Utopia Estates’ association tackles bioswales

By Bob Harris

The June 2017 issue of the Utopia News contained a message from the association president about bioswales or rain gardens. Due to a New York State requirement that more rainwater be absorbed into the ground, New York City is digging areas on the sidewalks which would absorb rainwater. Green lines indicate the proposed size of the bioswale.

State Sen. Tony Avella (D-District 11) has been trying to clarify the who, what, when, where and why. The city Department of Environmental Protection is not supposed to build any bioswales in his district until all details have been finalized. The DEP has announced that, in addition to the dug out area with perhaps rocks and grass and bushes, people can expect a porous sidewalk or a special green grass strip.

DEP has hired a contractor from Suffolk to do test borings in proposed sites. The DEP is not supposed to build in areas where there are sprinkler hoses or if a homeowner has a disability, but does not talk about areas with water or sewage or electrical lines running through it. Although they should not do test borings in these areas, they are doing it in Fresh Meadows.

This column’s views have been that if the city enforced and strengthened the laws against cementing or bricking over lawns, it would not have to spend money on this type of construction. Reports are that bioswales built in various neighborhoods are full of trash and dog droppings. Just look at many of the tree pits where the city has planted trees and note the trash and high weeds in them. The civic associations of Queens don’t want messes in their communities.

n BAYSIDE HILLS: The May 2017 newsletter of the Bayside Hills Civic Association talked about its clean-up of the mall which runs through their civic association along Bell Boulevard. The Parks Department, local legislators, Garden World, and 35 adults and students from the community helped in this activity by raking up dead grass, removing weeds, planting flowers and spreading mulch. Rita Kashdan coordinates volunteers who want to help improve the mall’s appearance.

n FRESH MEADOWS: People are warned that a leaking toilet can cost you money due to the flow of water. If one hears water running then the flush valve has become warped or the fill valve has become stuck in an open position. Except when filling after a flush, there should not be water running into the toilet.

The civic warned that the building of bioswalers should not be taking place in the Fresh Meadows area until the DEP has worked out rules for that community. It warns that people can pave over their side yards or other yards if a drywell is built to soak up rainwater, but city agencies are not enforcing that rule enough. Residents can call their community board if they feel that this is taking place.

People are warned that it is illegal to park or store commercial vehicles on residential streets or in a driveway, or to park non-commercial vehicles in the same spot on streets for more than seven days.

Con Edison warns people that if you dig in an area with your shovel or other equipment in front of your house, you might hit a gas line. You have to call 811 at least two days ahead of time so the utilities can mark the location of the gas and other utility lines. Gas has the smell of rotten eggs and sometimes can be seen as a white mist, clowd or fog. It can also appear as bubbles in standing water.

If one smells gas, leave the area immediately and take other people with you. Do not use a phone, hit a light switch, light a match, start a car or use a flashlight. Instead, just get away from the area, as any kind of spark could cause an explosion.