Jeffries town hall addresses Canarsie’s ongoing sewer and Sandy issues

July 24, 2014 Heather Chin
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Backed up sewers, mild-to-severe flooding and houses shaking whenever a city bus drives by were among the issues brought up during a town hall in Canarsie’s HES community center on Monday, July 21.

Hosted by Congressmember Hakeem Jeffries, the event drew a full house of residents eager to hear from city officials about what can be done about problems that they say have plagued their neighborhood for years, but that have gotten worse since Superstorm Sandy hit nearly two years ago.

“Every time it rains, we get feet of water in our basement [due to] mainly the storm drain getting backed up,” said Wayne Rodriguez, who lives on East 104th Street near Seaview Avenue.

“They have to repair the sewer system because every time it rains, the basement floods and feces comes in, too,” said Marlene Beauvil, who lives on Cleveland Street. “Before Sandy, it would happen only if it was a big storm, but now it floods over every little thing.”

In response, Jim Roberts, deputy commissioner for water and sewer operations, said that they are working on tackling the “root cause of the sewer problem” and that one thing that will help is not to put grease down the drains.

The sewage backup problem goes beyond grease waste, though, noted Roberts, who added that Canarsie’s location in a tidal area means it will get flooded, “so it is an issue of where the water is coming from. Is it water runoff or a tidal surge?” he said. “Roto Rooter can do checks [and] sewer catchbasins are cleaned on a three-year cycle, unless it’s a particularly problematic intersection.”

In addition, government representatives assured residents that they were working on resiliency projects. A storm risk feasibility study is also being conducted by the Army Corps of Engineers (ACE) on the East Rockaway Inlet, Rockaway Inlet and Jamaica Bay, in order to restore the area beginning in 2015, said Anthony Ciorra, chief of coastal restoration for ACE’s NY/NJ projects.

Build it Back was also discussed. “Mayor [Bill] de Blasio vowed and we’re well on our way to the goal of sending out 500 checks and starting 500 construction projects by Labor Day,” said Bill Goldstein, senior advisor to the mayor.

“It’s taken far too long to get these projects started, but we haven’t forgotten the neighborhood,” added Amy Peterson, director of Build It Back’s Housing Recovery Office, noting that residents can bring issues to Councilmember Alan Maisel’s office, 2424 Ralph Avenue, twice a week so they don’t have to go to Coney Island.

Moving forward, Jeffries said he plans “to have a follow-up conversation about the sewer infrastructure problem [because] today’s turnout is evidence of the severity of the problem. We’re going to need money to fix it. I believe [the problems here] falls into the description qualifying for federal funds. This is a significant quality-of-life issue that the city needs to address.”

Canarsie, Marine Park, Mill Basin, Georgetown and Coney Island are all neighborhoods included in the New York Rising Community Reconstruction Program.

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