Sandra Rosero was recently trying to get breakfast from her room in Aloft New York Brooklyn when she realized she was stuck.
She had a sprained foot so her first choice was to order delivery, but she had trouble getting the “high speed internet” the hotel’s website boasts to work and her phone had spotty reception in her room. The phones in the hotel didn’t work either so she couldn’t call downstairs, not that room service was an option anyway.
When she realized her only option would be to get on her crutches and get food somewhere nearby, she noticed the door wouldn’t open. She tried opening it, but it was stuck.
That’s when the panic started setting in.
When she heard someone in the hallway, she started screaming for help. Shortly after, a security guard came up and muscled his way into the door.
Rosero was sobbing when they finally got it open.
“I was scared I was going to have a heart attack,” she said.
Rosero is one of hundreds of people — who mostly lived in basement units — displaced by the extreme flooding caused by Hurricane Ida on Sept. 1.
The city has helped 380 families find temporary housing in hotels, according to city's department of Housing Preservation & Development. HPD has worked in conjunction with the American Red Cross to help those displaced by Ida.
A HPD spokesperson said the families were originally spread out in hotels across the five boroughs. But on Nov. 15, the city ordered the remaining 200 families to move into two hotels in downtown Brooklyn.
Many of the displaced people are still dealing with the trauma from that night in September, when some said they almost lost their lives struggling to escape their rapidly flooding homes.
Residents say the most recent relocation has only made matters worse, especially the first day they were transferred.
“It was chaos — [everything] discombobulated,” said Reggie Johnson, who was transferred from Staten Island.
Residents say the hotels were packed with people, luggage strewn everywhere, and children lying atop bags for hours without much direction or guidance about their rooms.
Representatives of Aloft New York Brooklyn did not respond to a request for comment.
H. Bradley, who chose not to share her full name for fear it would impact her housing assistance, and her fiancé arrived at the hotels in Brooklyn at around 8 in the morning, but didn’t get a room until 11:30 at night, she said.
“They didn’t have the rooms cleaned. They were sending us from this hotel to the other one [across the street]. Back and forth,” Bradley said. “And they were starting to yell at us. Everybody was restless so we just had to cope with it.”
According to a spokesperson for HPD, the relocation was needed to allow caseworkers to more easily access residents.
“When people do get into our emergency housing system, we do have case managers who assist each individual family one-on-one and we just try to connect them to other city resources, other community organizations and we also try to help them to identify long-term problem solutions that the agency may be able to offer,” said Jeremy House, a spokesperson for HPD.
But two weeks after the move, six people staying at the Aloft and Hotel Indigo who were interviewed said they had yet to be contacted by a caseworker.
“I thought this was a place for them to help you,” Rosero said. “It feels almost scary to be alone.”
The neighborhood for Rosero, like so many others, is unfamiliar because it’s about 10 miles from the first hotel she was placed in, which was near her East Elmhurst home.
“I was able to get out and function and do my errands,” she said. “It was easy for me to get to my appointments. It was easy for me to move around. I knew the neighborhood. This is not my neighborhood so this is a challenge.”
Carlos Leonardo Gomez Hidalgo and his elderly mother moved into the Aloft New York Brooklyn from a hotel in Times Square.
In the Manhattan hotel, Hidalgo had access to a hot plate so they were able to cook. He said the new hotel doesn’t offer that or a microwave so he has to purchase all meals outside, which quickly adds up financially.
“I wish I could come back to Times Square because we felt secure over there,” he said.
The other hotel housing displaced Ida victims, Hotel Indigo, which describes itself as “a chic hotel in the heart of downtown Brooklyn” on its website, is across the street from Aloft New York Brooklyn.
“I haven't seen housekeeping not once,” said Stephanie Machuca, who transferred on Nov. 15. “When I got here, it was an out-of-order room. It was paint chips all over.”
Machuca and her son got a dustpan and broom and swept up the paint chips themselves, she said.
The Hotel Indigo did not respond to a request for comment.
Last month, Mayor Bill de Blasio, responding to a question from a NY1 reporter on the living conditions at the hotels, said that he was unaware of the issue, but that it was “unacceptable.”
And he expanded on the city’s efforts for displaced people from Hurricane Ida in a news conference days after he made those remarks: “Anyone who is unable to go back to their home, of course, we'll do everything to get them to some kind of permanent or long-term affordable housing. And we, obviously, want to keep people as close to home as possible in the process. So, we'll continue to support each family until they get to full resolution hopefully in the vast majority of cases, meaning their home is good again and some place they can be.”
On Nov. 24, he called on FEMA to provide more aid and noted other forms of assistance the city has provided such as food, sanitation crews assisting with cleanup of the affected neighborhoods and extensions of city grants and loans.
De Blasio said the ideal solution is to get people back into their homes.
“If they literally cannot, the home will not be usable again, then, of course, we want to give them support, continuity, get them to affordable housing, as best we can,” he said.
Beyond alerting people to available apartments, however, officials did not share how people would be assisted with affordable housing options.
For people like Machuca and others, who still feel like they’ve been left in the dark three months after the hurricane upended their lives, it’s getting harder to remain optimistic.
“If they didn't come for two and a half months, what makes you think they're going to come over here?” asked Machuca.