Hundreds of irate residents gathered in the cafeteria of St. Helen School Tuesday night to sound off at the New York City Department of Environmental Protection for what they believe is shoddy maintenance of Lindenwood’s catch basin, which they blame for the neighborhood’s flooding issues.
Many homeowners have had to deal with sewage backup in their houses in addition to flooding, rendering many basements disaster zones and health hazards, most notably after five inches of rain fell on April 30, flooding more than 2,700 homes in Lindenwood and adjacent Brooklyn neighborhoods were inundated with water. The DEP said the flooding occurred because the Spring Creek facility did not function the way it was designed to, causing the sewers in Lindenwood to backup.
Mario Bruno, deputy DEP commissioner for intergovernmental affairs, and Vincent Sapienza, deputy commissioner for wastewater treatment, fielded residents’ complaints at the Howard Beach/Lindenwood Civic Association meeting on Tuesday night. The DEP had frustrated residents when it failed to attend last month’s civic meeting.
A long line of residents waited for their turn at the microphone to make sure they got their story out.
Joann Ariola, president of the Howard Beach/Lindenwood Civic Association, asked the DEP commissioners if a letter from the agency was sent to City Comptroller Scott Stringer acknowledging responsibility so that the comptroller’s office can release funds to flood victims.
Ariola was advised that a letter was sent to the comptroller on June 19. However, the DEP said it was only a preliminary report. It expects a final report to be issued soon.
“Without that [final] report they cannot have their claims realized,” Ariola said.
Residents were furious.
“The DEP has taken responsibility with the inability of the [Spring Creek] facility to handle the overflow,” said a Lindenwood resident, who did not give his name. “We’re looking for you to take care of the damages to our homes. Where’s our check?”
The DEP representatives said that although they admitted the failure of the equipment was their fault, they were still looking into the specifics of the situation and liability issues with contractors and therefore could not issue a final report.
One resident who lives at 151st Avenue and 81st Street, with two sewers on the corner, told the commissioners the agency knew about the problem two years ago.
Marsha, of Lindenwood, concurred, claiming that the sewers “haven’t been cleaned in 40 years.”
Another resident said he could not be assured that the flood wouldn’t happen again.
“I’m not going to stand here and say that it will never happen,” Sapienza responded.
Frustrated that the DEP’s responses provided more questions than answers, Ariola said, “Good night and thank you,” to Bruno and Sapienza.
Also attending the meeting was Howard Beach resident Joe Thompson, who is spearheading the effort to start the Howard Beach Civilian Observation Patrol. Thompson said he has 30 years of experience in community watch groups and was an auxiliary police officer for a decade.
The patrol would be the “eyes and ears” of the NYPD, would not carry weapons and would not take any action against criminals, leaving that for the uniformed officers.
Deputy Inspector Jeffrey Schiff, commanding officer of the 106th Precinct, addressed crime issues later in the meeting.
He noted the spike in car break-ins with eight in the past month compared to one for the same month last year. In seven of the eight car break-ins, the vehicles were unsecured, Schiff noted.
But year-to-date, break-ins have declined over last year as word spread among the perpetrators that many have been caught in the act by homeowners’ video cameras, he explained.
Detailing the recent crime statistics, Schiff said that there have been no reported robberies; however, there were 3 reported burglaries each in Lindenwood and Howard Beach. He said one of the alleged burglars in Howard Beach and two more alleged burglars in connection with the Lindenwood crimes have been arrested.
The precinct will have its second Operation Silent Night operation this weekend to crack down on loud music, coming after a successful inaugural one June 13 to 15. Complaints about noise this weekend can be made via Twitter to @NYPD106Pct.