Assemblywoman Gina Sillitti has not forgotten about
the destruction Hurricane Ida left behind
In September of 2021, Hurricane Ida swept through Long Island, causing flooding and damages that New York State Assemblywoman Gina Sillitti is determined to help fix for the victims of the destruction. Assemblywoman Sillitti is making moves toward securing a relief fund in the 2022-23 state budget.
While Hurricane Ida was months ago now, many people on the North Shore are still affected by the storm’s aftermath. Port Washington resident Hassan Imam had his backyard destroyed by an unexpected flood of mud that began on the night of Sept. 1, 2021.
“The storm intensified around 8 o’clock. Before that, it was mostly rain,” said Imam. “All of a sudden, there was thunder and a loud sound.” Imam and his family checked out the back door of their home and saw water flowing down the hill leading to their backyard. “The water was like a river. Then we noticed it was beginning to turn into mud,” said Imam.
Imam and his family left their home, worrying for their safety, and stayed with other family members. When Imam returned the next day, he described his backyard as looking like a dead river. “The mudflow went to the driveway and through the trees into the street,” said Imam. “It was two to three feet of mud throughout the street. It took a while for the town to clean it up.”
“The mud was about a foot high in the driveway with debris, like broken glass,” said Imam. “About three or four feet of mud went into my garage and maybe one foot of mud into the basement.
Imam was devastated by the mass destruction Hurricane Ida did to his home. The day after the storm, when he returned to his home, he met Assemblywoman Sillitti in his driveway.
“It was my good luck that I met her that day,” said Imam. “After meeting her, she’s been trying to help me out.”
Lucky for Imam and other residents affected by the Hurricane, Assemblywoman Sillitti has made it a priority to help get funding for the damages that insurance and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) couldn’t cover.
“I live a few blocks over from Mr. Imam, and the day after the storm, I came out of my house to go to work, and I saw mud, which you don’t normally see around Manorhaven,” said Assemblywoman Sillitti. “The mud was streaming down the road, and I got in my car and followed the mud here to Mr. Imam’s house. He was standing in his driveway on his phone looking very distraught, so I got out and introduced myself.”
Imam walked Assemblywoman Sillitti around his home, showing her all the earth that had been churned up into mud. The back steps leading to sliding glass doors on Imam’s home are still, almost seven months later, buried under mud to the point where the mud levels up to the top step.
Imam’s home and other homes on the neighboring blocks experienced the same flooding of mud he did. But Port Washington wasn’t the only area to experience this destruction from Hurricane Ida.
“In Great Neck, there was a whole group of houses on about four blocks that didn’t have basements. They were on slabs,” said Assemblywoman Sillitti. “So instead of water filling up the basements, it was the first floor, which has everything: the dining room, the living room, the kitchen. It is terrible.”
“A gentleman from New Hyde Park had his basement filled to the top with water,” said Assemblywoman Sillitti. “A woman from Manhasset had water take away the earth from her yard. Now she has these huge holes in her backyard. I knocked on many doors and promised residents I wouldn’t forget about them, and I haven’t.”
“Most of the people in this area are in the middle of the peninsula. They’re nowhere near the water, so not many people had flood insurance,” said Assemblywoman Sillitti. “FEMA came in, and we are grateful for their assistance, but it wasn’t enough to fix everything. There is a big disparity between what insurance covered, what FEMA covered, and what the actual reality was.”
Since learning of the widespread devastation from Hurricane Ida, Assemblywoman Sillitti has gotten help for the residents. “Councilwoman Veronica Lurvey, Councilwoman Mariann Dalimonte, and Councilman Peter Zuckerman came to show support,” said Assemblywoman Sillitti. “I invited Supervisor Jennifer DeSena, but she had a prior engagement and wasn’t able to make it. But we talked at length about the situation, and we’re going to keep her in the loop. We need our partners in government. This is a truly bipartisan task because this is a group effort.”
Assemblywoman Sillitti looked into setting up a relief fund for Hurricane Ida and found that New York State has done something similar before. After a devastating flood in the Finger Lakes, the state set up a relief fund to help the residents who suffered severe property damage. After learning this, Assemblywoman Silliti “figured if we could do it there, we could do it here.”
Assemblywoman Sillitti partnered up with colleagues in Queens, and the Assembly recognized their efforts. The Assembly proposed a $50 million fund for Hurricane Ida relief to go into the Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery as part of the budget.
According to a press release about the Hurricane Relief fund, the Assembly proposal was voted upon on Monday, March 14 and will now enter into the final budget negotiations, so Long Islanders can receive the relief they deserve.
Assemblywoman Sillitti acknowledged that the relief fund isn’t going to cover everything, but she said that “it is an extra piece of the puzzle to get these people back on their feet and moving.”