The storm may be over, but Queens residents are still cleaning up from the rainy aftermath of Hurricane Ida’s remnants last week.
Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Mayor Bill de Blasio, weighed in on Queens’ disastrous infrastructure issue on Monday morning during a tour of hard-hit Woodside.
Following the devastating and deadly remnants Hurricane Ida wrought on New York City last week, Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez and Mayor de Blasio joined FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell to survey the damages left in its wake throughout 64th Street and 48th Avenue. On Monday, President Biden approved Governor Kathy Hochul’s request for a major disaster declaration, opening the door for flood-stricken residents to receive direct federal aid.
“What we saw today was absolutely heartbreaking. The amount of damage and destruction that these families have experienced,” Criswell said. “The president has declared a major disaster declaration for this area as well as Bronx, Queens, Richmond, Brooklyn, and Westchester. So, individuals that live in those counties will be eligible for Federal Assistance through FEMA.”
Criswell advised that the fastest way to register for aid is either through disasterassistance.gov or the FEMA app on your smart device. You can also call 1-800-621-FEMA.
The tour saw those in the neighborhood break down in tears as they showcased caved-in walls and thousands of dollars’ worth of damage in furniture and other valuables. One woman clung to the mayor and wept while another elderly woman walked beside the mayor, pointing at the essential items strewn over the neighborhood.
“We are seeing families who have been devastated. We were just with Julia a few doors down, who is 77 years old. She only has a small pension and social security and now tens of thousands of dollars of damage in a matter of minutes. She said it was 10 minutes where there was no water and suddenly the entire basement was flooded. It was a huge amount of damage; she does not have that money. Almost everyone in this area would never have that money. We have to get them that money,” de Blasio said.
Schumer watched one man desperately try to salvage photos of his family by hanging each picture from a clothesline. While so much property received physical damage, the senator also underscored the loss of memories, family assets, and sentimental clothing that FEMA could never replace.
“A greater emotional impact are the pictures, the memories that could never be replaced,” Senator Schumer said. “It’s great news that the administration has announced this morning — that President Biden has announced this morning — that we will be a major disaster area that means that grants, not just loans, but grants can go to individuals to help make up for the damage that they have here. It means the city can get reimbursed for all of these expenses, and it means that small businesses can get loans if they were hurt by this as well.”
While Schumer explained that Biden’s declaration is the fastest he’s seen, Ocasio-Cortez pointed out the need for insurance companies to do their part by providing payment for the excessive damage.
“The major disaster declaration that President Biden has issued this morning is going to be an incredibly important step for families, homeowners, and renters. To be eligible for up to, I believe, $34,000 in grants from FEMA after the major disaster declaration,” Ocasio-Cortez said, adding that if anyone was exposed to flood water and is feeling ill, she urges them to seek immediate medical attention.
“Flood water is not just elevated rainwater that is backed up. There are chemicals, there is sewage in there. If you are feeling ill in the aftermath of the storm, seek medical help,” she implored.
Schumer and Ocasio-Cortez stated that there many issues that need to be addressed, such as sewer infrastructure, a flood prevention plan to make sure something like this does not happen again and holding insurance companies accountable for compensating families fairly.
“The bottom line is this is what climate change looks like. It’s going to take a massive investment both to stop the pain that people are feeling but also to reverse what is happening to our environment,” de Blasio said, weighing in.
Many homeowners voiced their concern to the elected officials that their insurance will not cover a natural disaster; however, Ocasio-Cortez assured them that this was also a sewage problem, which is covered.
“Every single community that has experienced this flooding has been saying that this connected to sewer issues that have been mounting over years and so this is not just about a sudden flash flood. This is about any sort of heavy rain where the sewer system has been backing up into people’s homes. That should be eligible for a home insurance claim, and we are going to have to push back and fight with insurance companies because they are going to try and get out of compensating families that the damages they are owed,” Ocasio-Cortez said.
amNewYork Metro was invited into a Woodside resident’s home to discuss their experience before and after Hurricane Ida hit.
Litzy Qutierez lives in Woodside along 48th Avenue and her entire apartment was destroyed by the flood. While she says the landlord still has not set foot in her building to assess the damage or inform her if the property is covered by insurance, she is hopeful that with the elected officials visit aid will come.
“It was a matter of minutes when everything got flooded,” Qutierez said, “Most of us got the alert after it happened. We get like a normal flood when it rains but not like that. It’s devastating to see your home getting destroyed in a matter of minutes.”