Flood Mitigation Tops CB5’s Capital Budget Priorities

By Celia Bernhardt | cbernhardt@queensledger

Community Board 5 has voted on a set of priorities for Fiscal Year 2025’s Capital Budget, and flooding mitigation efforts top the list. The board ranked a total of 34 project requests, and four out of the five top-ranked projects focus on strengthening flooding infrastructure. 

This comes on the heels of heavy rainfall in late September that caused historic flooding throughout Queens. 

District 5 is no stranger to these concerns. District Manager Gary Giordano says he remembers basements flooded up to two feet during a heavy storm in August of 2007, bad flooding again in 2012, and, of course, plenty of difficulties in 2021 during Hurricane Ida. 

“It’s certainly gotten worse in recent years,” Giordano said. “And the prospects for the future indicate that we could have more severe storms more often.” 

The first-ranked project requested reads: “Redesign and Reconstruct Sewer System in Portions of CB5Q Area Having Worst Flooding Problems.” 

There are three particularly vulnerable areas in the district, according to Giordano, and they all have one thing in common: they lie at the bottom of a hill in their neighborhood. In Middle Village, this most vulnerable area is along Penelope Avenue between 70th Street and 74th Street. In Maspeth, it is along Calamus Avenue. Community Board 5 successfully advocated for projects expanding sewer capacity in both of these areas after significant floods in the past. This new project request focuses on the third, not-yet-addressed area—77th Avenue in Glendale, between 80th Street and 88th Street. 

Giordano said that if the city moves forward with this priority, “that’ll mean that our three main goals have been achieved”—flood mitigation efforts in those three most affected areas of the district.

“Now, that doesn’t mean to me that they’ll never get flooded again,” Giordano said. “But I think the likelihood is that they will get flooded less often. And when it rains excessively in a short period of time, hopefully they won’t get flooded at all—and if they get water, it’ll be a lot less than they had gotten before the sewer projects.”

“But there’s no guarantee,” Giordano added. “I wish I knew.”

Sidewalks flooding in Maspeth. Photo credit: Charlie Finnerty

Both Maspeth and Middle Village’s past sewer projects cost at least $20 million dollars each.

The second-ranked project request reads “Provide Stormwater Runoff Mitigation.” Specifically, this would mean installing permeable pavement, or additional “rain gardens”—digging out portions of sidewalk and installing gardens to absorb stormwater. Giordano explained that there are hundreds of locations in the district where projects to install these technologies are ongoing, but the project request would entail increasing those efforts. 

The third-ranked project includes multiple action items surrounding the Long Island Railroad and 71st Avenue Bridge and Cooper Avenue underpass, but first mentions “Correct Cooper Avenue Underpass Flooding.” This project would address the underpass’s malfunctioning pump system that is supposed to pump water uphill to a sewage treatment plant.  

The fifth-ranked project reads “Reconstruct Deteriorated Catch Basins and Provide New Catch Basins in the CBQ5 Area,” and would entail replacing weaker brick-and-mortar catch basins with pre-cast concrete ones. 

“I’m not certain of which projects are going to get funded first,” Giordano said. “I think that depends on their findings, and the system, and our portion of Queens on a grander scale.”