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Woodside floods reviewed

TimesLedger Newspapers

U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights) and City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) met with city Department of Environmental Protection officials and Woodside residents Monday about chronic flooding along 48th Avenue.

The congressman said the overflows of storm and sewer floodwater have destroyed not only cars and valuables, but also required some residents to replace boilers and spend thousands of dollars cleaning out mold.

“It’s an enormous cost,” Crowley said.

The elected officials met with about 15 residents as well as DEP Commissioner Carter Strickland and Jim Roberts, deputy commissioner of the Bureau of Water & Sewer Operations.

Strickland said while the previous August featured some heavy storms — most notably Tropical Storm Irene, which flooded neighborhoods throughout the borough — the sewer system in Woodside does not have any structural problems that are causing the backups.

“When the catch basins are clear, the system does have enough capacity to function properly,” Strickland said.

The commissioner said the department had visited the neighborhood to clean the catch basins earlier this year.

Roberts said the catch basins in the area take the runoff to the sewer system, which transports the water north to the Bowery Bay Treatment Plant near LaGuardia Airport. But he said that some heavy rains have gone over the system’s capacity, causing houses and streets to take on water.

The flooding may be eased by a major trunk sewer project planned for Calamus Avenue. Roberts said this plan, which will encompass the avenue between 69th and 74th streets as well as 69th Street between Calamus Avenue and Queens Boulevard, will replace the current pipes with large diameter trunk pipes at a cost of about $22 million to $25 million. The project is scheduled for 2013 and will take two to three years to complete.

“That will increase the capacity of this area significantly,” he said.

In response to resident requests, Roberts said the department would also work to better notify residents during heavy rains.

Crowley said the worst flooding in recent memory was in 2007, when the damage was so bad that he could see water shooting up from manhole covers.

Maryann Maragioglio, who has lived in the neighborhood for 49 years, said her house, which has an entrance below the street level, was inundated with 9 feet of water that took four days to completely pump out in 2007. She also had to pay $14,000 to rid her house of black mold.

“We used to have a finished basement down there ... now I have a pail and a shovel,” Maragioglio said.

Some residents asked if the pumping station at the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway near 65th Place had any effect on the flooding in the neighborhood, but Roberts said the station solely dealt with stormwater runoff from the highway and had no impact on the condition of Woodside’s streets.

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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