The city will replace overflowing old sewers in a “private” section of Sheepshead Bay — even though it is not required to do so — to prevent future flooding.
Private sewer pipes connect dozens of houses in the neighborhood’s so-called “courts” to the city’s public sewer line, and the city is not responsible for their repair or reconstruction. But the conduits are in such crappy shape that the city offered to replace them this one time if the residents paid dues to a homeowners association in order to fund future maintenance. Locals initially balked at the idea, because they considered the association dues a tax, but now they are coming around, according to one local who hopes the city-funded fix will last several lifetimes.
“Hopefully, the city gets everything up to par and we won’t have to worry about this — would be good for 100 years,” said Stanton Court resident Mike Rodriguez, who previously pooh-poohed the homeowners association.
Homes in the area, which sit about 5 feet below sea level, often flood with sewage when there’s a heavy rain.
Many of the homes are slated to be raised or rebuilt through the city’s Sandy-recovery program Build It Back — contractors will rebuild 17 of them and elevate 15. But fixing the homes wouldn’t prevent future damage if the pipes remained shoddy — so the city agreed to replace the private infrastructure on the taxpayer’s dime so long as the homeowners maintain things in the future, a spokesman for the federally funded program said.
“Build It Back is committed to providing homeowners with resilient houses and communities. A Homeowner Association will enable residents to address issues with their internal sewer infrastructure collectively for the first time ever in an efficient and cost effective manner,” said Matt Viggiano. “These upgrades will address long-standing issues related to their internal sewers, something the residents have prioritized and something we hope to provide.”
Build It Back contractors will replace the sewers as it conducts home reconstructions — and the new underground sewer system is currently being designed as homeowners tighten up the loose ends to form the association and prepare to send off the required information to the State Attorney General’s office, he said.
And because the process is lengthy and complicated, the city reached out to Brooklyn Legal Services, who then put pro bono attorneys from a Manhattan law firm in touch with the homeowners, said director Jennifer Sinton of Brooklyn Legal Services.
Attorney Evelyn D’Angelo from Starr Associates met with the group interested. D’Angelo’s practice is centered around the formation of Homeowners Associations and through her knowledge of the process, the state usually approves them in cases like this one, she said.
“It’s my understanding in these Build it Back programs, the Attorney General, at least in the past, has been amenable to let it proceed,” said D’Angelo.
The state has 30 days to respond, she said.
Currently, 53 of the 65 homes on Lake Avenue, Stanton Road, Lincoln Terrace, Losee Court, and Gunnison Court have agreed to form the homeowners association, but city officials are hoping that the remaining 12 homeowners sign up, because the upgrades will be more costly and take longer if some residents opt out, Viggiano said.
“The more homes that join the association, the stronger the organization will be,” he said.
The city plans to break ground this spring and finish the work by the end of the year or early 2018, a spokesman said.