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Displaced Forest Hills resident seeks flood relief assistance following Hurricane Ida

Heidi Pashko's Forest Hills apartment was severely damaged by flooding following the aftermath of Hurricane Ida that brought record rainfall and flooding to the city on Sept. 1. (Photo courtesy of Pashko)

Heidi Pashko doesn’t know when she and her husband will be able to return to their Forest Hills apartment that was severely damaged by flooding caused by the remnants of Hurricane Ida that hit the city two weeks ago. 

Following the aftermath of the historic storm, Pashko has been staying with her son in Long Island. Everyday, Pashko and her husband, Ted, commute from Long Island to Forest Hills to clean up what is left of their one-bedroom apartment that they have called home for the past 45 years on Yellowstone Boulevard. 

“We are 67 years old and it’s a lot to deal with. I have arthritis in my body, and you can’t live with your children forever, so we are in a hardship right now,” Pashko said. “The way it’s looking, once they fix this apartment I might have to move back in because I can’t afford to pay $2,000 to $3,000 rent for an apartment.”  

Pashko’s apartment damage following flooding caused by Hurricane Ida. (Photo courtesy of Heidi Pashko)

Pashko is a retired school aide and her husband is currently employed as a paraprofessional for the NYC Board of Education. The couple recently went on vacation to celebrate their anniversary, and they didn’t expect to return to chaos. 

When the remnants of Hurricane Ida pummeled the city with torrential rainfall on the night of Sept. 1, images were shared on social media of cars submerged in flooded streets and water gushing into the subway stations in Queens. 

In Forest Hills, the commercial corridor of Austin Street was a river, Pashko said. 

Water had gushed into the couple’s apartment through the toilet, bathtub, the front door and kitchen window with a powerful force, throwing Pashko across the living room, she said. 

“My left shoulder down to my wrist is bruised black and blue and my right shoulder as well,” Pashko said. “Every piece of furniture is destroyed. The couch that was by one wall, landed on something else. My refrigerator was wedged and could not be opened.” 

Photo courtesy of Heidi Pashko

When Pashko called 911, she was infuriated that no one answered the phone, she said.  

“This was an emergency and you didn’t answer the phone? How dare they … we were up to five feet of water and you can’t answer the phone?” Pashko said. “We then called 311 and were still waiting on hold. The services are horrible.” 

According to Pashko, all seven apartments on the first floor of the seven story building were destroyed, as well as the apartments above, as water rushed in from the roof and filled the elevators. 

Two weeks prior to the storm, the couple had remodeled their kitchen spending close to $3,500 on appliances, which doesn’t include the new hutch that was installed, a backsplash and new rugs purchased last summer, Pashko said. 

“Home Depot will not forgive the credit. They’re only suspending payments for two months. I said I’m unemployed and I just retired … my husband and I work for the city of New York [we are the lowest paying people] but they didn’t care,” Pashko said. 

While they were able to salvage some of their items, which have been moved to a storage facility, Pashko says they don’t have flood insurance since Forest Hills is not considered a flood zone. Also, protection against property loss due to flooding is typically not covered under renters and homeowner’s insurance policies.

This isn’t the first time the couple has experienced flooding in their apartment. In August 2007, according to Pashko, their apartment was filled with 4 feet of water during a short but heavy rainfall. 

“You just never forget something like that,” Pashko said. 

 After Ida, Pashko described the neighborhood as a “war zone,” the day after the storm ravaged the borough. 

Photo courtesy of Heidi Pashko

“Everyone was cleaning up and there were mounds of trash outside. It was sad. Everyone is doing what they can do,” Pashko said. 

Pashko’s building was cleaned by a restoration company that removed the mud and debris and wiped down the walls, floors and furniture in residents’ apartments, she said. 

The horrible stench in the apartment has resulted in Pashko developing a cough, she said. Air purifiers were also placed in the apartment to sanitize the air, which may include pollutants, allergens and toxins. 

“I’m paying for the electricity in the apartment and I’m not even living here,” Pashko said. “This goes on 24/7.” 

While the cleanup continued, Pashko had visited a service center in Woodside where personnel from the American Red Cross provided flood relief assistance to residents impacted by the historic storm. 

Recently, the city collaborated with FEMA’s disaster recovery centers to provide resources to New Yorkers eligible for assistance. The service centers in each borough will be open until further notice. 

In the meantime, as Pashko awaits her forms to be processed to receive help, her sister in Florida has launched a GoFundMe campaign, and a friend has created an Amazon wish list for the couple. 

“We hope all of the papers went through. We are looking to move somewhere else temporarily,” Pashko said. 

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