Tag Archives: Flooding

South-eastern Queens to get more sewers to alleviate flooding


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

FILE PHOTO

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.

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES:

Far Rockaway residents call for promised fixes to flooding issues


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of the Office of Councilmember Donovan Richards

Far Rockaway residents are flooded with problems, and say they have no life raft.

Bay 32nd Street regularly experiences heavy flooding. In August, those concerned came together with the Department of Design and Construction (DDC) to voice their concerns.

DC representatives in charge of repairs and upgrades explained, in detail, the overall improvement plan and temporary fixes that were to be implemented to alleviate the area’s flooding. However, three months later, those plans have yet to be put into action.

Enid Glabman, president of the Bayswater Civic Association, said responses received from the DDC were “courteous, but always the same.”

“New plans had to be drawn and new money had to be appropriated,” she said.

Glabman added the DDC requested “time – a few days, a few weeks,” but nothing has changed.

“These improvements are essential to the resiliency of Rockaway,” Councilmember Donovan Richards said. “We have to ensure that we are prepared for emergency situations and DDC’s lack of commitment to this project is very concerning.”

The DDC acknowledged that flooding has been a problem in this area “for decades, and we know that residents are anxiously awaiting a remedy,” said an agency spokesperson. Also, DDC engineers determined temporary fixes would be inadequate.

After August’s meeting, the agency changed and improved its design plan, which required more money. Now, they have given the project a green light and said residents will see construction soon.

Offsite, at Dwight Avenue, they have begun work on an outfall – a pipe that will channel floodwater into Jamaica Bay.

On November 8, Richards and community members gathered on Bay 32nd Street to hold the DDC responsible for having yet to begin making improvements.

“This project should have re-started months ago,” said John Gaska, District Manager of Community Board 14. “DDC needs to get its house in order.”

Residents experience extensive flooding during heavy rainfall and even more so during last year’s superstorm.

“Over one year after Sandy damaged our sense of security, we need to feel that our city agencies have not forgotten about our community,” Richards said.

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

Sandy’s heroes celebrate 85 years of service


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Terence M. Cullen

While the night marked 85 years of serving its community, the West Hamilton Beach Volunteer Fire Department dedicated its annual dinner/dance to all of those who pitched in during Sandy — particularly the men and women who were on duty that night.

Volunteers, friends, family and local leaders celebrated another year of community service on Thursday, January 31 at Russo’s on the Bay. State Senator Joseph Addabbo and Councilmember Eric Ulrich were special honorees, along with former Assemblymember Audrey Pfeffer and former State Senator Serphin Maltese. “Our own firehouse took more than five feet of water, destroying every piece of apparatus we own, and caused extensive damage to the building and equipment,” said treasurer and former chief Mitch Udewitch. “Even during our nightmare, we continued to serve our community, as the new Howard Beach Civic Association began using the department building as a food pantry, a soup kitchen [and a] clothing drop off for area residents. As the devastation became clear, members of the community began stepping forward and helping.”

Assemblymember Phillip Goldfeder, the night’s presiding officer, swore in new and returning members of the fire department, including Chief Jonah Cohen, who has served a number of terms in the position.

The Howard Beach Kiwanis Club gave a $1,000 contribution to the firehouse. Several donations have been made to the department in the months after the storm. A slew of fire companies from around the country gave equipment, fire trucks and ambulances to the West Hamilton Beach department after its entire arsenal was damaged by flood waters. In December, Duane Reade/Walgreens donated $25,000, which Cohen said would probably go toward a new ambulance.

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

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.

Sandy changes Hunter’s Point library plans


| aaltman@queenscourier.com

Exterior_roof_terrace

Fear of another Sandy is altering plans for the Queens Library’s upcoming Hunter’s Point destination.

The land supporting the 21,500-square-foot facility, to be located at Center Boulevard and 48th Avenue on the banks of the East River, will be graded an extra foot higher to avoid any possible flooding that could occur during another Sandy-type storm. While initial plans already placed the structure above the 100-year-flood line, library officials, architects and members of the Department of Design and Construction (DDC) agreed an extra measure of caution was necessary.

“The building hasn’t been built yet,” said Queens Library spokesperson Joanne King. “There’s no reason not to make it even higher.”

According to a spokesperson from the DDC, the library, which will sit 150 feet from the shoreline, will be built to withstand dangerous weather, as are other Queens Library facilities.

