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Queens Water Main Break Floods Streets and Forces Buildings to Evacuate

By DNAinfo Staff | October 23, 2015 10:49am | Updated on October 23, 2015 1:36pm

 The water main broke at a construction site at 51-35 Reeder St., officials said.
Elmhurst Water Main Break
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ELMHURST — Workers at a Queens construction site struck a water main and sent a river of water gushing into neighboring streets, flooding roads and prompting multiple buildings to be evacuated, officials said.

The break at 51-35 Reeder St. at about 8:03 a.m. was caused when crews working on the seven-story building slated to rise at the site ruptured a 20-inch city water main, according to the FDNY and the Department of Environmental Protection.

It took crews until 1 p.m. Friday to shut off the water, the DEP said, adding that they expected the water to be gone within the hour.

The flooding completely closed off Queens Boulevard between Broadway to Reeder Street, except for the eastbound service road, the Office of Emergency Management said. The DEP expects Queen Boulevard to be reopen to traffic by about 2:00 p.m.

And the waters wreaked havoc on public transportation, forcing the Q53 and Q60 bus lines to be re-routed, the MTA said.

The break also caused delays on the E, F, M and R lines, according to the MTA. A spokesman said some water got into the stations but the agency's pumps prevented any subway flooding.

Michelle Morales, 34, and her husband Anthony Morales, 42, who live across the street from the site, had to be evacuated by firefighters at about 8:30 a.m. after officials warned them their apartment might flood.

"It was very scary because it's just so much water and the hole [in the construction site] is very deep," said Michelle, a project manager for an advertising agency.

"It's filled with all this water... Where is all this water going to go?"

Some local stores said the massive flood decimated their businesses, both by blocking off customers and by destroying their wares.

Julia Zhuan, owner of the Top 99 Cent store at 86-55 Broadway, said she tried to barricade her shop with newspaper but the flood water still damaged everything on her first floor.

"I have insurance but I don't know if it will cover it," she said. "I'm mad at the construction but I can't do nothing about it."

The building developer — listed as 85-15 Queens Blvd. Realty, LLC — had been issued a partial stop work order in August because there was no underpinning at the site, according to Department of Buildings records.

That stop work order for underpinning was still in effect at the time of the water main break, according to the DOB website and spokesman. It was not immediately clear what work was allowed under the order.

No violations were immediately issued after the break, according to the DOB spokesman, and the agency was conducting an investigation to see if any illegal underpinning work was being done. 

The project hit stumbling blocks in 2013 after it was originally denied the construction permit because of 70 objections, including zoning issues and clarification on exit signs and fire ratings.

The site is currently under construction for a 144-unit building with commercial and community space, New York YIMBY reported.

85-15 Queens Blvd. Realty, LLC could not be reached for comment. The contractor, Structural Land Management Inc., could not be reached for comment.