Hurricane Sandy was a perfect storm — it made landfall during high tide and a full moon in 2012, killing 44 people and causing $19 billion worth of damage to the city.
Ida was no longer a hurricane by the time it inundated the city in September. Still, the remnants of the storm brought record rainfall, overwhelming the city’s infrastructure, causing flash flooding and killing 13 people in the city. The majority drowned in basement apartments.
“The water that came in was beyond anybody’s expectations, that we were experiencing. In a matter of minutes, we went from a foot to 3 feet to over 4 1/2 feet,” said Vito Cascione, a Middle Village resident.
Cascione has lived in his Middle Village, Queens home for more than 30 years. While he does not live in a flood zone, he has dealt with flooding in his basement before, but he said it was nothing compared to what he saw the night of Sept. 1.
"It just hit us at one time, as though the man above just opened up the gates and said, 'Just hit that area fast,' and it did,” Cascione said.
Stephen Pekar, a professor at Queens College’s School of Earth and Environmental Science, said we’re seeing more intense storms due to climate change.
“The result is that we had catastrophic rains that basically crippled our city and killed many of our citizens,” Pekar said.
Another issue leading to more extreme flooding situations is overdevelopment. What were once one family homes are being built up into multi-family dwellings. There’s less green space, and it’s putting a big strain on the infrastructure.
"The sewage system was built over 100 years ago,” Pekar said. “They did not build our system that is capable of this new situation where climate change that's been occurring over the last 50, 60 years. And it's going to be only getting worse in the coming decades.”
The city has spent more than $100 million upgrading the antiquated sewer system underneath Middle Village and surrounding neighborhoods. Cascione has been a champion for the project. The effort is not yet complete.
"We cannot have these problems in the future for our next generations to come,” Cascione said.
The city has also taken steps to map out future problem areas. New stormwater flood maps include areas where extreme floods are prone to happen during intense rainfall.
Future high-tide zones predicted for the year 2080 are highlighted in gold, leaving much of the Rockaway peninsula and parts of Coney Island potentially underwater - a very different coastline for future New Yorkers.