Work continues on massive Queens sewer flood as city zeroes in on snowstorm

Mayor Bill de Blasio and Office of Emergency Management Commissioner Deanne Criswell at a Monday press conference on inclement weather and 82 homes flooded in Queens. (Photo by Mark Hallum)

Mayor Bill de Blasio tackled at a Monday press conference in Brooklyn two situations impacting the city: the winter storm expected to dump several inches of snow, and a massive sewage backup in Queens that flooded dozens of homes.

Addressing what appeared to be major effort underway to prevent impacts from the storm on city streets, Mayor Bill de Blasio said his administration was hyper-focused rather than anxious especially considering a storm that blindsided the five boroughs in November of last year.

“I think we have all learned to just expect the unexpected,” de Blasio said, referring to a blizzard in January 2016 that left most of the city under two feet of snow.

“Earlier on a few years ago we had the largest blizzard in the history of New York City – I want to say 28 inches, 29 inches, 27.5, there you go – and that was literally the biggest snowstorm in 150 years. The first National Weather Service forecast on that storm was 8 inches… But the point is, Mother Nature makes her own decisions.” That storm dumped 30 inches of snow on some areas of Queens.

The city is in a state of “intense readiness” for today’s wintry weather, according to the mayor.

As for the sewage spill in Queens, DEP Commissioner Vincent Sapienza said on Monday morning that all homes have been pumped of the raw sewage that flooded basements in the area around Inwood Street in South Jamaica. That effort was the result of the agency and some of the residents themselves, who pumped out the filth on their own.

All that’s left now is to access the sewer pipe up to 40 feet below the surface. Sapienza could not estimate how long it would take to excavate to the depth needed to determine the cause of the blockage. It’s believed that a “fatberg” of grease and debris in the local sewer system resulted in the backup.

The stench in many homes drove residents out while NYPD closed the 150th Street overpass on Saturday morning for crews to begin cutting into asphalt.

According to Sapienza, residents will need to contact the office of Comptroller Scott Stringer for reimbursement for damage to their home. Stringer’s scheduled to meet with affected residents this afternoon in South Jamaica.

The city’s snow forecast

De Blasio said his own meteorologists on staff and those from the National Weather Service expect as much as five to eight inches of snow starting Monday afternoon, and agencies have already begun laying liquid brine and salt on roadways across the city to mitigated slick conditions.

As of 12:40 p.m. Dec. 2, the National Weather Service predicts 2 to 4 inches of the white stuff to fall through tomorrow morning.

Department of Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia said 705 spreaders have been pre-salting before 1,500 plows are deployed when there is two inches of accumulation.

Alternate side parking is suspended during the storm and Garcia said garbage collection would also be postponed during snow removal operations.

While the administration has not come to a decision regarding if public schools will be in session Tuesday, some after-school programs that use yellow bus service will be canceled Monday afternoon.

Mark Hallum