FOREST HILLS, N.Y. (WPIX)—Federal officials are in Queens, Brooklyn and Staten Island today, touring the path of last week's tornadoes in order to determine if New York City will get funding from FEMA to help pay for the cleanup. Many residents, meanwhile, are frustrated that there is still damage left for FEMA inspectors to see.
People in some tornado-stricken neighborhoods tell PIX 11 News that they're fed up with power outages, walking over downed wires and trees, and dealing with 311 and their insurance companies six days after the storms hit.
A look around the Forest Hills and Rego Park neighborhoods of Queens shows that many of the more than 3,100 trees that came down citywide in last Thursday's storm are still on top of a lot of cars and on top of some houses. In fact, 439 buildings were damaged in the winds that blew at a rate of over 120 miles an hour, and seventy buildings were destroyed.
Still, federal workers are required to see this damage in person to determine if the government will help to pay for the cleanup. Touring FEMA officials are in New York to see if the damage totals at least $25 million. That's the threshold for New York to qualify for federal cleanup funds.
Whether or not the city qualifies, headaches remain for people who live in the affected areas. On many streets in Forest Hills, PIX 11 News observed working power lines held up off the street with ropes attached to remnants of the wooden poles which had held up the lines before the storm.
And at least those lines are working. Many residents told PIX 11 News that they've been without phone service since last Thursday night, which is particularly tough for people who don't have cellphones. "It is a big problem because we don't have a connection with medical offices, I can't be in touch with my grandson's school," Mayram Zarova said in describing her situation and that of other elderly neighbors. "Without a telephone, we don't have any life," she added.
Her neighbor, Lily Friedman, told PIX 11 News that she not only has not been able to get her car out of her driveway to run errands for her 90 year-old ailing husband, she hasn't had landline phone service. "A good samaritan slipped a note under my door, I opened it and there was a cellphone (a few days ago)," she said, but she added that her phone company, Verizon, told her that she would not get her service restored until October 5th.
The debris in front of her home, neighbors said, was what was left after city work crews had come and cleared and cut trees on two different occasions since last Thursday's storms. The Department of Sanitation has said that it has cleaned up and cleared as much as 250 tons of debris in one day across three boroughs, and that its crews are still hard at work.