He took that fight last Tuesday to Maspeth, where 45-year resident Jeanette Romano said the city is installing a large bioswale on her sidewalk, which she spent “thousands of dollars” to get fixed.
“How much more money do I have to shell out?” Romano said. “This is absolutely disgusting, I am so sick of this.”
Romano, who lives on 60th Drive, said construction workers began installing the bioswale about two months ago. It’s still not done yet, with orange fencing blocking it off from the rest of the sidewalk.
The Maspeth resident said she spent $750 to put in concrete around a tree the city planted as well, but city workers ripped that up to put in the rain garden.
Romano filed claims for damages, and according to a later dated April 2, the city’s Bureau of Law and Adjustment said it’s investigating the claim.
“We do something and then they destroy it, what is the purpose?” Romano said.
She added that the city never gave her a timeline of when the bioswale will be finished.
Avella, who doesn’t represent Maspeth but has addressed the same issue with Bayside residents, said he was alerted of Romano’s plight when he saw her on a television news report.
He’s been asking the mayor and city agencies to allow homeowners to have the ability to opt out of getting bioswales in front of their homes.
“What we have is the city’s attempt to cheaply address stormwater runoff,” Avella said. “Instead of putting in the infrastructure and treatment plants which the city is supposed to do, they came up with this.”
In northeast Queens, Avella organized a meeting between neighbors and civic groups and the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). The senator said they got a commitment from the acting commissioner that until the city resolves these issues, they will not proceed with construction in that area.
“That’s a commitment they made to me in my district,” Avella said. “This community should get the same right.”
The bioswale in front of Romano’s home is near the bottom of a hill, so rainwater should trickle down into it. Avella said because this particular bioswale is not sufficiently graded toward the catch basin, runoff onto the street is likely.
“What’s going to happen with the heavy rain?” he asked. “It’s not only going to come in here, it’s going to go over the sidewalk.”
The rain garden is also adjacent to two parking spots on the street. Avella said it will be hard for people to get out without stepping into the bioswale. He said that could adversely affect seniors and people with disabilities.
Homeowners and civic leaders nearby were also concerned about maintenance. They doubted city workers will clean it out regularly, and fear garbage will pile up.
Avella insisted that because the city will have a hard time maintaining them, the onus eventually falls on the homeowner.
“This was very poorly thought out,” he said. “This is not going to work, why should homeowners have this responsibility?”
A DEP spokesperson said that the installation of the rain gardens in Maspeth, announced earlier in May, is taking place this fall. They are built on public property and are part of the city’s infrastructure to capture stormwater and keep it out of the combined sewer system.
The bioswales help reduce pollution overflows into Newtown Creek, the spokesperson said.
In addition to notifying the community board and local elected officials, the spokesperson said the property owner was notified twice about the construction on the public sidewalk, once in March and again earlier in the summer.
The pamphlets left with the homeowner explained that the city is responsible for all maintenance, including cleaning, not the owner.