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Public Advocate testifies about flood resiliency

Public Advocate Jumaane Williams and Councilwoman Carline Rivera have introduced legislation that would require the city to have more emergency planning in relation to flash floods.

The National Weather Service had to issue its flash flood emergency –, which is more severe than a “watch” or “warning,” for NYC in the agency’s history this past September after historic rainfalls from hurricane Ida. 13 people from New York City, primarily in Brooklyn and Queens, died due to being trapped in flooded basements.

The city estimates that there are over 50,000 basement units in the city. But the number isn’t reflective of the reality as most “basement” apartments are illegal and technically classified as cellars – which have worse health standards and safety qualities.

A basement is a story of a building partly below curb level but with at least one-half of its height above the curb level; while a cellar is an enclosed space having more than one-half of its height below curb level – according to the Housing Preservation and Development website. While there was a pilot program to convert units into fully legal basements, the funding was slashed by 92 percent in the 2021 budget under then-Mayor Bill de Blasio.

The current legislation being pushed by Williams and Rivera wouldn’t change the legality of basement apartments but rather focuses on how the city responds to these emergencies. The bill would require the Office of Emergency Management (OEM) to establish a flash flood emergency evacuation plan for residents of multiple dwellings, post plans on the OEM website and conducting outreach, in coordination with the Department of Housing Preservation and Environmental Protection, that provides signage to residents regarding the flood risks and the evacuation plan. It would also require OEM to report on the implementation of the evacuation plan and post their reports on the OEM website.

“In the past decade, New Yorkers have been challenged by the hurricanes and floods that struck the New York City area leading to tragic consequences throughout the five boroughs…While New York City and the rest of the world grapple with the effects of climate change, we can put policies in place to prepare individuals who reside in flood zones,” Public Advocate Williams said during a committee hearing on Fire and Emergency Management and on Resiliency and Waterfronts. “Preparation is the key for maximizing best practices and minimizing tragedies.”

The bill would further require the OEM to release a report on the implementation of its plans within 60 days. The report would be required to give information on the number of multiple dwellings(including basement and first floor apartments evacuated during flash flood emergency), addresses and council districts of evacuated dwellings, challenges in implementing the evacuation plan and the number of people who were evacuated.

“We continue to talk about once-in-a-lifetime, once-in-a-hundred years storms as we now know. There will be much more than that. The horrors that I saw, in the City, during Hurricane Ida. Nothing is worse than losing lives that could have been prevented,” Williams said. “What we saw was the loss of homes, especially in southeast Queens, that we could have prevented and the lives that were lost with preventive intentions and communications. Because we had enough information to let folks know what was going to happen. We also know the areas that are continually flooded. Many of these residents have been complaining for many, many years without movement or response.”

Flooding upgrades at NYCHA properties

The New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) has announced a new joint program with the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to improve drainage systems and reduce flooding at housing developments throughout the city.
Costing $29 million in total, the new projects are aimed at bringing climate resiliency to a number of vulnerable NYCHA properties, particularly those that are close to the water or other high-risk flooding locations.
“Funding these ongoing upgrades at NYCHA properties will improve the quality of life for residents while also reducing neighborhood flooding and any sewer overflow into local waterways,” said DEP commissioner Vincent Sapienza.
Work is set to begin immediately at a number of locations in Brooklyn, including Gowanus Houses, Boulevard Houses, Linden Houses, and Van Dyke Houses. Other locations throughout the borough are set to receive upgrades by the end of next year, including Kingsborough Houses and Seth Low Houses.
Typically, NYCHA is responsible for drainage at each of its properties. However, DEP saw the opportunity to capture significant stormwater across the portfolio of NYCHA properties, which would ease pressure on neighborhood sewers and reduce overflows into local waterways.
DEP engineers survey the sites and green infrastructure installations are designed to meet the specific needs. That could include permeable concrete sidewalks, subsurface infiltration chambers, and rain gardens, keeping water from entering the sewer system, where it could lead to flooding.
“Infrastructure needs don’t discriminate based on agency purview, and I hope the city continues to build on these types of partnerships as we work to tackle the growing challenges of climate change and water management,” said Borough President Eric Adams.

