Clock ticking as Sandy victims look for new homes

Kings Hotel
People near the Kings Hotel, where many Sandy victims are staying. (Credit: Miles Dixon)

Dena Pinto just wants a home again.

Pinto lost her apartment, on 116th Street in Far Rockaway, during Hurricane Sandy.

In the six months since, she’s shuttled from hotel to hotel, finally landing in a city-funded Brooklyn room.

But Pinto, like about 800 others that the Coalition for the Homeless estimates are in city-funded hotels, will soon lose her room key.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg will close the hotel program April 30.

Advocates say that means people like Pinto, 47, will have no place to go.

The night of the hurricane, she said, “We were literally standing in the ocean. It was wild.”

She tried to stay, but mold intervened. She ended up in a hotel in Queens, then one in Brooklyn.

After she and her fiancée lost their assistance for the Park Slope hotel, the city placed them at Kings Hotel on Atlantic Avenue.

“We’re just dealing with it,” she said, describing the tiny room where she and her fiancée can barely inch past each other. “It’s hell.”

They want their own place, but Giselle Routhier, a Coalition policy analyst who is helping Pinto, said she faces a stream of problems too common among Sandy victims.

First, they faced a slew of paperwork and frustrating waits for assistance approval. In Far Rockaway, Pinto had an affordable apartment. Now she can’t find something similar.

“Their incomes are not enough to support relocation to a market-rate apartment,” Routhier said.

The mayor recently announced a rental-assistance system, which will help, Routhier said.

Under the program, the city promises rental subsidies for households displaced by Sandy, something advocates have said families need to transition.

Renters will pay up to 30 percent of their income in rent, with the city helping to cover cost after that. Funds are also allotted to help with first and last month’s rent to facilitate leases quickly, according to city plans.

But for people in hotels, a few weeks might not be enough to secure affordable rents. Routhier fears they will end up in the shelter system.

“The majority of them are not going to have housing going forward,” she said. “That’s a huge problem.”

Follow Alison Bowen on Twitter @reporteralison.


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