Williams calls for federal funds to help address flooded basement apartments

NYPD police tape hangs outside a residence, where three people, including a 2- year-old boy, were pronounced dead at the scene after being trapped in the basement of an apartment from floodwaters according to local media reports, after the remnants of Tropical Storm Ida brought drenching rain and flash floods in the Woodside section of the Queens borough of New York, U.S., Sept. 2, 2021.
REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

Ahead of a visit by President Joe Biden, Public Advocate Jumaane D. Williams on Tuesday called for federal funds to help address flooded basement apartments after meeting with flood victims.

“As I spoke to New Yorkers again today who were devastated by last week’s flooding — still grieving, still reeling from the scope of the damage — it was clear that while this disaster was natural, the reasons for much of the devastation it wrought were systemic, exacerbated by a failure to adapt our infrastructure or policies to the realities of both the climate crisis and the housing crisis,” said the son of Grenadian immigrants.

“So much of the loss our city saw last week, losses that many New Yorkers will feel for months and years to come, was suffered in basement apartment,” he added. “Basement units are a critical component of meeting the need for housing stock in our city, but it is just as critical that government acts quickly to legalize, regulate and protect these units and the countless tenants who call them home — including with proper warnings in times of crisis.”

Williams said Mayor Bill de Blasio’s announcement that he will not further penalize homeowners and their basement tenants with fines at this time is “an essential preliminary step, and I appreciate his receptiveness to that need.”

The public advocate said he was also grateful that President Biden has issued a major disaster declaration and is providing the aid that designation entails.

“Right now, the focus is rightly on recovery,” he said. “But, in the immediate future, we need to direct attention and resources toward prevention, toward upgrading our infrastructure and protecting our neighbors and our homes.

“With the federal government allocating additional resources to our city and state in disaster response, it is crucial that funds be distributed to homeowners in order to legalize their basement units while maintaining lower rents for tenants who have already lost so much,” Williams added.

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