LINDENWOOD, Queens (PIX11) — What’s causing sewers in this neighborhood to back up into streets, driveways and garages every time it rains?
It’s a question that city engineers try to figure out, while they carry out maintenance work on the sewage system. Its performance during this week’s record rains underscored just how severe the problem is.
“You look at over there,” said Nina Spinelli-Ayaz, a retired state civil servant, as she pointed to a pile of items at the curb in front of her house, which had been discarded from it. “There’s a trunk,” she said, “it’s my grandmother’s, from 1903, with my childhood things in it. It’s gone.”
As she made clear, the Wednesday night floodwaters that inundated the basements and garages of hundreds of homes in this community have left its families without cherished memories.
Cheryl Cantor, another Lindenwood resident, reemphasized the point, by explaining what happened to her retired father’s collector’s item cars that he’d kept in her garage.
“On this side of the garage,” Cantor said, pointing to its right side, “was a 2011 Mercury Mirada. Limited edition, blue. 500 ever made. [They] will not ever be made again. On this side,” she said pointing to the left, “was a 1978 Buick 98 Regency.” Both were ruined.
On street after street, for about twenty square blocks, every house has almost all of its basement, garage and, in some cases, its first floor belongings sitting out on the curb, awaiting trash pickup after the rising sewer water ruined them.
While the two straight days of rain this week are part of the reason for the damage, the other part, residents told PIX11 News, is the city’s Department of Environmental Protection, which operates sewers.
“In this part of the neighborhood,” resident Lou Mastrangelo said, “the sewer system couldn’t handle the volume of water.”
Nearby neighbor Anthony Feller seconded that assessment. “All the sewers here were backed up, and after hurricane Sandy, they were never cleaned out,” he said. “Is that the answer? I don’t know.”
The DEP doesn’t exactly seem to know either. Its spokesperson told PIX11 News that the department had engineers looking at the situation. Lindenwood is not considered by most insurance companies to be in a flood zone, and even after Sandy, the homes that flooded in the neighborhood did not see water nearly as high as that which rose during Wednesday night’s rainstorm.
DEP had work crews out in the neighborhood on Friday, working in sewers and draining remaining storm water from streets. The department also sent staff members out into the neighborhood, offering residents claim forms to fill out to try and get reimbursed for their losses. Despite those efforts, however, nobody from the DEP would comment on the record about the overall flooding problem.