By Charlie Finnerty | [email protected]
Borough President Donovan Richards’ office distributed flood barriers and water pumps 11 a.m. Oct. 6 at Borough Hall following significant flooding across the city a week earlier Sept. 29 and in preparation of any late storms in New York City’s 2023 hurricane season.
Residents lined up as early as 10:30 a.m., according to Special Advisor on Strategic Initiatives Katherine Damiani-Brezler, with supplies only lasting roughly 20 minutes.
Michael Ferraro, a resident of Flushing for over 30 years, received equipment at the distribution event and said he felt the borough president was noticing the needs of Queens communities that live in fear of flooding.
“I think it’s a great start in the right direction. This is something that has been needed,” he said. “I think the borough is realizing that this is a situation that can be harmful to many people and endanger lives. This is something that we need to get done and situated right away.”
Ferraro said that even more moderate storms are often seriously concerning for residents in his neighborhood.
“For us, even a little bit of rain is still going to be major,” Ferraro said. “I’m always on guard. If I know it’s going to be rain or torrential downpours, I know for a fact that I’m not going to be sleeping, I’ll be looking out my window making sure I don’t get any water coming up.”
With limited supplies, Damiani-Brezler said the distribution aimed to serve the communities most at risk of flooding.
“It was directed at folks that I’ve been in contact with since Ida,” Damiani-Brezler said. “So we were sure these were going to home owners that we know regularly have feet of water in their homes.”
Dinu Ahmed is a resident of East Elmhurst, one of the areas most at risk of flooding where President Joe Biden visited to survey the damage of Hurricane Ida in 2021. The Sept. 29 floods endangered Ahmed’s neighbors, many of whom are elderly and live with chronic illnesses.
“I think people are trying to find ways to mitigate the effects after it happens, but we don’t have anything preventative right now. We want a more robust response.” Ahmed said. “This is New York City in 2023, we can’t live like this.”
Ahmed was told the supplies offered at the distribution would not be effective for the sewage waste and extreme flooding in her neighborhood. Damiani-Brezler said the supplies distributed Friday were a bandaid for residents dealing with less severe flash flooding, but that major weather events like the flooding seen Sept. 29 will require large-scale, city-wide investments in flood protection to protect residents of high-risk areas like East Elmhurst.
“This is the bare minimum of mitigation,” Damiani-Brezler said. “[These supplies] will benefit you if you’re getting less than two inches of rain. It will not benefit you in a situation where you’re getting five inches of rain in less than two hours.”