2010, we at Levitt-Fuirst would have a “team building” event in the summertime. We would close the office, and spend the day learning how to work better together through a series of lectures and games designed to challenge us to work effectively AND together to achieve a goal, plus have a pretty yummy lunch in the middle of it.. For example, everyone would line up together and have to pass a small bucket of water backwards over their head to the person behind them in order to fill up a larger bucket at the end. I learned several things from this exercise….among them that I absolutely cannot pass a small bucket of water backwards over my head without dropping 90% of it on my head, that I become progressively more useless in direct proportion to the amount of water on my head, and that some people are so competitive that they scream at you for dropping water on your head and MAYBE THEY SHOULD REALIZE THAT THIS IS A TEAM BUILDING EVENT AND WE ARE SUPPOSED TO BE LEARNING TO WORK TOGETHER AND GET OFF MY BACK!!!! Anyway…back to Habitat for Humanity. Last year, Ken Fuirst and Jason Schiciano, our stalwart leaders and come-uppers of ideas, decided to give back to the community where we house our offices and donate time and money to Habitat for Humanity, in lieu of our summer team building event. Some of the office was excited, some raised eyebrows, some said “No way”. I was among the excited – I was going to house the world and learn to build things and go off into the woods and construct my very own mansion made of trees that I had felled and furnish it with handcrafted pieces….well, you get the idea. I was on board!! Big time!!

So, Jim, the leader of Habitat for us, came to our office. Jim is a whirlwind….passionate about what he does, talks so fast and so frenetically that sometimes you can only stand there with your mouth open and watch him pace and talk and love what he does. Jim is a believer. And we set up the dates that we would be working on the houses, learned who we would be building for (2 families of Iraq war veterans), and learned a bit about the behind the scenes process of having a house built for you. A common misconception is that these houses are given to people. Not so – there is a fairly arduous application process, you must have a job, you must be able to pay for the house, you must be responsible with it. You have to put in a ton of hours on your own house, plus contribute hours to other Habitat builds. I highly suggest going to their website and wandering through it. You will be inspired. They are all about giving a leg up to people. Part of their mission statement reads as follows:

· Advocate for affordable housing. In response to the prophet Micah’s call to do justice, to love mercy and to walk humbly with God, we promote decent, affordable housing for all, and we support the global community’s commitment to housing as a basic human right. We will advocate for just and fair housing policy to eliminate the constraints that contribute to poverty housing. And, in all of our work, we will seek to put shelter on hearts and minds in such powerful ways that poverty housing becomes socially, politically and religiously unacceptable.
· Promote dignity and hope. We believe that no one lives in dignity until everyone can live in dignity. We believe that every person has something to contribute and something to gain from creating communities in which all people have decent, affordable places to live. We believe that dignity and hope are best achieved through equitable, accountable partnerships.
· Support sustainable and transformational development. We view our work as successful when it transforms lives and promotes positive and lasting social, economic and spiritual change within a community; when it is based on mutual trust and fully shared accomplishment; and when it demonstrates responsible stewardship of all resources entrusted to us.

Although they are, at heart, a Christian organization, there is no discrimination based on religious beliefs. They want to build houses, for people that need them. That simple.

So, we arrive at the worksite on High Street in Yonkers on Day One, excited and a little uncertain what we would be doing. And we worked….oh my goodness….we worked. I tore down walls, and hauled wood and poured cement and got  dusty and dirty and it was exhausting. This is not “fun” work, this is not “let’s give the people that work in an office a small taste of building”. This is down and dirty building a house….well, in our case, on that first day it was down and dirty demolishing a house so that we could get to the building part. We are insurance people…..give us a high end home in Chappaqua, Irvington or Bedford and we can insure the heck out of it. We even know how to insure it as you are building it. We have a whole dept. dedicated to insuring businesses that construct things, and a whole dept. dedicated to insuring what is built (2 actually, commercial and personal).What we didn’t know was HOW to build it. But we learned. There are several pros on-site that work for Habitat, and anything that you want to learn how to do, they show you. Anything that you are comfortable with, you can do. Not comfortable with building? You can garden. Any and everything that you contribute to making this house habitable and a home is welcomed and appreciated and so, so satisfying. I went home that first day more exhausted and filthy than I have ever been, but with this amazing sense of accomplishment. I went back to the site and worked every chance I got. I hammered, hauled junk, climbed ladders…everything I wanted to do I was taught to do. This year, Ken and Jason again decided to make the contribution of time and money to Habitat, and those of us that went back got to put the finishing touches on the house that we had started last year. We got the meet the family that would be moving in.

