Despite a warmer than expected winter with a limited presence of precipitation, rising waters in Southeast Queens continue to be a major community concern. In the years since the Jamaica Water Supply Company shut down area wells, the ground water has been rising. Residents have been plagued with flooding in their streets, homes and businesses. The New York City Environmental Protection Agency had no plans to start pumping the water until 2018, a timeline residents felt was too far in the future.

To address the issue, there was a protest in front of Station Six after Thanksgiving, a resident town hall in November 2011 and a community wide effort to collect flooding and damage information from residents. Since then, there has been a follow-up meeting which included representatives from the Department of Environment Protection (DEP), local elected officials, the Jamaica Branch of the NAACP, the Public Advocates’ office and representatives from local civic organizations.

Assemblyman William Scarborough, who has been an integral part of the flooding resolution efforts, provided Communities of Color with a status updates on the efforts, about which he is “cautiously optimistic”.

Pumping will begin in April 2012 at the former Jamaica Water Supply Well Station 24, located at 180th Street and 106th Avenue. The main goal of the pumping is to remove the toxic chemicals from a nearby dry cleaning plant which polluted the well. However, it should provide flood relief in the 180th Street/Brinkerhoff Avenue area by pumping 800,000 gallons of ground water daily.

The DEP is proposing to install ground basins in flood prone areas. Ground water will pour into those basins and be carried out to Jamaica Bay through the storm sewers. This will begin as a pilot project in spring 2012 in areas identified by DEP and expand to multiple areas in by early 2013. Southeast Queens is projected to have as many as 12 sites, each of which will collect up to a million gallons of water daily.

The DEP will not be moving forward with a plan to lower the elevation of Baisley Pond Park due to concerns from elected officials and community leaders in the area. In addition, construction would be necessary before any change could take place. Until the community concerns are addressed, no timetable will be set.

The DEP has agreed to a plan to pump ground water from a number of wells formerly operated by the Jamaica Water Supply Company. By summer 2012, DEP will identify which of the 69 wells can be pumped and a time frame for the effort.

Scarborough believes “we can be seeing some significant relief” in 2013. He believes the progress to date was due to the combined efforts of civic organizations, clergy, elected official and residents. The assemblyman and Jamaica NAACP are still collecting information on resident flooding.

Reprinted from Communities of Color, a new Queens community publication.