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Photos courtesy of Alfredo Centola
Photos courtesy of Alfredo Centola
Runoff flooding that accumulated on the road after a recent rainstorm.

Whitestone residents are calling for the end of what they call “Lake Malba.”

The nickname refers to a flood-prone portion of the Whitestone Expressway service road in the Malba area of Whitestone on the western side of the Whitestone Bridge, which is operated by the MTA Bridges and Tunnels [MTABT].

According to local resident Alfredo Centola, the street has flooded during rainy weather for decades, but in the years following the $109 million project to widen the bridge, which was finished in 2014, the situation has been “exasperated tenfold.”

“The water from the ramp of the exit of the bridge runs off right onto the dirt, which then flows out into the street,” Centola said. “The [Department of Environmental Protection] needs to install new sewer lines, yes; but the main problem is the amount of water flowing from the bridge.”

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The flooding, which Centola said he’s seen get up to 18 inches high, poses a host of quality-of-life concerns, he continued. Drivers attempting to access the neighborhood down the one-way street during the flooding have been known to get stuck, and drivers who do not want to risk the flooding take the chance of driving the wrong way down the nearby one-way street, Parsons Boulevard, to access the neighborhood.

The flooding also presents health concerns, he continued. The flooding, which becomes standing water, has residents concerned that the ongoing situation will breed mosquitoes in the warmer months that could potentially carry West Nile Virus — an infection that has impacted the area in the past.

Centola, who is also the president of the We Love Whitestone Civic Association, said he has gotten an increased number of complaints about the roadway in recent months. The community leader has reached out to a host of city agencies, including the MTABT, on their behalf, and has either received no response or been promptly redirected to another agency.

“We’ve got clear pictures and video of water pouring out like a waterfall,” lifelong Malba resident Christopher Biancaniello said. “It’s an accident waiting to happen. And what bothers everyone the most is that [MTABT] is not taking responsibility for it.”

As part of the 2011 bridge reconstruction effort, MTABT relocated and expanded the Francis Lewis Park playground out from under the bridge and re-landscaped the area. According to Centola, this area is also subject to the storm water runoff flooding, rendering it unusable after heavy storms.

“All that water from mid-span on drains into Malba,” Centola said. “They always said that the bridge would handle its own water. It seems to me like [MTABT], pretty much, lied.”

“They’re the designers; the builders of the bridge,” the civic president continued. “But common sense, to me, dictates you need to do something about this.”

A spokesperson for the MTA told QNS that all drainage systems on the bridge are working correctly and the street in the area, which is owned by the city, has only two drains. The spokesperson also said that homeowners whose backyards face the street have installed privacy walls along the area with drainpipe holes, which direct additional water from their backyards into the street.

“We perform regular maintenance sweeps to ensure our operations don’t negatively impact the surrounding residential area and are working with the local community to address any concerns they may have,” the spokesperson said.

QNS also reached out the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the Department of Transportation (DOT) for comment and is awaiting a response.

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Pedro Valdez Rivera Jr. April 28, 2017 / 05:48PM
Superstorm Sandy is a wake-up call for all of us, especially for the MTA to be resilient to future storms and sea level rises, in which it will be a norm from ow on.
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