Canarsie’s Fresh Creek to see sewer upgrades to prevent increased flooding

Fresh Creek Basin.
New York State Parks Department

A series of projects are underway to fortify Canarsie’s eastern shore from future flooding — a longtime burden for the shoreline community exacerbated in 2012 by Superstorm Sandy. 

“I have been waiting for this for over 15 years,” said Maria Garrett, a resident of Canarsie’s waterfront. “I was advocating for this back in 2005. After Sandy hit, it got much worse.” 

In the event of storms or high tides, Canarsie’s Fresh Creek, an inlet of Jamaica Bay, dumps water into the sewage systems connected to homes along 108th Street — resulting in flooding in addition to the overflow from the creek itself. 

To address the flooding into the shoreline sewer system, the Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery and the Dormitory Authority of New York are conducting a multi-million dollar restoration on the outfall, where the area’s sewage drains into Fresh Creek Basin, and the construction of tide gates over five storm sewers along 108th Street. 

“Through GOSR’s $14.5 million Fresh Creek Coastal Protection Project, the state is implementing targeted solutions to protect and fortify vulnerable sections of the coastline,” said Eileen Méus, deputy executive director of the NY Rising Community Reconstruction and Infrastructure Programs. “The Avenue M Outfall Reconstruction and the creation of new tide gate chambers play a critical role in our efforts to mitigate the impacts of sea level rise, reduce erosion and prevent contamination of the sewer system, and we look forward to breaking ground on these resiliency projects.” 

The Avenue M outfall, as it stands today, is deteriorating with eroding sidewalls and a missing roof, rendering it useless against increasing sea level rise. To address an additional large volume of debris preventing the outfall from properly functioning, officials said the new outfall will be constructed with sloped pavement ramping down from the drain to prevent future buildup.

Along 108th Street, five storm sewers — at Avenues K, L, M and N and Seaview Avenue — will be outfitted with tidal gate chambers which will block seawater, trash and debris from entering the sewage system in the event of flooding. Once the water returns to low-tide, the tidal gates will open and discharge the tidal water back into the creek.

While shoreline residents welcome the state project, they hope officials will also address the runoff from the creek itself, which is not currently included in the scope of the project. 

“My house is directly on the waterfront,” Garrett said. “We don’t see the sewer water on the waterfront, we only get flooding from the creek.” 

Bulkheads around Fresh Creek, which work as a retaining wall, have been damaged for years and are ineffective in preventing flooding, said Garrett, and need to be replaced with new bulkheads or other resiliency measures such as living shorelines or berms and levees. 

“I have been advocating for them to restore the bulkheads,” Garrett said. “They need to make it a higher elevation even if they don’t have the money to restore the bulkheads.” 

The project will be paid for with federal emergency funds allocated to the state after Superstorm Sandy. Construction is slated to begin in May and be completed by July 2022.