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Mineola to upgrade 'valley' storm drainage

Michele Cerro of Mineola is pictured on Fairfield

Michele Cerro of Mineola is pictured on Fairfield Avenue, the street leading down to her own street, Bruce Terrace. (Dec. 7, 2012) Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

The residents of Bruce Terrace have a ritual.

"At night when we go to bed, we look at the weather, and if we see one to two inches of rain, my car goes out of the driveway and up the block," said Michele Cerro, who has lived on that Mineola block for 21 years.

For four decades, short, intense periods of rainfall have inundated neighbors on the block and on nearby Carle Place streets, the result of living on downward-sloping streets -- a "valley," Mineola Mayor Scott Strauss said. They've long sought a solution. Finally, a plan developed by the village, Nassau County and the Town of North Hempstead -- called off after state funding fell through, then put back on the table when money was restored -- is set to kick off.

The three municipalities will split evenly a $2.4 million grant secured by Sen. Jack Martins (R-Mineola) after he took office in 2011.

The plan is three-pronged. The county will install an interceptor underneath Sheridan Boulevard in Mineola to divert water from Bruce Terrace and some Carle Place streets. The village will widen its recharge basin, which is behind the Wilson Park Pool, splitting it into two distinct sections. And the town will add a second storm basin north of Westbury Avenue near the old Motor Parkway in Carle Place, a site that the village recently acquired from the town.

"If we can stop as much water as possible from going downhill, we relieve pressure on the system that's there currently, and we can divert a significant amount of water there," Martins said.

The work, Martins said, should be finished by the end of spring. The town approved a bid for construction in October, and Mineola announced its low bidder -- Roadwork Ahead Inc. of Westbury -- at a village meeting Wednesday. The town said it will hold meetings this week and outline plans for construction.

The village, officials contend, is ill-equipped to handle quick bursts of rainwater.

"This is a design flaw," Strauss said. "People should never have built houses down there; you don't build houses without the proper drainage."

The project is unique, Martins said, because storm drainage in Nassau County has "historically been a county issue." But the catch basin in Mineola is owned by the village.

In Mineola, flooding, which can cascade into basements within minutes, has forced residents to take desperate measures. Storefront and home exteriors are often lined with sandbags. Thomas Festa, who lives on Fairfield Avenue in Carle Place, remembered a flood one summer more than 10 years ago, when water in the street was more than 3 feet high. He and a neighbor, he said, "paddled around the river" on a raft.

"It looks like a wave coming down the street," Festa said. "It just rushes you."

Cerro, who said family has questioned why she continues to live at Bruce Terrace, called the project "a happy ending."

"It took a lot out of us," she said, explaining her rationale for staying. "But I did what I thought was the best thing: I tried to fix it."

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