Queens residents displaced by Hurricane Ida will stay in the borough, city officials said Wednesday as Mayor Bill de Blasio vowed to help them get back home or find permanent housing.
The evacuees have been staying at the Radisson hotel near Kennedy Airport since Sept. 2, after the storm flooded their apartments, most located in basements.
The residents were told last week by the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development that they’d have to move to one of two hotels in downtown Brooklyn, just days before Thanksgiving.
After THE CITY reported on the residents’ plight, a spokesperson for HPD said the storm-battered New Yorkers will now remain in the borough, and that the city is working to find hotels closer to their western Queens homes.
“These families still in Queens are not going to Brooklyn,” the spokesman, Anthony Proia, said in a statement. “They will remain in Queens while we work with them on housing services.
But Choi Wong, who is staying at the hotel South Jamaica Radisson with her extended family, said she hadn’t been given any guarantees on where she’ll live next week. And some tenants received a text message Wednesday morning telling them they had to check out of the hotel that day, though that message was apparently sent in error.
“It’s a mental rollercoaster, it goes up and down,” Wong said Wednesday.
The city has provided housing to more than 380 families displaced by the record Sept. 1 rains brought by remnants of Ida, although most of the people who suffered damage or flooding have returned home, the mayor said Wednesday.
“Anyone who is unable to go back to their homes of course we will do everything to get them to some kind of permanent or long term affordable housing, and we obviously want to keep people as close to home as possible,” de Blasio said during his morning briefing.
“We’ll continue to support each family until they get to full resolution,” he added. “Hopefully in the vast majority of cases, their home is good again.”
The devastating storm killed 13 people — most of whom were trapped inside basement apartments that quickly flooded with rising water.
Wong nearly drowned the night of the storm as the water quickly rose in a portion of the basement she rents for her family. Another family living in the basement, including a 2-year-old boy, did not get out in time. They drowned inside, and their bodies were recovered hours later by the Fire Department dive team.
The experience was traumatizing for her and her family, which includes her an adult son with special needs and her ex-husband, whom she cares for.
Elected officials, including State Sen. Jessica Ramos (D-Queens), have advocated for these displaced tenants, pushing for rental assistance and other help.
Ramos helped to ensure the residents staying at the Radisson can remain until Nov. 22 and has been working to get them moved closer to western Queens, ideally at a hotel near LaGuardia Airport, she said.
It wasn’t unclear why the tenants can no longer stay at the Radisson, although New York City is expected to see a surge in tourism stays at hotels with the return of international travel and the upcoming holidays.
‘It Will Get Done’
The mayor, meanwhile, vowed to create a database of people living in basement apartments to ensure outreach ahead of future storms to facilitate evacuation.
De Blasio said the city is still working on the database, which is scheduled to be ready before the start of the next hurricane season in June.
“It takes a lot of work…it will get done,” he said. “I’m quite confident.”
Meanwhile, the tenants who are still displaced are hoping for a home outside of a hotel room.
Francisco Carrillo, 34, left his flooded East Elmhurst apartment after the storm when he realized it was uninhabitable. He’s in the United States from Ecuador on a student visa, and is unauthorized to work — making it more complicated to get housing.
“I just want to find a place to live,” he said Tuesday.