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Yonkers Co-Op's Flood Wall Approved After Catastrophic Damages

Two-time Brooklands flood victim and Brooklands garden-apartment resident Jane Gaffney surveys the wreckage of her living room. Note the high water marks below the curtains.
Two-time Brooklands flood victim and Brooklands garden-apartment resident Jane Gaffney surveys the wreckage of her living room. Note the high water marks below the curtains. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Kerry Smith

YONKERS, N.Y. -- The tenants of Brooklands residential community have lived in fear of every substantial rainfall since 2007. Until now.

Though it has taken three years, the Yonkers Zoning Board of Appeals last week approved the complex's plan to extend their protective flood wall by four feet.

However, it wasn't until after the complex was flooded twice by the convergence of the Sprain Brook and Bronx River - a double whammy that has cost resident shareholders nearly $3 million in damages after insurance.

According to co-op board president Kerry Smith, when a Nor'easter suddenly struck Brooklands on April 15, 2007, 24 ground-level apartments were flooded and their residents displaced for up to two years.

Approximately 96 cars were totaled, and the buildings' floors, walls, electricity, heat and elevators were completely destroyed, along with all the tenants' personal belongings.

The second flood, symptomatic of Hurricane Irene, did almost identical damage, but thanks to weather forecasts and iPhone alerts, residents had the foresight needed to move the cars.

However, many of the people who were affected by the first flood had their homes destroyed twice over.

"After the first flood, most people came back assuming lightning wouldn't strike twice...and then it happened again," Smith said.

Overall, both floods caused a combined $8 million in damages.

Residents looking to sell their apartments have suffered from plummeting property values due to not only the history of flooding, but also the recession.

"Even today, our apartments are selling for 40-percent less than their true market value," Smith said. "We're hoping once the wall is built, we'll be able to bounce back from all of this."

Brooklands' victory was not won easily, because the plan, designed by a hydronic engineer, would call for the wall to extend beyond 85 feet. According to the City of Yonkers zoning laws, this would require a public hearing to take place.

According to Smith, some residents from nearby neighborhoods spoke out about their concerns that the wall would direct flooding toward their properties.

In response, the City gave burden of proof to Kimball Brooklands Inc., who were able to successfully demonstrate the wall would not cause surrounding properties additional damages, leading to the board's approval.

The next step for Brooklands, according to Smith, is to gain final approval from the planning board. Afterwards, they hope to start construction by April 1 in what would be a five month project.

The wall would be completed by the end of August 2014 - just in time for the three-year anniversary of Hurricane Irene.

@suzannesamin

ssamin@dailyvoice.com

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