Tucked away on the west side of the small town of Broad Channel in the middle of Jamiaca Bay is a narrow, dead end, street that goes by the name of West 12th Road. Those of us who live there know that the nice part about living in a small town is that when you are not quite sure what is going on, someone else always does!
[Peter J. Mahon West 12th Road, Broad Channel]
A crane navigates through the flood damage in Broad Channel last week.
Photos courtesy Peter Mahon
Pete Mahon may be a lot of things – husband, dad, retired Rikers Island warden, meteorological sciences buff, blogger, civic leader. But you can never accuse the 20-year Broad Channel resident of being hopeless.
After staring down what seemed like an endless, flood-ravaged tunnel for decades, Mahon and his neighbors on beleaguered West 12th Road can finally catch the faint flicker of light that is relief on the horizon. Even as they continue to weather a rough August, one which to date has seen 11 days of tidal flooding, the tight-knit west side community composed of 11th, 12th and 13th roads has noticed that help is on the way.
“I’m a great believer in anything is better than nothing,” said Mahon, president of the West 12th Road Block Association. This thought came after seeing subtle signs such as Con Edison workers protecting utility lines and the city Department of Design and Construction setting up shop on his beloved block. “We’ve been living like this for decades,” he related. “Now it’s to the point that the city is paying attention. People are extremely happy that the ball is finally rolling.”
Boats become the only practical form of transportation in Broad Channel when the floodwaters come in.
Photos courtesy Peter Mahon
The ball Mahon is referring to is the reconstruction of west 11th, 12th and 13th roads off Cross Bay Boulevard that will ultimately provide flood mitigation to a patch of Queens that has sorely needed it for dozens of years. “Broad Channel is historically known for flooding,” said Assemblyman Phillip Goldfeder (D-Rockaway Park), noting that his office regularly receives complaints on the issue. “It’s not a new problem.”
The project calls for all three streets to be reconstructed to a higher elevation, and new bulkheads to be installed at the bay end of each road, according to a city Department of Environmental Protection spokesman. Additionally, new storm-sewer, water and sanitary-sewer mains are part of the plan, which was supposed to take approximately three years to complete, though Superstorm Sandy has affected that schedule.
“Just when you’ve got your bases covered, somebody comes in and pulls the rug out from under you,” Mahon said of the Superstorm’s timing as it related to the flood mitigation project. “But thankfully, I don’t think we’ll see anything close to Sandy again in my lifetime, or even my daughter’s lifetime.”
The Broad Channel streets were selected due to their low grades and their susceptibility to flooding during high tides, the DEP spokesman explained. The 10-stage project will decrease the amount of time that the streets are flooded, decrease the frequency and severity of the flooding and enable the water on the streets to drain back into the bay through the use of one-way valves.
Asked if he’s ever considered moving, Mahon, who also runs the popular civic blog w12thrd.blogspot.com, responded with an emphatic “No!”
“If you like it, you’ve got to put up with it,” he said of the perils and positives of putting down roots near the water, a weary smile creeping into his voice. But after tidal tables, blizzards, Irene, Sandy and countless nor’easters, Mahon certainly is looking forward to this next chapter of Broad Channel living.
“It took a long time – this is a decades-old fight with the city,” he said. “And it’s finally coming to fruition.”