A flood-plagued section of Far Rockaway, Queens will finally dry out this summer thanks to a $22 million sewer and water main upgrade conducted by the NYC Department of Environmental Protection.
The infrastructure project will add storm sewers and catch basins to select streets, and replace more than a mile of existing sanitary sewers—a slew of improvements that residents feel are long overdue.
The network of streets, situated in the northwest corner of Far Rockaway at the end of Mott Basin, has been experiencing severe flooding for at least a year.
The floodwaters are believed to be overflow from the sewer and nearby Jamaica Bay. Some residents claim the issue has been an ongoing one since Hurricane Sandy in 2012, and exacerbated by alterations to Battery Road.
Charles Burkhead, who has lived on Pinson Street in Far Rockaway for 10 years, said that previous DEP solutions, including pumping, have not been successful. “My yard is full of water. The sidewalk is full of water which freezes up and turns to ice [during the winter months]. The street has large pot holes under the water which causes cars to get stuck,” he told The Wave.
Other residents have begun referring to the floodwaters in jest as “Lake Pinson.” But what was at first a nuisance is now a full-fledged safety hazard: ambulances and school buses struggle to cross flooded streets, and the standing water has become a breeding ground for mosquitoes.
According to the DEP, most of the streets in Far Rockaway are not currently equipped with the proper drainage infrastructure to handle the amount of water and runoff they currently receive.
The upgrades slated for this summer will include the installation of side-by-side 9-foot by 4-foot storm water sewers. While the roadway is opened, the City will also replace more than a mile of distribution water mains. DEP Spokesperson Edward Timbers told NYER, “The new storm sewers, including the side-by-side barrel lines, will help to reduce flooding. And the new sanitary lines will reduce backups.”
Part of a Larger Plan
According to Timbers, the work in Far Rockaway this summer, slated to be finished in 2016, is just one of many projects that were drawn up as part of an area-wide drainage plan for the Rockaways.
Indeed, sewer and storm water improvements in southeast Queens are one of the goals are outlined in the DEP’s Strategy 2011-2014 document, which states that the City will:
Build out and upgrade the sewer network in southeast Queens, Staten Island, and other neighborhoods that need additional capacity. A robust sewer expansion and replacement program is essential to protecting public health and improving the ecology of New York Harbor.
DEP Commissioner Emily Lloyd noted in a statement: “We are committed to building out and upgrading the City’s sewer and water infrastructure and over the next 10 years we are planning for more than $700 million worth of similar projects throughout Queens.”
Chairman of the City Council’s Committee on Environmental Protection Donovan Richards praised the current project. “This $22 million sewer and water main upgrade means residents will no longer spend days marooned by dirty water after it rains,” he said. “This is just one of the many projects slated for our district, and I am proud to continue our partnership as we make New York City more resilient.”