Public Advocate Jumaane D. Williams released the following statement after meeting with victims of Hurricane Ida flooding in Queens today and ahead of an appearance by President Biden at the site of the disaster.
"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.
"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 apartments. 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. The Mayor'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.
"I am 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 - 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."