It is hard to convey the rewarding sense of accomplishment that you get working on a Habitat house. It is a “giving back” like no other, because you are doing it with your hands and your sweat and blood (a bit – I tried to keep it to a minimum but it IS a construction site and I AM a klutz). I am proud to be part of a company that felt that sense of community enough to contribute in a real way – but again, from my previous blog – I still think that Ken is a dork and won’t tell him that anything he does is cool.

Coverage of the Week: Personal Flood Insurance

by Alan Mani

Fuirst Flood

Here at Levitt-Fuirst, we pride ourselves on providing excellent service to our customers. Whatever they need help with or need help understanding, we have them covered. That is why we have started our “Coverage of the Week” blog.  In it, we will discuss a particular coverage, to educate and clarify a particular topic.

Today?  Today we are talking Flood Insurance. What is it, when do I purchase it, do I need it? Well, with the help of one of our personal lines members Erica Faigman, we have the answers down below just keep reading!

What is flood insurance?

Flood insurance covers direct physical loss caused by “flood.” In simple terms, a flood is an excess of water on land that is normally dry.

Who should have flood insurance? Do I need it?

Every home in our region should have flood insurance – and that is the case for most of the US. It is a matter of where and how your home is setup that determines the cost. Homes are placed in flood zones based on that area’s likelihood to flood. One thing to remember is that no matter where you are, you are in a flood zone; it’s just a matter of how susceptible that area is to flooding. A house can be in a flood zone x which means they are low risk or they can be in a flood zone a or v which are high risk zones.

During hurricane Sandy, flood damage was wide spread as oceans encroached, rivers rose, creeks flooded, and rain poured down. Coastal homes in Greenwich, and inland homes in Armonk flooded alike, the Saw Mill River and the Bronx River crested. The point? You just never know, so preparation is key.

How much does it cost?

The answer to this question takes a few variables into consideration. If you are in a zone x, b, or c there are no further variables to consider. The cost to insure a zone x, b, or c house is not very expensive; maybe $500 a year.  There is something called base flood elevation (BFE), which is a strong determinant of your flood policy pricing. BFE is where the water level is expected to rise during a storm. If your house is above the BFE you will have a cheaper premium as opposed to someone whose house is below the BFE.

Now if you are in anything BUT an X, B, or C zone, you will need an Elevation Certificate which is the document that will tell you what BFE you are. Without an Elevation Cert, your insurance carrier will give you the highest rate. Usually the Bank will order one before they approve a Mortgage, but if not, you will need to contact an engineer yourself.

When do I purchase it?

In certain high risk flood zones, you HAVE to purchase it in order to get a mortgage. If you are in this situation, you probably already have it! What about the rest of us, in those zones that are less likely to flood? If we learned anything from Hurricane Sandy, you should purchase this as soon as you can! When purchasing a flood policy, there is a 30 day waiting period before the coverage kicks in, so it is important to be proactive and not wait until a storm is approaching to request a policy.

Flood insurance is an extremely important piece of your homeowners’ insurance puzzle. To truly know your risk, and to get an estimate for the coverage, you need to contact your insurance broker. Levitt-Fuirst places flood insurance for our clients across the nation, and can certainly help you with this important coverage. Contact us with questions, we will do all we can to help.

 These links have some great information, take the time to learn more about Flood Insurance!

What does flood insurance cover?  Houselogic clarifies.

Flood Insurance Myths and Facts, from

What’s Happening In Our Region?

By: Alan Mani

The weekend is here, and hope you can take the time to enjoy the region’s events.  Levitt-Fuirst insures clients from Greenwich to Chappaqua, from Manhattan to Westport.  We love the region as much as anyone, and we hope you get out and enjoy the spoils our beautiful area offers.

Like what, you ask?  In Peekskill tonight, at 8:00pm, Eaglemania invades.  Eaglemania, known as “The World’s Greatest Eagles Tribute Band” will be performing all of the hits of the Eagles. Head out on this beautiful night if you can!!

Or this from  Next Tuesday evening, the Bruce Museum in Greenwich has a lecture on extreme environments!  Learn about biodiversity in the deep blue sea.

For more events in and around Armonk, click here to go to the Armonk Voice website.

For ideas in and around Greenwich, check out the events listed on the website!

Bicycle Across The Country: Brilliance or Insanity?

By: P. Andersen and L. Rush

Brilliance, by P. Andersen

The Adventure of a Lifetime.

