Chronic flooding costs biz tens of thousands 1

Business owner Mike DiMarco has fashioned himself two pits to help ease flooding in his basement, which happens virtually every time there’s heavy rain.

For years, Mike DiMarco, owner of Doggy Be Good Kennel Camp and Grooming Salon in College Point, has dreaded any sign of rain. And for good reason: Virtually every time it rains, his basement floods.

While that is a phenomenon familiar to many North and Northeast Queens residents, their flooding may not come with the force of the city’s sewer system behind it.

Despite numerous complaints to 311 and area elected officials, DiMarco has repeatedly experienced several feet of flooding, and, in recent weeks, it has at times churned up raw sewage along with it.

Though DiMarco made numerous complaints to the city when the flooding started several years ago, that proved a dead end. “I stopped making complaints and started dealing with it,” he told the Chronicle. And deal with it he did: He dug two pits with chopper pumps inside on either end of his basement, each several feet deep. Despite that, his basement still floods whenever there is heavy rain.

Building such contraptions, of course, comes at a cost. But DiMarco said he’s stopped looking to his insurance company for assistance.

“Maybe it’s my fault, but after a while, it got to the point where I just I stopped making reports,” he told the Chronicle. “I was just like, ‘You know what? No one’s gonna help me. I mean, how many insurance claims can you make?’” He estimated that over the last two to three years, he has spent $50,000 to $100,000 on damages.

As the situation has escalated, the flooding has begun to affect business: DiMarco said he no longer boards cats as a result.

“I can’t leave anything down in that basement,” he said. “If it rains overnight, I can’t have an animal down there.” Though he conceded that boarding cats was, on the whole, a fairly small part of his business, DiMarco estimated that cutting the service meant a loss of $15,000 to $20,000 a year.

While keeping everything off of the basement floor became routine over the years, the situation came to a head a little over a month ago when, despite it being a nice day, the water in DiMarco’s pits would not go down. Reasoning the drain must have been clogged, he called a plumber.

“When he opened the check valve, the water exploded out of the check value,” DiMarco told the Chronicle, “and it was all just pure s--t.” He estimated it took the plumber 15 to 20 minutes to get it to stop; meanwhile, it spread all over the floor.

“He said, ‘There’s absolutely no way that this is coming from your house. No way. It’s way too much water, it’s way too much pressure,’” DiMarco said, recalling the plumber’s diagnosis.

This comes more than five years after work on College Point’s sewer system began. The upgrades are spread throughout the neighborhood. It is not clear whether the issues at Doggy Be Good are related to that.

Asked whether the problem is connected, a spokesperson for the Department of Environmental Protection wrote in an email, “Climate change is causing more extreme weather across the world, including the intense rainfall we are seeing more regularly in New York City, and in many cases NYC’s sewers cannot be built any larger than they already are.” The spokesperson added that the city is focusing its efforts on building a “multi-layered defense system” in hopes that will ease pressure on the system.

The Department of Design and Construction did not responded to the Chronicle’s request for comment.

Though there is no longer raw sewage flowing into DiMarco’s basement (following numerous 311 complaints, the DEP flushed the line), that did not stop it from flooding during this Tuesday’s storm, both pits filled to the brim with effluent.

DiMarco has continued to file complaints with 311, and has contacted Community Board 7 and the offices of Councilmember Vickie Paladino (R-Whitestone) and state Sen. John Liu (D-Bayside) about the issue. That, he said, has not yielded results.

Asked for comment on the situation, Liu said in a statement, “Although inspectors and field teams have flushed sewers to relieve debris, reactive efforts are not enough and not acceptable. No one should have to live in fear of the rain. The city urgently needs to prioritize northeast Queens in its resiliency efforts.”

By press time, Paladino’s office had not responded to the Chronicle’s request for comment.