While a rainy day for most of us is just a pain in the neck, it’s an absolute hazard in the Sheepshead Bay courts – the bungalow colonies lining the eastern end of Emmons Avenue.
The below-street-level communities, which date back about 100 years, have long been prone to flooding. Neighbors are getting fed up, today sending us photos and video to illustrate just how bad it is.
Today’s nor’easter was forecast to bring about three inches of rain to the area. But due to runoff from the streets, Lake Avenue – a court just east of Nostrand Avenue between Emmons Avenue and Shore Parkway – was four inches under water by noon, according to resident Missy Haggerty.
“Flooding always happens during heavy rains. So do the other six courts,” said Haggerty. “It has gotten worse since [Superstorm Sandy].”
The problem is that the streets – which are pedestrian only and approximately eight feet wide – is not that they are just below the city’s street level, it’s that there’s no real drainage to speak of. There are small drains peppered throughout the blocks, but they go down into a shallow dirt well. They were never connected to the city’s system when it was laid out in the first half of the 20th century, also when streets were raised.
Another Lake Avenue resident, Ellen Chang, filmed the flooding as she attempted to take her dog for a walk. Without rain boots, the walkways are positively dangerous and her pup – not a small dog at all – is submerged nearly up to his chest:
Cheng said in the video that she was never informed of the flooding issue when she bought the house 14 years ago.
“I didn’t know my house had flooding like this when there’s heavy rain. All the neighbors are suffering,” she said.
Cheng and other neighbors are calling on the city to construct proper drainage connected to the city’s sewer system.
“I pay taxes. I have a right to a sewer system, and the government didn’t do anything,” she said.
“All we need is to just dig a sewer connection to Emmons Avenue sewer system. That won’t cost the city a lot of money,” she added by e-mail.
The problem is that the city considers these streets private – a justification they’ve also given for not replacing worn out street signs in the area – and in the past has claimed that residents need to band together and pay for it themselves.
The unique layout of the courts has also caused Sandy recovery issues. Build it Back chief Amy Peterson said at a Sheepshead Bay – Plumb Beach Civic Association meeting last week that the narrow streets, lack of vehicle access and close proximity of houses is causing delays in the construction process, and leading the agency to explore a neighborhood-wide approach.
We’ll be pinging city agencies to see if they have an approach in mind to address the ongoing flooding concern, and will update you when we hear back.