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Flood-prone Fresh Meadows needs a fix: Pols

TimesLedger Newspapers

With hurricane season in full bloom, officials took one of the borough’s most flood-prone places in Fresh Meadows to push the city to prioritize a solution.

State Assemblywoman Nily Rozic (D-Fresh Meadows) joined with city Public Advocate Bill de Blasio last Friday for a joint press conference just as Tropical Storm Andrea started dumping water and wind across the Northeast. The two outlined a letter they penned to the city Department of Environmental Protection citing Andrea as one of several severe storms that has flooded the area in recent years.

Rozic, a Fresh Meadows resident, said she has seen her neighborhood underwater too many times to count from even the most harmless of rainstorms. While the city has taken some steps to mitigate flooding in the area, the assemblywoman said her community deserved priority in capital planning.

“Year after year, Queens residents have been fighting the trauma and financial burden of flood damage to their homes and lives,” Rozic said. “We cannot continue to let our working families weather the storm alone.”

Rozic and de Blasio sent a letter to DEP Commissioner Carter Strickland reminding him of what they said were much-needed infrastructure upgrades in Queens. To hold back the waters, the officials urged the DEP to speed up its short-term flood mitigation projects and revisit its reimbursement policies for flooded homes.

The letter called on the DEP to install the kind of upgrades that can handle the types of heavy storms seen over the past several years.

“This is a decades-old problem in neighborhoods like Fresh Meadows,” de Blasio said. “But after the wake-up call Sandy delivered, there’s just no excuse for inaction.”

Earlier this year, City Councilman James Gennaro (D-Fresh Meadows) celebrated a small victory in the greater effort to fight flooding when the city passed legislation requiring the city Parks Department to identify types of vegetation it could plant to help soak up stormwater runoff.

The councilman said neighborhoods like Fresh Meadows were more prone to serious flooding partially because of the transformation of its natural, vegetated landscape into a dense urban center over the past 100 years.

“In Queens, we know the challenges of managing stormwater all too well,” Gennaro said. “Several areas in our borough, and in the rest of our city, are prone to flooding with rainwater after heavy storms.

In their letter, both Rozic and de Blasio warned the DEP commissioner of what he already knows, referring to severe weather as the new normal. And with hurricane season officially kicking off June 1, the officials said time was running out for the city’s outdated sewers before the floodwaters rise again.

“We need a water system that matches the extreme weather we face and policies that treat homeowners fairly when their homes are damaged through no fault of our own,” de Blasio said. “We can’t keep leaving families high and dry.”

Reach reporter Phil Corso by e-mail at pcorso@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4573.

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