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PR- 155-08
April 28, 2008


City Creates Emergency Flood Response Plan, Similar to City's Snow Response Plan

Plan Activated Last Night for First Time

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg today announced the results of the work of the Flood Mitigation Taskforce, created in response to extreme weather events throughout the City last year. The goals of the Taskforce were to first, develop a citywide emergency flood response plan to coordinate agency responses to predicted and in-progress heavy rain events; second, develop community education and outreach materials for empowering residents to protect themselves and their property; and third, identify and examine Stormwater Mitigation Study Areas (SMSAs) for strategies that will improve stormwater management in the most affected areas in the short term. The Mayor was joined by the Director of the Mayor's Office of Operations, Jeffrey Kay, the Commissioner of the Office of Emergency Management (OEM) Joseph Bruno, Community Affairs Commissioner (CAU) Nazli Parvizi, and Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner Emily Lloyd at the event, which marked the beginning of flood season in New York City.

"One likely impact of global warming is an increase in the intensity and number of the coastal storms that often hit New York," said Mayor Bloomberg. "In the wake of three severe storms that struck the City last year - one which brought our subway system to a virtual standstill - I convened an inter-agency task force to improve our city's flood preparation and response. Modernizing our sewer infrastructure is going to take decades.   While we're committed to making these long-term infrastructure improvements, there is also a lot we can do in the short term to help safeguard our city against flash flooding."

Key aspects of the plan developed by the Flood Mitigation Taskforce include coordinated dispatching of emergency response teams, targeted catch basin grate cleaning on an emergency basis, continual monitoring of recurring flood locations throughout a heavy rain event, and enhanced data capture related to property damage following a storm. Development of the multi-agency plan was coordinated by the Mayor's Office of Operations and will be led by the City's Office of Emergency Management (OEM).

"The Flood Response Plan ensures that the City can react quickly and effectively when faced with urban flooding," said Commissioner Bruno. "Likewise, Ready NY: Flooding provides New Yorkers with easy to follow steps on how they can prepare for and protect themselves from hazardous conditions. I encourage all residents to request a copy by calling 311 or logging on to"

To help residents protect themselves and their properties during heavy rain events, the Flood Mitigation Taskforce partnered with OEM to create a Ready New York guide about flooding. Ready New York is the City's campaign to educate New Yorkers about the hazards they may face and ways to prepare for all types of emergencies. OEM also expanded its website to include more information about flooding. Key tips include what to do before a flood, such as obtaining flood insurance, and what to do after the flood, such as drying affected areas quickly to reduce mold growth.  The brochure can be downloaded on OEM's website or obtained by mail by calling 311. It will also be distributed during multiple educational events to be scheduled with community boards and civic organizations throughout the City over the coming months.

"The Mayor's Flood Mitigation Task Force and the new Ready NY flood guide are a direct result of the concerns we've heard from the communities most affected by recent extreme weather," said Nazli Parvizi, CAU Commissioner. "We hope that the work of the task force will allow New Yorkers to be better prepared for emergencies such as these and, most importantly,  to be better able to protect themselves, their families and their communities."

A Stormwater Mitigation Study Area - or SMSA - is an area that has experienced repeated flooding in the past several years. The SMSA report describes ten pilot SMSAs that will be targeted first. For each SMSA, the Report provides a detailed description of the area, a list of stormwater mitigation strategies that have been accomplished - or that are planned for completion -  within approximately one year, and a list of mitigation strategies that involve longer-term capital solutions. Key examples of the report's contents include the following items:

Near-Term Mitigation Strategies

  • Inspect and clean catch basins and sewers. Already cleaned inside over 50 catch basins and flushed over 20 sewer lines in various SMSAs.
  • Installing catch basins. Completed ten new catch basins along Yellowstone Boulevard.
  • Plant more trees to capture stormwater. Will commence installing trees as part of MillionTreesNYC this spring in two of the SMSAs that have been identified as having low tree stocking levels. Trees will be planted in pits designed to maximize stormwater retention capacity.
  • Implement flow monitoring at critical locations to determine whether short-term sewer projects might enhance sewer capacity for accepting large amounts of stormwater. Equipment will be installed in various SMSAs over the coming year.

Long-Term Mitigation Strategies

  • Continue building new or larger sewers according to drainage plans.
  • Determine feasibility of installing high-level storm sewers, which enhance stormwater management capacity by capturing excess flow through sewer lines during heavy rain events.

The Taskforce report will be the framework for working with these SMSA communities in the coming months and years, and will form a structure for expanding to other boroughs in the future. The complete SMSA report is available online at

"The SMSA Report is an excellent example of the unique insights and opportunities that can be brought to bear on important matters when multiple agencies collaborate to share ideas, resources, and expertise," said Jeffery Kay, Director of the Mayor's Office of Operations.  "Not only does this report offer tangible, concrete relief to the ten pilot areas described within it, but it also provides an important framework for examining flooding citywide over the coming months."

When it comes to protecting your neighborhood from the flooding that can come with heavy rain, there is something almost every New Yorker can do: clean catch basin grates. There are 140,000 catch basins in New York, each of which is designed to capture rain water or snow melt on the street, and convey runoff to the sewer system. During very heavy storms, rainwater carries debris such as leaves and litter onto catch basin grates, where they become matted down and prevent the water from entering the basin. While the City periodically inspects and sweeps catch basin grates, keeping grates and streets clear of debris - and clearing grates before major storms - can help alleviate flooding.

"Improving drainage and lessening damage from flooding requires a multi-pronged strategy: construction, operational changes, adaptations in the home, and innovative pilot programs based on sustainable practices," said Commissioner Lloyd. "I am grateful to Mayor Bloomberg for convening this taskforce."

Another important step many residents can take to help protect their properties, especially properties in low-lying areas, is to install a backwater valve on a sewer or drain line. In heavy rains, it is sometimes possible for a sewer to fill beyond capacity and to push water backward through the plumbing fixtures or drains located in below street level, such as those located in basements. A properly installed and maintained backwater valve closes automatically during heavy rain events and prevents sewage from flowing the wrong direction through a household pipe.

The work of the Flood Mitigation Taskforce augments two other citywide efforts: the Best Management Practice (BMP) Taskforce and the Sewer Code Revision Taskforce. As part of PlaNYC, DEP is working with the Best Management Practice (BMP) Taskforce to improve stormwater management practices throughout the City through the implementation of BMPs such as blue roofs and greenstreets. DEP also continues to lead the Sewer Code Revision Taskforce, focused on improving standards for future sewer construction, and continues to implement the many important capital improvements planned for the most flood-prone areas.


Stu Loeser/John Gallagher   (212) 788-2958

Michael Saucier   (Department of Environmental Protection)
(718) 595-6600

Andrew Troisi   (Office of Emergency Management)
(718) 422-4888

Teresa Gonzalez   (Community Affairs Unit)
(212) 788-7406

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