Elected officials and civic organizations from throughout Southeast Queens are sponsoring a rally outside the borough offices of the city’s Department of Environmental Protection beginning at noon on Friday, May 24.
The focus of the rally is a 12-year fight by local residents to get the DEP to restart pumping from wells initially belonging to the old Jamaica Water Service, which the city acquired and began phasing out in 1996.
Since then groundwater levels have risen by more than 30 feet, leaving many streets and some whole neighborhoods prone to flooding during any heavy or sustained rain.
The DEP has told community leaders repeatedly that groundwater problems are not the agency’s responsibility. Officials also have said that they intend to restart the pumps in 2018 when a water tunnel from upstate is shut down for repairs.
But less than two weeks after Assemblyman Bill Scarborough (D-Jamaica) announced a bill that would require the DEP to pump out the wells at a community meeting in February at York College, agency Commissioner Carter Strickland Jr. and Joe Martens, commissioner of the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation, met in Albany with Scarborough and state Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-Hollis) to discuss further options.
Following that meeting, Scarborough said the DEP’s stated cost to pump out the wells was between $300,000 and $500,000 per year, a substantial drop from the roughly $1 million figure given to the assemblyman by the agency prior to the Feb. 28 meeting at York.
The same $1 million figure had been confirmed to the Queens Chronicle as being “about right” by a DEP spokesman on March 1.
The Queens office of the DEP is located at 59-17 Junction Blvd. in Corona.
Further information may be obtained by calling Scarborough’s office at (718) 723-5412, or the Queens chapter of the National Action Network at (718) 949-9500.