“Since the lowest floor of the library will be above the level of the floodwaters from Sandy, it is not likely that the building would be damaged by a similar storm,” said the spokesperson. “In addition, the building is designed to withstand winds considerably stronger than Sandy’s. Nevertheless, out of an abundance of caution, the project team decided to increase the elevation of the lowest floor by half a foot.”

According to King, none of the branches of the Queens Library existing in the hard hit areas of Arverne, the Rockaway Peninsula, Broad Channel and Seaside suffered structural damage. Aside from broken glass, minor flooding and damage to interior equipment and books, the buildings remained intact. The Broad Channel branch had been graded up, similarly to what will be done at the new Hunter’s Point location, which kept the building from experiencing as much damage as the other branches.

“Anything that could have been done had been done in the sense that any precaution that had been taken when they were built near the beach was taken,” said King. “There are no basements, they were built on one level. They were as safe as they could have been but it was a very extraordinary circumstance.”

Changed to the building’s plan will not affect the timeline, cost or the design at this stage of construction, said the DDC spokesperson.

The structure will feature a cyber-center, roof terrace and communal garden as well as separate reading spaces for adults, teens and children. According to King, the building will place an emphasis on environmental preservation, implementing ecologically-sound features to create an entirely carbon neutral structure.

Faster flooding fix coming to Middle Village, Maspeth


| brennison@queenscourier.com


Middle Village and Maspeth residents will wave goodbye to water woes a year ahead of schedule.

A pair of Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) capital projects to help alleviate constant flooding in the neighboring communities was moved up after several discussions with Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley. The first upgrade along Calamus Avenue is scheduled to begin construction next summer, with the other job under Penelope Avenue planned for the following spring, a year earlier than originally planned. Surveying for the projects has already begun.

Crowley’s calls for the DEP to investigate the causes behind the flooding picked up after a pair of summer storms flooded dozens of homes in the area.

“The storms in August and September showed that this area’s sewers are not equipped to handle major storms. It was simply unacceptable to ask residents to continue waiting before something was done,” said Crowley.

Under Calamus Avenue an additional 6-foot-by-8-foot pipe will be added in the $15 million project, according to a DEP official. New sewer mains and catch basins will be installed under Penelope Avenue and will cost $7 million. The flooding fixes will each take about a year to complete and will increase the system’s capacity by 80 percent.

Glendale residents who have also faced flood waters filling their homes will have to wait a little longer for relief.

“With the Glendale area, there isn’t a quick fix just yet,” Crowley said.

An investigation into the Glendale flooding and discussions regarding a solution are ongoing, said a DEP official.

Additional solutions to reduce the deluge of rainfall into the sewers are also being considered, according to Crowley’s office, including additional catch basins, green space and permeable surfaces.

Bloomberg says city will rebuild smarter along shore


| brennison@queenscourier.com

DSC_0128w

Despite record storm surges, Mayor Michael Bloomberg vowed to rebuild along the shore, but said it must be “smarter, stronger and more sustainable.”

Bloomberg made the remarks at the New York Marriott Downtown to an audience that included former Vice President Al Gore.

“Let me be clear: We are not going to abandon the waterfront,” Bloomberg said. “We are not going to leave the Rockaways or Coney Island or Staten Island’s South Shore. But we can’t just rebuild what was there and hope for the best.”

The city’s more than 500 miles of shoreline include some of the most desirable places to live, but also the most vulnerable.

Bloomberg announced the launch of an engineering analysis of coastal protection strategies to understand the best options to help protect the city.

An expansion of Zone A will be considered, he said, as well as new structural requirements to ensure that buildings can withstand intense winds and waves. While sea walls are not a likely option, dunes, jetties and levees must be considered to protect the city from rising storm surges, he said.

“We may or may not see another storm like Sandy in our lifetimes, but I don’t think it’s fair to say that we should leave it to our children to prepare for the possibility,” said Bloomberg. “And sea levels are expected to rise by another two and a half feet by the time a child born today reaches 40 years old, and that’s going to make surges even more powerful and dangerous.”

More than two-thirds of homes damaged by Sandy were outside of FEMA’s 100-year flood maps. The maps are drawn to represent an area likely to be flooded about once per century.

“No matter how much we do to make homes and businesses more resilient, the fact of the matter is we live next to the ocean, and the ocean comes with risks that we just cannot eliminate,” Bloomberg said.

Mold spawns health concerns in Sandy flood zone


| aaltman@queenscourier.com

DSC_0128w

Homes that withstood Sandy’s rushing water and brutal winds may now be susceptible to another hazard — mold.

