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To Better Manage Extreme Rainfall, NYC Invests $128M to Add Storm Sewers

Wed May 29, 2024 - Northeast Edition #13
NYC Department of Design and Construction

The two projects, SE810 (orange) and SE811 (blue), improved stormwater drainage, water mains and local street conditions. The yellow area shows overlap of both projects.
Photo courtesy of NYC DDC
The two projects, SE810 (orange) and SE811 (blue), improved stormwater drainage, water mains and local street conditions. The yellow area shows overlap of both projects.
The two projects, SE810 (orange) and SE811 (blue), improved stormwater drainage, water mains and local street conditions. The yellow area shows overlap of both projects.   (Photo courtesy of NYC DDC) A newly paved street in Whitestone. The two projects replaced 29 acres of asphalt while upgrading 249 corner pedestrian ramps. Fire protection was enhanced with 61 additional fire hydrants.   (Photo courtesy of NYC DDC) Micro tunneling under the Whitestone Service Road minimized the construction impact on the community.

    (Photo courtesy of NYC DDC)

The NYC Departments of Environmental Protection (DEP), Transportation (DOT) and Design and Construction (DDC) joined community members and local elected officials to celebrate the completion of two infrastructure projects totaling $128 million in Whitestone, Queens, that added nearly 6 mi. of new storm sewers in the neighborhood to improve stormwater drainage.

Work took place on more than 120 individual blocks and included the conversion of almost 13,000 ft. of combined sewers into separate sanitary and stormwater sewer systems which prevent 29 million gal. of pollution from being discharged into Flushing Bay each year.

In addition, Council Member Vickie Paladino secured funding that has allowed DEP to purchase high-resolution cameras and extendable poles that are used daily by crews in Northern Queens to inspect sewers.

"Residents and businesses in Whitestone had reported regular flooding for many years but this $128 million investment in additional sewer lines has gone a long way to keeping basements dry and relieving some of that stress," said NYC DEP Commissioner Rohit T. Aggarwala. "Importantly, these new sewers also prevent 29 million gallons of pollution from being discharged into Flushing Bay each year — a big win for our shared environment! I'd also like to thank Council Member Paladino for providing funding that has allowed us to purchase additional pole cameras that are used by our crews every day to inspect sewer conditions in Northern Queens."

"This historic investment brings much needed infrastructure upgrades to the Whitestone/North Flushing area, and we applaud the efficient work of our sister agencies to bring this project to fruition," said NYC DOT Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez. "This project, in addition to new storm sewers, delivered new pedestrian ramps, roadway surfaces and sidewalks, while also upgrading traffic signals and street lighting. These upgrades will improve accessibility and public safety for the entire community, and we thank local residents and stakeholders for their advocacy."

"These were very complicated infrastructure projects where crews worked around several schools, numerous bus routes and utilities that all had to remain open and functional throughout the work," said NYC Department of Design and Construction Commissioner Thomas Foley. "But the results speak for themselves. Several miles of Whitestone streets have been rebuilt with better drainage and better stormwater management, which will help manage the effects of climate change for local residents. I thank the DDC team for all their hard work on these extensive projects."

Prior to these projects, the area was serviced solely by a combined sewer that drained wastewater from homes and businesses as well as stormwater from roadways. During heavy rainstorms, if the combined sewer reached capacity it would result in roadway flooding and untreated wastewater being discharged into Flushing Bay. Because there was sufficient room under the roadways in Whitestone to accommodate an additional sewer line, the installation of a sewer dedicated to draining stormwater was the most effective tool available to engineers to better manage stormwater and reduce flooding and sewer overflows. The first project, called SE810, was a $72 million project that saw work on 70 individual blocks in Whitestone.

Construction began in September 2018 and concluded in 2023. The adjacent project, called SE811, which saw work on 54 individual blocks, was a $56 million project that began in August 2021 and ended in December 2023, about eight months ahead of schedule. As part of the work, the catch basins that drain stormwater from the roadways were disconnected from the existing combined sewer and redirected to the newly installed dedicated stormwater sewer. This helps to ensure that the untreated wastewater from homes and businesses that is being carried by the previously combined sewer does not get discharged into the Bay, but rather drains to a wastewater facility where it can be properly treated and cleaned. The additional stormwater capacity helps to reduce the likelihood of any roadway flooding.

DDC managed both projects for DEP and DOT.

Photo courtesy of NYC DDC

A newly paved street in Whitestone. The two projects replaced 29 acres of asphalt while upgrading 249 corner pedestrian ramps. Fire protection was enhanced with 61 additional fire hydrants.

