Coronavirus News: Ruptured sewer lines force many Queens residents to hotels during pandemic

QUEENS, New York (WABC) -- While most of people have been riding out the pandemic from the comfort of our own homes, some people in Queens haven't been so lucky.

They've been forced out of their homes for months due to a situation that was out of their control.

"They forgot about us and we're still here," Teri Cleveland said.

She's been living in a small hotel room with her sister since last November.

A city sewer line ruptured over Thanksgiving weekend, causing raw sewage to spill into her home and many others.

"We haven't been normal in months," Cleveland said. "I guess this is the new normal, it's the worst normal."

The city took responsibility and contractors came and removed the damaged floors, appliances and dry wall. But to this day her home has sat untouched, and she's not able to live in it.

"It's torture, it's really torture," she said.

She's not alone. A dozen families are in the same situation. Non-essential services were shut down during the pandemic but city-wide construction reopened last Monday.

"I spoke to the contractor, he's ready, we had a bid, so he's ready to start working cause he's been home," Cleveland said.

Cleveland said the city still needs to sign off on the work. Meanwhile, the city put the families up in hotels where they have remained for months without kitchens, washers and dryers and the other conveniences of home.

The city was going to stop paying for Cleveland's hotel, along with others, back in March until 7 On Your Side got involved. The city agreed to let the families remain in hotels until the homes are finished.

"So every day I have to spend money to buy food and to clean my clothes, every day. And it's crazy," Cleveland said.

Seven On Your Side reached out to the New York City Comptroller's office who said they're looking into how many claims have been paid out and how many are still pending.

In addition, 7 On Your Side also reached out to the NYC Emergency Management office that's in charge of cleanup.

A spokesperson said in a statement: "The city continues to work to help families who were affected by last November's sewage backup in Ozone Park to transition back into their homes and if necessary, to find long-term housing. We remain in constant communication with displaced families and we are continuing to work with each individual to help them through this process."

As for Cleveland and her family, she says that's not the case.

"We've been calling, answer us, and tell us what to do," she said. "Tell us that you're starting and let us feel better about what's to come."

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