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Police Probing Basement Deaths Caused By Ida Flooding

Flooding from Hurricane Ida in Conshohocken, Pennsylvania

The owners of basement dwellings where people drowned could face criminal charges after police complete investigations into the fatal incidents.

Of the 13 people killed in the deluge, 11 people died in basement apartment flooding, Gothamist reported. The deaths were at six basements in Brooklyn and Queens, five of which the Department of Buildings said were converted illegally, per the publication.

"I could tell you that we've got some miraculous plan to solve the illegal basement problem overnight. We don't," Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a press conference Tuesday. "It is a massive structural problem in the city. It has been for decades. We don't have an immediate solution to this one."

A Pratt Center for Community Development study estimated there are 144,000 basement apartments in the city, and de Blasio has said the city estimates there are at least 50,000 of them in the city. Complaints made to 311 about them have dropped in recent years — there were nearly 20,000 complaints in 2018 and nearly 17,000 in 2019.

New York City laws require a basement ceiling to be at least 7 feet and 6 inches high, according to The New York Times. There have been deaths in these forms of dwellings before, when fires have swept through and people have not been able to escape.

These types of houses have provided a form of cheaper housing amid an affordability crisis. Ida was estimated to have caused $18B in damages nationwide even before it ripped through the nation’s largest city last Thursday. CoreLogic estimates there was up to $24B of property damage from the storm in the Northeast, with 19% of that in New York state. The White House is requesting $10B for recovery funds, NBC reports.