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Bloomberg unveils plan to combat boro flooding

On the first rainy day of what Mayor Michael Bloomberg referred to as "flood season," he and the commissioners of a handful of city agencies involved in the Flood Mitigation Taskforce sloshed to Queens, which was especially hard hit by flooding during the summer of 2007, to discuss the city's new emergency flood response plan.

Bloomberg spoke at a Department of Environmental Protection facility in Fresh Meadows about the city's planned coordinated response to downpours, which Queens experienced in spades last year and was seeing again Monday as rain fell at a rate of about three-quarters of an inch per hour.

"The next six months are New York City flood season," he said, referring to the April, July and August 2007 storms, "one of which was extreme enough to bring the subway to a standstill."

Rather than weather another such storm, the mayor's office drew up a plan to minimize the effects.

"We developed a flood plan similar to our snow emergency plan," coordinating the work of the Office of Emergency Management, the Community Assistance Unit and the departments of Sanitation, Transportation and Environmental Protection, among others, to keep an eye on infrastructure and flood-prone areas, Bloomberg said. "It went into effect [Sunday] night."

The flood plan is different from the coastal storm plan, which deals with hurricane preparedness, and would supersede it during heavy rain, Bloomberg said.

The task force produced a brochure outlining what residents can do before, during and after a flood, which is now available through community boards and civic organizations. And it identified 10 flood-prone areas in Queens to study to find the best ways to mitigate stormwater: Jackson Heights, Woodside, Elmhurst, Middle Village, Yellowstone Boulevard in Forest Hills, Queensboro Hill, Hillcrest-Utopia, Jamaica, Cambria Heights and Flushing Field.

For the 10 study areas, the task force identified short-term strategies to be used according to need, such as inspecting and cleaning catchbasins and sewers, installing new catchbasins and tide gates.

"It's quite specific to the area so people can have a menu, a tool kit," said DEP Commissioner Emily Lloyd.

She and Bloomberg stressed that residents can be proactive in keeping their neighborhood's catchbasin free of debris.

Long-term strategies and time frames vary according to each area's needs and the city's capital budget allocations.

"We're putting in more catchbasins and doing a variety of meat and potatoes things," Lloyd said. "In some cases we may make the curbs higher or we may work with building owners to do blue roofs," which manage water runoff.

Reach reporter Alex Christodoulides by e-mail at achristodoulides@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 155.

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