Tag Archives: DEP

Artist behind 5Pointz banner hopes to open dialogue on gentrification

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo by Andy Kim

A duo of Brooklyn artists hope their recent stop in Long Island City will help open the door to a solution.

Artists gilf! and BAMN (By Any Means Necessary) collaborated on Sunday to put a large yellow caution tape, about 3 feet wide and a few hundred feet long, around the Jackson Avenue side of the building which was once home to 5Pointz, with the words “Gentrification in Progress.”

Gilf!, who just goes by her artist name, said it was sad to see the 5Pointz group fight for so long to keep the graffiti mecca alive and in the end just watch it be whitewashed. She believes small businesses are what bring character to New York City, and she has been speaking out against gentrification for a while.

The artist said she had been speaking with BAMN about wanting to create a piece for 5Pointz and following another one of her shows against gentrification, the duo made it to Long Island City.

“I hope people will talk about what gentrification means to them and if it’s something that affects them. And if it is, what are they willing to do about it,” gilf! said. “I use my art to facilitate the dialogue that I think is important or is being swept under the rug.”

She also said she hopes the piece, which was taken down about 36 hours later, will open a door for discussion and bring different people together to come up with an answer.

“If anywhere in the world is going to come up with a solution for this, it’s going to be New York,” she said.

After a long fight to save 5Pointz, years of art was erased overnight last year. The owners of the property on Jackson Avenue and Davis Street, the Wolkoff family, ordered the action to be taken in November. Rallies were held throughout that same month to save the site, including a gathering only three days before the whitewashing, requesting the building, with its art, be landmarked.

Since the whitewashing, the demolition process has slowly begun, with signs of asbestos removal crews at the location.

Although residents have called the city’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and 3-1-1 with complaints, a DEP spokesperson said that all work being done is in compliance with regulations.

Asbestos abatement is taking place on the side located at 45-50 Davis St. by contractors hired by the buildings’ owners. DEP inspectors issued one stop work order, for less than 24 hours, after an inspection on March 2, for minor corrections, said the spokesperson. The issues were corrected and the order was lifted the following day.

Since then, DEP inspectors have gone and supervised the work being done, as a normal procedure.

“We have been there a few times because we keep receiving complaints about it,” the DEP spokesperson said. “But everything has been in compliance there.”



South-eastern Queens to get more sewers to alleviate flooding

| mhayes@queenscourier.com


South-eastern Queens neighborhoods, which have long suffered from perpetual flooding, may see some immediate relief after the city announced it would work quickly to create new storm sewers and upgrade catch basements.

A multi-year, $6 billion sewer-upgrade plan to manage the area’s flooding was announced earlier this year, but the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has initiated smaller, targeted projects to control the issues in the interim, including new storm sewers and catch basin upgrades.

“I am very much looking forward to these essential improvements,” said City Councilmember Donovan Richards. “For far too long, large sections of southeast Queens have had to deal with sub-par sewer systems and I eagerly await the relief these new initiatives will bring.”

Storm sewers and 14 new catch basins were installed on 111th Avenue between 155th and 158th Streets and 113th Avenue between 156th and 157th Streets in South Jamaica. There are currently a number of other flood-prone locations under consideration for similar upgrades, according to the DEP, which will be approved in 2014.

These targeted sites are being chosen based on input from elected officials, community groups and 311 flood reports.

“Ground water and flooding issues within southeast Queens cannot be resolved without total cooperation from all involved and we must stay vigilant to ensure the funding continues,” said City Councilmember Leroy Comrie.

More than $383 million have been used over the last ten years to continue to extend the area’s sewer system and the DEP has allocated an additional $380 million for the next ten years.



Sewage project could impact South Ozone Park traffic

| mhayes@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of the DEP

Jamaica Bay is getting a clean-up, but it will require years of work.

The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) proposed to spread a citywide project to South Ozone Park next August to prevent untreated sewage from ultimately making its way into the bay.

