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Queens Chronicle

Oakland Ravine Enters Final Restoration Phase

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Posted: Thursday, May 1, 2008 12:00 am

After years of lobbying by civic leader Jerry Iannece, the Oakland Ravine project in Bayside is due to be completed within 18 months.

Representatives of the Parks Department and the Department of Environmental Protection attended a meeting of the Bayside Hills Civic Association on Tuesday, where they gave a PowerPoint presentation and handed out a timeline for the project.

The remediation of Oakland Ravine and Oakland Lake represents the final stage of a three-phase, $130 million, project to alleviate flooding in the area and restore the ravine, lake and the nearby wetlands.

Iannece began pushing for the project as president of the BHCA, and later as president of Community Board 11.

The new Little League baseball field at the corner of Cloverdale Boulevard and 46th Street, came about as remediation for the right to use the area as a staging ground for construction of the sewer drains and a weir, an overflow-type dam.

Following the removal of trees to accommodate trucks and heavy equipment, the huge field has been flattened and planted with grass seeds.

Phase 1 of the project, which included installing new sewer drains along 56th Avenue, and smaller lines on 217th to 220th Streets, was completed in 2005.

This project relieved the considerable flooding that occurred in the area each time it rained.

“Water would rush into homes from 46th Avenue. People couldn’t leave their cars in street, and were too afraid to go on vacation. They suffered so much,” Iannece said.

The problems stemmed from overdevelopment in an area where the terrain was not entirely suitable for high density living, and from the paving over of parking lots at Queensborough Community College and nearby schools.

Janice Melnick, Parks Department northeast Queens administrator, was joined by the DEP’s Dana Gump Jr. at the town hall-like meeting, entitled “Our Community, What We Want, What We Need, and What Is Planned,” attended by approximately 100 community members.

They reported that Phase 2, the creating of an outfall by installing wider pipes under Northern Boulevard, and using weirs installed on an old dumping ground adjacent to Northern Boulevard opposite Alley Pond Environmental Center was approaching completion.

When they come on line, the weirs will be able to retain up to 3 million gallons of floodwater until it can be pumped to the Tallman Island Wastewater Pollution Control Plant. The waste water will then go into Little Neck Bay.

Any overflow that can’t be retained by the weir will go into the creek, but it is expected that this will occur very infrequently.

Phase 3, which, according to Iannece, will be undertaken concurrently with the final stages of Phase 2, includes a cleanup of Oakland Ravine and Lake. The lake’s perimeter will be restored and foreign plants will be removed and replaced by native ones. The slopes will be stabilized, erosion stopped and the garbage in and around the lake will be removed.

“At first the DEP was not keen to complete this final phase as they had already spent a lot of money,” said Iannece, who described his action as the “squeaky wheel effect,” because he never let the project slip from the DEP’s attention.

He said that it was a win-win situation, the result of a cooperative partnership forged between the civic association, the community board, elected officials and volunteers.

According to Gump, the final design will be completed by June and bids will be opened in October. A pending state Department of Environmental Conservation Wetland Permit is expected to be granted.

Gump expects construction will begin in February 2009 and the project will be completed by May 2010.

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