According to the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) flood-damaged homes may have already seen extensive mold growth located under floor tiles, wallpaper and carpeting. The Department of Buildings (DOB) has plans to raze roughly 200 homes in Queens, Brooklyn and Staten Island that were damaged during the storm, reports said. According to a DOB spokesperson, while the decision to condemn badly damaged houses is based on structural issues, dangerous mold growth is not being taken into consideration.

“[The DOB is] evaluating the structure and stability of buildings,” said the spokesperson. “Mold is a health issue.”

Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder, who has remained outspoken about the lack of government resources sent to badly damaged areas, called for the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the DOHMH to perform daily air and water quality tests throughout those regions to ensure there are no chance of health risks to the community.

According to Goldfeder, residents have expressed concern over the harmful side effects associated with exposure to mold, sewage leaks and air pollutants.

Retired firefighter Steve Orr’s home was inundated by three feet of water during the storm. Busy assisting residents in Breezy Point and the Rockaways, Orr did not begin repairs on the soaked walls of his home until this past Sunday.

“I didn’t think the mold issue was that big for me, but friends kept saying I needed to take care of it,” said Orr. “The more I heard, the more worried I became.”

Orr, who called the extent of the mold damage in his home is a “seven on a scale of one to 10,” said the government should test for possibly dangerous molds and other threats.

Dr. Robert Mittman, an allergist from Bayside, said mold spores can cause a plethora of sinus issues, including allergies and asthma that could grow uncontrollable. Those not allergic to mold are still at risk for pneumonia and other respiratory conditions like COPD.

Those with illnesses such as cancer and the AIDS virus whose immune systems are diminished and unable fight off infections, are at an incredibly high risk.

“It’s a toxic, toxic issue and [mold] is very hard to get rid of,” said Mittman.

Eradicating mold and salvaging an infiltrated structure requires dehumidification within the first 24 to 48 hours, said Mittman, something very few residents were able to accomplish.

“It’s very hard to get rid of mold at this time,” said Mittman. “The best case scenario is not moving back there and to have the house ripped down completely and rebuilt.”

JFK to reopen tomorrow, no timetable for LaGuardia


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

Photo via Twitter/

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey will reopen John F. Kennedy International Airport tomorrow with limited service while LaGuardia will remain closed following the devastation brought on by Hurricane Sandy.

Monday, October 29 air carriers ceased all operations in to and out of the Queens airports, and Monday night at 8 p.m., the airports themselves started to follow suit.

“Due to floodwaters generated by Hurricane Sandy, the Port Authority has closed LaGuardia Airport until further notice,” said the transit organization.

The next morning, JFK International closed its doors as well.

The Port Authority advises travelers to stay up to date by checking www.panynj.gov, and stay informed about safety precautions and best practices for New York State via www.governor.ny.gov/stormwatch.

Rockaway preps for Hurricane Sandy


| tcullen@queenscourier.com


Rockaway residents are siding with caution and getting the necessities to weather out threats from Hurricane Sandy.

In order to prevent flooding, sand walls are currently being assembled at certain spots along the beaches. Con Edison announced it will also have extra crews available to deal with anticipated power outages.

Many people living near the beach have been heading to stores for supplies to prevent damage or flooding in their homes. Noni Signoretti, the co-owner of a Beach 116th Street hardware store, said the shop had sold out of sandbags and were selling a high number of tape and batteries.

UPDATE:

The city is not planning to evacuate any areas at this time, Mayor Michael Bloomberg told the public at a 6 p.m. briefing. Bloomberg recommended city residents living within flood zones should move to homes of friends and families, or at an evacuation center. The city is not expected to shut down on Monday, Bloomberg said, and all city employees are expected to be in work. Mass transit schedules will run on schedule tomorrow, he said. All events in city parks scheduled for after 2 p.m. have been canceled, he said, and parks will be closed after 5 p.m.

The mayor also advised surfers stay out of the water — despite temptations from high waves that are expected as the Hurricane nears the city. 

“Please, the beaches are dangerous and surfing is extremely dangerous,” Bloomberg said. “You may want to run the risk, but we have to send our emergency workers into the ocean to save you. Their lives are at risk, [and] you just don’t have a right to do that to anyone else.

Governor declares state of emergency as Hurricane Sandy heads for Queens


| brennison@queenscourier.com

File photo

Meteorologists expect the pre-Halloween hurricane horror “Frankenstorm” to strike Queens early Monday with the strongest surge coming later that day.

Hurricane Sandy has already blown through Haiti and Cuba and is forecasted to make a significant impact on a large portion of the New York metro area, said National Weather Service meteorologist David Stark.  Due to the storm’s potential impact, Governor Andrew Cuomo declared a state of emergency throughout New York.