Combined sewer overflows (CSOs) result from the combination of this domestic sewage and industrial wastewaters with storm water. The project, once completed, will monitor this, and consists of adding higher level sewer separation, wet weather stabilization, drainage basins and more in the event of a future storm.

Currently, plans are in preliminary stages. There will be period for public comment, and the DEP is working with the DOT on road closure potentials.

According to proposal plans, once construction begins, 126th Street between South Conduit Avenue and 150th Avenue will be closed for one year, as will the 150th Avenue westbound lane.

Additionally, the Belt Parkway’s on-ramp near 150th Avenue will be closed for 22 months, and one eastbound lane will be closed for one year during nighttime DOT work hours.

North Conduit Avenue near 150th Avenue will also experience various lane closures for up to two years. A traffic analysis concluded that the left lane can be closed for two months, and the second lane closed at night for two, one-month periods.

The green space between the Belt Parkway and North Conduit Avenue will be closed for two years.

There are also additional flagging areas for trucks, and temporary, short-term closures for truck unloading.

“You do not make an omelet without breaking a few eggs,” said Betty Braton, Community Board 10 Chair. “There are roadway concerns, there will be traffic issues. It’s a lengthy project and they’re trying to do it within a compressed time frame.”

Construction is projected to end by February 2017, and will reduce the volume of CSOs to Jamaica Bay basins by 24 percent.

Despite a busy construction scene, Braton said the benefit in the long-term will be a clean Jamaica Bay after any future storm.



DEP fixing pipe that led to flooding in Howard Beach

| mhayes@queenscourier.com

Photo via Facebook

A flood-prone intersection in Howard Beach will finally see relief. Cross Bay Boulevard and 165th Avenue was long the site of collected storm water, creating a potentially dangerous situation for patrons at nearby Russo’s on the Bay.

“It wasn’t safe,” said Frank Russo, the catering hall’s owner. “In the winter time, that section would ice over. Other times, it was a puddle of water. It actually went over the sidewalk.”

Crews from the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) were performing regular cleaning of the neighborhood sewer system when they found the pipe that connects the intersection’s catch basin to the sewer line was broken, according to a spokesperson.

They could not determine for how long the pipe had been broken. Repairs are currently underway and will be completed this week.

“There definitely was an issue there,” Russo said, adding that local elected officials helped push the project. “But they’re fixing the problem.”



Community concerned with city’s solution to deal with sewer overflow

| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy Department of Environmental Protection

Middle Village resident Pat Kannengieser is worried the city’s new solution to reduce sewer overflow will become her problem.

As part of its Green Infrastructure plan, the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is getting ready to install hundreds of “right-of-way bioswales,” sidewalk gardens built to absorb storm water.

Kannengieser was told two bioswales will be built on the sidewalk in front of her house on 61st Road. She is afraid she will be left to maintain them and that she will not be able to park there.

“These are nice things, but they are not practical everywhere in the state of New York,” Kannengieser said. “The parking in our area is so pathetic.”

Bioswales consist of a city tree, flowers and plants on top of five feet of soil specially engineered to absorb water naturally. By sucking in rainwater, they help keep the sewers from overflowing.

Currently, 72 percent of storm water goes unabsorbed in the concrete jungle that is New York. It goes straight into the sewer system via catch basins in the streets and travels to 14 treatment plants around the city.

The plants can handle about 2.5 billion gallons of water a day, but during heavier storms such as Sandy, the water can pass that limit. The result is untreated discharge in people’s homes and in bodies of water around the city.

The Green Infrastructure plan was passed in 2010, with $2.4 billion dedicated to natural solutions to beautify and clean waterways. Those solutions include the bioswales.

“Bioswales are an important part of our growing network of green infrastructure that will absorb storm water naturally and improve the health and cleanliness of our local waterways,” a DEP spokesperson said.

There are about 100 bioswales around the city already and agency expects to set up 500 by the end of the year and thousands more over the next few years, the official said.

The DEP formed a partnership with the Parks Department and the Department of Transportation to erect the gardens.

