Tag Archives: Department of Environmental Protection

Timers will save thousands of gallons of water at city parks


| brennison@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/photo by Billy Rennison

On most cool, rainy days throughout the summer, city sprinklers run continuously, pouring thousands of gallons of water — and money — down the drain.

But a joint project between the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the Department of Parks and Recreation is looking to put an end to this water waste through timed spray showers at city parks.

Timers installed on spray showers at two Queens playgrounds, Glendale and Maple, will save more than 5,000 gallons of water a day at each. An activation button was placed next to the showers at the parks, providing two minutes of water. If kids are still playing when the water stops, someone just needs to press the button again to continue the water.

“We’re working together to make a cleaner and greener and healthier city that also happens to save money,” said Adrian Benepe, Parks Department commissioner. “As a world community we have to be much more responsible about managing our water resources.”

The new initiative — part of the Water for the Future program — was announced at Glendale Playground on Thursday, August 9. The DEP’s program aims to reduce the city’s water consumption by five percent.

Before the timer was installed, showers ran nonstop, using about 7,000 gallons of water per day. The DEP expects the new plan will save about 80 percent (5,600 gallons) of the wasted water each day. Over the next year, 23 more will be installed, and by 2017 more than 400 will be in place in the five boroughs — saving 1.5 million gallons of water daily.

“NYC water is one of the city’s most precious resources, and it’s important that we conserve it wherever we can while also enhancing opportunities for New Yorkers to enjoy water outdoors,” said Carter Strickland, commissioner of the DEP.

Shifa Lalani, 9, of Middle Village, one of the dozens of kids from the Lost Battalion Hall enjoying the spray showers at Glendale Park, agreed conserving water was vital.

“People need water to drink and to survive,” she said.

 

DEP fights car idling near city schools


| sarahyu@queenscourier.com

Stop Idling

Soon, some Queens kids will be able to breathe a little easier.

In honor of Asthma Awareness Month, a two-week long campaign from the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) called “Stop Idling” will be enforced through June 6.

“Stop Idling” will target areas around P.S. 206 in Rego Park; P.S. 220 in Forest Hills; P.S. 98 and 221 in Douglaston; P.S. 811 and 94 in Little Neck; P.S. 41 and 130 in Bayside; P.S. 43 and 104 in Far Rockaway; P.S. 162 in Flushing and P.S. 48 in Jamaica.

According to the DEP, this campaign is an add-on to a 2009 initiative called “Turn It Off,” which reinforced and clarified the legal, financial, environmental and health impacts of vehicle idling.

DEP’s Director of Communications Chris Gilbride said that agency inspectors are going to be monitoring the vehicles in those areas and said that if people are idling for more than a minute near schools or for more than three minutes in other locations, they will be fined $350 for the violation.

DEP officials used public health data that was available for every region of the city from a survey that the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene conducted recently.

The DEP looked at the statistics and focused on the areas where there were high rates of people with asthma and then narrowed in on the schools. They also worked with the Department of Transportation to install one-minute idling signs for drivers so they are aware.

Then, DEP officials did surveillance and observed if there was idling taking place at each location. In order to raise awareness of this campaign and this issue, DEP officials stood outside of public schools and handed out flyers to parents, teachers and staff while 1,400 flyers were sent to parent coordinators for them to send out.

Schools Chancellor Dennis M. Walcott said that the “Stop Idling” campaign is going to help produce and keep the environment eco-friendly, which will allow for a healthier lifestyle for not just kids and their parents, but for everyone else who has asthma.

“Reducing traffic and emissions from vehicles and other sources will benefit not only children with asthma, but all New Yorkers with chronic heart and lung conditions,” he said.

 

Oakland Lake Park path to receive much-needed work


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Oakland Park

It took nearly two decades, but the makeover is almost complete.

The Parks Department announced plans for a $1.6 million remodeling of the pathway around Oakland Lake Park at a recent Community Board 11 meeting, ending a 16-year initiative to revitalize the park and allowing locals to finally enjoy the wetland.

“I’m very relieved,” said Jerry Iannece, chair of Community Board 11. “We are getting completion on a project we’ve been working on for almost two decades.”

The Department of Environmental Protection [DEP] spent years rebuilding and cleaning the ecosystem of the lake and created a park booming with wildlife for locals to enjoy, except there was no dry path to walk on.

The trail is flooded and overrun with mud and grime, making for an unstable surface that is difficult to walk through and spoils footwear, say park-goers.

