NYC Sandy refugees say they need hotel program
NEW YORK (AP) — A few hundred New Yorkers still homeless nearly a year after Superstorm Sandy are asking the city for more time to find shelter before they're evicted from their hotel rooms.
Federal funding for the program ended this week, but about 300 people are still sleeping in city-funded hotel rooms that are paid for through Friday. Several of them held a press conference Wednesday with elected officials to fight for the program's continuation.
Among them was Cherell Manuel, who said she found a new place to live but needs a few more weeks to get all the pieces in place before moving. Manuel and her four children have been living in hotels since the storm flooded their home in Far Rockaway, Queens.
"We didn't ask to be here. They act like we asked to be here," she said, standing on the steps of City Hall. "We're the victims of a devastation."
The city has spent $70 million to house more than 3,000 people left homeless since the storm hit Oct. 29, officials say. Each room costs about $266 per night.
A judge last week sided with city lawyers and lifted an injunction that protected the housing program, saying that the city doesn't have the finances to continue the program now that the Federal Emergency Management Agency has stopped its financial support.
Michael Cardozo, the city's top lawyer, said in a statement Wednesday that the city has "dedicated tremendous effort and resources" to those displaced.
"Interim housing, along with intensive case management services, was provided but was never intended to be a permanent solution," he said. "As the court has recognized, the city cannot afford to single-handedly continue this program in the absence of FEMA funding."
Cardozo said anyone without a place to go could access a city homeless shelter, and staff would work with them to find housing.
At the press conference, Carol Hefty, 73, said her flooded-out home in Staten Island was on its way back to being livable, but still needed to have appliances connected and other last bits of reconstruction. She has been living in a hotel in Staten Island since the storm, and says she doesn't have any place to go if the eviction takes place because her children live in other states. She said she was asking for another three or four weeks.
"I'm doing everything right now not to cry," she said.
City Councilmember Donovan Richards Jr. said that with the anniversary of the storm and the holiday season approaching, "there is no reason we shouldn't do what's right for the people of New York City."