The city’s Department of Environmental Protection announced yesterday that it had completed installation of storm sewers and catch basins to alleviate flooding along 113th Avenue, between 156th and 157th Streets, and 111th Avenue, between 155th and 158th Streets.

DEP says that it has initiated a number of smaller, targeted projects to manage stormwater and reduce flooding in southeast Queens, while a multi-year effort to construct a comprehensive storm sewer system for the area continues. The $6 billion sewer project is part of the city’s capital construction program.

Some community members say that the city has waited far too long to act. In a December 5th opinion piece in the New York Daily News, Keisha Phillips-Kong and E. Thomas Oliver wrote, “it is regrettable that it takes such a dramatic and deadly event [Superstorm Sandy] to focus the minds of political leaders on a long-standing and growing problem. In southeast Queens, flooding is a fact of life…our flooding has been going on for more than 40 years. Even a minor rainstorm causes water to rise in our basements, yards and streets. Some residents have bought canoes so that they can paddle to higher ground when the rains arrive.”

Phillips-Kong and Oliver added, “Public policy, such as it is, has only worsened the problem. Overdevelopment was allowed without any provision for the extension of sufficient sewer lines to those neighborhoods. Natural drainage areas like swamps and streams were covered over by builders, with little done to provide alternative ways to siphon off water.”

“Consequently, the water table has risen significantly ever since the city stopped pumping the wells of the old Jamaica Water Company. Add climate change to this equation, and it is clear that the flooding problems in our area will only worsen unless aggressive action is taken,” they concluded.

The city acknowledged in a DEP press release that the commercial and residential development of southeast Queens had outpaced the extension of the city’s sewer system. “Many of these neighborhoods are not yet equipped with catch basins or storm sewers to drain precipitation from the roadways,” the DEP said.

DEP engineers used GIS and hydraulic modeling, along with input from elected officials, community groups, and reports of flooding logged with the city’s 311 system, to conduct a block by block analysis of the area’s most flood prone locations.

The city said that there are a number of other locations currently under consideration for upgrades similar to those on 111th and 113th Avenues. Building out and upgrading the sewer system in southeast Queens is one of the operational goals in DEP’s strategic plan to make it “the safest, most efficient, cost-effective, and transparent water utility in the nation.”

Other projects, either ongoing or in the planning and design phase, in southeast Queens include nine miles of storm sewers and eight miles of sanitary sewers in Springfield Gardens; a $26 million upgrade for the Brookville Boulevard area; high level storm sewers for the Twin Ponds neighborhood; and an additional sewer line under 183rd Street at Jamaica Avenue.