Brian Halvey is cautiously optimistic he'll soon no longer have to step out of his home and "wade out to my waist."
Paul DiMaria, North Hempstead's public works commissioner, said the town is in the final design stages for drainage improvements that could cure a decades-long flooding saga for parallel blocks of New Hyde Park homeowners.
Residents say Brian and Allen streets contend with an unusual set of concerns: drainage, valley-like-contours, and an easily filled recharge basin have meant homes suffer devastating flood damage.
DiMaria said that with new piping under Allen Street, water will travel more directly to a recharge basin on Denton Avenue, improving the flow. The idea, DiMaria said, is to relieve pressure on the current system. Residents say water overflows and pools on fields behind the school, then the streets, during heavy rainfall.
"That was a river," said Halvey, 24, pointing to the school's field, then turning to Allen Street: "This would be a lake."
Homeowners say the storms are rare -- neighbors cited four devastating ones since the early 1980s -- but memorable.
"It's always on your mind, especially this time of year you can't really go on vacation," said John Brady, 76, of Brian Street. "You're in dread of the house getting flooded."
Brady said he at first wrote off a severe July 1995 flood that brought 6 feet of water.
The first flood, he had suspected, "was just an aberration. We never felt we were at risk."
Floods in recent years caused extensive damage to his home; one almost entirely filled his basement. In 2010, some residents evacuated after flooding caused the rupture of a gas main. For one home, flooding caused the 8-foot wall section to collapse.
There's much speculation about the causes of the flooding.
"There were a lot of different theories," said Legis. Judi Bosworth (D-Great Neck). Officials said a swale at the foot of Allen Street had recently been regraded by the county to capture more water.
After the storms, neighbors sued the town and county, seeking $2.75 million in damages to their property and injuries to themselves.
In one suit, the State Supreme Court granted county and town motions to dismiss the suit, and the state appellate division affirmed that decision last month, court records show.
Another suit is pending against the county, with dismissals granted toward the town. A witness for the defense, according to a summary of testimony, said the flood "was the result of an extraordinary severe storm," and that "there was no systematic failure in the drainage system and the system functioned as designed."
Brady said he's paid $20,000 repairing his home from storm damage. "It's been years in the making," he said. "We'll be ecstatic when we see something done."