By Naeisha Rose
During Mayor Bill de Blasio’s week-long blitz of Queens, his administration announced a new feasibility study for a groundwater drainage project in the southeast region of the borough.
Farmers, Springfield and Guy Brewer boulevards, as well as 150th Street, will receive a total of $1.7 billion in investment into sewer infrastructure upgrades, according to the mayor’s office.
His office intends for the study to be completed by spring of 2018, and for ground to be broken later this year on sewer construction. If the state Department of Environmental Conservation gives final approval to the sewage plan, work can commence on 18 large sewer projects and dozens of smaller ones to connect the different neighborhoods affected by the flooding.
The study was created to address concerns of residents and business owners that have faced a rise in groundwater, which has flooded their basement foundations. Many property owners have reacted to the waterlog by installing pumping systems, which clogged sewers in the area and resulted in roadway flooding, the mayor said last month.
“Homeowners and businesses in southeast Queens – we’ve heard your concerns about basement flooding,” said de Blasio. “Basements that are constantly inundated by groundwater mean damaged property, mold and the constant concern over the next flood. This comprehensive study is the first step towards possible solutions.”
The formation of roadways, buildings and John F. Kennedy Airport in the southeast Queens area are to blame. Prior to the area being developed, it consisted of wetlands and streams that drained into Jamaica Bay. These natural landscapes were bulldozed and filled with soil to make way for homes, according to de Blasio’s office.
To mitigate the road and basement flooding, the mayor’s office will examine how high the water has risen and how low it should be, while the Department of Environmental Protection will build sewers beneath the streets and homes in southeast Queens, where the natural drain basins flowed, according to the mayor’s office.
The DEP is proud to be participating in the endeavor.
“The rising groundwater table and basement flooding in Jamaica is real, and it presents a significant quality-of-life issue for residents and businesses and a complex problem for engineers,” said DEP Acting Commissioner Vincent Sapienza. “We are pleased to be able to move forward with this study, which will tell us how high the groundwater table has risen, how far it must be lowered in order to reduce the basement flooding, and the feasibility of our plan for radial groundwater collection.”
Elected officials and community representatives were happy about the announcement.
“Basement flooding has become a widespread problem for residents of Jamaica,” said U.S. Gregory W. Meeks (D-Jamaica). “This timely study will determine the various courses of action for the city’s proposal, and the businesses and residents of Jamaica deserve to know the impact of any course of action.”
Mark McMillan, the district manager of Community Board 13, agreed.
“Understanding the topography on which much of this area of Queens has been developed ‘on top of’ goes a long way in explaining ‘why’ to so many affected homeowners. The ‘how’ or ‘fix’ after knowing ‘why’ allows homeowners to see what the city is proactively doing, and that there is a remedy that will occur in the near future,” McMillan said.
Reach reporter Naeisha Rose by e-mail at nrose