“Oakland Park is a natural wonder,” said Vince Tabone, general counsel of the Friends of Oakland Lake and Ravine. “It’s a unique experience to take friends and family. It takes away from the full experience that you have mud on the pathway.”

The Oakland Lake Path Improvement plan involves building a new raised boardwalk around the lake and imputing drainage pipes under the path to prevent flooding from excess water running down the park’s slope, according to a Parks spokesperson.

The agency expects to start the project by spring 2013 after a review by the Department of Environmental Conservation and awarding a private contractor the bid.

It should be ready for residents within a year of this process, according to representatives from the department.

No one is more proud about the new path than Iannece, who is running for the 25th Assembly District seat. He has been leading the charge to protect the park since 1996 when he was president of the Bayside Hills Civic Association.

With the completion of the walkway set for the near future, Baysiders can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel.

“I could bring my kids here and we could do the nature walk,” said Bayside resident Jorge Chong. “It’s the only park around here with a lake.”

 

Board approves 7 percent water rate hike


| brennison@queenscourier.com

For the 16th consecutive year, New York City residents’ water bill will swell.

The seven-member water board approved a 7 percent hike in water rates at a vote Friday morning.

“The 7 percent 2013 fiscal year rate increase is the lowest increase in seven years and is 25 percent lower than the increase projected at this time last year,” said Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner Carter Strickland.

The increase will add more than $60 per year to the average one family home’s water bill.

“When an agency is proud that you only have to raise your rates by 7 percent, than we know we have a problem,” said Assemblymember Phil Goldfeder during a public hearing on the rate hikes at Christ the King High School on Thursday, April 26.

At the meeting, the DEP blamed much of the rate hikes on mandated projects from the state and federal government that require the DEP to perform projects despite receiving no funds. That is the primary driver of the rates, the agency said.

This fiscal year, those mandates cost homeowners $253, according to the DEP.

Edward Schubert, an Ozone Park resident who bought a house in the neighborhood was one of the few residents to speak at the hearing.

“The middle class is really suffering right now,” Schubert told the water board. “It’s the wrong time for these increases.”

In the seven years since moving into his house, Schubert has seen his water rates almost double.

The new rate will go into effect on July 1.

 

Water rate hike would soak residents


| brennison@queenscourier.com

Politicians and residents are worried that another year of swelling water bills will leave denizens drowning.

For the 16th consecutive year, New York City residents will be paying more for their water bill if the Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) proposed rate increase is adopted.

Assemblymember David Weprin called the hikes “déjà vu all over again,” comparing them to an additional property tax.

“Our proposed seven percent rate increase is the lowest increase in seven years and shows that DEP is doing everything in our power to try and keep rates in check while still delivering a product that city residents can take pride in every time they turn on the tap,” said DEP Commissioner Carter Strickland. “Though any rate increase is difficult in these economic conditions, we are clearly moving in the right direction.”

The seven percent hike will add more than $60 per year to the average one-family home’s water bill.

“When an agency is proud that you only have to raise your rates by seven percent, then we know we have a problem,” said Assemblymember Phil Goldfeder during a sparsely-attended public hearing on the rate hikes at Christ the King High School on Thursday, April 26.

Goldfeder authored a bill to cap annual water rate increases at four percent a year for cities with populations over 1 million.

A Weprin-sponsored bill, also in the Assembly, would limit increases to no more than five percent annually, or the rate of inflation.

A DEP representative at the hearing said that capping increases was not an option because of the many costs that are beyond the agency’s control.

The DEP blamed much of the rate hikes on mandated projects from the state and federal government that require the agency to perform projects despite receiving no funds.

This fiscal year, those mandates cost homeowners $253, according to the DEP.

Edward Schubert, an Ozone Park resident who bought a house in the neighborhood in 2005, was one of the few residents to speak at the hearing.

“The middle class is really suffering right now,” Schubert told the water board. “It’s the wrong time for these increases.”

In the seven years since moving into his house, Schubert has seen his water rates almost double.

The seven-member water board, appointed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, will vote on the increase on Friday, May 4. If approved, it will go into effect on July 1.

“There has to come a time where even a city agency or a board of mayoral appointees says ‘I think we’ve pushed out citizens a little too far,” said Councilmember Dan Halloran.  “Maybe it’s time to give them a break for a change.”

