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Electeds call on mayor to provide aid for flooding

Residents in northeast and central Queens have been putting up with flooding on their roads and in their homes for decades and it is time for Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Gov. David Paterson to do something about it, lawmakers said Friday.

State Assemblyman Rory Lancman (D−Fresh Meadows), U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner (D−Forest Hills), state Sen. Toby Stavisky (D−Whitestone) and City Councilman James Gennaro (D−Fresh Meadows) gathered at the Utopia Jewish Center in Fresh Meadows Friday to call on the mayor and the governor to use federal stimulus package funds to mitigate flooding in northeast and central Queens.

“Come to this area in a summer rain — and I don’t mean a rainstorm you’d expect once every 10 or once every 100 years — any heavy summer rain, and you’ll see Utopia Parkway under water,” Lancman said. “It’s a lake. Homes will have their basements flooded with 1, 2, 3, 4 feet of water. Homes will be flooded with raw sewage. Utopia Jewish Center had to repair its ballroom because it was flooded with raw sewage in 2008.”

The federal stimulus plan sets aside approximately $18 billion for flood control projects nationwide, and the city is slated to receive about $265 million for such efforts, Weiner said.

“We should have a reasonable expectation that when water falls, it goes into the sewage system and not into people’s homes,” Weiner said. “This is exactly the type of problem the stimulus bill was intended to fix.”

Community Board 8 District Manager Marie Adam−Ovide said any money funneled into flood mitigation would be appreciated by area residents.

“Our top three priorities in our capital budget have to do with sewer problems,” Adam−Ovide said. “There are major problems, especially for people in Fresh Meadows and Kew Gardens Hills. Whenever there’s rain, they’re having to clean out sewage from their basement. It’s really unthinkable.”

CB 8 members voted 32−1 in October to approve capital budget priorities that include rehabilitating sewers, catch basins and water mains to help fix the flooding problems.

“Just the other day the Bloomberg administration warned of severe flooding that will hit New York City in years to come due to climate change,” said Gennaro, chairman of the Council Environmental Protection Committee. “The residents of this part of Queens don’t need a fancy report to know this. They already scoop buckets of flood water out of their basements every time it rains. If we don’t use federal stimulus funds to bail them out and fix this problem for good, these folks will be bailing out their basements forever.”

Bloomberg released Feb. 17 a report compiled by the city Panel on Climate Change that projected an increase in days of temperatures 90 degrees and above, rising sea levels and more heat waves by the end of the century.

“I remember 20 years ago, 30 years ago, this flooding was a problem,” Stavisky said. “Unfortunately, it’s not going to get better without massive help.”

Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e−mail at agustafson@timesledger.com or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 174.

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