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Rains flood roads, stores in Flushing

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"It came all the way up to here," Stephanie Patino said, motioning to her knee. "The delivery had just gotten here so the boxes were everywhere."Patino's mother owns the Colombian restaurant El Rinc—n Antioque–o on 162nd Street between Sanford Avenue and 43rd Avenue, which was one of many stores on that block affected by the torrential downpour on Aug. 11.One block south of El Rinc—n Antioque–o, city construction workers were working on a sewer project, area business people said.Nearby resident Mary Anderson, who represents the East Flushing Civic Association, said the sewer project was long overdue.As far as she knew, Anderson said the city was spending between $6 million and $10 million on the new water main to accommodate development in that part of Flushing.The rainstorms, which came as the construction was underway, were more than the system could handle, she said."I ran downstairs to my basement, which is finished," she said. She said there was an explosion from a surge in the bathroom that brought water to the floor of her basement."It looked like crushed soot. It was a horror," she said.Also in northeast Queens, a couple was electrocuted when they got out of their car into a puddle where a downed live power line had fallen in College Point.Councilman John Liu (D-Flushing) said as with many of the problems the storms caused, he was aware that flooding had occurred in east Flushing last week but that no official complaints had been filed with his office.Water also flooded highways such as the Cross Island Parkway and Whitestone Expressway, which both experienced delays and closures on Aug. 11. Liu said Whitestone does not have a storm drainage system and has not for the past 50 years."They could not build storm sewers in that area because there was no way to carry that water down to Flushing Bay," Liu said.Last year, he said, technology to create underwater drainage was introduced to the city, setting the stage for a $30 million project for storm sewers on the Whitestone Expressway.The 10-year project is actually moving along faster than expected, Liu said. He is planning an announcement about the progression of the storm drainage construction soon, he said.On 162nd Street, workers were busy with the sewers one block south of affected businesses on Tuesday.Charlie Leiser of Leiser's Liquors on the corner of 162nd Street and Sanford Avenue said he believes the city construction project will prevent flooding like this in the future."The sewers couldn't handle the water, it came so fast," he said. "Once they replace them, it should be fine."A Department of Design and Construction spokeswoman said the sewer project was costing the city $6.3 million."The purpose of the project is to address and lessen the flooding that has occurred there for years," DDC spokeswoman Elizabeth Harris said. She maintained that the DDC project was not responsible for the flooding.Liu said he believed the flooding was related to the city sewer upgrade."I believe that it has to do with the construction that's currently taking place there that may have impaired the storm-water-carrying capacity," he said.Right outside of the construction site at a realtor's office, employee Michelle Hu said her boss was cleaning up the basement flooding until 3 a.m. the following day."My boss goes like this the second day," she said, hunching over and holding her back. "He couldn't even move, he said."Reach reporter Cynthia Koons by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 141.

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