To respond to Kannengieser and other residents’ concerns, the DEP will fund special crews in the parks department which will maintain each site regularly by cutting trees and picking up garbage.

The agency said the bioswales will not reduce parking spots, since they are on the sidewalk, and a chunk of every curb will remain so drivers that park in front of a bioswale can get out of their cars.


“They have to do it correctly, where it’s going to have the least negative impact,” said Gary Giordano, district manager of Community Board (CB) 5. “It’s important that they do a good job to maintain the bioswales and not put another burden on the property owner.”

The first sets of bioswales were implanted in Brooklyn near the Gowanus Canal early last year, but residents there are thrilled with the gardens.

“When it comes to the DEP bioswales, our biggest problem is that we don’t have enough of them,” said Brooklyn CB 6 district manager Craig Hammerman. “No complaints, only envious squeals.”

Giordano said DEP representatives will make a presentation on the bioswales at CB 5’s next public meeting on September 18.

FAQ-Green Infrastructure Plan

DEP ROWB Renderings_Final 1



Sewer project set to bring flood relief

| mhayes@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of DEP

Springfield Gardens may soon get relief from years of flooding problems.

Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner Carter Strickland announced the start of work to dredge Springfield Lake and double its depth. It will then become part of a new network of Bluebelt wetlands designed to receive stormwater through a new sewer system.

Stormwater will collect in the sewer system from neighborhood streets, sidewalks and roofs; once it is distributed into the lake, it will be filtered before heading into Jamaica Bay.

“[This ensures] we are better prepared for an uncertain future,” said Seth Pinksky, president of the city’s Economic Development Corporation (EDC).

The project, managed by the EDC, is part of a $69 million project that will bring three miles of new water mains, storm sewers, roadways and sidewalks to Springfield Gardens. It is the fourth phase in a $175 million neighborhood upgrade, consisting of additional storm sewer lines, water mains, fire hydrants and more.

Strickland said once completed, the project will “improve living conditions for local residents and promote economic growth while helping to protect the health of Jamaica Bay.”

Installation of the water mains is already 95 percent complete and the work on the Bluebelt wetlands is ongoing. Installation of the sewers began in June.

The project broke ground last fall and is expected to be completed by the fall of 2014.



Pols push for sewer upgrades as Queens homes take on water

| mchan@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of Jim Gallagher

An outdated sewer system is leaving large swathes of Queens vulnerable to serious flooding, according to a pair of elected officials.

“Year after year, Queens residents have been fighting the trauma and financial burden of flood damage to their homes and lives,” said Assemblymember Nily Rozic. “We cannot continue to let our working families weather the storm alone.”

For decades, poor infrastructure in Fresh Meadows has caused basements and garages to flood with sewage during heavy rainstorms, local leaders said.

“If we have a torrential downpour, all the water gets backed up,” said Jim Gallagher, president of the Fresh Meadows Homeowners Civic Association.

He added that sewer pipes in the neighborhood can only handle about an inch and a half of water per hour. Any more rainfall causes water to pour into homes.

The problem also extends to Glendale, where rainy weather shut down the flood-prone Cooper Avenue underpass last weekend.

The closure between 74th Street and 69th Road was due to “construction and the anticipation of flooding,” according to city alerts. It lasted from Friday afternoon to Saturday night.

Last August, three residents were caught in a deluge there. Cars were submerged under several feet of water and emergency responders had to rescue the trio.

A spokesperson for Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley said the city’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) plans to add new catch basins to the underpass, but the department has not committed to major infrastructure improvements.

Thousands in southeast Queens say they have also been suffering from mold spores and flooding since the city took over the water supply in 1996.

According to DEP spokesperson Christopher Gilbride, the city has “invested hundreds of millions of dollars upgrading the sewer system in Queens” over the last decade and will continue to make improvements.

But Rozic and Public Advocate Bill de Blasio last week said they wanted the department to speed up the sewers upgrades and reexamine reimbursement policies for homeowners until then.

