Days after answering Gov. Hochul’s call to provide federal relief for New York and to support infrastructure initiatives after flash flooding from Tropical Storm Ida poured into the Big Apple’s subway system, President Biden made a visit to East Elmhurst on Sept. 7.
“This goes so far beyond what anybody is willing to speak up to until now,” said Biden. “We just finished surveying the damage here in Queens.”
On Sept. 1, the World’s Borough was slammed with heavy rainfalls that knocked out the subway system, which has had staggered service since Sept. 2.
“Trains were shut down, people were stranded,” said Hochul at an earlier press conference on Sept. 2 in Hollis, where Phamatee Ramskriet, 43, and her son, Khrishah Ramskriet, 22, where found dead after the flash flooding.
At least eight people from the borough were found dead after the torrential downpour and over a dozen throughout the city, according to the NYPD.
Queens County had rainfall as low as 2.77 inches at John F. Kennedy International Airport and as high as 6.9 inches in Flushing on Sept. 1, according to the National Weather Service, the federal agency tasked with providing climate forecasts. Beechhurst was hit with 3.9 inches of rain, Kew Garden Hills had 5.77 inches and LaGuardia Airport had 6.89 inches.
“The waves crashed through the streets here,” said Biden, “testing the aging infrastructure and taking lives. More lives were taken here than down in Louisiana.”
Tropical Storm Ida may have been downgraded from a hurricane after it killed 13 in Louisiana, according to officials in the Pelican State, but when it devastated the Northeastern states of New Jersey, Connecticut, Maryland, Pennsylvania and New York, at least 52 people died.
“They had over 20 inches of rain,” in the South, Biden said. “They had 178 mph wind gusts.”
The torrential rains caused a suspension of the E and W trains, as well as delays on the 7, J and G trains and a partial suspension of service on the F, M, N and R trains, according to the MTA’s website on its Service Status page for subways. There was no information of changes to the Z train line on the webpage on Sept. 2.
Pumps had to be used to remove the floodwaters from the subway system, according to Hochul. The toll of the flood was so immense that bus operators had to rescue straphangers from subway stations when they were left stranded because of the rainwater, according to Hochul, who declared a state of emergency on Sept. 2 during the Hollis press conference and reached out to Biden for federal funds.
“Our transit workers are heroes,” said Hochul at that conference. “Especially, all the bus operators who had to be deployed to take people from stations to where they needed to go. It was an extraordinary rescue operation just a few hours ago.”
Hochul said it was time to invest in infrastructure for streets because that has a direct effect on the subway system.
“We got to build this up ... and get this done so that we can take care of the drainage in our streets,” said Hochul. “When the streets get flooded, what happens next? The water washes down. Not just into our highways, but it also finds its way to penetrate our subway system.”
Biden would later declare on Sept. 2 that New York was eligible for federal assistance to supplement state, tribal and local response efforts due to the emergency conditions from the remnants of Ida.
“The President’s action authorizes the Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), to coordinate all disaster relief efforts which have the purpose of alleviating the hardship and suffering caused by the emergency on the local population ... or avert the threat of a catastrophe in the counties of Bronx, Dutchess, Kings, Nassau, New York, Orange, Putnam, Queens, Richmond, Rockland, Suffolk, Sullivan, Ulster, and Westchester,” said a White House press release.
Hochul is also working with U. S. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) to get more infrastructure dollars for the Empire State.
In a press release on Sept. 5, Schumer called the storm “a warning bell to New York” and said there needs to be a nearly $10 billion allocation for the MTA in infrastructure legislation in the U.S. Senate.
“If Ida has shown us anything, it is the need to pass legislation that deals with the wrath and fury of storms amid a very real climate crisis,” said Schumer. “Whether it’s the needs of the MTA, projects like Gateway, the Second Avenue subway, the East River Tunnels, Penn Access and others, this package represents massive investments that will rebuild and revive the Empire State’s infrastructure, which recent hurricanes have shown is in dire need of upgrades and resiliency funds.”