Displaced by Hurricane Ida, more than 100 families still living in hotels – Spectrum News NY1

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Powerful, fast moving water rushed into East Elmhurst on Sept. 1, 2021. The remnants of Hurricane Ida furiously tore through the neighborhood.
"Within five minutes, the water came rushing in and there was nothing we can do to stop it," said Yurly Olivares, an East Elmhurst resident.
Olivares has lived in East Elmhurst for 21 years. She says it doesn’t take a lot of water to cause flooding in the alleyway behind her home. Ida’s rainfall rate at the storm peak was more than five inches an hour at nearby LaGuardia Airport.
There’s no drainage on this private driveway and the water rushed down like a raging river.
"It’s all downhill, so it pooled in Astoria Boulevard and that’s why that’s where Biden ended up,” said Olivares, referring to when President Joe Biden toured a nearby block six days after the storm. “But we were just a block away, so it was all four to six feet of water,” she added.
"I wish every American could walk down this alley with me to see and talk to the people who have been devastated,” Biden said during a news conference after visiting the devastated area.
The city says it invested nearly $2 billion upgrading drainage systems in Southeast Queens. The work will continue through 2025.
But Olivares says she believes the city should do more in her neighborhood. So, she’s petitioning for the city to install a storm drain to prevent those dangerous flash floods and bring her neighbors peace of mind.
"When we hear thunderstorm, we’re all panicking,” said Olivares. “This hurricane season is very stressful for us, always has been because of majority of all the rain. But after Ida, like I said, different ballgame.”
According to the Department of Environmental Protection, the agency is unable to use DEP funds on private property. A nearby private drainage system was repaired after the city declared it a public health hazard. This designation allows DEP to use its funds on private property to make the needed repairs.
Some 10 miles away, Eileen Bendoyro is still waiting for a new beginning. She’s been living in a hotel room near Kennedy Airport with her 14-year-old son for almost a year. Hurricane Ida flooded out her East Elmhurst basement apartment where she lived for almost 20 years.
"I lost everything there," said Bendoyro.
Bendroyo says the Department of Housing Preservation and Development provided vouchers for housing for her and other families displaced by Ida. But she says finding a landlord willing to take the voucher has been impossible.
An HPD spokesperson says more than 250 families displaced by Ida have been able to find housing, and HPD continues to provide support for the 109 families still in hotels.
"We need to move to start our life again,” said Bendoyro.
Bendoyro filed a financial claim with the city, but the City Comptroller’s Office rejected it along with all the others, 4,700 claims total — denied.
The comptroller cited a century-plus old ruling where a judge found the city not liable for damage from extraordinary rainfall.
State Senator Jessica Ramos says there has been a serious failure to provide economic relief and the city needs a better emergency plan in place.
Ramos sponsors a bill that would close bad faith insurance loopholes and another that would require the city to mitigate property damage caused by natural disasters. But she points out the next legislative session starts in January and hurricane season is far from over.
"It’s time to get cracking, because we don’t know when the next storm is going to hit," said Ramos.
A spokesperson for Mayor Eric Adams says the administration is committed to bolstering sewer capacity and strengthening other resiliency efforts.
But, at the hotel, Bendoyro, and six other families still living there, feel as if they’re in limbo.
"Our situation is no easy," said Bendoyro.
Back in East Elmhurst, Olivares knows being home provides some comfort, that is, until the next big storm hits.
"It’s hard for us to maintain what we’ve worked for and not get the help from the city," said Olivares.


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