DEP to construct sewers in Flushing to fight floods

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Conceding that an earlier, cheaper project was not sufficient to relieve flooding, city officials and politicians announced a plan to construct sewer lines aimed at ending the water problems in a low-lying section of Whitestone.

Under the $30 million proposal, the city would construct storms sewers in parts of Whitestone and Flushing that currently lack them.

Construction is expected to begin in three years and will be completed in about 10 years, city Department of Environmental Protection officials said.

"For too long now sewer problems have really been plaguing the neighborhood," said Councilman John Liu (D-Flushing) at a meeting at the St. Alphonsus Formation Residence announcing the plan. "It's gotten to the point that people in this area have had to go to extreme measures."

The plan seeks to alleviate flooding from the Whitestone Expressway Service Road to Parsons Boulevard between 20th Avenue and 25th Avenue, a low-lying area home to hundreds of residents.

The actual construction of sewer lines, however, would take place in a much larger area that includes both Whitestone and Flushing. That area stretches from the Whitestone Expressway to the Cross Island Parkway to the north and extends as far east as 149th Street and as far south as 29th Avenue.

Residents of the flood-prone streets have said they have been suffering from severe flooding for decades. They have told horror stories about water building up to four feet and damaging the electronic instruments of cars.

"I am delighted that finally after all these years we will see some action," said state Sen. Toby Ann Stavisky (D-Flushing). "There's been flooding here for as long as I can remember."

In October, the city announced a $1.44 million project to install seepage basins in the area. Seepage basins funnel water into soil, where it is absorbed.

But seepage basins can only handle so much water, and many residents were skeptical of the plan. Some called for catch basins, which are attached to sewer lines and dump excess water into bodies of water.

At the time, DEP officials said the seepage basins would help but would not say that the basins would end the flooding.

But with the newer project, officials did not hesitate to make such a promise.

"It will alleviate severe flooding that you folks are experiencing," DEP Assistant Commissioner Mark Lanaghan told the crowd.

The new plan relies on using a more expensive technology. The DEP had hesitated to build sewer lines in the area because it is at the bottom of a hill and water cannot flow up a hill.

The city will get around that problem by constructing two sewer lines underneath the Whitestone Expressway. The water will flow into the Flushing Airport site, where it will be funneled into an existing sewer system that will carry the water into the Flushing Bay.

Typically, sewer lines are constructed by digging a trench in the street, putting in the pipes and covering up the ground. Since the city cannot dig a trench across the Whitestone Expressway, officials elected to use "trenchless technology." The city will dig two short tunnels underneath the road and then install the sewer pipes, said DEP Director of Engineering Magdi Farag.

"We use it when we have no other way," Farag said.

Although upset that the job is expected to take a decade, residents were for the most part pleased that the city had decided to go with a more expensive project.

"They tried the cheapest, quickest way. It didn't relieve all of it." said Gary Koch, a resident of 23rd Avenue. "And now they are doing the right job."

Reach reporter Alexander Dworkowitz by e-mail at or call 718-229-0300 Ext. 141.

Posted 7:23 pm, October 10, 2011
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