‘The backyards are coming down!’ Dyker Heights neighbors say FEMA won’t help them after Ida’s rains


DYKER HEIGHTS, Brooklyn — Wanda Luyando and her husband, Ruben, were getting ready to pay off  the mortgage on their Dyker Heights home–after 27 years–when punishing rains arrived in New York: the remnants of Hurricane Ida.

Now, she says,  her backyard is collapsing.

“The retaining wall just came down with all the water damage,” Luyando told PIX11 Tuesday. 

Luyando showed us the crumbled cement wall being shored up with sandbags–while her fence has moved sideways in the yard and there’s a wide crack in the concrete patio.

Her neighbor, Rainy Chen, echoed Luyando’s concerns about five backyards on 67th Street.

“All the way you can see, they’re cracked and they’re coming down,” Chen said.

Wanda Luyando contacted PIX11 after the city issued a “partial” vacate order for the backyards, and her request for Federal Emergency Management Agency assistance was rejected. Her husband told us what FEMA’s explanation was.

“The reasoning for them was if it was flooding the house, they would cover it,” Ruben Luyando said.  “But because it’s too far away from the house, they won’t cover it.”

More than 40 people were killed in New York and New Jersey when flash flooding from torrential rains washed out basements and first floors in homes throughout the region.

A spokesman for FEMA’s New York region told us the agency had approved 61, 039 “valid” registrations in the Empire State that are seeking monetary help to repair damage caused by Ida’s flooding. Nearly $75 million in aid has been earmarked, so far, for emergency housing assistance and repairs.

The FEMA rejection letter sent to the Luyandos noted they didn’t qualify for federal money “because the damage caused by the disaster did not make your home unsafe to live in.”

“I’m  here 27 years,” Wanda Luyando said, “and I’m going to soon pay off my home, and now I have to deal with this issue.  I actually don’t think it’s fair, and FEMA has all this money  to help us!”

Wanda Luyando can appeal the FEMA decision; her husband said he was advised to seek help from his local member of Congress.

Just last month, several days after the deadly rains, President Joe Biden joined U.S. Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirstin Gillibrand, along with Gov. Kathy Hochul, to visit areas of Queens that were devastated by Ida. The political leaders promised to do all they could to help homeowners and families who had lost loved ones.

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