Lindenwood resident James Noto lives four blocks east of Spring Creek, but whenever it rains, the basement of his home on the corner of 81st Street and 153rd Avenue essentially becomes part of it.
For years now, during heavy rainstorms, sewer backup has flooded his basement, causing mold and mildew to develop and forcing Noto to spend a fortune in repairs.
Storms in 2011 flooded his house, as did Hurricane Sandy. After torrential downpours a week and a half ago, he had finally had enough.
“When it rains hard and fast, there’s nowhere for the water to go,” Noto said. “I have three kids and I’m worried about mildew and mold.”
Noto grew up in the house he lives in and said flooding has always been an issue, but the situation has gotten much worse lately.
And he isn’t the only one.
Several other residents have complained about sewer backups and flooding during heavy rains.
“We’ve flooded now several times,” said 79th Street resident Adrienne Lasaponara. “I grew up here and it never really was an issue to this extent.”
Many of the homes in Lindenwood have sunken garages and water ponds at the bottom of those depressions. Though the homes are equipped with catch basins, they are not nearly enough to drain all the water during the heaviest downpours, and those on the street are overwhelmed even in light rains.
Fed up, Noto contacted his elected officials, Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park) and state Sen. Joe Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach), about the issue.
Rudy S. Giuliani, Ulrich’s chief of staff, said his office was aware of the issue and they have reached out to the Department of Environmental Protection.
Addabbo wrote a letter to DEP Commissioner Emily Lloyd detailing the problem and wrote back Noto, saying that the agency had done work on catch basins a block away on 80th Street. The ones near Noto’s home are often filled with water even when it hadn’t rained for a long time.
The DEP responded last week to Noto’s and his neighbor’s complaints and Noto said he was told by an inspector that the agency “had a long spreadsheet of houses” that complained about the problem and that a massive reconstruction of the sewer system was needed in the area.
Noto and several of his neighbors have said that while flooding has always been an issue in Lindenwood — which sits on marshy land at the head of Spring Creek — it has been especially bad since new housing developments have gone up just to the east of them on the Brooklyn border.
The DEP did not respond to repeated requests for comment, but Lasaponara said the problem got worse once developers built up the eastern section of the neighborhood along Spring Creek.
“Back when I was kid, we had all this land behind us,” she said. “They started to develop that while I was in high school and since that time, there’s just no natural drainage. This city really messed up allowing people to develop there.”
Lasaponara’s home flooded during Hurricane Irene and was devastated by Hurricane Sandy. She has had water in her home several other times, including on March 30, when she called 911, but she was told it wasn’t an emergency.
“We didn’t know if we were dealing with sewer backup or flash floods. I needed to know if I had to evacuate my family,” she said. “It’s just traumatizing to have to constantly worry about rain.”
The city is planning a massive infrastructure project near Noto’s house, specifically focused on the low-lying “jewel streets” section of Lindenwood along the Brooklyn border.
The core of that project is to raise the level of the streets to meet the grade of the roads in the rest of the neighborhood to alleviate the flooding problem there, but the project will also include an upgrade of the sewer system around the new developments on the eastern end of the neighborhood, which would allow better drainage for much of the rest of the neighborhood, including where Noto lives.
But for him, the damage is already done.
“My basement is basically unusable,” he said, noting that he’s spend thousands of dollars to repair his home over the years.
Addabbo suggested Noto should file with Comptroller Scott Stringer’s office to see if he can be reimbursed by the city for damages caused by the flooding.