As many of you know, Ken Fuirst, co-president of Levitt-Fuirst, is riding – his bicycle, mind you – from the coast of Washington State to the New Jersey shore; a ride commemorating his mid-life crisis at the age of 50.  He is riding from 50 to 200 miles per day, over Rockies and Black Hills, wind at his back and in his face.  If you know Ken, you know he likes to be in control.  This process does not really allow that, as you are at the mercy of weather, bike mechanicals, construction, aches and pains, and other people.  Always other people…

I have always been at ease on 2 wheels, from the day I learned to ride with my 4 older brothers’ assistance (pushed down the grass hill on our front lawn in Greenwich was how we Andersens learned to ride!).  In college, I bought my first mountain bike, and rode that to school, and for fun.  I moved back up to the northeast, and rode mountain bikes with my brothers on weekends in the woods of Connecticut.  They bought road bikes, I bought a road bike – and started racing in New York City.  I eventually became a Cat 3 racer, mid-level good, and even won some races in the city…  I brought my bike on my honeymoon in Spain!

So, bikes?  I get bikes, I love them, I have 3 of them that I neglect more than I should these days.

I never much wanted to ride across the country, though.  It is far, it is hard, it is dangerous, it has so much that is out of your control…  I think this is why I am fascinated with Ken’s adventure.  Taking time from Levitt-Fuirst, letting his faithful employees take care of his clients (unfathomable!), connecting with people from all walks of life, seeing the country in a way that few do.  There is a bit of a siren’s call to my inner cyclist while reading his blog – an appreciation of all he is doing.

I emailed a question to Ken last week, and he called me right back.  He was on his rest day, and was on his way to Mount Rushmore.  After discussing business, I told him that the employees were wondering if this ride might change him in some way; alter him as a boss, a manager, a person.  He said he honestly didn’t know what he would be like when he returned, how he would be changed (but there was a sense that he would be changed in some real way).  It seemed like a sign that sometimes a big, crazy, well planned but so much out of control adventure might just be the right thing, a defining thing, in one’s life.  And Ken’s first words on that call?  “You HAVE to do this ride someday”.

Maybe that adventure will call me one day, as it did Ken.  Maybe it will be some other trip, or quest, or goal that needs attaining.  Perhaps we should all find that thing in our lives, something that pushes us beyond our boundaries of comfort and safety.  Perhaps our definition of ourselves can be updated to include adventurer, risk taker, bucket lister.  I hope so for myself.

Insanity, by L. Rush

Ken’s Adventure…or as I like to call it “What you would do to me if you wanted me to spill State secrets”……

As many of you know, Ken Fuirst, Co-President of Levitt-Fuirst Associates has taken off on a 9-
week (give or take) adventure of a lifetime. He presented the employees with his plan last year in one of our monthly company meetings, when he told us that our “gift” in the coming year was that he planned to ride his bicycle cross country and be gone for two months. Once the cheering stopped, we all sort of forgot about it and went on about our business. And then he started training. Seriously training. As in “I biked from my house in Chappaqua down to the Jersey Shore”. I’m sorry, what?? My version of exercise is to walk to the bakery to get my pastry, so to me this was insanity. He started putting all in order in the office…making sure that his accounts were comfortable and taken care of, everyone was up to date on everything, down to the last minute detail. I still couldn’t see how this was going to happen – Ken is a bit of a “controller”. One of our favorite office games? Wait until Ken walks a few steps out of his office and then ring his phone and watch him go flying back in to retrieve the call, and hang up. There are no “missed work calls” in Ken’s world. We have worked together for 22 years. I know his personality, we have an odd, quirky friendship – and I still could not see this happening. And then it did – the day was here, he was leaving.

He started his trip in Seattle, WA. It is him and his bike, a few provisions, a tent, and a lot of determination. He is staying sometimes with people that open their homes to people biking this route, other times he camps where he can find a spot. He is traveling alone. This is the trip that I would plan for myself if I wanted to poke every fear, phobia and megrim that I have. He is blogging the whole time, posting pictures – some of the quirky, small-town oddities that strike his funny bone, some of the big, touristy spots, some of the miles and miles of barrenness that he has to bike through to get to the next small town. And some are of Ken, smiling, dirty, getting thinner by the day, and happier than I have ever seen his face. I am alternately awed and horrified. Some of his blogs begin with “So, I biked 73 miles to Bump In The Road, Montana and pitched my tent on the side of the road. My front tire is low (Ken’s front tire is always low by the way – it gives me palpitations), I stopped at the local bait/gun/huckleberry pancake store and had some breakfast….” . He talks to the locals, comes away with goofy stories and local legends and directions that may or may not be accurate. He is doing something that most people only dream about (not me….really….not me). He took “that thing” that everyone has that they want to do, talk about doing, dream of doing (Me? I want to write a really good novel, adopt a child that needs a good home, run a farm for abused dogs and children to help them heal each other), and he is DOING it.

And it’s hard and dirty work. And, being that my ultimate goal and pleasure in life is to tell Ken what a dork he is, I won’t tell him that I think this is a really cool thing. But I think it’s a really cool thing.

