Some residents said that it was worse than Sandy.
Numerous families in the Lindenwood section of Howard Beach spent most of Thursday cleaning out their basements and trying to salvage what they could after a storm dumped more than five inches of rain over Queens on Wednesday.
“I was doing OK until I started bring out some of my daughter’s things,” said Dale Bleiweiss of 80th Street, looking over high school and college diplomas, sports awards, and a Little Mermaid jigsaw puzzle done years ago and now lying in their driveway.
“We did that when she was a girl ...”
Nancy Silvestri,, press officer for the city's Office of Emergency Management, said Thursday afternoon that the agency has identified an area of about 2,700 affected homes.
“This was worse than [Hurricane] Sandy,” Richie Perez of 79th Street said. “During Sandy I had a pump going. We didn’t lose power this time. The pump was just overwhelmed.”
Joe Pollina, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said the storm that went into early Thursday morning was an extensive one.
“It struck most of the eastern seaboard; we had reports of flooding as far down as the Florida panhandle,” he said.
The system dropped 5.43 inches of rain on LaGuardia Airport and 4.96 at JFK. He said there was an unconfirmed report from Queens of 6 inches.
The city’s Office of Emergency Management was on site coordinating efforts of Con Edison, National Grid, the Red Cross, the NYPD and both the city and West Hamilton Beach Fire Department to make sure all residents were safe.
Memories of Super-storm Sandy flashed through the minds of Lindenwood residents, who this time had to deal with flooded streets, basements and garages overnight, as well as marooned cars.
“We lost everything,” said resident Norma Cantor, who lives at the corner of 153rd Avenue and 81st Street, adding that she also lost two classic cars.
Cantor, who has no heat, said the sewers backed up into her driveway and into her den.
“All of Lindenwood is covered, everybody has furniture thrown out [on the street],” she said.
“I need a boiler; I need a washing machine, a dryer and walls.”
She said her lawn was covered with mud.
“It’s dreadful, it’s a disaster,” Cantor said.
Rockwood Park Jewish Center Cantor Shuie Samuels, who lives at 78th Street and 156th Avenue, said his basement was flooded by the rains.
Samuels said the flooding came because of back-ups from sewers that hadn’t been cleaned since Sandy.
“I had to walk through the water just to get to my house,” said Samuels.
“We’re devastated,” said a Lindenwood resident who did not give her name, “It took 18 months to rebuild after Sandy and we’re just devastated now.”
Lisa Johnsen, who lives in a 3-story condo on 153rd Avenue and 78th Street, said she has no hot water because the hot water heater in the basement was affected by the water that gushed in.
Faye Rapinsky, who lives on 82nd Street and 151st Avenue, had a flood in her basement which affected her appliances and furniture. “This is like Sandy,” she said. Rapinsky said it was like a river that her pump couldn’t handle. She said the water started to come in at 7 p.m. last night.
“The sewers are the problem,” said Rapinsky.
Steve Gianiotis, whose family has owned a home on 149th Avenue, said they were still assessing damage as the water was being pumped out by a commercial contractor.
He laid much of the blame on the failure of the city to prioritize sewer upgrades.
[Politicians] work on airport noise all the time,” he said. “Let me tell you — we’ve been living with airport noise. We can’t live with what’s going on right here. “What if this water has been infected by sewage?”
A city official in the neighborhood was overheard telling a resident on 151st Avenue that the sewer system did not fail, but neither was it designed to handle the amount of water that the rains brought.
Richard Hedrick and his family had all the water out and had begin cleaning by late Thursday morning, the high-water mark in his garage reaching about 20 inches.
“We’ve been flooded three times,” he said. “This was the worst.”
None of the residents reported any family members hurt or any structural damage, though most were planning to rip out paneling, sheetrock and insulation in the coming days.
Perez was in the process of moving destroyed furniture out to the curb.
But he said other losses were greater.
“Christmas ornaments; a box of all the things my son has done or made over the years that we were planning on giving him when he gets married; family photos; Halloween decorations,” he said.
Bleiweiss said things for her daughter’s wedding were still inside in a room they had not yet been able to get into because of all the debris in the garage.
Charlie Magiaricina of 149th Avenue said he only had about an inch due to modifications he made to his home a few years ago after sewage backed up into his home from a previous storm.
“I capped the sewer line in my driveway and added a dry well,” he said. “I removed a toilet from the basement and capped that. My neighbors had a lot of flooding last night, but I was okay.”
Local officials on site included Assemblyman Philip Goldfeder (D-Far Rockaway), state Sen. Joe Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach) and Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park).
Goldfeder, in a statement issued by his office, said there must by a two-pronged response.
“Our first priority is to ensure that every family is safe and that homes are secure,” he said. “Sandy should have been a call to action to invest in our aging sewer infrastructure and yet families will have to suffer with more losses and recovery. Once again, it took a major storm to demonstrate that our infrastructure is not prepared to deal with rising floodwaters.”
Silvestri of OEM said the office will be spending the next few days assessing damages, coordinating the efforts of the various city departments, utility companies and relief agencies, and connecting residents with necessary services.
Ulrich's office said residents who suffered flood damage can file water damage claims electronically through the office of New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer at http://comptroller.nyc.gov/forms-n-rfps/filing-claims/.