In the areas most affected by Hurricane Ida, homeowners with illegal basement apartments will not be fined for the rest of the year, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Sept. 8.
After a press conference the day before, where he signed an executive order waiving fines for those repairing their basements affected by last week’s flash flood, this decision further relieves the potential financial burdens of recovery.
“Our goal is to make sure that folks can get back to the apartments, that they can be made whole, that people have a place to live,” de Blasio said in a press conference.
He contended that there is still a lot of work to do when it comes to illegal basement apartments. “It is a very, very difficult [issue]. But right now, we don’t want to put homeowners in a double jeopardy,” he said.
Illegal basement apartments, often made from rooms that are meant to be storage, came under scrutiny when several tenants died during the flash flooding in the aftermath of the hurricane. The Department of Buildings announced Sept. 3 that 11 of the city’s drowning victims were residing in illegal basement apartments, proving that the majority of the deaths happened in illegal dwellings.
The city came under hard scrutiny within days, with Attorney General Letitia James quickly urging the New York City Government to issue emergency housing vouchers to those in unregulated or improperly converted basements.
Instead, the tenants will be allowed to stay where they are. “We don’t want to have a situation where someone who was living in a basement apartment has nowhere to live,” de Blasio said.
Meanwhile, the northeast is bracing for more rain the night of the 8th and more potential damage from Hurricane Larry, which is currently passing by Bermuda. It remains a category 2, but the mayor said he does not want to cause alarm. “Any new water could be a problem. And we’re also concerned that we could see more than is projected,” he said. There will be rain starting in the evening and peaking around midnight, just one week after residents dealt with one of the worst storms the city has seen.
Department of Sanitation Commissioner Edward Grayson joined the mayor to announce that 9,100 tons of debris have been picked up in the aftermath of Ida. “I spent the entire weekend out in the field. And I saw firsthand the devastation, destruction the despair,” Grayson said.
The Department of Buildings also sent out inspectors to look at the unregulated dwellings, which de Blasio said is to find and report ways that homeowners can make them immediately habitable. “We’ve got a much bigger issue to work on which will take billions of dollars to address the basement apartments,” de Blasio said, adding that for now, the city wants to properly address the immediate damage.