‘Top priority’: Queens officials visit Forest Hills in effort to find solution to flooding issues

Photo courtesy of Congresswoman Grace Meng’s office.

Rep. Grace Meng and Councilwoman Lynn Schulman joined Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Rohit Aggarwala last week in viewing areas of Forest Hills that have recently been impacted by flooding. This visit comes around a year after Hurricane Ida struck the area and caused severe flooding and damage.

The three discussed strategies and efforts to combat the flooding issue. After heavy rainfall last month led to more flooding and damage, solving this problem has become a top priority for the lawmakers and Department of Environmental Protection commissioner.

Among the potential strategies discussed was the implementation of a voluntary buyout program for homes at risk of flooding during heavy storms. Meng had previously made this request last month to New York City Mayor Eric Adams, with Councilwoman Schulman and several other lawmakers voicing their support for it.

In Meng’s letter to Adams, she encouraged him to use the $187 million in federal Ida relief money that New York City received from the Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery Funding toward achieving this goal. While the city has been working toward finalizing a plan for the funding to go to local homes, Meng argued the Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery Funding can and should be used for designing and implementing a buyout program in which the city could purchase properties in an area with the intent to demolish the structures and creating park amenities, open space or flood storage/overflow areas.

“Implementing this program, in conjunction with the city’s work to improve stormwater infrastructure throughout Queens, is paramount to the safety and well-being of our communities,” Meng wrote in her letter to Adams. “Given the impacts of Ida on Queens as well as the Sep. 13 flooding, your consideration of a home buyout program is critical.”

Among the areas that Meng, Schulman and Aggarwala surveyed were the Fairview apartment building at 61-20 Grand Central Pkwy., Kessel Street, Selfridge Street and several parts of Yellowstone Boulevard. Each of these locations were hit hard and are vulnerable to more damage in the future.

“The lives of so many constituents were turned upside down by the unprecedented flooding and extensive damage from Ida with several Queens residents losing their lives in the storm,” Meng and Schulman said. “Many local homeowners also sustained damage during recent flooding that impacted our borough. Combating this problem must be a top priority for our city. The threat of future floods will continue, which is why we are again calling for immediate action. We thank Commissioner Aggarwala for meeting and surveying susceptible spots with us, and look forward to working with him to address this urgent issue.”

Meng also took part in a town hall Oct. 6 in Flushing with Department of Environmental Protection officials, Councilwoman Sandra Ung and Sen. John Liu to address flooding issues in the neighborhood. During that meeting, Meng renewed her call for money from the federal infrastructure bill to be used by the state and city to upgrade sewers and catch basins across the borough of Queens. She also highlighted the importance of her House-passed legislation that would authorize the Army Corps of Engineers to spend up to $120 million to work with New York City in upgrading environmental infrastructure in Queens.