Long-term flooding fix for SE Qns is still years away

Karen Ellis, from the city Department of Environmental Protection, and Gary Ambrose, of the city Department of Design and Construction, update Rosedale residents on the status of a storm-sewer project in their neighborhood. Photo by Rich Bockmann
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As southeast Queens residents brace themselves for another rainy season, the city has several plans in the works to alleviate the area’s flooding, although long-term relief continues to remain years away.

Last summer was the wettest on record since the National Weather Service began keeping tabs at John F. Kennedy International and LaGuardia airports in the late 1940s, and even though this year is starting off drier, residents say it does not take much rain at all to flood their basements.

The situation is compounded by the fact that many areas in southeast Queens are low-lying, and the water table has been rising ever since the city purchased the Jamaica Water Supply Co. in 1996 and capped its wells.

The city Department of Environmental Protection is currently exploring pumping some of the wells as it looks for alternative water supply sources for 2020, when the Delaware Aqueduct, which carries water to the city from the Catskills, will be closed for repairs.

“We’re in the final stages of selecting a consultant to identify those wells to fix,” DEP Commissioner Carter Strickland said at a meeting at Queens Borough Hall Monday.

Strickland said the agency must consider the targeted wells’ effect on the water supply and flooding.

“Not every well will help the immediate area, and that’s what we’re going to be looking at,” he said. “I can’t tell you I have a solution to the rising groundwater level.”

The DEP does have plans to start pumping one of the wells, at 180th Street and 106th Avenue, within the next month as part of a plan to clean contaminated groundwater.

A spokeswoman for the department said, however, that if there is any ancillary impact on flooding, it will be “very localized.”

The department has plans to install two reverse-seepage basins along Linden Boulevard at 155th and 165th streets as part of a pilot program to test how the system, which does not require pumping, will affect flooding.

Meanwhile, residents in Rosedale are still waiting for the DEP to begin construction on a long-awaited project to install storm sewers along streets surrounding Brookville Boulevard.

The city completed Phase 1 of the project more than a decade ago, but Phase 2 has been plagued by repeated delays.

“When I moved here 10, 12 years ago, they were finishing up Part A, we were told Part B would be right around the corner,” Marcia O’Brien said at a meeting convened last week by City Councilman James Sanders (D-Laurelton).

Gary Ambrose, a representative for the city Department of Design and Construction, said the project should begin in fiscal year 2016. The DDC oversees DEP contracts, and Ambrose said the project has been set back for a number of reasons, including getting state approval to discharge stormwater into Jamaica Bay.

“There are things we can do and there are things we can’t do, at least not readily,” he said.

Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4574.

Updated 10:28 am, April 19, 2012
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