Preparing for the flood: Queens councilman introduces legislation to better maintain storm drains

Photo: NYC.gov

When it rains, it doesn’t always pour. But you wouldn’t know it looking at Queens’ flooded streets.

Public Advocate Jumaane Williams and Council members Costa Constantinides and Justin Brannon introduced legislation aimed at improving the maintenance of storm drains around the city on Wednesday, Jan. 8. The bill, if passed, would update and expand upon requirements for the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to respond to and resolve 311 complaints involving catch basins.

And for Queens, this could mean serious relief.

In the past year, Queens residents made over 4,000 complaints to the city concerning catch basins, according to 311 data. That averages out to over 11 complaints a day, far and away the most complaints when compared with other boroughs in the city – Queens is home to about 44 percent of all of the city’s catch basins and makes about 40 percent of all complaints related to catch basins.

“A clean catch basin is vital to the health of a neighborhood, because a clogged one can spell disaster in terms of flooding and other disruption,” Constantinides said.

Constantinides is the chair of the Committee on Environmental Protection and represents Astoria. His district is surrounded by water to the north and to the west. Though the proximity to water, he said, doesn’t matter.

“Every time it rains, doesn’t matter where you are, we’re getting sewage dumps,” Constantinides told QNS. “A clogged catch basin means flooding in communities. This law means that for residents of Queens, we have catch basins that are up to the task.”

Under the new legislation, the DEP would be required to provide quarterly catch basin reports to the public advocate, the speaker of the City Council and the mayor. Perhaps most importantly though, the legislation requires that the agency responds to storm drain complaints with five days.

“For parts of this city, clogged catch basins have led to mass flooding in the streets,” Williams said. “It’s an issue that not only inconveniences neighborhoods, but can cause significant water damage to property.”

The new legislation, Intro 1845, is an update on a 2015 law Williams introduced while he was a City Council member. The 2015 law only required semi-annual reporting on the conditions of catch basins and required the DEP to respond to catch basin complaints in nine days.

“We made great progress four years ago by increasing inspections and reporting on the conditions of catch basins, but the problem persists,” Williams said. “To preserve our environment and the quality of our roadways, we need to build on that success. Increased reporting and accelerated response times will provide that much needed relief.”

Constantinides agrees.

“The initial bill itself is a successful program,” the Queens borough president hopeful said. “This will go a long way towards making Queens residents’ lives better.”

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