Flooding puts damper on new housing

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Richard Cunzo and his wife, Theresa, at the Richard Cunzo and his wife, Theresa, at the entrance to their flooded basement. (September 4, 2012) Photo Credit: Newsday/Judy Cartwright

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Judy Cartwright Judy Cartwright

Judy Cartwright writes the Community Watchdog column

Moving into a brand new home can be a wonderful thing. Until it's not.

On a street of new homes in Port Jefferson Station, the thrill of the new was short-lived. Richard Cunzo arrived in December and, within a few months, he was on the phone with the developer and Brookhaven Town to report that rain had collected in the roadway and risen so high that it flooded two of the family's cars parked on the street. The damage toll that day: Several hundred dollars for repairs, including a new alternator.

Then came Sept. 4, the day Long Island was soaked by a deluge that officially measured 1.65 inches at Islip. Water crept up across the yard -- the house is set back 60 feet from Evergreen Avenue -- and climbed the steps to the front porch. In the backyard, sandbags stacked around the basement entrance couldn't stop water from cascading down the steps.

No good can come of floodwaters surging against a basement door. It gave way.

"I have four feet of water in my basement," Cunzo said in a remarkably calm voice mail. Outside, he said, "water is over waist deep in the street."

Let's not pretend this was an ordinary rainfall. Tim Morrin of the National Weather Service called the storm an "anomalous event."

"When the intensity of the rain is such, it doesn't have time to be absorbed" by the soil and runs off quickly, said Morrin, observation program leader at the service's office in Upton.

Lori Baldassare, deputy supervisor of the Brookhaven Highway Department, said storm drainage systems in town "are not equipped for that amount that quickly."

But from Cunzo's perspective, the storm drains had already shown their ineffectiveness.

Jack Campo of Campo Brothers, the company that built the new subdivision, said the company installed storm drains as specified when the town approved the plans.

The town can't say if the drains meet those specifications, Baldassare said, because they won't be inspected until the roads are dedicated, something that happens only after all work, including the final road surface, is complete.

Suffolk County confirmed that it is standard practice for roads in a subdivision to remain private and the responsibility of a developer until all work -- including house construction and other improvements -- is completed.

A few days after the flooding, Campo told Watchdog he had visited the street and asked the town for permission to drain floodwaters onto a nearby vacant lot, adding that he had a bulldozer at the ready.

"I said I would dig a big hole [on the lot] to collect some of that water," he said, but the town wouldn't "hold us harmless" on liability issues.

The town is pursuing acquisition of the lot for drainage use but is proceeding with another plan: installation of two catch basins along Evergreen Avenue that would collect water as it flows down the street to the development's lowest point, next to Cunzo's house. Baldassare said Friday the town is awaiting the final engineering report and, once it's complete, a work order will be submitted. She anticipated the basins will be in place within a few weeks. If they're not completed by the next heavy rain, Baldassare said, the town "would help them like we did in the last storm," when the town sent crews to pump out water and clear the street.

. Cunzo knows he can't replace the family photos and other belongings that were ruined when the basement flooded. But he would like assurance that the home of his dreams will be safe in the next storm.

"I love this block. It's gorgeous," he said. "But I want to know that I have a nice house to live in . . . I'm a wreck over this."

For now, he's keeping sandbags stacked three deep around the stairway to the basement.




Speeders hit his parked cars


I am the father of five children and we live on Sand Hill Road in Wantagh, a cut-through street for drivers looking to avoid school traffic on Old Jerusalem Road. My cars parked in the street have been hit and mirrors clipped. I've called the Town of Hempstead, which put up "slow down" signs -- but they don't work. I don't know what else to do. I am getting tired of calling my insurance company with another hit-and-run story.

-- Jim Napoli, Wantagh

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Nassau police will be paying you a visit, Mr. Napoli.

Insp. Kenneth Lack, commanding officer of the Nassau County Police Department's Public Information Office, said a problem-oriented policing officer will observe the speeding problem and meet with Napoli about times when speeding is at its worst and discuss ways to mitigate it.

Expect the officer to issue tickets through "targeted enforcement," Lack said, and conduct a traffic survey to determine if other safety measures should be recommended to the Town of Hempstead.

Nineteen accidents were reported on Sand Hill Road in the past five years, Lack said. Eleven of those took place at the busy intersections with Wantagh Avenue and Old Jerusalem Road, and the eight others elsewhere on Sand Hill, which is a half-mile long.


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