Queens residents demand more help, money for Ida recovery after historic flooding

HOLLIS, Queens (WABC) -- Homeowners and residents held a rally in Queens Tuesday to protest city leaders who they say are using the death and destruction cause by the remnants of Hurricane Idea as political capital without actually helping them recover.

They gathered at Queens Borough Hall, claiming they are being given misleading information about FEMA and disaster assistance that has them applying for small business loans without any guidance as to what is really available to help them fix their homes.

Community Advocate Tony Herbert organized and spoke at the rally, calling on every elected officials to fulfill their promises.

"New York has an obligation to help every single one of these owners out, since it was their negligence that caused the severe damage to all of their homes given the poor street work of the contractors they hired, who was suppose to fix the streets out in front of their homes," he said.

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Jim Dolan has more with the couple who lost everything in the Ida flooding.


It took just 10 minutes for basements and cars to fill up with sewage and water, and while the flood waters may have receded quickly, getting rid of all that was destroyed -- belongings and memories -- is a lengthier process.

Amrita Bhagwandin first had to deal with the water, then the mud, and now, cracks.

"The city hasn't shown up," she said. "FEMA came and an inspector refused to come inside the property, and that's alarming."

The basement was where she had a mini gym and stored treasured possessions like her daughter's wedding gown. Now, she's concerned the house will collapse.

"One side of the house is sinking," she said.

The protesters said they're worried about the next storm and insufficient drainage, and they think the city should just buy them out.

Amit Shivprasad has already spent $47,000 on his basement, which caved in.

"There is no wall," he said. "The water just came right in and hit the wall down completely."

The flooding killed two of his residents, and his home is now a shrine -- with a vacate order looming.

More than 1,400 cars needed to be towed from floodwaters, and thousands of tons of debris were hauled away in the aftermath.

The deaths of 13 people, 11 of them in basement apartments and five of six which were illegal, according to the Department of Buildings, has prompted a crackdown on illegally subdivided apartments in the city.

Still, landlords will not be fined for operating illegal basement apartments in Ida-affected areas for the rest of the year, Mayor Bill de Blasio said previously, as the city attempts to get residents displaced by the storm back into their homes.

RELATED | Ida recovery: City Council holds hearing on preventing flooding, damage from future storms
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The City Council held a hearing Tuesday to discuss how to prevent a repeat of the deadly devastation left behind by the remnants of Hurricane Ida.


The city believes there could be as many 50,000 illegal basement apartments citywide, housing more than 100,000 residents.

"(Because) those unfortunately illegal basement apartments (are) in the areas affected most deeply by Hurricane Ida, we will not be issuing fines for the rest of this year," de Blasio said. "Our goal is to get folks back to those apartments."

To apply for federal assistance, visit DisasterAssistance.gov/ or call 1-800-621-FEMA.

For more information in New York and New York City, visit NY.gov/Ida and NYC.gov/Ida.


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