New York's Tornado Clean-Up Will Take Weeks

The clean-up from last week’s tornadoes in Brooklyn and Queens will take several more weeks, city officials said Thursday.

The tornadoes and severe storm that struck last Thursday resulted in over 3,000 reports of downed trees across Queens, Brooklyn and Staten Island. Residents made nearly 8,000 calls to 311 to report tree damage. Almost 6,000 of those came from Queens. Since then, the city has delegated multiple agencies to manage recovery efforts, starting with clearing streets for emergency and civilian vehicle traffic.

At a press conference to update the media on storm recovery efforts, the city’s Office of Emergency Management Commissioner Joseph Bruno said the city is working as quickly as it can to remove fallen trees and other debris.

“OEM and all the city agencies involved, with the help of our neighbors from Westchester, Suffolk and Nassau are working to bring things back to normal as quickly as we can, and we are doing it in a coordinated fashion," he said. "However, the recovery process will take weeks, not days."

Among the groups aiding in the cleanup are the Parks, Sanitation and Transportation departments, firefighters and police, and crews from nearby Long Island counties.

Inspectors from the Federal Emergency Management Agency are touring hard-hit areas in the three boroughs to assess damages, and to see if the city qualifies for federal disaster aid. If the city does qualify, officials say they plan to ask President Barack Obama for a federal disaster declaration.

“I want to take a moment to make it clear to people that we are doing everything we can to show these inspectors that New York City has suffered extensive damage due to this unprecedented storm,” Bruno told reporters.

But for some residents, the city’s efforts have not come fast enough. Forest Hills residents Janet Holwell and her husband Robert Berger paid a private contractor to remove an 80-year-old tree that struck their home last Thursday. Last weekend, Berger rode his bicycle around the neighborhood to find a contractor already working in Forest Hills, since most were too busy to take new appointments and city was taking longer than expected, his wife said.

“So we had our tree removed Saturday and the storm happened Thursday. But if we didn't do that, I think we might still be waiting,” Holwell said. The two estimate that their home suffered several thousand dollars in damage from the storm.