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Councilman says mayor has ignored Utopia problem

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The Utopia Jewish Center hosted a news conference Friday about the flooding of Utopia Parkway that has been bedeviling the neighborhood for at least two decades and occurred again June 14.

"I remember coming to Flushing Heights Civic Association meetings 20 years ago at the Utopia Jewish Center about the flooding, and still nothing's been done," said state Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Whitestone), whose late husband, Leonard Stavisky, was then the representative in Albany.

The center sits at the intersection of Utopia Parkway and 65th Avenue, which floods every time there is heavy rain in the area, residents say, and makes the Utopia Jewish Center a great location to discuss the high water.

Especially since the center itself flooded — the water entering the subterranean boiler room soaked the basement ballroom and kitchen in a repeat of the events in August 2007 — during the June 14 storm. The water earlier this month reached the third step leading up to the elevated entrance.

On the temple steps Friday, Stavisky, state Assemblymen Mark Weprin (D-Little Neck) and Rory Lancman (D-Fresh Meadows) joined a very angry City Councilman James Gennaro (D-Fresh Meadows) to blast the city and Mayor Michael Bloomberg for not doing anything to prevent flooding that stretches back decades.

Last year alone, Utopia Parkway flooded during storms on April 15, July 18 and Aug. 8.

"I'm very angry with the Bloomberg administration for doing nothing to remediate the flooding on the Utopia corridor," Gennaro said. "We've gone to the administration time after time, and once again we had a situation where cars were floating down Utopia Parkway."

Lancman said street flooding and basement flooding that cause backups of raw sewage into people's houses is "endemic" in the area during heavy rains.

"If I told you people had sewage backups in their basements, you'd think I'm talking about a Third World country, but this is New York City in the 21st century," he said.

The flooding is such a chronic problem that the city named the Hillcrest/Utopia area one of 10 flood mitigation study areas in Queens in the Ready New York pamphlets distributed since April. The brochures suggest homeowners buy flood insurance and clean sewer catchbasins, Gennaro said.

"They should've printed these things on sponges," he fumed.

Lancman, too, criticized the city's response to the area's repeated flooding.

"The people have done their part, the city and state Legislatures have done their part, but the mayor hasn't done his part," Lancman said. "We've seen how energetic [Bloomberg] can be when it comes to getting something he wants, like congestion pricing or bringing the Olympics to New York. It's time he did what he was elected to do and stand up for the city."

Posted 6:40 pm, October 10, 2011
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