Last Wednesday, elected and city officials broke ground on an $84 million sewer and street infrastructure project in the neighborhood.
The initiative is part of a $2.2 billion plan by the city to build a comprehensive drainage system in southeast Queens, which has long suffered from intensive flooding.
“There’s nothing more important in building communities than infrastructure,” said Councilman Donovan Richards. “This is going to ensure that future generations, and residents here now, can have a community that is flood free.”
Richards said for decades whenever it rained basements were flooded and some residents could not get out of their homes. Some mailmen couldn’t deliver to many houses.
“I’m not here to commit that we can stop Mother Nature from moving in an expeditious fashion,” he said. “But it’s our responsibility as a city, as an administration, to ensure there’s investment in communities that have been left behind.”
The project, slated for completion by 2021, is one of 55 infrastructure projects in southeast Queens. Ten are substantially completed, and 11 are in active construction, according to city officials.
Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner Vincent Sapienza, whose agency funded the project, identified two main causes for the ongoing flooding issues in the area.
Sapienza said when much of the community was developed in the mid-20th century, many of the natural streams that drain the area were filled in by real estate developers who wanted to build more houses.
That made building a sewer system more complicated, the commissioner said. City government then “kicked the can down the road” for decades and never addressed the problem.
The Brookville project will take place on 21 blocks, including more than two miles of water mains that will be replaced with new pipes.
Contractors will replace 25 fire hydrants and create 11 additional ones at new locations.
According to the Department of Design and Construction (DDC), the project will add 8,200 feet of new storm sewers and 3,700 feet of new combined sewers. It will also add 96 new catch basins that will capture stormwater and direct it to the new sewers.
The “double-barrel” storm sewer system will lead to Idlewild Park, which will also serve as an outlet for other southeast Queens sewer projects.
“The work not only helps quality of life issues locally, but it helps the water quality in Jamaica Bay,” Sapienza said. “It’s safer for everybody.”
DDC Commissioner Lorraine Grillo acknowledged that the years of construction will be an inconvenience for neighbors. The project has appointed Haris Hussain as community construction liaison, who will notify neighbors of street closures, utility shutoffs and construction progress.
“We need to do this as quickly, efficiently and the least disruptive as possible,” Grillo said.
Community Board 13 district manager Mark McMillan said neighbors have already approached him about the inconvenience. But after he told them that the project will deal with flooded basements and puddles on their corners, they acquiesced.
“I know this is a big deal,” he said. “The community is very, very happy.
“When it rains, water will go in the catch basins and go out to Jamaica Bay,” McMillan added. “They won’t have to hopscotch or deal with giant puddles on their sidewalks, or figure out if their cars can get down the street.”
Residents of Brookville, which is sandwiched between Rosedale to the east and Springfield Gardens to the west, don’t have to look far to see the effects of such a project.
Lonnie Glover, president of the Spring-Gar Civic Association, said Springfield Gardens went through a similar infrastructure project close to a decade ago.
He said the flooding in his community was so bad that on several occasions the Fire Department had to rescue people from their vehicles on the Belt Parkway.
“It was a major inconvenience to the community,” Glover said, “but we’re so happy the relief of the flooding had taken place after the construction.”