City officials think they may have found the solution to the street flooding problems that have long plagued the North Park area.
The city plans to install a special storm release valve designed to improve drainage on such streets as East Pine Street during heavy rainfall. The region has been pelted with heavy rain in recent days, underscoring the need for a solution.
The installation of the valve is the idea of Public Works Commissioner Kevin Mulligan.
City Manager Charles Theofan said at the March 1 City Council meeting that the city is planning to put the project out to bid. Although he did not say how much he believes it would cost, Theofan said money left over from the county’s Environmental Bond Act will help fund the project.
The city manager could not say when the project will take shape, but added, “It’s a priority.”
The flooding problems in North Park have persisted for 10 to 15 years, said City Councilman Len Torres.
“When there’s a good rain, it floods the street,” Torres said. “You can’t walk across it by the Martin Luther King Center. The flooding still continues and it has not been solved.
“The problem is that kids can’t get across the street and they can’t take the school bus on the corner,” Torres added.
During a heavy rainfall, he said, the street is under eight or nine inches of water. “It gets really bad over there,” he said, adding that the current drainage system that leads into Reynolds Channel gets overwhelmed.
Torres said that other than Crystal Lake, few North Park residents have complained to the city administration about the flooding.
“It needs to be upgraded and it’s been ignored,” Torres said of North Park’s poor drainage issues. “There’s no reason why this could not have been given priority. People don’t complain about it. It’s sad because this affects their quality of life.”
Theofan said the city began to look for a comprehensive solution to the flooding about 10 months ago, with the main goal of finding the most appropriate location for the installation of the valve. Several options were tossed out because they were too costly and others were not feasible.
Also during the March 1 council meeting, Lake raised the issue of brownfields, questioning why the city never pursued government funding to clean up the North Park area as a result of pollutants left behind by the former Long Beach incinerator. A brownfield site is the expansion, redevelopment or reuse of property that has been contaminated by a hazardous material.
"Why is the North Park residential area included in the brownfield opportunity areas?” Lake asked the City Council. “The vast majority of North Park residents are not aware that their homes are included in, or part of, the brownfield opportunity area.”
She then asked the City Council if there are any plans or funding opportunities that the city applied for in the North Park area.
Theofan said the city has had environmental studies done in that area and none suggested that North Park should be designated a brownfield site.
He said some remediation has been completed, but the studies have found no danger from contaminants except where dry cleaners or gas stations were located.
“There’s nothing along the bay front and certainly not in the residential area of North Park,” Theofan said about environmental dangers. “There are no plumes or any dangers whatsoever that I am aware of.”
In February 2009, the DEC released a study of Long Beach as a potential brownfield opportunity area, but it never moved forward, said Torres.
Under the Brownfield Opportunity Areas Program, municipalities are eligible for funding of up to 90 percent of the project’s costs to complete revitalization plans and implement strategies for communities affected by contamination.
Torres said he learned that the contamination from the former incinerator has spread as far east as Monroe Boulevard and as far west as Laurelton Boulevard.
“It’s a pretty serious situation,” he said.
Theofan said he fails to see any benefit in the city’s continued participation in the brownfield program.
* Joseph Kellard contributed to this story. It was corrected from the original.