By Nathan Duke
City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria) is calling on the city to upgrade Astoria's sewer system after recent heavy rainstorms left the basements of a number of neighborhood residents flooded.
The neighborhood's sewers backed up following several mid-August storms, leaving many residents' basements and backyards full of water, Vallone said.
The councilman said he believed the city Department of Environmental Protection had not adequately upgraded Astoria's sewer system to combat population increases and development in the neighborhood during the past few years.
“We don't want Queens turning into Atlantis,” Vallone said. “As our city grows, our services need to keep pace with the increased pressures that new homes and businesses can cause. At the moment, it appears our drains simply cannot meet the strain put on them.”
The DEP could not be reached for comment.
Vallone said his office was flooded with calls from constituents who had lived in the community for years but never before experienced flooding.
“This is a community-wide problem and it happens once a year because the city is not maintaining the sewers,” said John Carlson, whose elderly mother had to contend with a flooded basement in her home at the corner of 43rd Street and Ditmars Boulevard in Astoria. “People suffer when it rains a lot. We're at our wit's end.”
Vivian Costagliaoloa, who lives near 20th Avenue and 49th Street in Astoria, said she and her husband had to clean their basement after the August rainstorm. She said they had to conduct a similar cleanup two years ago when overwhelmed sewers backed up in the midst of the 10-day western Queens blackout.
“It took us about two hours to clean up,” she said. “It's a lot of hard work.”
Vallone said the sections of Astoria that received the worst flooding were 18th, 21st and 48th streets. He said a number of residents have installed check valves and taken other measures to prevent sewer backups at their homes, but recent downpours have still caused them to overflow.
“Whoever said a little water never hurt anybody obviously wasn't a homeowner,” Vallone said.
Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.