BY TRONE DOWD
A $5 million sewer project meant to fix storm water issues in residential parts of Jamaica will be restarted after it failed to mitigate flooding caused by April rain that poured freely into the basements of homeowners in the area.
Funding for the project was part of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s $1.7 billion allocation to end storm water flooding in Southeast Queens in 2015. Community Board 12 District manager Yvonne Reddick told attendees at last week’s general meeting that flooding on 90th Avenue and 183rd Street in Jamaica was significant and a result of the city Department of Environmental Protection and Department of Design and Construction underestimating the scale of what was needed to reduce storm water runoff in Jamaica.
“The last rainfall we received, from what I understand, flooded out the basements of many of the homeowners,” Reddick said.
The storm water project originally began in November 2015. According to Reddick, the DEP did not inform residents before the rainfall that the storm water sewer needed to be redone to compensate for the volume of storm water in this part of the neighborhood. It wasn’t until the flooding had already occurred that the community board was informed about the need to redesign the sewer.
“They will once again build the project out with another contractor,” Reddick said during the meeting. “Because when they designed the storm sewer, they designed it too small. When that project started out, I asked them if they decreased the size of the project and they told me, ‘no.’”
Reddick said that she couldn’t understand how something so significant could go unnoticed when the Department of Design and Construction was mapping out the project. April rain wreaked havoc all over Southeast Queens, according to 311 phone call records for the area.
“For the month of April, a total of 424 311 calls were made regarding sewer back up,” Reddick said. “We have the most sewer backup issues. And we’ve always had the most sewer line leaks in the borough—128 service line leaks in one month. That’s not okay.”
Reddick said that the figures came from the DEP, which has proposed a number of projects in Southeast Queens to fix some of the issues in the area. This month, the agency begin work on water main projects located at 168th Street between Jamaica and Liberty avenues; Douglas Avenue between Merrick Boulevard and 170th Street; Merrick Boulevard between Jamaica and Archer avenues; and 165th Street between Jamaica and Archer avenues.
The DEP and DDC are set to come back to 90th Avenue and 183rd Street to reassess and redesign the storm sewer in the near future.
Attendees and CB 12 board members were livid that such a mistake could be made by the city.
“What happened to the genius who designed this?” one resident asked.
“They took $5 million from our community and didn’t give us what we’re entitled to,” another resident said. “Who is holding them accountable?”
CB 12 member Manny Caughman informed residents that the DEP has scheduled a town hall meeting for Southeast Queens on June 28 and implored the community to show up and voice their frustrations. The meeting will be held at the St. Albans Family Center.
Flooding is a rampant problem in Southeast Queens. The Press of Southeast Queens recently published a four-part series on the area’s rising groundwater levels, a problem separate from the borough’s storm water issue and not covered by de Blasio’s more than $1 billion dollar allocation. Groundwater has flooded out the homes of homeowners for more than 20 years as a result of years of development and neglect from the city.