Tropical storm-level winds may begin Sunday night with the stronger gusts coming Monday.  Sustained winds at 40-50 mph with gusts 60-70 mph  are expected with the potential for even stronger bursts.  Power outages, structural damage and downed trees are common in those types of winds.

Waves may reach 2o-25 feet off the coast.

“What we’ve been saying to everyone in coastal communities is prepare for a significant amount of coastal flooding,” Stark said.

During the heaviest rainfall, one to two inches per hour may flood areas.

Officials have not yet issued mandatory evacuations of low-lying areas, though they are still possible.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg has canceled all elective admissions at hospital in Zone A, which include the Queens neighborhoods of the Rockaways, Hamilton Beach and Broad Channel.

A decision on whether to close schools in the city will likely be made on Sunday, the mayor said.

Hurricanes rarely touch down in the area this late in hurricane season which lasts through November. Some have briefly touched the area in October, Stark said.

“It’s happening a little closer to land than what is typically common,” Stark said.

The “Frankenstorm” is interacting with a jet stream and cold front from the west pulling it back to the west rather than continuing out into open waters.

 

Forest Hills seeks flood fix


| MKirk@queenscourier.com

IMGP4777_2

Rene Alkalay, owner of Genesis Tree of Life, a yoga and wellness center on Metropolitan Avenue in Forest Hills, is furious that area flooding has cost him nearly $75,000.

“I want to know what you’re going to do to put me back in business,” he said at a town hall meeting on Thursday, September 27.

After being awash in complaints from Forest Hills residents regarding sewage flooding into their homes following heavy rains, Councilmember Karen Koslowitz and Community Board 6 invited the community to air their grievances directly to city officials in the hopes that a solution could be found.

A line of more than 30 people formed in the packed assembly room of the Forest Hills Jewish Center, where residents, some more vocal than others, expressed their concerns to employees of the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).

What ensued was a two-hour forum of tales of fecal-matter-filled water spouting out of drains, gallons upon gallons of sewer water flooding into basements, toxic mold growing on walls, skin inflammations, and cars, furniture and other belongings damaged beyond repair.

Ron Green, who lives on Yellowstone Boulevard, described a tactic he used during one storm that involved clogging his toilet with a towel and placing two sandbags on top of the lid before sitting on them. In the end, not even that could prevent a shower of feces from spraying out of the toilet, he said.

“It was like a fire hose,” he said.

Clay artist Ginnie Shaknis has seen her apartment flood three times due to heavy rainfall this summer. With the help of a friend, they bailed over 200 gallons of water out of her home. Lately she’s been dipping into her supply of clay to use as a way to clog her drains.

When asked how much financial damage she has suffered, Shaknis said, “I can’t even say anymore. It just keeps happening and happening.”

Edward Coleman, assistant commissioner for the Bureau of Water and Sewer Operations at the DEP, essentially told attendees that there is nothing the agency can do. Because the sewers are designed to handle one-and-a-half inches of rain per hour, the city is only liable for damage done to peoples’ homes when rainfall exceeds that amount. Since none of the storms this summer surpassed that quantity, it is unlikely that residents will receive any compensation.

Attendees who brought up their issues were asked to provide information to the DEP regarding the locations of suspected faulty storm drains. Several residents also cited occasions in which they contacted the DEP with concerns of overflowing storm drains and detached manhole covers and received a response they found unsatisfactory — or no response at all. The DEP took down information from these residents and said they would look into these matters.

Koslowitz asked the DEP employees what she could do to help her constituents affected by the flooding.

“As a single councilmember, there’s nothing you can do,” said Mark Lanaghan, assistant commissioner of Intergovernmental Affairs. “The purpose of meetings like this is to learn about things we didn’t know about and to have issues brought to our attention.”

Sandra Crystal has been living in Forest Hills for the last 50 years. Her apartment building flooded on two occasions this summer.

“Who’s your boss?” Crystal asked the panel when it was her turn at the microphone. “If it’s the mayor, then that’s who we need to talk to. If the mayor lived in Forest Hills, something would be done about it.”

Koslowitz said she found the meeting to ultimately be “very frustrating.”

“We received no answers. We have to look into different ways than before. Since 2007, this situation has been prevalent. It’s unacceptable that nothing can be done. I’m going to see what I can do, alert the mayor’s office and look for answers.”

