Drowning in water - JuniperCivic.com
Serving Middle Village and Maspeth since 1938.

Originally published in the September 2007 Juniper Berry Magazine

Drowning in water

54th Avenue in Maspeth on August 8th

The flooding in Maspeth, Middle Village and Glendale was the hot topic of conversation at the August Community Board 5 meeting. The recent deluge was the second time in three weeks that homes and businesses experienced flooding. On July 18th and August 8th there were rainstorms that affected areas of all three neighborhoods ‒ and some were places that had never experienced this problem before.

Homeowners reported that sewer backups left several inches to several feet of water and sewage in their basements and garages. The flooding damaged appliances and valuables stored in each location. In Middle Village, several feet of water flowed onto Penelope Avenue between 72nd and 74th streets with water rushing out of catch basins and manholes and flooding the roadway. One driver who ventured into the flooding was forced to abandon his car due to the height of the water. At one point the water was high enough to float garbage cans and bags in neighboring backyards.

Residents are reporting a new danger in the form of toxic black mold growing on walls saturated by floodwater. The fungus has been known to cause serious health risks especially for asthmatics, according to a U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

In Maspeth, 54th Avenue alongside Mount Zion Cemetery, west of Maurice Avenue, was turned into a lake where cars became islands in the waist-high water.

Areas of Glendale were also hit hard by flooding including sections of 77th Avenue between 80th and 88th streets as well as the intersection of 79th Lane and 78th Road, with many complaints of flooded basements.

Compounding the Glendale flooding was the Cooper Avenue underpass, closed off for 24 hours with water almost reaching the height of the railroad trestle, 13 feet above the roadway, according to Ronnie Roth of the 104th Precinct Civilian Observation Patrol. Police guarded both entries to make sure no one attempted to use the roadway.

State Senator Serf Maltese attended the August Community Board 5 meeting and stated that his office received many constituent complaints.

He distributed to the attendees letters he wrote to Emily Lloyd, Commissioner of DEP and James Roberts, Deputy Commissioner of the Bureau of Water & Sewer Operations stating that something needs to be done to correct the situation. Senator Maltese said that a determination needed to be made as to whether the flooding is due to undersized pipes or that the sewer systems have not been properly cleaned. He is requesting that DEP conduct a major study of the current sewer system and to take appropriate actions towards a permanent solution to eliminate sewage from flooding into his constituents' basements. He stated that funding for these projects could reach the billions of dollar range and that he hoped to start an initiative at all government levels to raise the money.

Senator Maltese stated something of which we are all well aware ‒ overdevelopment has taken its toll on our sewage systems with one- and two-family houses being replaced by condos and co-ops housing twenty and thirty families. Aggravating the situation is the problem of construction crews dumping their concrete tinged water into the streets with water that ends up flowing into nearby catch basins. This practice clogs the filters that are necessary to keep debris out of the pipes.

Congressman Crowley, Assemblywoman Markey and Councilman Gioia have called for an investigation into the causes of the flooding and have also contacted city, state and federal agencies in an attempt to secure relief for those affected as well as funding toward sewer maintenance and upgrades. Area residents who have experienced flooding over the years are skeptical that anything substantive will be done and want their elected officials to stay on the issue and not abandon it when the waters recede.

Anyone who was flooded should report it to 311 and get a control number. Also, you should file a claim with the NYC Comptroller's Office. The form for this is posted on Comptroller William Thompson's site. If you have any trouble downloading the form or do not have computer access, call CB5 at (718) 366-1834 and they will mail you a form. This is important, the sooner you file, the better.