It has been nearly two years since Community Board 8 vice chair Martha Taylor started writing letters to the city about the sinking street on 179th Street between 75th Avenue and Union Turnpike.
Taylor said while the city has deliberated on whether the Department of Transportation (DOT) or Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) should be responsible for the repairs, nothing has been fixed and the board has received no word on any progress.
“Somebody has got to take responsibility, whoever it is, and fix it as fast as they can,” Taylor said.
Sheri Liu, who has lived on the sinking street for five years, said the problem started two years ago after Con Edison made repairs to a broken pipeline to her home under the street.
“We called 311. We called Con Edison and they didn’t really have any response,” Liu said. “They said it’s not their problem.”
Liu said she is most concerned about what could happen if it is not fixed.
“There’s a community pipe under this road, so if it gets worse, it will affect the whole community,” she said.
Jim DeBonet, a member of the Flushing Heights Civic Association, said he first heard about the problem several years ago and thinks it might be due to a nearby floodwater study.
In response to the flooding in Jamaica Estates, DeBonet said a study in 1984 resulted in the city installing a pipeline in 1999 to reroute the water, causing more problems on the other end near Flushing Bay.
“There has never been a problem on this street until DEP came in and put that line from Jamaica Estates to relieve the water flooding up there and brought it down to connect to Utopia Parkway,” DeBonet charged. “Since then, they’ve had a number of problems with the street sinking and it continues to sink.”
Nearby resident Mary Ann Giammarco said the street has been sinking at a consistent rate.
“I think the snow that we had and the rain that we’ve been getting lately has been contributing to the sinking,” Giammarco said.
She too cited the sewer project might have been a direct result.
“Ever since we had that done, we’ve been having all of these problems,” she said. “The greatest fear is that we’re worried about the pipes going from the street to the homeowners, and the more it collapses the more it could damage those pipes.”
A spokesperson with the DEP said while the city has “investigated a number of private water and sewer lines,” they have not identified any issues with the city’s water or sewer infrastructure in the region.
“There are a number of private lines we have not been able to gain access to,” the spokesperson said. “Once we identify the source of the cave in, we will ensure that the issue is addressed and the street is repaired.”
After several months of deliberation, Councilman Rory Lancman said he is fed up with the bureaucracy and just wants to see the problem fixed.
“The DEP is pointing the finger at the DOT and vice versa,” said Lancman. “I don’t doubt their earnestness to solve the problem, but now that this has been going on for over a year, it’s really time to get a move on things and figure out what is causing the problem and come up with an answer to fix it quickly.”
At a press conference on Liu’s lawn Monday, Lancman said that his main concern however is the protection of pedestrians and motorists who drive and use the street on a daily basis.
“They’ll be driving down the street, they’ll see this strange indentation in the road and their first reaction will be to swerve,” suggested Lancman. “They could crash into a car that’s parked, or God forbid, into children that are playing around the street.”
Assemblywoman Nily Rozic agreed that the city needs to find a solution before someone is injured and there is even more damage.
“For homeowners who have dealt with this issue long enough, enough is enough,” Rozic said. “The city needs to sink their teeth into this situation and bring relief to Fresh Meadows residents as soon as possible.”