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Flood-Hit Forest Hills Residents Demand Action From City

By Nigel Chiwaya | September 28, 2012 11:39am

FOREST HILLS — Tempers flared Thursday night as Department of Environmental Protection officials tried to explain the causes of repeated flooding to angry Forest Hills residents.

The meeting, held at the Forest Hills Jewish Center, was organized by City Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz after area residents complained of flood damage during the summer. Intense rainstorms shut down neighborhood highways on Aug. 1, and flooded Austin Street on Aug. 15 and Sept. 8.

Speaking before the packed house, DEP spokesperson Edward Coleman explained the cause of the flooding, saying that the strong storms overwhelmed the area's sewer system, causing flooding along Austin Street and sewage backups elsewhere around the neighborhood.

While sewer systems installed after 1960 can handle waterfall at a rate of 1.75 inches per hour, Coleman said that Forest Hills' smaller sewer system can only handle 1.5 inches per hour.

When asked if larger sewers could be installed, Coleman responded that such a project wasn't going to happen.

Residents didn't take the answers well. Several shouted at Coleman, including one man who said, "We don't want a lesson in sewers, we just want to know what can be done so that my house doesn't flood."

Al Smolinski, whose co-op on Yellowstone Boulevard flooded, called for a bigger sewer system, saying:, "Because of global warming, these storms are going to happen every year."

Koslowitz, who repeatedly asked the DEP what she personally could do to stop the flooding, said after the meeting that she was disappointed with the agency's response.

"Forest Hills is being told, 'There's nothing we can do,' and that's unacceptable," she said.

"Something has to be done."