By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Hurricane Sandy took place more than six months ago, yet New York City is still feeling her aftermath. Some residents whose homes were destroyed are still living in hotels, unable to find new places to live.
The Bloomberg Administration, which is funding the sheltering of victims in hotels, is seeking to move the victims out of their temporary housing.
Councilman Stephen Levin (D-Brooklyn Heights-Park Slope) is blasting the administration over the move. Levin said he was heartened when the city’s plan was met with a strong rebuke from New York State Supreme Court Justice Margaret A Chan. Chan issued a temporary restraining order on May 1 to prevent the city from moving ahead with its plan to force the displaced families out of hotels.
“I applaud Justice Chan for issuing a temporary restraining order that provides victims needed relief, but at the same time I am dismayed at the city’s heartless reaction to challenge her order,” said Levin, a member of the council’s General Welfare Committee.
The city had originally issued an April 30 deadline for families to leave. But Chan put a hold on that. The New York Gazette reported that Chan ruled that families can say until the middle of this month. There are approximately 365 families still living in hotels due to the Oct. 29 hurricane, the Gazette reported. The city is appealing Chan’s decision and another court hearing is set for May 13.
Levin criticized the administration for challenging the court ruling and said it is still trying to kick families out of the emergency housing program.
“While Mayor Bloomberg was very active in the initial response and acknowledged that work on the buildings ravaged by Hurricane Sandy would take a ‘very long time,’ it now seems that he has forgotten about the degree of devastation that Sandy inflicted on our city,” Levin charged.
Levin said that at a recent City Council hearing, council members heard double talk from administration officials. “They told us they are seeking HUD vouchers that could be made available to victims of Sandy within two months. But in the next breath they are taking action to kick these same families out of the hotel-sheltering program,” he said.
The city shouldn’t be imposing any deadline, according to Levin. “An arbitrary deadline to end this program is an outrage, especially when there are families still in need and when these vouchers could be made available in such a short time-span,” Levin said. “Now it’s time for Mayor Bloomberg to realize that we need to stand by victims not just for the short-term, but until we are fully recovered,” he said.
Thomas Crain, chief of the New York City Law Department’s Litigation Division, told the Gotham Gazette that the department is confident the judge will ultimately rule in the city’s favor. “We are gratified that the court has agreed to hear and decide the matter promptly. We believe the court will ultimately find that the city's response has been completely proper," he stated.