De Blasio, Stringer promise quick relief for Queens sewage flood victims

Raw sewage flowed into more than 300 homes in South Jamaica Queens on Saturday and was still flowing on Sunday from a sewage pipe that is more than 40 feet under the foot of an overpass at 150th Street near the Belt Parkway. (Photo by Todd Maisel)

The dozens of south Queens residents whose homes were flooded with raw sewage over the weekend are getting help from City Hall.

Mayor Bill de Blasio and City Comptroller Scott Stringer met with the victims Monday afternoon, and the mayor announced a plan to expedite the cleanup and relief process in South Jamaica. 

The city’s Emergency Management Department, along with the Department of Small Business Services will procure contractors to clean all of the affected homes beginning tonight and continuing until all homes are cleaned.

Mayor Bill de Blasio visits the home of a Queens resident affected by this weekend’s sewage blockage in South Ozone Park, Queens on Monday, December 2, 2019. Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office

Meanwhile, residents impacted by the flooding are urged to file claims with their insurance companies and the Comptroller’s office to cover the costs of damage and lost property. The city has established a service center out of the nearby Courtyard Marriott, 145-11 North Conduit Ave., to help connect affected residents with various available resources. 

“I feel for the homeowners in Queens who were affected by the sewage blockage this weekend,” de Blasio said. “We are implementing the emergency procurement process to ensure that homes are cleaned quickly, and we are going to work with each and every New Yorker who experienced flooding to make sure they get back on their feet.”

Stringer added that his office will join the Department of Environmental Protection in investigating what caused the wretched backup that began on Nov. 30.

City Comptroller Scott Stringer (c.) and Senator James Sanders Jr. visit the southeast Queens neighborhood affected by the sewer back-up that severely damaged homes this past weekend. (Photo by Carlotta Mohamed)

“In addition, as the cause of the incident is investigated, I urge impacted homeowners to file a notice of claim with my office within 90 days of the incident and to contact their insurance companies immediately,” Stringer added.

Though it’s been reported that more than 80 homes were impacted, to date, the city confirmed 74 residences were most affected by the flooding. The DEP has installed a bypass pump to alleviate the condition while making repairs to the sewage line.

Crews continue to work Monday on solving the sewage backup in Queens. (Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office)

Overly distraught homeowners were observed Monday patiently waiting in line at the service center to fill out a notice of claim from the Comptroller’s Office in order to be reimbursed for out-of-pocket expenses. 

Residents say the city’s response in providing emergency services, up to this point, has been “quite slow.” 

After making numerous calls to 311 and filing a complaint, homeowner Narendra Singh purchased his own equipment to pump the raw sewage in his basement, he said. 

“I got help last night from DEP to pump water. I don’t have no heat and no water and am helping myself out now,” said Singh, before he went to file a notice of claim. “This is a disaster with 2 feet of water that has damaged my brand-new boiler and everything else down there.”

Homeowner Bina Balgobin was forced to leave her home due to the unbearable stench. 

“We were sleeping in the car because they said they were going to send us to Astoria, and we didn’t go because that’s too far,” Balgobin said. “It’s been crazy with that stinky smell and the flooding in the basement. The boiler was broken and we fixed it. It was almost between 2 and 3 feet of water in the basement. We needed at least seven pumps to get rid of the water.”

Questioned about a slow response to the situation, DEP Commissioner Vincent Sapienza said that calls about the condition “started coming in” to 311 early on Saturday, but that he believes “it took a few hours before someone connected the dots” and realized the extensiveness of the problem.

For those who lost heat due to damaged boilers, the city’s Emergency Management and the Fire Department are bringing them portable heaters. The FDNY has also dispatched emergency resources to the flood zone to ensure a quick response to any emergencies.

The city noted that drinking water was not affected by the sewage break, and remains safe for use and consumption.

In the meantime, “the city is paying for the cleanups, and will work with each family if a boiler or hot water heater has been damaged and needs to be repaired or replaced,” de Blasio told members of the press on Monday afternoon. 

“The city’s going to take care of the immediate things. Obviously, with the Red Cross, we’re taking care of the lodging as well,” de Blasio added.

— With additional reporting by Carlotta Mohamed of QNS.com.

Robert Pozarycki