From the Queens Chronicle:
About 100 people packed the Robert Ross Johnson Center in St. Albans last Thursday, many with similar experiences, all of them hoping to get answers from the city on what it plans to do to solve the persistent flooding problem affecting Southeast Queens.
Mark Lanaghan, assistant commissioner of intergovernmental relations for the city Department of Environmental Protection was the only agency official who attended the meeting and he presented two possible ideas to reduce flooding which didn’t go over very well with the crowd.
One idea is to change the elevation of a weir, a small dam which Lanaghan described as a gate, at the south end of Baisley Pond. That would modify the water level, drawing more groundwater out through the streams that empty into it.
The short-term plan would not require much effort or funding, according to Lanaghan, but the agency would need the permission of the state Department of Environmental Conservation and city Department of Parks and Recreation to do it.
He said lowering the weir by one foot should drop the water by about the same amount and positively impact 10 to 20 square blocks north of Baisley Pond. Some expressed concern that the plan would actually elevate the aquifer by pulling more water south, but the DEP doesn’t think that will happen, because the south end of Baisley Pond flows into a storm sewer that empties into Jamaica Bay.
Another plan is to install reverse seepage basins, or French drains, which involves sinking a pipe or chamber into the aquifer to draw it out and dispense it into the storm drains.
Lanaghan said the agency would have to consult the USGS to determine how many would have to be installed, where, and how much of an effect they would have. He added that the plan would not work for those who do not live near a storm sewer.
Lanaghan also told attendees that building out the storm sewers in community boards 12 and 13 is a high priority for the agency, with $250 million allocated to such projects over the next four to 10 years.
When Jamaica Water Supply served Southeast Queens it pumped millions of gallons of water out of the ground daily. But when the DEP took over the company in 1996 it stopped utilizing area wells, instead transporting water through tunnels from upstate. That change caused the groundwater level to rise to an alarming degree.
“We were not monitoring the groundwater elevation,” Lanaghan said. “We did not expect the groundwater elevation to respond like this and we were not prepared.”