Quinn plan could help to end Utopia flooding

A woman wades through flood waters at 164th Street and 71st Avenue in Fresh Meadows earlier this year. Photo by Ellis Kaplan
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People who live along flood-prone Utopia Parkway may get slight relief from City Council Speaker Christine Quinn’s (D-Manhattan) recent proposal to accelerate city projects that would protect against flooding, the councilman representing Fresh Meadows said last week.

But the long-besieged residents still need a larger remedy than those the speaker detailed, according to Councilman James Gennaro (D-Fresh Meadows).

“Anything is a help,” Gennaro said, but added, “I think that a specific several-block area [along Utopia Parkway] requires a special fix.”

He said projects Quinn pointed to, such as upgrading and protecting pumping stations and installing green streets that absorb water runoff, would help to lessen surcharges of water that can cause flooding along Utopia Parkway and elsewhere.

But he said the unique problem with that specific storm sewer section goes beyond the challenges facing the city’s sewer system as a whole.

“I think in that micro-area there needs to be a micro-solution,” he said.

Quinn’s proposals, which she outlined in a speech to the Association for a Better New York Nov. 13, are intended as a far-reaching blueprint to protect the city against the effects of climate change — an issue brought into sharp relief since Hurricane Sandy devastated the region. The proposals were not meant to specifically address the flooding problems along Utopia Parkway.

The type of flooding seen during Sandy, caused by a surge of water that inundated the coasts, is not the same as the flooding experienced in Fresh Meadows which occurs when intense rainfalls overwhelm the sewer systems. Gennaro said his office did not receive flooding complaints during Sandy.

But Gennaro said flooding during the hurricane and more frequent flooding in Fresh Meadows can both be linked to climate change, which the city has a strong record of addressing.

Although Quinn’s proposal was focused on the city in general, Gennaro said she was supportive of efforts to improve the Utopia Parkway storm sewer specifically. For instance, he said, Quinn allocated money for a city Department of Environmental Protection study conducted to determine potential city projects that could alleviate flooding there.

In October, Gennaro and DEP officials met with members of the Fresh Meadows Homeowners Civic Association to go over the study results and review the sewer projects they are considering.

Some fixes they have looked at include bolting down manholes, modifying catch basins with one-way valves, constructing a relief sewer and building a storage tank under Utopia Parkway’s median to detain water.

Gennaro said the DEP is expected to have a number of city project proposals ready by January.

Reach reporter Karen Frantz by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4538.

Posted 6:48 pm, November 20, 2012
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