The Friedman family dreads hearing a forecast of rain.

Robert Friedman and his wife, Louise, monitor weather reports closely. And when heavy rainfall is expected - two inches or more - worry and preparation set in.

Their obsession with precipitation began in 2005, when the village turned land behind their East Hills home into a park. Since then, their backyard winds up under water during significant rainfalls.

Before the park was built, the Friedmans said, the site was level with their property and flooding didn't occur. Now the park land slopes above the backyard.

With each impending rain, the Friedmans rent a pump. And as the rain falls, they watch. If the rainfall begins to collect in pools among the trees, they know a flood is coming - and the pump goes into action.

That's what happened last Monday. On Sunday the Friedmans heard that three to six inches were expected and called The Home Depot to reserve a pump. When they woke up Monday, their backyard was under water. Pumping began at 10:30 a.m. and continued during the week.

"It's taken a toll on our lives," said Louise Friedman, 39, a teacher. The flooding has caused her husband, a radiologist, to miss work. And if they're out of town and hear of a sudden rainfall, they hurry back for fear that the water will reach their house.

The village initially responded to the flooding by building a retaining wall at the base of the park. But the flooding continued - there have been at least 25 episodes since 2005, according to court papers - so the couple recently filed a $1-million lawsuit in State Supreme Court against the village and the park's architect, designers, builder and consultants.

"Our engineers and our experts built a wall to protect the Friedman property," said Village of East Hills Mayor Michael Koblenz. "We did everything in the world we possibly could to deal with it. . . . Let the courts decide."


A fateful acquisition

The village acquired the site - 50 acres of federal land previously occupied by the Roslyn Air National Guard - for about $3 million in 2001. At the time, Koblenz hailed it as "the real estate deal of the century."

"It's been anything but the deal of the century for us," said Robert Friedman, 42.

The couple have become experts in pump work - all too familiar with the machine's mowerlike noise and the overnight watch to make sure it doesn't overheat or run out of gas.

The first flooding occurred in 2005, as the park was being built, Louise Friedman said. "I just looked out the window and I saw our yard completely under dirty water," she said.

Water seeped into the basement, she said, destroying their children's toy storage area.

When the Friedmans asked for an engineering report that the village had commissioned, they were told to file a Freedom of Information request. The village redacted most of the report, the Friedmans said.

Frederick Glaser, an engineer with Tauscher Cronacher Engineers in Baldwin, a firm hired by the Friedmans, said he believes the park land's elevation and insufficient drainage are the cause of the flooding.


Adjacent problems

Kim Levine, who moved next door 21/2 years ago, said her backyard also floods and that water has seeped into her basement. "I pump as well," she said, and recently notified the village of the problem.

The stress of flooding has had an effect on the Friedman children, too. In 2007, their son Jordan, now 9, wrote in a journal entry, "My backyard was fluded" and that his mom was screaming.

Lianna, 7, said she worries about the water damaging their belongings. "If I could control the weather, I would make it not rain," she said.

But that solution would be imperfect, her twin sister, Julia, pointed out: "You need to make it rain to make the flowers grow."

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