Fast forward flood-fix plans

By Steve Mosco

A pair of summer storms accelerated plans to revamp the sewer system in flood-prone areas in Queens, officials said.

The city Departments of Design and Construction and of Environmental Protection agreed to fast-track sewer repairs after major August and September rainstorms caused extensive damage to residents’ homes. The repairs will encompass two major projects and help alleviate flooding in Middle Village, Maspeth and Glendale.

The project was initially announced in September and the DEP expected it to be completed by 2015. With the acceleration of the projects, one $15 million upgrade is slated for late 2013 and will add a second 6-feet-by-8-feet sewer pipeline to the existing one to contain water under Calamus Avenue from 69th Street to 74th Street, officials said. The other $7 million project will add new sewer mains and catch basins in 2014 on Penelope Avenue between 71st Street and 74th Street, according to the DEP.

“The storms in August and September showed that this area’s sewers are not equipped to handle major storms,” said City Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village). “It was simply unacceptable to ask residents to continue waiting before something was done.”

Crowley also thanked DDC Commissioner David Burney and DEP Commissioner Carter Strickland for working with the community to move the project forward. A spokesman for the DEP said it expects the projects, “once completed, will help improve storm water drainage in the affected neighborhoods.”

With initial projects in September, the city installed approximately 1,700 feet of sanitary sewer lines, more than 4,000 feet of storm sewer lines, 55 catch basins and 49 manholes. The increased sewer capacity helped reduce roadway flooding and sewer backups in the surrounding area, according to DEP Commissioner Carter Strickland.

DEP officials said the acceleration of the Penelope Avenue project ensures construction will overlap with the installation of sewers on Calamus Avenue, which will begin this summer. Both sewer lines are part of a main system that drains at LaGuardia Airport, and completion of both projects will increase sewer capacity around Penelope Avenue by as much as 80 percent, said a spokesman.

Crowley said she would continue to push for more infrastructure improvements for the district’s sewers as well as the installation of more catch basins and permeable surfaces to prevent flooding.

The sewer improvements are in response to two major storms: the first on Aug. 15 and the second on Sept. 9. In both incidents, torrential rains caused severe flooding of the Cooper Avenue underpass in Glendale. During the first storm, a nun and her two friends were rescued by EMT workers after the car they were traveling in became inundated with floodwaters.

Reach reporter Steve Mosco by e-mail at smosco@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.