NYC unable to fix sewer backlog after years of complaints

The street in front of Gail Hinds’ home floods every time it rains, forcing her to wear bags over her heels and jump off a brick ledge to avoid the puddle in the front yard.

The road by her southeast Queens house on 147th Drive has flooded during each rainstorm for at least the past six years, a review of 311 complaint data shows.

“It’s just ridiculous,” the 30-year-old flight attendant said.

An unnamed Rosedale neighbor of hers has filed 106 complaints with the city’s 311 hotline since 2010 about a clogged sewer, the most such grievances for a single location over that period, according to records posted on the city’s Open Data website.

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The city Department of Environmental Protection sends repair teams to that block — and other spots with scores of complaints — but the flooding persists, residents say.

“We’ve been complaining about this since the mid-’90s . . . every time it rains we get this,” said Clara Smith, 76, as she pointed to flooding in the street during a rainstorm last Tuesday.

Smith and other residents say the water forces them to park down the block and enter their homes through the back to bypass the pools of water on the street.

All told, four of the five spots with the most 311 complaints are in Queens, where city officials say commercial and residential development outpaced the buildout of critical support infrastructure, including catch basins and storm sewers.

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Seeking to fix the longstanding watery mess, the de Blasio administration has set aside $1.7 billion over the next 10 years to build out the city’s storm sewer system.

The planned “sewer buildout” will “resolve longstanding flooding conditions that affect over 400,000 city residents in southeast Queens,” First Deputy Mayor Anthony Shorris told reporters in April 2015.

Overall, the number of “sewer backup complaints resolved-confirmed (on city infrastructure)” has gone down about 41% over the past three years, from 4,221 in fiscal year 2013 to 2,503 in fiscal year 2016, city records show.

“But grease improperly poured down kitchen drains remains the top cause,” DEP spokesman Ted Timbers said.

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That’s little solace to Mohamed Sharif, 54, who has filed 67 complaints with 311 for a backed-up sewer in front of his home that has repeatedly flooded the toilets in his basement.

“I keep calling them, every day, every month,” the truck driver said.

The problem was so bad he even considered selling his home on 125th St. in Jamaica, Queens, he said.

“I have furniture downstairs that got damaged,” Sharif said. “It stinks down there, man.”

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After years of complaints, a city repair crew came about three months ago and there hasn’t been flooding since, he added.

The issue is not just in Queens.

In Brooklyn, the lights inside Shimon Gifter’s home flicker and go out for up to an hour after heavy rainstorms.

The repeated blackouts appear to be due in part to damage to a Con Edison transformer caused by a clogged sewer flooding the energy company’s electrical equipment under the street at East 34th St. and Kings Highway.

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Gifter, 37, a photojournalist, takes pictures of the backed-up drain and files a complaint with 311 after each storm.

Records of those 12 complaints dating back to 2012 paint a familiar, disturbing picture. DEP closes out the grievances within several hours, indicating the problem has been fixed.

“This has been going on for years,” Gifter said. “It is absolutely insane.”

After the Daily News asked about the location, DEP sent an emergency work crew to check it out. But the staffers left after a few hours and the water continues to back up.

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DEP said it is investigating the matter.

In the summer, DEP honchos held a community meeting in the area to discuss sewer problems. A top official at the time encouraged residents to file 311 complaints to let the department know where problems were occurring.

“Little good that does,” Gifter fumed. “They just keep on coming and basically doing nothing.”

With Vlad Badalyan

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