By Debbie Cohen
The city Department of Environmental Protection has taken responsibility for floods that poured into southern Queens last week after heavy thunderstorms rolled through the area.
A torrential rainstorm dumped more than 5 inches of rain April 30 in Queens neighborhoods, flooding homes and condominium buildings in Lindenwood and bringing back painful memories of the devastating damage from Hurricane Sandy.
Many Lindenwood residents had their garages, basements and first-floor apartments flooded with between 2 and 5 feet of water, causing once again some to evacuate and dispose of water-soaked electronics, cabinets, couches, tables, family photos and damaged vehicles, which were sprawled out on street curbs and backyards as if multiple yard sales were taking place.
But instead everything was damaged and junked.
“This has been a nightmare — it’s Sandy all over again,” said Lydia Marchese, who rents a first-floor apartment, on 79th Street near 153rd Avenue. “I lost everything again as I did in Sandy — over $8,000 of my belongings are wiped out because of 4 feet of water that came gushing into my floors. This did not happen again due to high tides or climate change — it happened from a backed-up, aging sewer system that was never taken care of after Sandy hit.”
Following the storm, the Red Cross, the NYPD, the city Department of Environmental Protection and the NYPD brought cleanup kits, water, claim forms for water loss reimbursement and some cash assistance to residents who were affected in the area.
The Red Cross provided some emergency hotel/housing assistance for a few nights for people who had no shelter, including emergency money for food and clothes, but for some who lost everything it was not enough.
“I came home from work and I saw the flooding in the street and in my building and all I can think of is being scared and filled with anxiety all over again,” said Eddie McDonough, who lives on 79th Street near 155th Avenue. “People want answers, I want answers. I lived in the downstairs apartment during Sandy and I lost $25,000 of furniture and personal items and now I live on the second floor of this same building, and since this flood the mold and smell is disgusting downstairs. After the flooding there was no hot water for several days, and my neighbors and I can’t live in fear every time there is a heavy rain.”
State Sen. Joseph Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach) recently told the mayor’s office that answers are needed, catch basins have to be cleaned and sewers need to be upgraded.
“We need a game plan now to fix this aging infrastructure and the Spring Creek pumps,” he said. “Water is getting backed up in Howard Beach with mild rain. “If DEP admits they are at fault for this sewage backup, then reimbursement will be made for those who had loss from this storm.”
Addabbo said water damage claims must be filed with the city comptroller’s office within 90 days of the flood. To submit a claim, visit comptroller.nyc.gov/forms-n-rfps/filing-claims/.
“Sandy should have been a wake-up call, and we owe our families to never have this happen again,” state Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder (D-Rockaway Park) said.
“On May 16, DEP claimed liability for the flooding, stating that a malfunctioning sensor, along with malfunctioning floodgates at the Spring Creek facility, was the culprit. In addition, DEP will continue to clean out the sewers in Lindenwood. The upgrade for the sewer system in Howard Beach can take from two to five years to complete. It is a lengthy process.”
Rebecca Phillips, who just moved to Lindenwood in February 2014, said within hours of the rainstorm she lost everything — more than $10,000 in furniture, appliances and electronics.
“This is shocking and I don’t know if I will get reimbursed for everything or where I will move to,” Phillips said. “We all need help here. We don’t want excuses — just answers.”