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City to pay for Astoria street flood

"I looked into it and it would appear that the (city) Department of Environmental Protection was responsible," Bloomberg said. "A sleeve many, many years ago was installed in a way that when we looked at it, it probably wasn't done in the correct way and so I've asked the comptroller (Bill Thompson) to expedite settlements with anybody who had damage."In the meantime, he said the city will continue to investigate what caused the rupture to a 20-inch pipe at Ditmars Boulevard and 71st Street that took more than two hours to contain."If they had come sooner to shut the water off ... maybe things on higher shelves would have been salvaged," said Madeline Sweeney, 38, who lost family heirlooms and home appliances when her basement flooded at 4808 Ditmars Blvd. She has spent more than $6,000 on repairs and expects a higher bill when a contractor is finished fixing her floors and electrical problems."I have a feeling what the city is going to offer is going to be a hell of a lot less than what we paid," she said. "I'm skeptical but hopeful."Jeff Simmons, a spokesman for the comptroller's office, said Sweeney and other property owners have 90 days from the date of the accident to file their claims. As of Tuesday his office had yet to receive a claim."It takes time for these things to be processed, but these will be identified rapidly so that we can look at them more quickly," Simmons said. "We understand the situation that a number of people are in."City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria) said he will hold Council hearings to determine why it took the DEP a half hour to respond to the scene and an additional two hours to turn the water off. That time cost his constituents millions, he said."We must ensure that nothing like this ever happens again," Vallone said.He is working with state Assemblyman Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria) to appropriate $2.5 million in state funds to aid flood victims.Gianaris said the state set up emergency flood relief grants for southeast Queens homeowners who lost property in a 1999 flood. He plans to introduce a bill that would do the same in Astoria."They need help right now while the bureaucracy takes its time to complete its investigations," Gianaris said.Reach reporter Matthew Monks by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.

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