Dry spell: DEP pilot project to help relieve flooding


| aaltman@queenscourier.com

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Just when Jamaica resident Lurline Williams thought the possibility of ending area flooding had dried up, a new pilot project brought a deluge of optimism. According to Assemblymember William Scarborough, the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) plans to install two reverse seepage basins along Linden Boulevard, one at 155th Street and one at 165th Street. There will also be a basin placed at the well located at Station 24 in St. Albans.

Each pump is expected to remove two million gallons of ground water per day, according to Scarborough, who said the cost of the project is as yet unclear.
“I’m so happy,” said Williams. “I hope this helps solve [the flooding problems.] We’ve been dealing with this for so long.”

Williams, who has lived on 165th Street for the past 44 years, has experienced devastating water damage to her Jamaica home. Unaware of flooding issues when she first purchased the house, Williams poured countless dollars into fixing rotting wood and eradicating mold. In 2008, Williams gutted her entire basement after a particularly terrible flood.

President of the Jamaica Block Association, Mannie Brown, lives across the street from Williams and is thrilled over the progress.
“I feel good that they’re finally doing something,” said Brown. “It’s been an ongoing fight. This is a relief for the whole block.”

“Progress has been made and we are cautiously optimistic,” said Scarborough. “We’ve had disappointment before. Reaching this point is a testament to the fact that all officials in southeast Queens came together.”

Rising water levels in southeast Queens have been a problem since 1996, when the area’s local water supplier, Jamaica Water Supply, was overtaken by the DEP, the agency that provides water for all of New York City.

According to Scarborough, instead of taking water from one of the 69 previously-present underground wells in the area, the DEP brought in water from other sources, causing the ground water level to rise. The standing water is now almost at surface level.

Roughly 10 years ago, the DEP realized there was widespread flooding. It then directed its attention to cleaning up the well at Station 24 in St. Albans, tainted, said

Scarborough, by chemical runoff from a dry cleaner across the street, as well as implementing new technology to pump and purify the water at Station 6 in Jamaica, which was expected to deliver between six and 10 million gallons of water per day.

In 2005, the project was abandoned because of the cost, according to Scarborough.

In a hearing with the City Council Environmental Protection Committee on September 24, 2007, Former DEP Commissioner Emily Lloyd testified that the water had risen over 30 feet between 1996 and 2007, Scarborough told The Courier.

The DEP could not be reached for comment as of press time.

Sewers will relieve water woes on Metropolitan Avenue


| brennison@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley

A current of constituent complaints, along with a wave of support from a local councilmember, has turned the tide for an oft-flooded local stretch of road.

Metropolitan Avenue between 80th Street and Cooper Avenue will receive a new storm sewer system to help relieve flooding, Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley recently announced.

Work began on Monday, March 5.

“For too long, even the slightest rain created dangerous flooding conditions on Metropolitan Avenue near St. John Cemetery,” said Crowley.

The road which cuts through the burial ground is often reduced to a river following any rainfall, creating traffic buildup and dangerous black ice when the water freezes during winter.

“I’m pleased to have worked with DEP [the Department of Enviornmental Protection] to remedy this nuisance for the community,” Crowley said. “Repairs like these are an investment in our neighborhoods that will improve the quality of life for residents for years to come.”

Crowley first wrote to the DEP in April of 2010 asking for the agency to investigate the area’s “ongoing problem” of four lanes of flooding and the potential health hazard of standing water.

Twenty-four inch storm sewers will be installed along with a catch basin to help alleviate the flooding in the area, a DEP spokesperson said.

The agency said the work should be completed by mid-June.

 

Fresh air is on the way for Howard Beach residents


| mchan@queenscourier.com

SHELLBANK BASINw

Lots of sunshine — and clean air — is in the forecast for Howard Beach residents come summertime.

The $3.5 million project to install the Shellbank Basin Destratification Facility was recently completed, according to Carter Strickland, commissioner of the city’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).

The project is said to curb odors in the surrounding area and improve water quality and local ecology by installing an air compressor station along the shore of the basin — a tributary of Jamaica Bay. The compressor uses air bubbles to mix the water, agency officials said, which prevents the formation of separate temperature layering that often causes foul odors and the frequent death of fish.

“This is another bit of good news for New Yorkers who love Jamaica Bay,” Strickland said. “Living near the water is great, but not when it is so stagnant that it creates unwelcome odors.”

Construction on the facility began in September 2010. According to officials, it will go into operation in late spring, when the warmer weather kicks in and when the compressor is most needed.

