Public Advocate Bill de Blasio and Assemblywoman Nily Rozic (D-Fresh Meadows) Friday blasted the city’s Department of Environmental Protection for what they saw as a lackluster response to chronic flooding in Fresh Meadows and similar neighborhoods all across the city.
“This is a decades-old problem in neighborhoods like Fresh Meadows. But after the wake-up call Sandy delivered, there’s just no excuse for inaction. We need a water system that matches the extreme weather we face, and policies that treat homeowners fairly when their homes are damaged through no fault of their own,” de Blasio said during a rainy press conference, ironically adding “We can’t keep leaving families high and dry.”
It has become an annual ritual, and rite of passage for a freshman lawmaker like Rozic who represents the area, a fact not lost upon her soaked head during the press conference.
“Year after year, Queens residents have been fighting the trauma and financial burden of flood damage to their homes and lives. We cannot continue to let our working families weather the storm alone,” Rozic said. “As hurricane season begins, I stand with Public Advocate de Blasio, community leaders, and my neighbors in calling on the city to get to work and mitigate the impact of severe weather on Fresh Meadows.”
The duo noted the start of the hurricane season, as a tropical storm passed by that day. They contend the city is not keeping up with changing weather patterns that show an increase in severe storms.
The duo of elected officials enumerated their concerns in a letter to DEP commissioner Carter Strickland, decrying flooding in the outer-boroughs and the city’s lackluster reimbursement of homeowners for enduring damage from storm water overflow.
The borough is currently receiving attention for potential flooding along its coasts in the event of megastorms such as Hurricane Sandy last year. But flooded basements and garages have become a common occurrence in parts far from the shore, such as Fresh Meadows and Glendale. The city has not lived up to past assurances that a fix is in the works, Rozic and de Blasio said.
“Neighborhoods like Fresh Meadows have received promises of sewer upgrades for years, even as costs and damage continue to climb,” the duo wrote in their letter to Strickland.
Rozic and mayoral hopeful de Blasio asked the DEP to fast-track upgrades to sewer systems in flood-prone areas, get a move on short-term fixes and reconsider the city’s reimbursement policy for homeowners.
The agency responded that it has been doing the work necessary to improve infrastructure for years, and will continue to do so.
“Over the last decade, the city has invested hundreds of millions of dollars upgrading the sewer system in Queens and we will continue to make improvements to reduce flooding in the borough,” the DEP said in a statement.
The agency said it has: Cleaned sewers and replaced many of the catch basin openings along Utopia Parkway to help maximize the capacity of the sewers; done outreach to help property owners identify ways to minimize flooding; and is conducting a study along with the Department of Transportation to explore possible capital solutions to improve drainage in the area, including the installation of green infrastructure to store water, street regrading, and other possibilities.