North Bellmore is miles from the ocean, but you wouldn't know it if you visited a street called Oakland Court during heavy rain.
For decades, intense storms have briefly inundated the one-block residential road, stymieing drivers, attracting local kids with surfboards and sparking the sustained ire of residents, who say they've complained to local officials about the problem for years without result.
“It looks like you have waterfront property,” said Kevin Metz, a mechanic who lives on the block and described wading to his car in shorts during floods to keep his work pants from getting soaked. "It's annoying."
Relief may soon come to Metz and his neighbors. The Town of Hempstead last summer hired an engineering firm to analyze flooding and drainage issues throughout the town. The firm’s wide-ranging report, completed in October, includes a cost-benefit analysis of more than 50 flood-prone spots, and Oakland Court is near the top of the list.
The $53,500 report by Melville company NV5 gives Hempstead officials a bird's-eye view of flooding around the 119-square-mile town, which is helping them decide which fixes to carry out first.
“Our goal ultimately is to solve every infrastructure issue throughout the Town of Hempstead, but we get X amount of dollars and there’s Y amount of problems.” said Douglas Tuman, the town’s commissioner of engineering. “That’s why we’re trying to use data and analytics to make our decisions.”
The sites studied span numerous communities, including Island Park, West Hempstead and Levittown. The causes of the flooding are varied, but likely include drainage infrastructure that’s become too small or old, new development and stronger storms, Tuman said.
The town cannot solve all the problems ranked by NV5 at once, as the total cost could exceed $30 million, according to the company’s analysis. The Department of Engineering is working on 20 of them now and will take on the rest as its capital projects budget permits. Tuman noted, however, that the department is addressing other flooding on the South Shore with almost $60 million in funding from the New York State Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery. Hempstead also received a state grant to map its drainage system, he said.
The coming improvements are welcome news on Oakland Court, although one longtime resident was skeptical.
“When pigs fly they’re going to fix this thing,” Vinnie Lemma said. “We’ve complained a bunch of times, to no avail.”
Twenty-eight years on the block have left Lemma and his wife, Rita, inured to the sporadic deluges, which can reach 18 inches deep and stretch more than 100 feet down the street.
“Things go floating down the block,” Rita Lemma said. “The kids on the next block come with surfboards.”
Tuman, who began working for the town in 2016, said he did not know why the Oakland Court flooding was not addressed previously. But engineers are drawing up plans to fix it now, he said. Construction there will likely begin this summer and finish in the fall.
Other flood-prone Hempstead Town streets where fixes are on the way:
- Hastings Circle, Baldwin
- Cherry Valley Avenue, West Hempstead
- 117th Avenue, Elmont