The media told us to be prepared. The warnings were ominous. The damage, which could be wrought by the merging of a tropical storm heading up the coast with a western cold front had us riveted to the weather channel. Fortunately, the worst of the forecasted storm stayed to our west. But colossal precipitation totals in North Carolina, Delaware and even closer in New Jersey and Westchester County are sobering indeed.
Some statistics may provide a helpful perspective. Nassau County yearly averages 47.3” of precipitation. Seven of the last 10 years Nassau County has experienced higher than average precipitation, but none of the last 10 years rank in the top 20 wettest years since 1865. So what is going on? We all know. The severity of the storms has increased. This past summer was very dry. But Floral Park and the Nassau County storm sewer drainage system experienced a monthly average in just three days with two storms. This reoccurrence of torrential downpours may prove the statistician’s tables correct but they are causing untold anxiety for hundreds of our neighbors.
Where does our storm water go? Most of it heads south under Plainfield Avenue in a pipe system known as the Elmont Drain. This system heads southerly merging with other systems which ultimately flows into Jamaica Bay. Some of the problems we experience are related to that length of travel. If there are problems downstream from us, much like a traffic accident, we experience delay in drainage. Other drainage water is directed to County sumps at Stewart Street, Carnation Avenue, Belmont and even Centennial Gardens. Residual amounts of drain-age move through a system of small catch basins, which slowly percolate into the ground beneath our streets.
What is the village doing about this? In 2007, the village experienced the ‘storm of the century,’ only to be followed a few weeks later by a second storm of the century. Residents in every section of the village, indeed in every town and village on the Island were impacted by these storms. Recognizing a changing weather pattern, we needed to know what could be done. The village retained the professional services of Dvirka and Bartilucci Consulting Engineers (D&B). D&B began extensive examinations of the drainage systems; what areas were drained, volume of storm water, where it integrated with the County, etc. The Floral Park-Bellerose areas are an engineered component of a larger system within Nassau County; in fact the map of the underground piping within and around VFP resembles the NYC Subway map. D&B worked in conjunction with both Nassau County DPW and Belmont Park’s engineering staffs. D&B presented a solution to Floral Park’s drainage issue and shared much of this information with residents in 2008. The proposed solution would mitigate storm water from entering the drainage system from one area thereby allowing an additional volume of water from other areas. This well-received engineered solution was complicated by the resignation of Governor Spitzer, a seemingly unreasonable requirement for Belmont Park’s drainage by NCDPW and subsequent lack of funding. One could only conclude that our drainage issue and the quiet enjoyment of private property was relegated to minor importance by the former County administration despite our protests and best efforts.
The board’s focus on this issue has never wavered. The village board has remained vigilant and continued our lobbying efforts with those responsible parties at the County and the State. We have continued a professional services contract with D&B, thereby assuring a ‘seat at the table.’ We maintain that perfect should not be the enemy of good, a solution to part of the problem is still a solution. These efforts are beginning to reap rewards. With the recent change in the County administration, we are seeing a renewed emphasis on resolving this problem. The NCDPW has directed its engineering staff to comprehensively examine the problem: reviewing all plans, renovations and restorations of all county drainage, sumps and the like within our area. This historical retro-perspective going back to 1960 may uncover a simple recent modification that led to our problems, one can only hope. However, with this re-examination and reconstruction of what has been done, the future drainage needs of our village may become clear. D&B is assisting NCDPW with its investigation and continues to expedite on behalf of, and report to, the village with updates as needs arise.
The village will continue to act proactively with its storm preparedness. We maintain our village equipment and our drainage systems at optimal levels and our DPW workers are always there and willing to help. However, the solution to these drainage issues, and the end to frayed nerves, will only be found from governments and agencies above us. Floral Park may be at the bottom of the food chain, but position and perception has never intimidated Floral Parkers. Floral Park residents have succeeded in preserving our quality of life and protecting it for future generations by acting reasonably and responsibly. Our arguments are sound, our solutions professionally prepared. We’ve done this before; with the Third Track, with the VLT Race-ino and recently with the consolidation threat. This village board, as has its predecessors, works to preserve its mandate to self-governance; responsive to the people. Clean water, sanitary and drainage systems, infrastructure, criminal, civil and zoning laws should be the primary role of government.