Pilot program aims to prevent flooding


| brennison@queenscourier.com


A pilot program unveiled by the city will monitor elevated flow levels in sewers in hopes to prevent future flooding.

The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) installed 21 manhole covers — 11 in Queens — with monitoring sensors that will alert the agency when there is an elevated flow in the sewer.

Crews will then be sent out to perform necessary maintenance to help ward off flooding during heavy rain.

Flooding in the borough is becoming an increasingly prominent issue as many residents throughout Queens were flooded multiple times during storms this summer.

“Maintaining our 7,400 miles of sewer lines requires the smart allocation of resources and this monitoring technology will alert us to the areas that are most in need of attention,” said DEP Commissioner Carter Strickland. “When elevated flow levels are detected our staff will be able to inspect, and if necessary perform maintenance, on the sewer line and stop a problem before it gets worse.”

The pilot program will cost $300,000. Twenty more manhole covers uquipped with the sensors will be installed in the spring.

 

Forest Hills gets fresh flooding fix


| aaltman@queenscourier.com


Away goes trouble, down the drain.

Rampant rains that saturated homes and submerged cars earlier this month expedited plans by the New York City Departments of Environmental Protection (DEP) and Design and Construction (DDC) to complete the installation of a water-distribution system, expected to alleviate flooding in steadily soaked Forest Hills.

The $24 million upgrade targets roadway flooding and added approximately one mile of new sewer lines and half a mile of water mains. The project was funded by the DEP and will be overseen by the DDC.

Paul Pearlman, owner of Emilio’s Ski Shop, said flooding remains a major problem in the area.

“Every time it rains, the water just comes right in,” Pearlman said. “The water gets so backed up it just comes in. Even if it’s just a little rain, it floods.”

The business owner, whose store is located at the corner of Queens Boulevard and 76th Avenue, said his shop’s basement flooded on Saturday, September 8, after the DEP announced the completion of the revamped sewer system.

According to DEP commissioner Carter Strickland, the city agency plans to invest over half a billion dollars into improving the sewer infrastructure in Queens, reducing system overflows, backups and flooding.

“These new roadways, catch basins, and sewers will reduce flooding, improve water delivery, and yield a more attractive streetscape for the residents of Forest Hills,” said Eric MacFarlane, deputy commissioner for infrastructure at the DDC.

The project includes the installation of approximately 1,700 feet of sanitary sewer lines, more than 4,000 feet of storm sewer lines, 55 catch basins and 49 manholes, as well as the replacement of a 2,400-foot section of a water distribution main — fixtures the city believes will increase sewer capacity, reduce flooding and diminish backups.

City council concerned over climate changes


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of Councilmember James Gennaro

The City Council unanimously voted last week to pass a bill which would allow a task force to address rising sea levels and a recent increase in high-intensity rain storms throughout the five boroughs.

These long and short term problems stemming from climate change would be tackled by a panel of mayor-appointed climate impact scientists, according to Councilmember James Gennaro, who heads the Council’s Environmental Protection Committee.

“What we’re seeing more of now, more so than sea level rise, is the catastrophic impacts of these very high-intensity and frequent rain storms. We’re getting lots of intense weather events that are associated with the gradual warming of the atmosphere,” Gennaro said. “We’re seeing very intense rain storms on a frequency that we haven’t seen before.”

The task force was first created in 2008, under legislation penned by Gennaro, to help the city plan for wilder storms and higher oceans expected in the coming decades. By dealing with greenhouse gases, Gennaro said the bill first sought to reduce the severity of climate change. But this year’s “landmark” legislation, the councilmember said, is all about trying to adapt to it instead.

“Climate change is happening nonetheless,” he said. “We don’t control the fate of the climate around the world by reducing our own greenhouse gas. We’ll still be getting the effects.”

Gennaro said the panel — made up of private entities and representatives of city, state and federal agencies — would be called upon to bring “all of the best scientists together” to figure out the potential impacts of climate change in the city and develop protective policies around them.

Members of the task force, which will make recommendations no less than once every three years, will also brainstorm on infrastructure remedies, including the use of storm surge barriers, and improvements to the city’s sewer system, to make sure coastal parts of the city do not get flooded.

“Common sense policies,” Gennaro said, like where to develop complex buildings in the city away from future sea level complications, will also be considered by the panel.

“Last month was the hottest ever on record, and it’s only one example of the extreme weather New York City has experienced in recent years,” said Council Speaker Christine Quinn. “If this isn’t a call to action, I don’t know what is. We must act decisively now to address severe climate trends or we’re going to face tougher decisions down the road.”