Remnants of Ida bombard Queens

Late Wednesday night and early Thursday morning, the remnants of Hurricane Ida arrived in New York City, bringing torrential rains and massive flooding.
The storm took the lives of multiple people in Queens and Brooklyn, and caused massive delays and suspensions throughout the city’s transit system.
Right before midnight, Governor Kathy Hochul declared a state of emergency. “Stay off the roads and avoid all unnecessary travel,” she urged with a tweet.
Mayor Bill de Blasio quickly followed suit, declaring a state of emergency within the city. “We’re enduring an historic weather event tonight with record-breaking rain across the city, brutal flooding and dangerous conditions on our roads,” the mayor tweeted.
The National Weather Service issued a flash flood emergency Wednesday night, marking only the second time that the organization has issued such a warning in the city.
At around 10 p.m. police responded to a 911 call for flooding in the corner building of 64th Street and Laurel Hill Boulevard in Woodside. When officers arrived at the scene, they found a 50-year-old man, 48-year-old woman and a two-year-old boy all unconscious in a basement apartment. The three were all pronounced dead at the scene.
In Forest Hills, officers responded to a 911 call and found a 48-year-old woman unconscious in her apartment complex. She was rushed to a hospital where she later died.
Closer to midnight, officers responded to reports of a flooded basement apartment on 183rd Street near 90th Avenue in Jamaica. The cops found a 43-year-old woman and 22-year-old man unresponsive at the scene. The man was declared dead and the woman passed away later at a hospital.
Flooding on 84th Street in Jackson Heights claimed the life of an elderly 86-year-old woman.
In Brooklyn, a 66-year-old man was found unconscious in a basement apartment at the corner of Ridgewood and Autumn avenues in Cypress Hills. He was later pronounced dead.
The flooding caused widespread suspensions and delays throughout the subway system. On Thursday morning, service was entirely suspended along the 3, C, E, Z, and W lines. All other trains were listed as either partially suspended or delayed.
Video on the popular Instagram account Subway Creatures showed entire stations partially submerged in water, including the 45th Street station of the R Line along 4th Avenue in Sunset Park and the Dekalb Avenue stop in Downtown Brooklyn.
Pouring rain also pounded through gaps in the roof of Louis Armstrong Stadium in Flushing, disrupting the second-round of play in the U.S. Open. Heavy winds blew concession stands throughout the venue as fans attempted to return to their cars and safely leave.

Remnants of Ida bombard Queens

Late Wednesday night and early Thursday morning, the remnants of Hurricane Ida arrived in New York City, bringing torrential rains and massive flooding.
The storm took the lives of multiple people in Queens and Brooklyn, and caused massive delays and suspensions throughout the city’s transit system.
Right before midnight, Governor Kathy Hochul declared a state of emergency. “Stay off the roads and avoid all unnecessary travel,” she urged with a tweet.
Mayor Bill de Blasio quickly followed suit, declaring a state of emergency within the city. “We’re enduring an historic weather event tonight with record-breaking rain across the city, brutal flooding and dangerous conditions on our roads,” the mayor tweeted.
The National Weather Service issued a flash flood emergency Wednesday night, marking only the second time that the organization has issued such a warning in the city.
At around 10 p.m. police responded to a 911 call for flooding in the corner building of 64th Street and Laurel Hill Boulevard in Woodside. When officers arrived at the scene, they found a 50-year-old man, 48-year-old woman and a two-year-old boy all unconscious in a basement apartment. The three were all pronounced dead at the scene.
In Forest Hills, officers responded to a 911 call and found a 48-year-old woman unconscious in her apartment complex. She was rushed to a hospital where she later died.
Closer to midnight, officers responded to reports of a flooded basement apartment on 183rd Street near 90th Avenue in Jamaica. The cops found a 43-year-old woman and 22-year-old man unresponsive at the scene. The man was declared dead and the woman passed away later at a hospital.
Flooding on 84th Street in Jackson Heights claimed the life of an elderly 86-year-old woman.
In Brooklyn, a 66-year-old man was found unconscious in a basement apartment at the corner of Ridgewood and Autumn avenues in Cypress Hills. He was later pronounced dead.
The flooding caused widespread suspensions and delays throughout the subway system. On Thursday morning, service was entirely suspended along the 3, C, E, Z, and W lines. All other trains were listed as either partially suspended or delayed.
Video on the popular Instagram account Subway Creatures showed entire stations partially submerged in water, including the 45th Street station of the R Line along 4th Avenue in Sunset Park and the Dekalb Avenue stop in Downtown Brooklyn.
Pouring rain also pounded through gaps in the roof of Louis Armstrong Stadium in Flushing, disrupting the second-round of play in the U.S. Open. Heavy winds blew concession stands throughout the venue as fans attempted to return to their cars and safely leave.

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