Project Details

In SE810/811, a total of 31,316 ft. of new storm sewers were installed in a neighborhood that had previously been partially served by combined sewers. In the SE810 project area, 12,092 ft. of existing combined sewers were converted to primarily sanitary sewers to help reduce combined sewer runoff during rainstorms.

The neighborhood's new storm sewers range in size from 12 in. in diameter up to elliptical pipes measuring 68 in. by 43 in.

To help direct stormwater to the new sewers, a total of 213 catch basins were replaced by the two projects and 118 new catch basins were installed. To improve the long-term reliability of the area's water service, 47,341 ft. of old water mains were replaced, ranging in size from 8 in. to 20 in. To enhance fire protection, 111 fire hydrants were replaced with new ones and an additional 37 were added.

More than 5 mi. of new curbs were installed to direct stormwater to the catch basins and 27,730 sq. yds. of local sidewalks were built. The streets were finally paved with nearly 29 acres of asphalt.

The projects replaced 249 pedestrian ramps at 158 individual corners, ensuring that they are ADA compliant.

Upgrades were made along entry points to the Whitestone Expressway and Cross Island Parkway. In SE811, rather than using traditional roadway excavation to install a 72-in. reinforced concrete pipe underneath the Whitestone Service Road, micro tunneling was used to minimize disruption to traffic and the community. Crews also used quieter helical piles instead of timber to reduce noise during construction.

Photo courtesy of NYC DDC

Micro tunneling under the Whitestone Service Road minimized the construction impact on the community.

Pole Cameras

Council Member Paladino provided funding that allowed DEP to purchase new high-resolution cameras with extendable poles that crews use to inspect sewers. Sewers in New York City are generally located under roadways and lie about 8-10 ft. below ground. The primary access points are the manholes located in the roadway.

Crews can open a manhole cover and lower a pole camera down to the sewer and take high-resolution photos of the inside of the sewer. They also can view what the camera sees in real-time on an I-pad. The pole cameras funded by Paladino are used by DEP's Queens North Sewer Maintenance crews and aid in their ability to more quickly identify defects and blockages, implement preventive maintenance strategies and ultimately improve the performance of the sewer system in Northern Queens.

"I am incredibly proud of this project and its completion which will benefit hundreds of my constituents in Whitestone and Flushing," said Paladino.

"Massive infrastructure projects are never easy, but the end results speak for themselves and I'm optimistic the community will experience that in their quality of life. Thank you to DDC Commissioner Foley, DEP Commissioner Aggarwala, DOT Commissioner Rodriguez, and the city of New York, for your attention to and investment in our community."

"No borough is under threat from climate change and extreme weather quite like Queens. Communities like Flushing have experienced far too many damaging flood events in recent years, requiring us to move with the urgency of now to upgrade our aging infrastructure," said Queens Borough President Donovan Richards Jr. "That's exactly what we've done with this crucial $128 million investment in sustainability and resiliency for the families of Flushing and Whitestone. Thank you to all our government partners for your work bringing this project to fruition and I look forward to many more like it all across The World's Borough."

"This project will make a tangible difference in the lives of residents in northeast Queens and the future of our environment," said Councilmember Sandra Ung. "Not only will it mitigate flooding issues in our neighborhoods, but infrastructure improvements above ground will deliver public safety enhancements for everyone. This project will also play a crucial role in improving the ecological health of Flushing Bay and the surrounding wetlands, which has benefits beyond the project's footprint. I commend the city agencies that worked together to bring this project to fruition while minimizing the local impact."

"As neighbors to the Flushing Bay who live in low lying flood prone areas, Whitestone and Flushing residents are no strangers to flooding and sewer backups during heavy rainfalls," said State Senator John Liu. "Separating combined sewers into sanitary and stormwater systems will provide much needed relief during these events, which are becoming far more frequent here in New York City and around the state with the onset of climate change."

"This new sewer system will address the flooding frustrations residents have expressed for years while ensuring pollution and waste aren't flowing into Flushing Bay," said State Senator Toby Ann Stavisky. "This new sewer system was long overdue and, as a Whitestone resident, I appreciate its completion."

The two projects completed in 2023 follow-up on an earlier one that began in June 2012 and was completed in December 2017. That $67.5 million project included the installation of storm and sanitary 6 sewers, as well as water main work on the Whitestone Expressway service road from 13th Avenue to 29th Avenue plus other nearby areas.

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