News / USA

Storm Brings Ruin to NYC Family

Carolyn Weaver
Maria Gonzalez, 17, and her family have lived in Brooklyn since emigrating from Mexico when she was only four.  Her younger brothers, Jerry, 10, and Junior, five, were born here.  For years, they have rented a windowless basement apartment in a rundown house near the Gowanus Canal, one of the most hazardous polluted sites in the United States.

When the hurricane blew through Monday, it flooded the family's apartment a meter deep, with water from the overflowing canal. The family had piled its beds and couch on top of tables and chairs, but it wasn't high enough. The water filled the apartment.  Even the refrigerator had fallen over and was floating in the living room.  Junior started crying when he saw his book bag was ruined.

"We knew the water would come in, because even in casual rains, it comes in here.  But we didn't think it would be so bad to ruin everything we had," Maria said.

"We took outside yesterday, all the mattresses, because everything got ruined.  You can come into my room to see how bad it is.  The TV got ruined.  Everything's wet."

She points at a cupboard on the wall.  "I had this filled with books, and it fell apart.  I had to throw all my schoolbooks and all my textbooks in the garbage because they were all soaked.  They're all like this.  You can't even open it, turn the pages or anything."

But the fish tank, filled with pristine water for the family's tropical fish, made it through. They're a note of incongruous color in the devastated apartment, like the cheerful paintings and photographs on the walls.

"We were so worried about them, because we didn't know how high the water was, and we didn't know if they were swimming alone in the water or were still in the tank," Maria said.  "The electricity was out for a while, so they had no oxygen."

Maria and her parents, Rodrigo and Carmen, spent the first day pumping out their home.  The boys helped.

"I was very scared when the storm came because I didn't know what was going to happen," Jerry said.  As the apartment began to flood, he said, the family left to sleep at a relative's second-floor apartment a few doors away.  The family is still sleeping there, on blankets on the floor.

"The water was up to half the door and we had to get buckets and take out all the water," Jerry said of their return home the next day.  "Until we opened the door and we saw the refrigerator floating on the water."

Now the Gonzalezes are trying to get it clean enough to live in again.  The kitchen sink broke, so they have only the sink in the bathroom.  Their landlord stopped by Tuesday, Maria said, and told them the family was responsible for making the repairs.

"He's actually been raising the rent and he's starting to charge us more and saying he wants to kick us out and he wants to take us out of here," Maria said.

Carmen is now out of work because her workplace in a small factory also flooded.  Rodrigo's job as a waiter in a bar doesn't bring in enough to cover all the family's expenses.

Maria knows there is no way she can afford the $500 needed for her senior graduation trip and formal dance.  It was due the day of the hurricane.  But now her family needs to buy new mattresses, at a minimum.

"I mean like we have to replace everything before we can even [think about how to] pay that.  And then you have college applications and you have to pay for all of that, and then you have to start saving up for college," Maria said, beginning to tear up.  "But I'm like, that's the least of our worries right now, we just have to get our house back together and try to do the best we can."

The Gonzalezes hope to be able to live again in the home at least for a while.  Carmen Gonzalez thinks it will be hard to find anything else they can afford.  But she says that they can't really afford their current rent, either.

You May Like

Australia-Cambodia Resettlement Agreement Raises Concerns

Agreement calls for Cambodia to accept refugees in return for $35 million in aid and reflects Australia’s harder line approach towards asylum seekers and refugees More

India Looks to Become Arms Supplier Instead of Buyer

US hopes India can become alternative to China for countries looking to buy weapons, but experts question growth potential of Indian arms industry More

Earth Day Concert, Rally Draws Thousands in Washington

President Obama also took up the issue Saturday in his weekly address, saying there 'no greater threat to our planet than climate change' More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Anonymous
November 01, 2012 7:51 PM
Shocking that the city does not protect people from landlords like this.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?i
X
Steve Sandford
April 17, 2015 12:50 AM
Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?

Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Overwhelmed by Migrants, Italy Mulls Military Action to Stabilize Libya

Thousands more migrants have arrived on the southern shores of Italy from North Africa in the past two days. Authorities say they expect the total number of arrivals this year to far exceed previous levels, and the government has said military action in Libya might be necessary to stem the flow. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Putin Accuses Kyiv of ‘Cutting Off’ Eastern Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his annual televised call-in program, again denied there were any Russian troops fighting in Ukraine. He also said the West was trying to ‘contain’ Russia with sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports on reactions to the president’s four-hour TV appearance.
Video

Video Eye Contact Secures Dog's Place in Human Heart

Dogs serve in the military, work with police and assist the disabled, and have been by our side for thousands of years serving as companions and loyal friends. We love them. They love us in return. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on a new study that looks at the bio-chemical bond that cements that human-canine connection.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Search for Bodies of Missing Soldiers

As the cease-fire becomes more fragile in eastern Ukraine, a team of volunteer body collectors travels to the small village of Savur Mohyla in the what pro-Russian separatists call the Donetsk Peoples Republic - to retrieve bodies of fallen Ukrainian servicemen from rebel-held territories. Adam Bailes traveled with the team and has this report.
Video

Video Xenophobic Violence Sweeps South Africa

South Africa, long a haven for African immigrants, has been experiencing the worst xenophobic violence in years, with at least five people killed and hundreds displaced in recent weeks. From Johannesburg, VOA’s Anita Powell brings us this report.
Video

Video Sierra Leone President Koroma Bemoans Ebola Impact on Economy

In an interview with VOA's Shaka Ssali on Wednesday, President Ernest Koroma said the outbreak undermined his government’s efforts to boost and restructure the economy after years of civil war.
Video

Video Protester Lands Gyrocopter on Capitol Lawn

A 61-year-old mailman from Florida landed a small aircraft on the Capitol lawn in Washington to bring attention to campaign finance reform and what he says is government corruption. Wednesday's incident was one in a string of security breaches on U.S. government property. Zlatica Hoke reports the gyrocopter landing violated a no-fly zone.
Video

Video Apollo 13, NASA's 'Successful Failure,' Remembered

The Apollo 13 mission in 1970 was supposed to be NASA's third manned trip to the moon, but it became much more. On the flight's 45th anniversary, astronauts and flight directors gathered at Chicago's Adler Planetarium to talk about how the aborted mission changed manned spaceflight and continues to influence space exploration today. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Badly Burned Ukrainian Boy Bravely Fights Back

A 9-year-old Ukrainian boy has returned to his native country after intensive treatment in the United States for life-threatening burns. Volodia Bubela, burned in a house fire almost a year ago, battled back at a Boston hospital, impressing doctors with his bravery. Faith Lapidus narrates this report from VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko.
Video

Video US Maternity Leave Benefits Much Less Than Many Countries

It was almost 20 years ago that representatives of 189 countries met at a UN conference in Beijing and adopted a plan of action to achieve gender equality around the world. Now, two decades later, the University of California Los Angeles World Policy Analysis Center has issued a report examining what the Beijing Platform for Action has achieved. From Los Angeles, Elizabeth Lee has more.
Video

Video Endangered Hawaiian Birds Get Second Chance

Of the world's nearly 9,900 bird species, 13 percent are threatened with extinction, according to BirdLife International. Among them are two Hawaiian honeycreepers - tiny birds that live in the forest canopy, and, as the name implies, survive on nectar from tropical flowers. Scientists at the San Diego Zoo report they have managed to hatch half a dozen of their chicks in captivity, raising hopes that the birds will flutter back from the brink of extinction. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Exhibit Brings Renaissance Master Out of the Shadows

The National Gallery of Art in Washington has raised the curtain on one of the most intriguing painters of the High Renaissance. Mostly ignored after his death in the early 1500s, Italian master Piero di Cosimo is now claiming his place alongside the best-known artists of the period. VOA’s Ardita Dunellari reports.
Video

Video Sidemen to Famous Blues Artists Record Their Own CD

Legendary blues singer BB King was briefly hospitalized last week and the 87-year-old “King of the Blues” may not be touring much anymore. But some of the musicians who have played with him and other blues legends have now released their own CD in an attempt to pass the torch to younger fans... and put their own talents out front as well. VOA’s Greg Flakus has followed this project over the past year and filed this report from Houston.
Video

Video Iran-Saudi Rivalry Is Stoking Conflict in Yemen

Iran has proposed a peace plan to end the conflict in Yemen, but the idea has received little support from regional rivals like Saudi Arabia. They accuse Tehran of backing the Houthi rebels, who have forced Yemen’s president to flee to Riyadh, and have taken over swaths of Yemen. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA, analysts say the conflict is being fueled by the Sunni-Shia rivalry between the two regional powers.

VOA Blogs