“Put simply, severe weather is the new normal,” they wrote in a joint letter to DEP Commissioner Carter Strickland.

The pair urged the department to make flood-prone neighborhoods a priority in capital plans and expedite short-term flood mitigation measures like street landscaping to reduce storm runoff.

“After the wake-up call Sandy delivered, there’s just no excuse for inaction,” de Blasio said. “We can’t keep leaving families high and dry.”

Yolanda Gallagher of Fresh Meadows shows how high flood levels reached in Utopia Parkway homes after a storm last August.



City approves 5.6 percent water rate increase

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com


The New York City Water Board voted on Friday to approve a 5.6 percent water rate increase effective July 1.

Proposed by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) on April 5, the rate increase comes as no surprise to Queens residents. However, despite many homeowners expressing displeasure, very few thought that it is unreasonable.

“Well, it makes sense that they would raise the rates now that summer’s about to begin,” said Whitestone resident Sheila Johnson. “That’s when people will be drinking more water to stay hydrated.”

Another Whitestone resident described the rate hike as “opportunistic.”

“I’m not entirely sure that it’s necessary,” he said. “But there’s no point in complaining about something I can’t change. Plus, I don’t really mind paying a little more for things that I know I can’t live without, like water.”

What is notable about this particular rate increase is that it is the lowest one since 2006, which was a 3.12 percent hike. Water rate increases have been on a steady decline since 2009, and this latest rate increase is a continuation of that trend.

“[The increase] doesn’t surprise me at all,” said Charlie M. of Howard Beach. “It’s really not that big of an increase, though. I remember when it used to be way worse.”






Community activist Craig Caruana kicks off Republican run in District 30 Council race

| mhayes@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Craig Caruana

The race to represent District 30 on the City Council is on, with community activist and Middle Village native Craig Caruana throwing his hat in the ring for the Republican ticket.

Caruana is a member of organizations including the Knights of Columbus at Resurrection Ascension Parish, the Kiwanis Club of Glendale and the Juniper Park Civic Association.

Top issues on Caruana’s website include discretionary spending, stopping the increase in property taxes, bringing more healthcare options to the district, enhancing education, increasing small business support and reforming street parking.

“Someone has to start taking responsibility for the issues that are affecting all of our lives,” Caruana said.

The activist hopes to bring tax dollars back to the district and restore funding to civic and volunteer groups, schools, fire houses and police stations. He is also seeking to fight water rate increases by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).

“DEP plans on increasing our water rate for years to come,” Caruana said. “Politicians should be telling us this plain truth, instead of pretending to be surprised year after year.”

Councilmember Eric Ulrich said his fellow Republican will bring passion to the 30th District.

“District 30 needs a fighter right now,” he said. “I know that when he’s voting on legislation that’s going to impact our quality of life, that he’s going to be the strongest advocate.”

Caruana faces incumbent Democrat Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley.



Glendale underpass fix will ease flood problem

| mhayes@queenscourier.com

A deteriorating Glendale underpass is getting a makeover. Come summer, it will be safer for both cars passing underneath and trains chugging overhead.

However, the community says there are still issues in the area that need to be addressed.

The Department of Design and Construction (DDC) took on the current $6 million capital reconstruction project in January 2012 on behalf of the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the Department of Transportation (DOT). As of February, 65 percent of the work had been completed.

For the project, DDC is rebuilding the underpass’ retaining wall and installing new sidewalks along with six catch basins underneath.

“The retaining walls were in a state of disrepair,” a DDC spokesperson said. “We’re building a brand new underpass with new concrete walls, and we’re also installing additional catch basins to help remove storm water more quickly.”

However, community members are concerned about the potential for excess storm water.

“I don’t believe [this project] is going to do anything near what needs to be done to solve flooding problems in the Glendale community during heavy rains,” said Gary Giordano, district manager of Community Board 5.

Giordano recalled two incidents in which the underpass area collected a significant amount of water, once reaching 12 feet.

Giordano said possible fixes include enlarging the sewer line or installing a retainer tank to hold storm water until sewer plants can handle it.