And here is our acclaimed boss Ken Fuirst, riding away into the openness.






In The Good Ole Summertime

By: Alan Mani


Its summer time!!! You’re up in Greenwich or Armonk and everybody is swimming, sunbathing and grilling. Laughter is in the air and everybody is having a grand old time. Unfortunately, there is another side of that coin – one that includes storms and risks and dangers that threaten your summer fun. So how do increase your odds of this coin landing on the side of laughter and joy? You take the necessary precautions, that’s how.  Allow me to give you some advice on some of the things you can do to stay safe.

Open Pools – You may not want to hear this but drowning is the leading cause of death among children under the age of 4. It is also the third leading cause of death among children overall. What can you do to prevent this? Install a 4-sided fence that is at least 5ft high. Another thing you can do is talk to your pool expert to find out which pool cover would be best suited for you.

Long branches – When you prune your trees it’s not just for the trees health or for cosmetics, it makes it a safer environment. Tree branches can obstruct visibility and when a storm comes around it can break the branches and they can fall on your car, house and power lines. Hire a professional arborist to trim your trees.

Grill Fires – How can we reduce the chances of a grill fire? All you have to do is keep the grill 10 feet away from anything flammable…easy huh!

Clogged Gutters – Doesn’t sound like a big deal but when they’re clogged they can be weighed down by water and debris and that can cause them to pull away from their attachments. This creates opportunities for ants, mosquitoes, and rodents to enter your home. Cleaning your gutters out twice a year is what’s recommended.

As much as we at Levitt-Fuirst are in the business of providing insurance for the protection of your home, valuables and life, we also want to promote prevention of loss, which is why we offer tips on both. If, with a few small preventative measures, you can save yourself from a loss – why not try it. Don’t think of it as an either/or proposition – “If I do these preventative measures then I don’t need insurance, or if I have insurance then I don’t have to prevent accidents” – think of it as a symbiotic relationship. They can coexist peacefully all under one roof – prevention AND protection. But Protection likes cheese on his burger.

Jeeves, the Sound of Music, and the Dust Bunnies…..

By: Louise R.


If you are anything like me, a working mom with 2 kids that need shuttling around, animals that need taking care of, and a house that needs to be cleaned regularly (ostensibly), you may have toyed with the idea of hiring someone to help you with all of that – be it a nanny or
housekeeper, live-in or live-out. And when I say “toyed with the idea”, I mean lay curled up in a ball, whimpering, while looking at the dust bunnies as they multiply at amazing rates (you know what they say about bunnies) chanting over and over “I need help, I need help…”.

So, since this is mainly an insurance, informational blog, I will not extol the virtues of laying by the pool while Jeeves brings me a fruity little concoction with a paper umbrella, as my house is being cleaned and my children are being minded and all is right with the world…..wait, one more minute….okay, I’m back and ready to school you in the ins and outs of domestic help and the workers’ compensation insurance that might be required. Remember that a workers’ compensation policy not only protects the employee but the employer as well. There are different rules in different states, so my main advice is to check with your insurance broker to find out exactly what your state’s requirements are and the best policy to go with. I went to Donna Boonjamalik in the Levitt-Fuirst Personal Lines dept. and this is what she told me:

“Domestic Workers include Chauffeurs, nannies, home health care workers, nurses, baby sitters, cooks, housekeepers, butlers, companions, gardeners and other types of regular employees working in a private household. We would normally suggest a Workers’ Comp Policy if an insured has hired a “regular” person to perform a task for hire on a regular basis Full or Part Time such as:

1) Hired a cleaning lady 2 X’s a week
2) Hired a babysitter/nanny
3) Hired a Chauffeur

There are 2 rates. Full Time and Part Time Rates and they are based on Per Capita ( how many ) Employees there are.“Regular Employees” are not covered under the Homeowner’s Policy. The Homeowner’s Policy provides Workers’ Comp for temporary work, such as:

1) Hiring a painter to paint your house
2) Hiring a roofer to put on a new roof
3) Hiring a landscaper to plant trees & bushes

Only if a Domestic Employee works 40 or more hours a week are they required to have Workers’ Comp policy. A policy for Part Time Domestic Help is not required but always encouraged to protect both the employee and the employer.”

Now that you are better educated, I can slip back into my fantasy world….. a beautiful, sunny day by the (hypothetical) pool, visions of my perfectly minded children being taught “The Sound of Music” soundtrack by a cross between Julie Andrews and Mary Tyler Moore, my house sparkling like 1,000 diamonds and smelling like (I’ll be darned) a pine forest, and the ever-loyal Jeeves standing by with my pool-floaty…… and the peace of mind that all is covered by the insurance that I need.