By Jessica Easthope
The floors and walls are dry. It’s been more than two months since Tropical Storm Ida, but Leticia Orta can still feel the water rising.
The basement apartment where she lived for 12 years and nearly everything in it was destroyed.
“It was really sad, seeing all my things thrown away and I couldn’t keep anything from there,” Leticia said.
Currents News first reported on Leticia’s story after the storm when she was forced to start over. But she looks back and knows she was one of the lucky ones.
“The most important thing is that I’m alive and I have a job and my family and that’s going to be my strength to keep going,” she said.
Eleven Queens residents died in basement apartments during the storm. It’s estimated there are around 200,000 basement apartments in New York City – many of them illegal.
Leticia is now staying in a one room basement apartment with her son. It’s half the size of her old place, but she can’t afford anything else. She has close to $50,000 in property loss – and only received $6,000 from FEMA and rents in her area are skyrocketing.
“The rents are tremendously high and I can’t do this, I’m not going to be working just to pay rent,” said Leticia.
Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens gave Leticia a table set and her parish, St. Mary’s Winfield also offered help. She says the support of her pastor and fellow parishioners is more than enough – it’s keeping her faith strong at a time when she needs it most.
“It makes me feel like I’m not alone, I always feel like my faith is in God and he’s going to help me, and even if it hurts I know I’m going to be okay,” she said.
Leticia plans to stay put for now until she saves enough money to replace her things, remaining grateful for the things she can’t replace.