TITLE OF BILL: An act relating to requiring southeast Queens to
mitigate certain property damage caused by environmental issues which
are caused by acts or omissions of such municipality
SUMMARY OF SPECIFIC PROVISIONS:
In a city with a population of one million or more, where the
municipality or its departments by acts of omission or commission
either creates or greatly contributes to an environmental crisis which
impacts a sizable segment of its citizens, creating property damage
and threatening residents' health, and where such municipality or its
departments either owns or controls the infrastructure that can
substantially mitigate this environmental issue and bring relief to
those residents, then such municipality shall be required and directed
to utilize that infrastructure to provide a clear, objective and
quantifiable plan to obtain relief in a timely manner.
For one hundred years, from 1897 to 1996, Southwest Queens, NYC
received its drinking water from a private company, Jamaica Water
Supply Co. (JWS), That company had 69 wells from which is pumped 60
million gallons of water per day from underground. Besides providing
water for this community, this pumping extracted water from the ground
and kept the standing water level at manageable levels. In 1996, New
York City purchased JWS and stopped pumping water from these wells.
This water left underground began rising at an alarming level, In
testimony before a NY City Council committee in September 2007, the
Department of Environmental Preservation Commissioner Emily Lloyd
stated that the ground water level in Jamaica, Queens had risen 35
feet since pumping of the wells was discontinued in 1996. This rising
level was flooding homes and backing up in the existing sewers,
hindering their effectiveness. She stated that resolving the ground
water problem was "as imperative as continuing to install sewers in
Southeast Queens". DEP officials told Southeast Queens residents in
the early 2000's they would face severe flooding if this water was not
pumped out of the ground, and DEP began only to quietly discontinue it
because it was "too expensive".
That rising water level is now flooding large part of Southern Queens,
where the standing water level is now higher than many basements or
lower level offices. As a result York College (CUNY) pumps hundreds of
thousands of gallons of water per day from its lower levels; the
Parsons Blvd. subway is flooded; the Jamaica MTA Bus Depot is flooded,
(rain or shine); 188 Jamaica, PS37, Springfield Gardens, The Allen
Senior Housing Complex, Carter Community Church, Queens Bridge Home
and other locations are running electric pumps in their basements 24
hours a day, 7 days a week to get rid of the water constantly invading
their premises. This is in addition to hundreds of homes and
businesses throughout Southeast Queens that are forced to run electric
pumps to remove basement flooding, and have had their home or
businesses literally ruined by the rising water levels. One resident
of St. Albans literally refuses to enter her basement for the last
year due to the water damage and mold spores the size of golf balls
that have grown on her walls due to constant water presence. She runs
two electric pumps in her basement, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
In the Summer of 2011, NYC DEP awarded a contract to begin pumping
water from the JWS wells in 2018, when NYC must shut down the Delaware
Water Tunnel that supplies a large share of New York City's water, and
they consider this well water to be part of their plan to replace the
water supplied by the Delaware system. However, they have refused to
bring any of these wells on line earlier, even though they are fully
aware of the flood damage throughout South Queens, and they know that
pumping or extracting the ground water is the key to reducing the
water level and easing the flooding plaguing the area.
Additionally, NYC sued Exxon-Mobil on the grounds that their
operations in Southeast Queens had damaged the ground water in the
area. They won a judgment for $104 million, which is being appealed by
Exxon. Five other oil companies sued by NYC because of damage to the
ground water in Southeast Queens settled with the city for an
additional $15 million. The community's position is that NYC was
awarded this money based on damage to the Southeast Queens water
supply, and should be used to resolve the problem that this water is
now creating for the residents and businesses in Southeast Queens.
PRIOR LEGISLATIVE HISTORY:
FISCAL IMPLICATIONS FOR STATE AND LOCAL GOVERNMENTS:
This act shall take effect immediately.
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