How do you keep the water out when it seems unstoppable? That's the question that Carrie Moore holds on to her phone when it rains, scanning weather radar apps to see if the basement of her townhouse in Sunset Park is flooding.
That's why sandbags are now lining her back door, and why she and her husband Ryan Moore, 42, stayed up until 4 a.m. when Hurricane Ida poured a historic amount of rain over New York City. They spent the next night and early morning pailing sewage and rainwater that had overflowed the basement toilet and shower, entered the sump pump, and seeped through the foundation.
Despite their best efforts, their finished basement filled with a foot of water.
"The worse the rains we get, the worse it is, and flooding just seems to be a regular occurrence," said Ms. Moore, 42, architect and president of the 37th Street Block Association, which covers homes between Fourth and Fifth Avenues. “I know that if water comes into our house, I cannot win. The water will win. "
Ms. Moore blames a sewer in her block for the fuses that damaged her home and many others. By Ida, the Moores, who have owned their house for five years, were able to limit the sewage overflow to the basement bath, although the storms became stronger and more frequent. But now as they tear down drywall and pull up their ceramic tile floors in the basement's main living area, they are grappling with a question shared by many in the area: what, if anything, can they do to prevent this from happening? happened again?
Despite the damage done, their block did not experience the worst flooding in the city. The storm killed numerous people in the northeast, including more than a dozen New Yorkers, most of them in basement apartments. Still, several basements on Ms. Moore's block were flooded with two to three feet of sewage, costing these homeowners tens of thousands of dollars in cleaning and repair costs.
As their basements dry up, homeowners like the one on this 37th Street block in Brooklyn are coping with a new reality. They live in houses built when sea levels were lower, in communities with aging infrastructure and drainage systems that are poorly equipped to hold the amount of water that comes with a rapidly changing climate. As the region prepares for wetter, stronger storms, homeowners are paying to secure basements exposed to municipal sewer systems that were not built for this type of attack.
Fixes aren't cheap or easy. Sealing a house with French drains and a sump pump can cost an average of $ 10,000-20,000 with no guarantee that the improvements will work in extreme conditions. More aggressive solutions mean spending more money. Do you get a second sump pump? Are you digging and sealing the outside of the foundation? Do you throw up your hands and move?
Sealing companies were showered with calls from desperate homeowners. Some say they are out for two to four months and calls have not subsided in the weeks since the storm.
“That is unprecedented. It's worse than Hurricane Sandy, the number of calls we've received, ”said Vincent Boccia, third generation owner of Boccia, a waterproofing and masonry company that supplies New York City and Long Island. In the past, a homeowner may have said, "OK, I can do this by wiping it up here and there." Now you don't wipe it up anymore – you need pumps, and not all three of them Years, but "twice a year, three times a year."
Home waterproofing solutions work by adding drainage and pumps that drain the water away from the home. But a homeowner cannot control how the water moves on the street or whether it flows properly underground.
Sept. 15, 2021, 10:43 a.m. ET
"Storm water management in an urban setting like New York City is complicated," said Edward Timbers, a spokesman for the city's environmental department, in an email.
According to Timbers, the city's sewer security has dropped 66 percent over the past decade "through programmatic cleaning and aggressive responses to 311 reports."
Among the calls to 311 in August were residents of 37th Street, prompting the city to clean up clogs in the sewer system at the bottom of the block and eventually repair an interruption – work that began on September 3, two days after Ida., Completed the city soaked. Mr Timbers suggested that homeowners install check valves on sewer lines that can prevent water from flowing back into a home.
Since Hurricane Sandy in 2012, the city has invested $ 20 billion in a climate resilience plan that includes rainwater management. But the work completed so far was unable to absorb the amount of rain that fell on the city on September 1st in record time.
That night, Lois Aronow, who lives on the same block on 37th Street as Ms. Moore, watched a waterfall spill over a concrete wall that surrounded a Metropolitan Transportation Authority bus depot on Fifth Avenue. Videos she recorded show water splashing over the wall and from drain holes. The basement of their three bedroom townhouse was flooded with two feet of water and destroyed a third of their living space. "I know it will happen again," said Ms. Aronow, 62, a potter who has rented the house for five years.
Ms. Aronow's landlord has commissioned contractors to repair the damage and restore the property. But she worries about the long term. “It's traumatic. How do you deal with it? "She said." You can move into a skyscraper, I suppose, but moving is not without problems either. "
Ms. Moore hesitates to refurbish or seal her basement until she is convinced that the sewage problem has been adequately resolved. The check valve installed by the previous owner broke during Hurricane Henri in late August. The replacement could cost $ 5,000, she estimates. And restoring their basement to its former state could cost $ 30,000. Your home insurance only provides coverage for $ 5,000 for damage caused by sewer congestion.
Ms. Moore fears the city's sewer system at the bottom of the block won't solve any problems for her as her home is at the top of the block. But, according to Mr. Timbers, the repairs were supposed to solve the problems all over the street, and city engineers examined the sewer system after Hurricane Ida and found it was working properly.
But Mrs. Moore is not reassured. "You see your home as that safe place that you own and invest in," she said. “Now that this has happened, I think about our home very differently because I know how bad it can get in our home. I just feel like we are at risk of damaging our own property. All of our things. I can never be okay when it starts raining. "
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