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

Analyst: Joint-Arab Military Force Poses Perilous Challenge

Although international forces are desperately needed to counter the threat of the Islamic State group, analysts say conflicting alliances could escalate fighting More

Asia’s Middle Class Changes Demand for Wheat Grain Exporters

Changes in tastes and diets are boon for wheat exporters such as Australia and the United States More

S. African Comedian Taking Over Popular TV Show

Mixed-race comedian Trevor Noah, who is loved for his edgy jibes about race and language, is taking the helm from Jon Stewart at The Daily Show in US 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.
Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadistsi
X
Greg Flakus
March 30, 2015 6:48 PM
At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video With Coalition Airstrikes, Iraq Entering 'Last Page' of IS Battle

American warplanes joined Iraq's battle against the so-called 'Islamic State' in northern Iraq late Wednesday, as Iraqi ground troops launched a massive assault on Tikrit. Analysts say the offensive could take the coalition a step further towards Mosul, the largest city held by Islamic State forces. Others say it could also deepen already-dangerous sectarian tensions in the region. VOA's Heather Murdock has more from Cairo.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Hi-tech Motorbike Helmet's Goal: Improve Road Safety

In cities with heavily congested traffic, people can get around much faster on a motorcycle than in a car. But a rider who is not sure of his route may have to stop to look at the map or consult a GPS. A Russian start-up company is working to make navigation easier for motorcyclists. Designers at Moscow-based LiveMap are developing a smart helmet with a built-in navigation system, head-mounted display and voice recognition. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video DOJ: Illinois National Guard Soldier Tried to Join ISIS

U.S. federal law enforcement agents arrested two suburban Chicago men accused of trying to join ISIS overseas, while also plotting attacks in the United States. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports from the Midwest state of Illinois, one of those arrested is a soldier of the Illinois National Guard.
Video

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Traditional push-rim wheelchairs create a lot of stress for arm, shoulder and neck muscles and joints. A redesigned chair, based on readily available bicycle technology, radically increases mobility while reducing the physical effort. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More