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Residents seek answers after flood

A construction worker looks over Cooper Avenue after the storm flooded the underpass. Photo courtesy Teresa Graff DiTomaso
TimesLedger Newspapers

Torrential rains wreaked havoc around the city last week, causing power outages and flooded streets throughout Queens.

Now as residents mop up the watery mess, local elected officials are seeking answers from city agencies charged with protecting the public during such weather events.

City Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village) sent a letter to the city Department of Environmental Protection Tuesday calling for an investigation into extensive flooding in Glendale.

“Significant areas of Glendale have dealt with flooding issues, which led to my office advocating for the successful installation of new catch basins in prone areas throughout Middle Village and Glendale,” said Crowley. “But in my four years in office, even after a hurricane and a microburst, our community has not witnessed this type of extensive flooding. We need to determine whether the construction at the underpass directly led to the failure of the pumping station and ensure that the city makes the necessary corrections to prevent future flooding in the future.”

Crowley said Glendale’s sewer system could not keep up with the torrential rain, causing a backup and flooding the streets and residents’ homes.

I’m facing total devastation in my basement. It’s a total loss,” said Charlie Krieger, who had more than 4 feet of water flood his basement and garage on 76th Street in Glendale Aug. 15.

The retired 74-year-old said his television and furniture are trashed, while his boiler, hot water heater, refrigerator, washer and dryer could be wrecked beyond repair.

“All I’ve been doing is crying,” he said. “I can’t afford to replace all of this.”

The unsettled weather first rolled through the area at around 1 p.m., with an even bigger storm soaking the area later that afternoon around 4 p.m. At the height of the storms, Con Edison reported more than 3,000 outages across the borough.

The Glendale area was one of the spots most affected by the heavy windswept rains, with drainage along Cooper Avenue quickly becoming overwhelmed and turning into what some residents likened to an Olympic-size swimming pool in the underpass.

Krieger’s neighbor, Leonard Klie, said the Cooper Avenue underpass is a major hazard, flooding each time heavy rains pass through the area.

“They’ve been too concerned with building the wall on Cooper Avenue,” said Klie, referring to a retaining wall currently being rehabilitated by the city. “The real problem is the sewer system. Once that underpass overflows, the water here has nowhere to go but into our house.”

Krieger’s wife Ann said they have called 311 and reported the flooding problem to area politicians on many occasions — and they are still waiting for answers.

“The only responses we get are all kinds of excuses,” she said. “The local politicians are nowhere to be found and on top of that we have a mayor who is more concerned with the size of soda.”

The DEP said it encourages residents to log complaints so the department can proactively seek out solutions.

“We are making these complaints a top priority at this time,” said the spokesman.

But Krieger, his wife and his neighbors believe promises are one thing — actions are what really matter.

“All anyone does is talk. They come here and they talk, but nothing happens,” he said. “I would sell my house, but who would buy it knowing what kinds of problems they will face?”

Reach reporter Steve Mosco by e-mail at smosco@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.

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