The town of Broad Channel and especially the residents of West 12th Road have long suffered from deteriorating street infrastructure, unsafe conditions and property damage caused by routine and serious street tidal flooding. Numerous requests for assistance from city agencies in this issue were made by individual residents, the Broad Channel Civic Association and elected officials. all of which resulted solely in vague assurances from city agencies that they were aware of this issue and “were working on plans to mitigate” the problem but, unfortunately, no action on the part of the city was ever undertaken to address this problem.
In October of 2006, our hopes had been raised as a result of a meeting held with the Queens Borough President’s office, attended by my-self, Mr. Al McCarthy and Sophia Vailakis-Devirgilio, with representatives from the city’s Department of Transportation (DOT) and Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). At that time the city advised us that “they were completely aware of the problems being experienced by W12th Road residents and that there existed a two (2) phase plan of remediation for this issue consisting of an initial, interim flood mitigation effort via emplacement of rip-rap at he end of W12th Road with an accompanying run off check flow valve at the end of street outfall to be followed by a Capital Project (#HWQ1182) to address the existing deficiencies in area street grade levels in Fiscal Year 2012.”
Six months later, during a New York City Council Meeting on Transportation which was held in the American Legion Hall in Broad Channel, DOT staff stated that “funds had been allocated for the near term, interim remediation of tidal street flooding on W12th Road…” and that “work would commence in the near future.”
Right around the same time we discovered that the Fiscal Year 2008 Preliminary Budget Register for Queens Community Board 14 (Expense Budget Priorities and Requests) regarding a request to “elevate the east-west roads in Broad Channel” was shelved by city DOT officials who stated that “Further study by this agency of this request is needed.”
In June of 2009 city DOT advised us that the pending Capital Project (HWQ1182) originally scheduled for FY 2012 was now scheduled for FY 2014 and that further, “interim mitigations are not possible as only major capital construction will properly address the flooding in this location.”
Yet again, it was apparent that the city deemed the issue of street tidal flooding in Broad Channel to be less than a “priority” and, in fact, had been relegated to the “back burner” of their pressing concerns!
The West 12th Road Block Association was born in March, 2010, when a number of West 12th Residents finally decided that after years of the city and our elected officials paying only “lip service” to our complaints of serious tidal street flooding, finally decided to take matters into our own hands. During the March 2010 “nor’easter”, and the accompanying severe tidal flooding sustained on W12th Road, we reached out to New York One (NY1) and arranged for media coverage of the tidal flooding conditions on our block. Immediately thereafter, a petition demanding that the city finally assume its responsibility for the rapidly deteriorating street conditions and accompanying property damage and unsafe conditions on West 12th Road caused by routine and serious tidal flooding was signed by all West 12th Road residents and delivered to our elected officials.
Shortly thereafter, the office of the Queens Borough President contacted us and advised that a meeting would be held at Queens Borough Hall to, yet again discuss this issue, in April, 2010.
At the April 2010, meeting it became painfully obvious that the city intended to run the meeting just as it had conducted all similar meetings in the past, with a formal written agenda, a preamble from the Borough President about how her office “has spent a lot of time working on this issue” and by having representatives from DOT and DEP provide us with a quickly thrown together power point presentation consisting of nothing more than copies of area tax and property maps accompanied by a large dose of “legalese.” It was also readily apparent that the representative from city DEP was not aware of the history and total scope of this problem as it pertained to the issue of tidal street flooding in Broad Channel and especially W12th Road.
This time we were ready for them.
Over 70% of all West 12th Road residents attended this meeting and the large turnout obviously took the city by surprise.
The city was also taken aback by the fact that our association had invited NY1 media representatives to this meeting. (Note: the city would not allow NY1 to attend the meeting in the conference room but they waited outside in Borough Hall in order to conduct interviews with all attendees afterwards.)
Speaking with one voice under the umbrella of the W12th Road Block Association, we asked that the formal agenda prepared by the city be set aside and in place thereof –
It goes without saying that “there is strength in numbers” and faced with the prospect of a large group of people speaking with one voice with a media presence right outside the door, suddenly, the issue of tidal flooding was no longer an exercise in street grade level engineering and environmental science!
Less than one month after our April 2010 meeting, Borough President Marshall personally came to West 12th Road during May and held a press conference to announce that $24 million in funds had been allocated to fund a project addressing the problem of tidal street flooding, the design phase of which would commence with West 12th Road!
It will be the job of the West 12th Road Block Association to ensure we hold the city’s “feet to the fire” in this regard, to make sure that all city officials and agencies follow through on their promises in this matter and keep all W12th Road residents informed as to our progress in this matter.
In the space of five short months, the residents of W12th Road and their block association accomplished more than has been accomplished in over a decade of dealing with the city regarding this issue.
It is hoped that our block association will flourish and retain an active role in maintaining the great community spirit and involvement that has been evident as a result of our involvement with this issue of tidal street flooding.
Our block association is not only good for our members, it is good for their the entire commuity of Broad Channel. Leaders listen when you have a group of people — and not just one person — pressing for attention to a situation.
What are your dreams for West 12th Road? A safer block? A sense of ease with your neighbors? The power to tackle a local annoyance or problem? A network that can be activated in a crisis?
Hopefully, as our association grows, we will ultimately be able to serve our neighbors by involvement in the following three areas of neighborhood/community concerns.
Social — to create events such as a block party, holiday gathering, or communal BBQ’s days that enable all of us to have fun, relax, and get to know each other better.
Functional — to address security challenges, “green up” the block, plan a collective stoop sale, help out a neighbor and more.
Political — to respond to a situation that requires the involvement of elected officials and government agencies for resolution.
Whatever the future holds, it will up to each of us as residents and neighbors of W12th Road to determine what road our association will travel and we all look forward to traveling that road with all of you!