2001-02-24 / Front Page

Something Stinks In Deerfield!

Something Stinks In Deerfield!

Sewage Crisis Floods Far Rock Neighborhood

By John C. McLoughlin

These days, residents of the Far Rockaway neighborhood known as Deerfield need to watch their step. If not, they’re more than likely to come into contact with raw sewage that is rising into the basements of homes and pouring out into the street.

For more than a month, residents between Deerfield and Camp road on Beach 25 Street have had to deal with the stench and sight of sewage. According to Barbara Smith, president of the Deerfield Area Civic Association and a homeowner enduring the sewage situation, said that the "problem is in the street", resulting in "water backing up into our pipes."

Smith has had her plumber come out on several occasions, but her basement remains flooded and a smell lingers. Smith’s neighbor, Regina Forston, can’t use her basement or backyard because the sewage is overwhelming. "I’ve gone through bottles of bleach because of the smell and unsanitary conditions," Forston said.

Smith and Forston are joined by a number of other residents who are running rubber hoses from their homes to the street in order to reduce the sewage inside their dwellings. "There’s no other alternative but to run it in the street," Smith said. "We’re taxpayers...we shouldn’t have to live like this."

New York City’s Department of Environmental Protection has come down to the site on several occasions, only to tell the residents that the problem is with a private line, not a city line.

"That’s a lie," Smith said. "Last month we cleaned out our private lines. Our plumbers said the problem is in the street."

Photos taken by Forston and her plumber show that grease, dirt and a high water level plague the street sewer. According to Forston, when the DEP workers placed a dye in the city line it took 20 minutes for it to run, an unusually lengthy amount of time.

Even more frustrating to Smith has been the lack of interest by the elected officials. "Officials make one call and get something done," Smith said. "But the election’s over." Coincidently, Assemblywoman Pauline Rhodd-Cummings lives down the block from the problem.

Jon Gaska, district manager of Community Board 14, defends the city based on the information he has about the situation.

Gaska said that the homes on the block feed into a single private line that then feeds into the city sewers. "It’s faulty," Gaska said referring to the private line. "It doesn’t have a big enough capacity."

According to Gaska, the city has informed residents of the block that they need to hook directly into the city line. Referring to this scenario as an "expensive proposition," Gaska said DEP has a low-interest loan program.

There also is a sewer project planned for Collier Avenue, just a block up from Deerfield. Gaska said this project would provide relief to the residents by "reducing pressure on the lines...less back-up."

The Collier Avenue project is on hold, though, because DEP and LIPA are in a legal battle over who should pay for the removal of electric utility poles during construction.

"When we finish we’re going to sue the city," Smith said. "I’m not going to rest until this is cleared."

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