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Avella gets city to look into flooding woes

State Sen. Tony Avella (second from l.) stands with neighbors Florence Tessler (l.-r.), Conrad Tompkins, Marilyn Groudine and Marvin Tessler outside their homes on 57th Avenue. Photo courtesy Tony Avella
TimesLedger Newspapers

Under the right conditions, Marvin Tessler’s garage in Little Neck could be used as a swimming pool.

Tessler and his neighbors stood outside their homes on 57th Avenue Tuesday, where state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) called on the city to bring relief to homeowners who say their yards become a lake during even moderate rainfalls.

“We’re here to request — to demand — that the city Department of Environmental Protection finally get out here and truly resolve the flooding problem for these homeowners,” Avella said.

A spokesman for the DEP said the street has plenty of sewer capacity, and that the department would send a crew out Wednesday to investigate and see if a different type of sewer grate would be appropriate.

The driveways of the homes along 57th Avenue slope down from the street, which itself sits at the bottom of a hill. Tessler said that when he bought his home in 1963, there was no drainage on the road at all.

After years of dealing with flooded basements, he said about 20 homeowners got together and hired an engineer, who recommended that the city install a 12-inch drain pipe and the type of catch basins with an open back, known as a hood and hangar.

The homeowners successfully sued the city to make improvements, though the DEP installed a 10-inch pipe and flat catch basins that are easily clogged by leaves, Tessler said.

He said that since 1988, the neighborhood has seen severe flooding at least five times, the most recent being during Hurricane Irene, when neighbors took turns going out into the street throughout the night and clearing the leaves away from the catch basins.

“After the Aug. 1 flooding, we became overwhelmed. Nine homes became inundated with water. I’m getting older, I can’t be out here cleaning these drains,” the 80-year-old said.

“Can you imagine, every time there’s a rainfall to have to personally come out and clean the catch basins?” asked Avella, pointing to pictures of flooded homes. “It’s hard to believe this is a public street. It really does look like a lake.”

Tessler said he and his neighbors had reached out to former Borough President Claire Shulman and former Sen. Frank Padavan, whom Avella replaced, to no avail. In April, they contacted Avella, who said he wrote five letters to DEP requesting an immediate solution to relieve the flooding conditions.

“While DEP’s initial response to install one hood and hanger was encouraging, it does not go far enough. There needs to be two to three additional hood and hangers for the existing basins and the installation of additional basins. These are common sense steps that need to be taken to resolve a long-standing and often devastating flooding condition,” he said.

Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at rbockmann@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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