New York City

De Blasio Visits NYC Neighborhood Grappling With Sewage Blockage Nightmare


What to Know

  • Mayor Bill de Blasio is expected Monday to visit Queens neighborhood where residents have been grappling with aftermath of sewage blockage
  • The blockage flooded a vast number of basements with filth over the weekend
  • Reaching the sewer blockage has proven to be a difficult task given its location and depth, according to the DEP commissioner

Mayor Bill de Blasio visited the Queens neighborhood where numerous residents have been grappling with the aftermath of a blocked sewer main that flooded a vast number of basements with filth over the weekend.

On Monday, the mayor said that the city will hire contractors to clean the houses affected by the foul backup, which had sewage pumping into basements.

“The most important thing is to get the work done and our emergency crews were doing that and the important thing is for them to stabilize the situation which I think they have done a very good job under very adverse circumstances,” he said in a press conference.

Though he said that crews have been working since Saturday on the sewage backup, de Blasio said “there is more to do.”

A water condition caused the backup, pushing human waste into about 300 homes in Jamaica, Queens, officials previously said Saturday.

On Monday, it was found that the source of the blockage was a buildup of cooking grease that was poured down drains, instead of being thrown in the trash.

Reaching the sewer blockage proved to be a difficult task given its location and depth, according to the DEP commissioner who also said that overall repairs may take several days.

In the meantime, the DEP has set up a bypass pumping system that will allow any waste water generated in the neighborhood to bypass the blockage, Sapienza said, adding “there will no longer be backups.”

While the work is being done, Sapienza said that commuters should expect portions of the South Conduit to be closed.

“Rockaway Boulevard entrance ramp of the Conduit going eastbound is closed and the 150 Street overpass is closed,” he said.

Getting to the blockage to make the necessary repairs is not the only thing that the issue has caused. The blockage left many residents feeling sickened by the stench.

Cynthia McKenzie said she woke up around 3 a.m. Saturday to an odor she thought was a gas leak, only to realize that sewage water was rushing into her basement.

As the water level rose, McKenzie said she raced to move furniture and other belongings — but some electronics couldn’t be saved. After a few hours, she said, her whole neighborhood was awash in fetid fluid.

“It’s messy,” said McKenzie, who posted photos showing murky water covering the floor of a basement bedroom and the bottom of a staircase.

“When you open it, it just smells,” she said. “It makes you want to vomit. We have to pack up all the clothes.”

Sapienza said that the city’s DEP is offering homeowners support.

“Any homeowner who needed our help we pumped them out. We’re working with Office of Emergency Management to set up pumping systems for them. Many of the homeowners already had their own pumps and those were in place very early on and pumped themselves out,” he said.

Additionally, Sapienza said that they are asking homeowners to fill out a form to claim compensation through the NYC Comptroller’s Office to get back any out-of-pocket expenses.

“DEP admitted responsibility for the problem, so the comptroller will cut checks,” Sapienza said. “We’ve heard from some homeowners they don’t have the out of pocket means to start the work so our OEM is working with them.”

Although it was previously reported that 300 homes were flooded by the filth, on Monday the city's DEP said that as of Monday morning "there are 74 homes that had a confirmed sewer backup." 

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