“These rains are getting stronger and more frequent,” he said.

The community has been in talks with Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley and the DEP to resolve the issue.

Still, community members are glad about the DDC project.

“Panels on top of the retaining walls in some areas were so deteriorated, you could see the steel beneath,” said Giordano. “You don’t want those falling down on the street.”




Woodhaven residents upset over slow response to sewage issue

| tcullen@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Ed Wendell

Woodhaven residents want to know why it took so long to stop the sewage that was spewing into the streets of their neighborhood.

At the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association (WRBA) March 16 meeting, several members inquired why the feces-ridden puddle continued to be a problem, considering how close it was to a nursery school.

“When there’s a fire, the Fire Department can rush into a house,” said WRBA President Ed Wendell. “They don’t need to ring the doorbell and get permission – there’s a fire. In this case here, this to me was every bit as bad as a fire, because you had human waste spilling out into a street right next to a nursery school.”

The Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) put out an emergency bid to finally fix the lingering problem. Until then, agencies could only slap the landlord with fines, officials said. There’s a $20,000 lien against the house because of fines racking up since 2005, according to Assemblymember Michael Miller’s office.

Children from neighboring St. Luke’s Nursery School had to walk into the street to get out of the waste-filled puddle coming from the house, Wendell said, and the block was never closed off or a crossing guard installed at the site.

“That sidewalk should have been closed, it should have been a hazmat situation,” he said. “Something should have been done.”

The situation with this house was unique because it dealt with tenants, according to Rudy S. Giuliani, chief of staff for Councilmember Eric Ulrich. In normal circumstances, the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) would shut the water off, he said. But since the city did not want to make the tenants suffer for an absentee landlord, the city looked to take other options such as sending in HPD.

Giuliani said Ulrich’s office is working on finding out what took so long to fix the problem.




New program saves homeowners money in water, sewer line repairs

| mhayes@queenscourier.com

The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has a new system to protect homeowners, their water and hopefully, their wallets.

Residential property owners citywide are responsible for maintaining their water and sewer service lines, which can stretch underground from homes and out to the middle of the street. If any part of that line is compromised and needs repair, the cost could come from homeowners’ pockets.

Under the new citywide program, the DEP has partnered with private company American Water Resources (AWR) and now offers a monthly fee to cover potential service line issues. As opposed to paying thousands of dollars to repair a water or sewer line break, costs for the AWR program run up to $12 a month.

“This is such a simple process,” said Karen Ellis, borough coordinator for Queens at the DEP. “Everything is included.”

For the fee, members receive unlimited protection for covered repairs, an unlimited number of claims, 24/7 customer service and licensed plumbers making fixes.

“The service line protection programs are a key component of our ongoing effort to provide the best customer service,” said DEP Commissioner Carter Strickland. “By informing property owners about their responsibilities and providing an optional and affordable way to protect them from unexpected repair costs, the programs offer a valuable service to our ratepayers throughout the city.”

Customers can elect to choose just the water protection program, just sewer line protection, or both. They may also discontinue their involvement at any time. Rates are subject to potential increases.

AWR provides protection services in 35 states, according to Malcolm D. Connor, AWR president.

For more information on AWR and the water and sewer protection programs, call 1-888-300-3570 or visit AWRUSA.com/NYC.



Leaders want Southeast Queens flooding fixed

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre


As Sandy barreled down on the East Coast last year, there was one thing on Helene Martello’s mind.

“Where am I going to move my car?’” she asked.

It wasn’t the first time she feared flooding.

After returning to her Hollis home from a party in 2008, Martello was surprised to find her car submerged in a flood with water reaching as high as the dashboard. “I was upset because you didn’t even think another flood would happen,” Martello, 61, said. “We’ve had sewers put in. They told us everything was going to be okay, and it wasn’t.”

In the latest community effort to get the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to solve flooding in Southeast Queens, nearly a dozen Queens leaders, led by Assemblymember William Scarborough, met with residents at York College on Thursday, February 28 to explain the importance of action before the Bloomberg administration passes its budget.

