After Surprise Flood, Help Wanted

Weather reports warned of showers, but the mayor said the deluge resulted in widespread flooding

   Angela Scott of Spring Street, representing 168 Sag Harbor residents who have signed a petition for what she conceded is a complex problem, once again urged the village board to make flooding in the village a priority. “Last week it hit home,” she said, and offered to do “whatever we can do to help you in the process.”

    With complaints from the heavy rain on Sept. 3 including flooded basements, cars stuck in massive puddles, and some that were destroyed, Mayor Brian Gilbride agreed, saying that “weather patterns are crazier than they were.”

    Weather reports warned of showers, but the mayor said the deluge resulted in widespread flooding including of Glover Street, Route 114, and Garden Street.

    Ken O’Donnell, a village board member, said he saw “a foot of water within minutes” while driving around that day with Dee Yardley, the highway superintendant.

    Mayor Gilbride said he hopes for a comprehensive plan going forward from the “state, county, FEMA, whatever.”

    “I am taking it seriously,” he said. “The board is taking it seriously. . . . I want to make sure we’re doing it right.”

    Ms. Scott urged the board to consider a temporary moratorium on grade changes, but Mayor Gilbride said he trusts the appropriate boards to make the right decisions on such requests.

    Robby Stein, another board member, told Ms. Scott that “the water is running off because drain pipes are running straight into the street” in her neighborhood.

    Mayor Gilbride said that he and Mr. Yardley met with a company and are considering imminent work at the intersections of Spring and Garden Streets, Roger Street between Latham and Henry Streets, and on Hempstead Street at the intersection of Liberty Street. “In my view it has to go up to the school,” he said. “I want to make sure they realize that.” They have received a quote for $9,500 for each storm drain.

    He said that the unexpected rainfall taught him that “Sandy was one incident, that six inches of rain was a completely different issue.”

    “We are investigating. We were talking about hurricane preparedness on Tuesday morning,” Mr. O’Donnell said, “then the skies opened.”

    Chris Hegedus of Garden Street thanked the board in advance for “looking at it as a comprehensive problem of drainage and flooding.”

    Mayor Gilbride told Ms. Hegedus that the village had ordered 500 sandbags, primarily for West Water Street, but added, “If you need some, we would also give them to you.”

    Rosemary Cummins, also of Spring Street, urged the board to inform the public and suggested a community planning committee. Businesses were affected as well, she said. “Water was as high as my long legs.” Her veterinarian had to cancel all of his appointments, she said.

    She said businesses as well as groups like Save Sag Harbor should be involved, along with professional engineers. She believes that the loss of some trees on Willow Street in Hurricane Sandy affected the flooding. “They used to be able to absorb a lot,” she said.

    Larry Penny, a Noyac resident and former East Hampton Town director of natural resources, agreed. He believes that sea levels will rise by 1.5 feet by 2050, and urged the creation of a committee, assistance from organizations set up by Bill Gates and President Clinton, and “containing some of that water in the wetlands, so it doesn’t all run down.” He also liked the idea of planting willow trees. “They absorb a great amount of water,” he said, as well as removing “nitrogen that gives us red tides.”

    Simon Harrison, a real estate broker who asked the board four months ago to ban fertilizers within 200 feet of wetlands, returned again to urge the same thing. He said, “We’ve had a variety of rust tides, mahogany tides, brown tides, and red tides.”

    On Sunday, he said, “there was a red tide the length of Long Beach.” It could be attributed to the rain,” he suggested. “It’s safe to say in this village, it all flushes into the bay.” Solutions discussed at the meeting will “get it into the bay faster.”

    Action could be voluntary, he said, suggesting that anything far outweighs doing nothing.

    Mr. Stein offered to meet with Mr. Harrison to “write something up.”