“[This facility] is a step in the right direction environmentally,” said State Senator Joseph Addabbo. “I am optimistic that the efforts of the DEP will improve the condition of the water in the basin, the quality of life for my constituents and the fish there and eliminate the odors that have plagued the area for years.”

DEP officials said the new facility features two compressors — one in operation and the other on standby. The compressors will pump air through the 3,800 feet of perforated tubing laid out along 2,000 feet of the basin floor.

“We look forward to our summers to come without the odors and dead fish that prevented us from fully enjoying our unique waterfront location when inversions occurred,” said Betty Braton, chair of Community Board 10.

 

Community Board discusses hydrofracking, new gym


| dbeltran@queenscourier.com

There were several important issues brought up at Community Board (CB) 5’s first meeting of the new year, but none drew as much attention, or speakers, as the issue of hydrofracking.

In the process of hydrofracking water, sand and chemicals are shot into the ground to push out natural gases. One of the many problems, Gary Giordano, district manager of CB 5, said, is that there is no filtering process to clean out contaminated water that comes back up. This increases the possibility of drinking water being contaminated, he said.

According to officials, no one knows what chemicals are going into the ground. Officials also pointed out earthquakes that were pin-pointed back to the area of the hydrofracking.

“There are numerous stories in other states where this process has backfired and contaminated drinking water,” said Giordano. “I just hope hydrofracking never happens in New York State.”

A public hearing was also held about whether to allow Retro Fitness to open a gym at 65-40 Otto Road in Glendale. One major issue was parking. While the owners of the gym said they could fit 70 parking spots and probably be able to build more, board members said they wanted that guaranteed in a lease. The owners also agreed to pay for a stop sign and maintenance of the property, as members said there is constant graffiti in the area.

Two board members then spoke about an abandoned factory in Glendale that is being torn apart. They claim that it has asbestos, preventing their families from being outside in their yards. According to the members, the owner works with no permits and even though the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has placed stop orders on the site, they continue to work.

“The Community Board has been involved in this since 2003. We protested the application for alteration,” said chair Vincent Arcuri. He added that test results from the DEP for asbestos came back negative.

Southeast Queens residents deal with flooding, sewage


| mchan@queenscourier.com

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Thousands of residents in southeast Queens are sinking deeper into the sewage that now engulfs their homes.

Mold spores and flooding have become and remain a constant problem for homeowners after the city took over the area’s water supply in 1996.

“It smells terrible. You see feces in the water and black stuff. It’s just terrible,” said Lurline Williams, 73, of Jamaica.

Williams said she uses five pumps a day to try and alleviate the flooding, but “the water never goes away,” she said.

Prior to 1996, the southeast Queens community received water from the Jamaica Water Supply Company, according to Assemblymember William Scarborough. The private company pumped, purified and distributed water from 68 wells.

When the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) took over, it stopped draining and pumping water out of the ground, making the water level rise higher than certain basements in the area, he said.

“These are people’s homes that are being ruined,” Scarborough said. “They’re spending a lot of money year after year for water pumps and they still can’t make their basements fully dry. Their floors and furniture in their basement are ruined. Some of them can’t even go into their basements anymore.”

Williams, a homeowner in Jamaica for 43 years, said that despite extreme damages, she still has to go down to her basement frequently to use her washer and dryer.

“I feel terrible. It’s heart breaking,” she said. “I just pray to God that something or someone will step up and go on and help us with the problem we’ve been having.”

The DEP has invested nearly $242 million since 2002 to build out the storm sewer system and reduce surface flooding in the southeast Queens area, said spokesperson Farrell Sklerov. The department also plans to invest $124 million in sewers over the next five years to help reduce further flooding.

Aside from that, the DEP has no plans to permanently pump out the groundwater due to a “prohibitively costly and extremely energy intensive process that would have to be paid for by increased water rates.”

City Councilmember Leroy Comrie told The Courier that the issue needs to be addressed immediately.

“I’m not happy that the DEP has not really dealt with the issue. It came up in meetings that they’ve kind of given up on a groundwater solution,” he said. “They don’t want to answer any questions or deal with it. It’s creating a major problem for the community.”

Scarborough also expressed concerns for the health of the residents.

“People are working hard to keep these properties nice and — to no fault of their own — their property is being damaged and their health is being threatened because of constant exposure,” he said. “That is unacceptable. People are suffering.”