City Comptroller Scott Stringer came to Tuesday night’s meeting of the Howard Beach/Lindenwood Civic Association to listen to the residents’ complaints and frustration about the lack of help from the city on recent flooding in Lindenwood and funding from the Build it Back Program.
But one group who was not there, to the residents’ frustration, was the city Department of Environmental Protection, which has taken the blame for the flood and become a lightning rod for criticism in the community.
On April 30, a storm dumped more than five inches of rain on Queens and 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 sewer overflow facility did not function the way it was designed to causing the sewers in Lindenwood to back up.
Nearly a month later, more than 400 people crowded into the cafeteria in St. Helen School to voice their concerns to Stringer and other elected officials.
A long line of residents stepped up to the microphone and made sure he got their story.
“Where’s the money to fix the house?” one man, a flood victim, asked.
“I’m here today to help you,” Stringer said, adding that he understands the man’s anger.
The comptroller told the resident to start the process by filing a claim with his office. He told the audience he believes that his office can expedite the claims.
He also urged homeowners to file claims even if they didn’t have receipts and his office would work with them to see what could be done and engineers would be sent to the house to perform an on-site inspection.
“We will do everything we can to get you the money you deserve,” Stringer said.
One man asked what compensation could he get for priceless irreplaceable mementos that were destroyed. He said that since he was a child he had collected baseball cards, comic books and stamps that were destroyed.
Deputy Comptroller John Graham didn’t have an answer, but suggested that the man check for what collectibles were destroyed, such as a catalog and/or wet cards, and meet with representatives of the controller’s office.
Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park), who lives in Lindenwood, said: “What happened in Lindenwood on the night of the storm was an absolute outrage and the fact that DEP is not here tonight is a disgrace.”
Ulrich said he would call DEP Commissioner Emily Lloyd and tell her that a representative from her office should have been at the civic meeting to answer questions from residents who were affected by the storm.
“What assurances do we have from [the] DEP that something like this won’t happen again when we have another big storm?” Ulrich asked, adding, “That is why [the] DEP should have been here tonight.”
State Sen. Joseph Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach) said two questions must be answered at the meeting, “When are we going to get the money and how much?
“We have suffered enough,” he added.
Stringer also told the audience that his office is now auditing the NYC Build it Back program after the hurricane.
“I wish I was comptroller earlier, but all I can do now is assess what went wrong so we can make it right,” Stringer said. “The truth is that the Build it Back program is a virtual scandal. I am outraged about it.”
Deputy Inspector Jeffrey Schiff, commanding officer of the 106th Precinct, addressed crime issues later in the meeting.
He told the audience that there hasn’t been a burglary or robbery in Howard Beach since March — when a series of burglaries over a few days caused alarm in the community and forced police to deploy resources, including a mobile command post, to the area. He did note five cases of beer were stolen from a commercial truck.
Schiff added that there was a recent theft of a dump truck where the owner left the keys in the ignition — a factor in numerous car thefts so far this year in the precinct command.
“We have to secure our vehicles,” Schiff said.
He also reported two grand larcenies where the owners left their valuables in the open in plain sight.