YORKVILLE — It took just 45 minutes for water from a broken pipe to do enough damage to Oliver's Dog & Cat Clinic that it has had to remain closed for the past nine months, the owner said.
The busted pipe, caused by freezing temperatures, sent water flooding into the vet office at 1590 York Ave. in November, destroying its surgery table, pet medications, pet food, walls, ceiling and cabinets within minutes, and forcing it to close, according to owner Dr. L. Victoria Coronato.
Ninth months later, the vet business, which Coronato has owned for nearly 10 years, is still in disarray. On Friday, much of the walls and ceilings were gutted, and the floor was strewn with damaged equipment, furniture and pieces of plaster.
"It's devastating," Coronato said, standing inside the small, cluttered clinic. "As a doctor, I tend not to overreact, but who'd have thought that it was going to be a year, at least, until we open again?"
Coronato hasn't been able to reopen because she is still waiting for money from her insurance company, she said. She posted a sign in the clinic's window telling passersby that the New York Department of Financial Services is investigating the insurance company for not reimbursing her claim.
"Without reimbursement, our architect and contractor cannot begin work," the sign reads. "We appreciate all of the support from our clients. Please continue to have patience and trust as we recover. We promise Oliver's Dog and Cat Clinic will be back bigger and better."
The day of the incident, Coronato rushed over to the York Avenue clinic from her East Harlem office and immediately called her insurance company, Dongbu Insurance, based in South Korea, she said.
Despite estimates from her own adjuster, saying she's lost $400,000 in total, including money for business lost and damages, Dongbu has only offered her $46,000 in total, she said.
Dongbu's claims company told Dr. Coronato that it would cost $26,000 to rebuild the clinic and to cover the food and medications she lost, including depreciation, she said, but added that a new HVAC system alone would cost her more than $14,000.
Dongbu reimbursed the clinic $25,000 nine weeks later and the insurer has not given her any money for business lost, which is also in her contract, she said.
Frank Daniberg, the assistant underwriting manager at Dongbu, said he couldn't comment on Dr. Coronato's claim, but said it was normal for the payment process to take time.
"We have a fiduciary responsibility to our shareholders and we're subject to the laws in New York State to make sure we cross our "t's" before things get finalized," he said. "The process of handling a claim is very difficult because the person who suffered the claim is going through financial and emotional hardship. When those kinds of things happen, in their mind, all they want to do is get things fixed right away. We strive to get a claim settled as quickly as possible, but there are things necessary in the process that have to be done to be able to do that."
Coronato has contacted the state Attorney General's office about the way the insurance company has handled her claim, and she is still hoping to be able to sign a new lease and begin the approval process for reconstruction once she gets the funds, she said.
For now, Coronato and her associate veterinarian are working out of her East Harlem office on First Avenue. Pets from the Upper East Side needing surgery can always have it done there, she said.
But Coronato worries that people who pass by the York Avenue office will see the rolldown gate and believe the business is closed for good, she said.
"I'm losing so much money," she said. "A lot of them have been going Uptown. I've been making loads of house calls — no charge for the house call — dropping meds off, vaccinating animals downstairs. Whatever I can do to keep them until I can open up again. I don't see any light at the end of the tunnel."