Five days after an extremely rare tornado caused millions of dollars of damage in Bay Ridge, officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency — you remember them from Hurricane Katrina — surveyed the area to determine if some residents are eligible for federal aid.
But the agency made no promises.
“They looked at the damage and told us we make a good case for assistance,” said Carole Marlines, who works at the badly damaged Fourth Avenue Presbyterian Church, at 67th Street, which got a visit from FEMA inspectors at around noon on Monday.
The church lost of its historic stained-glass windows, including a 25-foot-tall religious scene installed in 1951, to the tornado’s 136-mile-per-hour gusts, which touched down around the corner of 67th Street and Fourth Avenue last Wednesday at around 5:30 am and damaged 100 cars and 60 homes — half of which suffered serious structural damage, according to state Sen. Marty Golden (R–Bay Ridge).
FEMA spokeswoman Kristina Simpson made it clear that none of the inspectors, who went door-to-door at one point, was toting a checkbook.
“This is the gathering of information,” said Simpson. “When walking up and down the streets and talking to folks here, the thing that became clear is there was all this confusion about whether they should call FEMA. The answer is no. The first step they need to take is call their insurance companies.”
Many cheered the federal officials, but some thought their fact-finding mission needed a bit more, how you say, cash.
“Insurance is only going to give so much,” said John Quaglione, a Golden aide. “We’re hoping the federal government does intervene to give financial assistance to homeowners and car owners.”
Others blasted the federal bureaucracy for moving too slowly.
“This is ridiculous that help is so slow to come,” said Hassan Hakmoun, who was busy moving his relatives out of their house at 339 Bay Ridge Ave. “They’ll be fine staying with me, but there are a lot of families who may not be so fortunate.”
Hakmoun said that his relatives, a family of eight, had received only $120 for food from the American Red Cross. He thinks the problem is red tape.
“We try to call people but we keep getting rerouted and it is hard to find anyone who really knows what is going on,” Hakmoun added. “We all pay our taxes, but the government doesn’t like giving it up.”
New York State’s Insurance Department has set up a disaster hotline. Call (800) 339-1759.
©2007 Community Newspaper Group
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