a Downpour of Problems

Glendale Eyes Flooding, Shelter Rumor

Recent flooding problems and a persistent rumor about a homeless shelter being developed in Glendale were hot topics addressed by legislators at the Glendale Property Owners Association (GPOA) meeting last Thursday night, Sept. 6, at St. Pancras Pfeifer Hall.

Floods and speculation about a homeless shelter in the area were addressed by City Council Member Elizabeth Crowley at last Thursday’s Glendale Property Owners Association meeting.

City Council Member Elizabeth Crowley told residents that she is calling on the Department of Environmental Protection to investigate and remediate the causes of flooding in areas of Glendale following periods of heavy rain on Aug. 15.

Thunderstorms dumped nearly three inches of rain on much of the city that day and caused sewer back- ups and street flooding in low-lying areas of Glendale. One particular section hardest hit by the floods was in the vicinity of 77th Avenue between 76th and 86th streets, Crowley stated. The Cooper Avenue underpass was also flooded.

“If you ask the city Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), they’ll say that it was an act of God … which, if you ask us here in Glendale is happening all too frequently,” Crowley said. She pointed out that just five years ago, the neighborhood experienced widespread flooding following an August 2007 thunderstorm.

After that event, the DEP and a Flood Mitigation Task Force met and outlined a series of projects to upgrade sewers around Queens. Though other neighborhoods such as Forest Hills received improvements, Crowley indicated, such upgrades are still in the waiting for Glendale.

Estimating that the DEP spent $50 million in sewer system upgrades since 2007, Crowley mentioned that “that was just phase one. They have to go through multiple amount of phases to put our system in place to prevent” future flooding.

“It is frustrating, but many people felt the economic pain,” she added. “There were questionable failures of the system in Glendale,” such as the collapse of a sewer in the area of 77th Avenue and 84th Street which required emergency repairs.

The lawmaker told attendees that she was scheduled to meet with DEP representatives in the coming week to discuss flooding issues in Glendale as well as the possible causes of the Cooper Avenue underpass flood. She previously called for an investigation by the DEP and the Department of Design and Construction to determine if the ongoing rehabilitation of the underpass’ retaining walls contributed to flood problems on Aug. 15.

“We believe that the flooding that happened in and around that area was so severe that the construction was part of the reason,” Crowley said. “We don’t know, but we want to know. We believe so, because that’s where a sewer pumping station” is located.

Those affected by the flooding were invited by Crowley to file claims with the city Comptroller’s office for compensation for damages.

State Sen. Joseph Addabbo later added flooding issues in Glendale and other parts of the district may also be the result of clogged catch basins. He encouraged residents to call his office if they suspect debris is inhibiting a catch basin on their block; Addabbo’s office will then call the DEP on the resident’s behalf to schedule a basin cleaning.

Helter-skelter over shelter

Crowley then turned her attention to speculation about the development of a homeless shelter at a long-vacant Glendale warehouse located at 78-16 Cooper Ave. Noting that “hundreds of residents” have contacted her office about the rumor, she explained that no applications or plans have been submitted to the city or to Community Board 5 for its perusal.

In conversations with the property owner, Michael Wilner, Crowley stated that she learned he contacted a non-profit group about considering the location in question. However, the lawmaker observed that it was unlikely such an organization would undertake the improvements needed to upgrade the facility for residential use.

“He has had that building mostly empty for 20 years,” she said, adding that the site is poorly located for a homeless shelter since it is blocks away from public transportation.

“The amount of work it would take for that location to be a residential space would be millions and millions of dollars,” Crowley added. “A non-profit agency that’s running homeless shelters should not have that type of cash” required for such a renovation.

Even though the situation is one “where we shouldn’t be overly worried,” Crowley cautioned the she would oppose any such shelter plan that could come on the horizon. Facing an increase in the homeless population, she noted, the city Department of Homeless Services (DHS) has an open request for proposals for new shelters across the city.

Though the Cooper Avenue site is zoned for manufacturing use, Crowley added, there is a loophole which could allow the city to permit a “transient hotel” or a rental space at the site.

With no plan for the site in place, the legislator stated that she has contacted other groups such as Small Business Services, the Parks Department and the YMCA about reusing the site for non-residential purposes. The property owner, Crowley noted, is “welcoming everyone to look at this space.”

Miller campaigns

Facing a challenge in the Democratic primary scheduled for today, Thursday, Sept. 13, Assemblyman Mike Miller appeared at last Thursday’s GPOA meeting to ask for the public’s support at the polls, touting his accomplishments over the last two years in office.

Miller stated that he worked with Rep. Bob Turner to ask the United States Postal Service for a separate ZIP code for the neighborhood. While the USPS turned down that request, it granted Glendale “second line preference” for the 11385 ZIP code it shares with Ridgewood.

“That’s a big deal for a lot of us,” the assemblyman said, as the neighborhood of Glendale will now be recognized on anything shipped through USPS as a valid neighborhood within 11385.

Miller noted that he was also responsive to problems following the September 2010 tornado/microburst which struck the area and has worked with the Sanitation Department to launch an “adopt-a-basket” program on Myrtle Avenue in Glendale to prevent the overflow of public trash receptacles.

The lawmaker is being challenged by Woodhaven community activist David Adorno in today’s primary. Adorno was not in attendance at the GPOA session.

Other news

Crowley announced that the planned renovation of Evergreen Playground adjacent to P.S. 68 in Glendale will be the focus of a meeting of Community Board 5’s Parks Committee later this month. The project, for which Crowley provided funding, aims to provide equipment which the area has lacked.

“The Parks Department doesn’t even remember the last time it was refurbished,” she said. The council member added that the improvements are scheduled to begin next spring.

The controversy surrounding the potential use of hydraulic fracturing (hydrofracking) in drilling for natural gas in upstate New York continues, Addabbo said. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has yet to issue permits allowing for such drilling, and the senator stated that he hopes “he holds off on the projects.”

He also mentioned new concern about the gas method-which involves the injection of a chemical slurry into the earth to tap into underground shales containing natural gas-and its potential regulation by the state Department of Environmental Conservation. Addabbo cited a recent statement by DEC Commissioner Joseph Martens that the agency would need 200 additional employees to adequately monitor hydrofracking in upstate areas.

“We don’t even have the technology or the capability to monitor” such drilling, Addabbo said. He noted that his office is monitoring the issue with “very cautious eyes” and encouraged residents to do the same.

GPOA President Brian Dooley informed residents that Board 5 has reached out to the Sanitation Department to crack down on illegal dumping around the neighborhood and on major shopping strips. The board has also inquired with the Parks Department about the status of the Ridgewood Reservoir, for which the DEC is reportedly considering a wetlands declaration.

If the reservoir’s basins are declared wetlands, Dooley stated, it would prevent the Parks Department from developing any of the naturallyreforested chambers into athletic fields. The board has asked the agency to instead improve existing ball fields in adjacent Highland Park.

The Glendale Property Owners Association generally meets on the first Thursday each month at 7:30 p.m. at St. Pancras Pfeifer Hall, located at the corner of Myrtle Avenue and 68th Street.

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