Tuesday Tip: How to Protect Your Home From Flooding
By Yehudit Garmaise
While basement apartments can provide affordable housing in NYC, they often do not provide sufficient windows and doors to provide emergency escapes during torrential rain.
Basement apartment dwellers should ask themselves whether they have the one window in each room the Department of Buildings (DOB) requires, and if they do, whether it opens easily and is large enough to provide escapes from oncoming flooding. When the remnants of Hurricane Ida struck New York City in September 2021, 11 of the 13 city dwellers who died lived in basement apartments that flooded during the torrential downpours.
Basement apartment renters can also ask their landlords to install sump pumps, which can sense incoming water before automatically removing it to prevent flooding.
During extreme rainfall, however, sump pumps will get overwhelmed, and basement apartment dwellers must be able to exit their apartments as quickly as possible.
Other measures property owners or renters can take before the next heavy rainfall is to look for any cracks or openings in roofs, parapets, and weather stripping materials called, flashings, says brickunderground.com, which also reminds residents to ensure to inspect, clean, and clear their gutters on a regular basis.
Residents who have built decks, terraces, or gardens should locate their drains to ensure they are not blocked or covered by furniture, rugs, leaves, or toys.
Because windows can allow for potential leaks, homeowners should make sure there are no gaps around the frames or cracks in the glass.
New caulking, weather-stripping, and window hardware can help to protect against normal rainfall, but newer double and triple-pane windows with vacuum seals around the edges might better protect inhabitants against heavy wind and rain.
Basement apartments are not the only ones at risk during heavy rain because New York City’s “combined sewer system,” means that stormwater on the streets, sewage from homes, and industrial waste share the same pipes.
“We don't have an empty sewer system waiting,” said Khanbilvardi, who explained that heavy rain can easily overwhelms the sewage system and result in flooding.
The New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has said it is working to separate previously combined sewers and create dedicated stormwater lines in areas such as Gowanus, College Point, and Canarsie, where construction is underway.
While many New Yorkers call on the DOB to enforce its codes more strictly to provide safety for all tenants and for the DEP to better maintain the city’s sewage system, Khanbilvardi pointed out that residents can help to prevent flooding by refraining from littering and ensuring that their trash goes into trash containers.
“When a storm like this one comes in, if you look at the street, you see many things, such as diapers, plastic bags, and cans of Coke,” said Khanbilvardi, explaining that such items left out cause sewers to clog and streets to flood.