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

    S. African Farmer Goes From 'Voice in the Wilderness' to Sought-After Expert

    Margarest Roberts has authored more than 40 books on subjects like organic farming, urban agriculture, herbs and ‘superfoods'

    Millennial Men Prefer Bucks Over Beauty

    U.S. men aged 18 to 34 say the finances of a potential significant other are more important than her looks

    Multimedia Lebanese Clown Troupe Marks Valentine's Day Amid Stink

    Activists resort to unusual approaches to raise public awareness of country’s ongoing trash crisis

    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.
    Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growthi
    X
    February 10, 2016 5:54 AM
    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growth

    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Civil Rights Pioneer Remembers Struggle for Voting Rights

    February is Black History Month in the United States. The annual, month-long national observance pays tribute to important people and events that shaped the history of African Americans. VOA's Chris Simkins reports how one man fought against discrimination to help millions of blacks obtain the right to vote
    Video

    Video Jordanian Theater Group Stages Anti-Terrorism Message

    The lure of the self-styled “Islamic State” has many parents worried about their children who may be susceptible to the organization’s online propaganda. Dozens of Muslim communities in the Middle East are fighting back -- giving young adults alternatives to violence. One group in Jordan is using dramatic expression a send a family message. Mideast Broadcasting Network correspondent Haider Al Abdali shared this report with VOA. It’s narrated by Bronwyn Benito
    Video

    Video Migrant Crisis Fuels Debate Over Britain’s Future in EU

    The migrant crisis in Europe is fueling the debate in Britain ahead of a referendum on staying in the European Union that may be held this year. Prime Minister David Cameron warns that leaving the EU could lead to thousands more migrants arriving in the country. Meanwhile, tension is rising in Calais, France, where thousands of migrants are living in squalid camps. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clowns

    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Families Flee Aleppo for Kurdish Regions in Syria

    Not all who flee the fighting in Aleppo are trying to cross the border into Turkey. A VOA reporter caught up with several families heading for Kurdish-held areas of northern Syria.
    Video

    Video Rocky Year Ahead for Nigeria Amid Oil Price Crash

    The global fall in the price of oil has rattled the economies of many petroleum exporters, and Africa’s oil king Nigeria is no exception. As Chris Stein reports from Lagos, analysts are predicting a rough year ahead for the continent’s top producer of crude.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.