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President Biden Approves Major Disaster Declaration In Parts Of New York And New Jersey, Authorizing Federal Aid For Storm Victims

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- It has been five days since the remnants of Hurricane Ida ripped through the Tri-State Area. Many are still cleaning up.

On Monday, President Joe Biden signed a declaration to pump out federal funds to the local level, which will help New Yorkers in dire need, CBS2's John Dias reported.

"We had to come out through this way, and the water was already like a flowing river," said Woodside, Queens resident Litzy Gutierrez, 19, describing the flood.

Gutierrez and her extended family had to swim through floodwater to get to higher ground during last Wednesday's storm.

Their basement apartment flooded quickly. Her cousin's crib, along with most of their household possessions, are ruined.

"Most of the things are gone," Gutierrez said.

IDA RESOURCES: How To Report Damage, Find Shelter, Food, Mental Health Support & More

The family considers themselves lucky they got to safety. Around the corner, a 2-year-old and his parents drowned in the flood.

Most in the neighborhood were impacted by the storm and have been spending every day since cleaning up.

"I've been living in Woodside for 40 years," said Michael Roufakis. "This was the first time that I've ever seen this."

"There's not enough hours in the day to get this done," said David Benavides.

Flood waters reached the sixth step of the basement staircase in Julia Nieves' gutted home, destroying furniture, band equipment, and family photos.

"The washer, the dryer, the fridge, everything. Everything was floating," Nieves told CBS2's Christina Fan.

The initial numbers behind Ida's sheer devastation in New York are coming to light.

Gov. Kathy Hochul estimates 1,200 New York homes were seriously impacted by the storm, equating to well over $50 million in damage.

On Monday, President Biden approved a major disaster declaration for parts of New York and New Jersey.

"Bronx, Queens, Richmond, Brooklyn and Westchester. So individuals that live in those counties will be eligible for federal assistance through FEMA," said a representative from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Click here for more information and to find out if you qualify for federal relief.

FEMA reps and politicians, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Sen. Chuck Schumer and Mayor Bill de Blasio, surveyed parts of Queens to see the wreckage for themselves and spread the word that help is on the way.


"This is the fastest I've seen a major disaster area declared. We need it," Schumer said.

"We have to get them that money," said de Blasio.

Many New Yorkers hope it gets there fast.

"It would be good if we could get some financial aid, some way or another. That would go a long way," said Kevin Diamond, another Woodside resident.

But Nieves, like many families, said she is skeptical how much the grant will actually help, considering how FEMA processed her last flood claim in 1997.

"The inspector came in, he looked around and said to my husband, 'It's a basement. What do you want?'" Nieves said.

Many residents blamed the city for this disaster, claiming that crews did not turn on a pumping station fast enough to divert the water.

"There is a switch on the other side of the BQE that would flood the BQE instead of our homes," said Pat Florio, vice president of the Wynwood Gardens Neighborhood Association.

The mayor said he would investigate that claim and pledged to improve the city's sewer infrastructure and work with insurance companies to make sure more people are eligible for flood insurance.

De Blasio said his staff will be going door-to-door to get people signed up for FEMA assistance. The quickest way to register is by visiting or open up the FEMA app.

President Biden is scheduled to tour some of the hardest-hit communities in New York City and New Jersey on Tuesday.


At least four families were ordered to evacuate Monday because their basements were badly damaged by flooding.

All the basements in the Mariners Harbor section of the borough were feet-deep in water during last week's storm, and even though they've been drained in the days since -- and the families had continued to sleep upstairs -- the Department of Buildings found the cellar walls were no longer structurally stable, and everybody had to clear out, CBS2's Ali Bauman reported.

"We lost everything," resident Deb Muentes said.

READ MOREStaten Island Residents Frustrated They Cannot Get Remediation Companies To Visit Their Ida-Ravaged Homes

Muentes left empty handed from her home of 15 years. She and her husband were living in a basement that was flooded during last Wednesday storm, washing away everything they owned.

"Me and my husband were in the street trying to clear these two drains that were backing up. The manhole was coming up like a geyser and my kids were downstairs and they were trying to hold the door closed, and they couldn't. It was a lot," Muentes said.

Nearby in Westerleigh, Yvrose Lodescar had to totally gut her basement. She told Bauman the flooding was 4-feet high.

It took days to drain and dry, and by then, everything had mold.

"My sister lives down there. She has nothing. Everything lost," Lodescar said.

Staten Island is in one of five counties in New York included in President Biden's major disaster declaration that offers up to $34,000 in grants to residents.

If you would like to help one of the families get back on their feet, please check out their GoFundMe page.

CBS2's Christina Fan and Ali Bauman contributed to this report.

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