At the meeting, Scarborough revealed new legislation he penned to force the city to take financial responsibility for partly causing the flooding issue in Queens. He introduced a lawyer who will attempt to file a consolidated suit against the city, combining as many residents’ evidence of property damage they can find.

“We’re looking to get money damages for their ongoing damage of having cellars and basements that are inundated with water and have to be pumped out regularly,” said attorney Mark Seitelman.

The DEP has invested more than $1.5 billion into developing the area’s sewer system, and has about 200 projects in place for the next 10 years that are worth another billion, according to an agency spokesperson. Late last year the agency began a new pilot plan to insert three basins throughout areas in Jamaica that would collect and pump out millions of gallons of water each day.

It helped, but not enough, residents said. They want some former wells reopened, but the DEP refused to do that until 2018 when the city plans to temporarily close and repair the Delaware Aqueduct, an upstate resource where the city gets half its water.

The DEP is not responsible for the underground water, but elements like rain or snow can cause floods, a DEP representative said. The agency is testing the wells and the quality of water for functionality and at this moment is not sure if they are usable.



Broken sewage pipe soils Woodhaven street

| tcullen@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Ed Wendell

A broken pipe in Woodhaven has residents concerned about public safety after gushing water, rife with human waste, has soiled the corner of 85th Street and 88th Avenue.

“It’s disgusting,” said Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association (WRBA) president Ed Wendell, who’s been tracking the problem for a few weeks now. Wendell and other WRBA members have contacted city agencies about the problem, but most agencies cannot interfere with a private residence.

Wendell said he drove past the house a few weeks ago and water had been pouring into the street. When he went back two days later, during a bad cold snap, he said the water had frozen with bits of toilet paper and other unmentionables solidified. A snow storm a few days later covered the ice, leading people to think there was nothing but sidewalk underneath. As a result, Wendell said, people were slipping and sliding on the feces-infested ice.

But a bigger problem is one particular neighbor: St. Luke’s Nursery School next door.

The school’s director did not want to comment on the matter.

For everyone’s safety — especially that of the children — the sidewalk either needs to be closed off, or the city needs to install a crossing guard during school hours, Wendell said.

The home’s owner, Noris Requena, according to records, could not be reached at press time, nor could the person listed as the home’s resident.

Because it’s a private home, the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) cannot forcibly go inside.

Since the problem is inside the house, the city is limited on how it can intervene, said Rudy Giuliani, chief of staff for Councilmember Eric Ulrich. In a normal situation, the city would shut water supply to the home, but since the home is rented out authorities have opted to keep the water on. DEP has visited the home several times, Giuliani said, but the problem seems to be with an absentee landlord.

The next step, he said, was for the Department of Housing Preservation and Development to intervene since the city has not been able to track down the landlord.



Central and southern Queens to receive water main upgrade

| mchan@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of DEP

A $14 million upgrade to replace the borough’s aging water system will soon flow into portions of central and southern Queens, authorities said.

About 13 miles of new ductile iron water mains will be installed to replace old unlined cast ones in Forest Hills, Kew Gardens, Richmond Hill and Far Rockaway, according to the city’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and Department of Design and Construction (DDC).

The infrastructure improvement project is expected to improve water quality, pressure and distribution in residential and commercial areas of the neighborhoods by retiring mains that are over 60 years old, the DEP said.

“Public health and the future growth of New York City are contingent on having an adequate supply of high quality water,” DEP Commissioner Carter Strickland said. “By installing nearly 13 miles of new water mains, we will ensure adequate water pressure for firefighting, basic sanitation and clean drinking water for these Queens neighborhoods for decades to come.”

The new water mains will be installed in locations near Union Turnpike, Queens Boulevard, Kew Garden Road, Park Lane South, Myrtle Avenue, Metropolitan Avenue, Hillside Avenue, Jamaica Avenue and Beach 9th Street.

Construction will be done in phases, beginning March 2013, with expected completion in 2015.