GOWANUS, Brooklyn (PIX11) — Mud and muck still covered some basement floors, crawl spaces, and other places throughout the tri-state region on Monday, three days after Friday’s record rainfall.

It left people cleaning up and otherwise trying to get their lives back to normal after the storm that dumped seven inches of rain or more on parts of our region. The deluge also left questions about the ability of the city and the area to handle storms of Friday’s magnitude more frequently. 

The rainfall in Central Brooklyn on Friday was more than twice the average of September, according to the National Weather Service. 

However, according to Drame Abdoulaye, the supervisor at a building on Fourth Avenue near Carroll Street, the rainfall is something he can handle, even though he keeps having to handle it with more frequency, as climate change-warmed air holds more moisture — more rainfall.

“The water was up to here,” he said, motioning about a foot or more up the wall of the basement in the building he manages. “I had water up to my ankle when the water was here, flooding.”

The water was so high that it had reached the pilot light apparatus of four different hot water heaters for the building. On Monday, he was in the process of getting the heat for each unit back on and had begun to succeed. 

Half a block away from the basement where Abdoulaye was working in Brooklyn Neighborhood Arts / Arts Gowanus. It’s a basement-level collection of artists’ studios and working spaces.
Kim Mathews is a landscape painter whose studio is in the below-street-level facility. 

On Monday, the building had industrial fans placed throughout the facility as part of its latest effort to dry it out. 

“They’ve spent three days cleaning,” Mathews said about the building’s management. 

She’s spent as many days cleaning her studio herself, as well. 

“There was a lot of dirt that came in here,” she said and pointed out that the floodwaters had inundated dozens of studios like hers in the building.

“I know some artists had all their work on the floor,” Mathews said, “and it was very, very wet.” 

“In my case,” she added, “I was very, very lucky.” She said she’d moved her largest works off the floor before the rains began.  

The neighborhood where she works, Gowanus, has extensive new construction. It puts a demand on the sewer and drainage infrastructure. Still, Vincent Lee, a principal at Arup Group, a civil engineering firm focused on sustainability, said that the city has required that new development have infrastructure that helps to reduce flooding. 

Lee pointed out that the city’s Stormwater Resiliency Plan has resulted in “13,000 assets” that help to soak up rainwater and lessen the impacts of storms like last Friday. 

Those assets, Lee said, are “green infrastructure practices that are distributed all across the city.” 

“There are bioswales,” or absorbent stormwater channels, “there are planters that are enhanced to absorb stormwater, there are pavements that have openings in the pavement to allow water to get absorbed into the ground below,” Lee said. “We sort of have every different trick in the playbook in order to deal with the extreme rainfall that we’ve got.” 

Still, he pointed out, the city has flooding events. He said that a combination of increased use of stormwater absorption assets and adding greater drainage capacity in the city should eventually be able to handle the problem. 

“The pieces that are in place, and the partnerships that need to happen, are there,” said Lee, who is the civil and water leader for the East region at his company.

“Unfortunately,” he added, “we have to be patient for the time it takes for it to get built.”

The city’s Stormwater Resiliency Plan calls for adding infrastructure improvements through 2031.