During high tides, nor’easters or just random storms, the water can be knee or even waist-deep. Worst of all, the flooding often doesn’t recede, pooling on the street and immobilizing the coastal community.
“You can barely walk, let alone drive your car through the streets of Hamilton Beach,” said Nicholas Spinelli, deputy chief of the Hamilton Beach Volunteer Fire Department.
During hurricanes Irene and Sandy, key parts of the neighborhood, such as the intersection of Russell Street and 104th Street, which essentially serves as the gateway to Hamilton Beach, were completely flooded.
According to Spinelli, emergency vehicles couldn’t get in and residents couldn’t get out. During Sandy, the volunteer firehouse even lost all of their ambulances except one, which was out of the area at the time.
Even when it’s not hurricane season, the regularly flooded streets often mean sanitation trucks will avoid Hamilton Beach. UPS trucks won’t make their deliveries because they can’t reach the households.
“It’s a quality of life issue,” said Roger Gendron, president of the New Hamilton Beach Civic Association. “It’s an emergency services issue.”
To help alleviate some of the flooding issues, State Senator Joseph Addabbo and Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato dipped into their campaign funds to purchase a water pump for the volunteer fire department.
The roughly $600 piece of quipment will help mitigate the flooding, clearing out the streets so residents can go about their lives without being paralyzed by the water. The pump can even be used for individual cases, such as when a flooded basement needs to be drained.
“It’s not going to solve our flooding issues, but it’s certainly going to help,” Addabbo said.
The state senator said he hopes other levels of government will see how effective a water pump is for Hamilton Beach, and maybe get three or four more for the volunteer fire department.
“It really was a no-brainer,” added Amato. “It’s simple things like this that we can do to make a difference in the community.”
Spinelli said the pump will help make streets passable. The volunteer fire department serves 5,400 addresses in their response area, including homes and businesses.
“This is a good start,” he said. “More of them would be helpful because there are a number of blocks down here.”
In the big picture, Spinelli said the neighborhood needs flood gates, possibly at the mouth of the canal, which the volunteers and civic leaders could close to prevent water from coming in.
Gendron, the civic association president, said he sees the water pump as just a band-aid to “stop the bleeding,” but it’s still needed in the community.
“If it means you’re isolated for a half-hour as opposed to three hours, that’s a big difference,” he said. “If it means protecting your vehicles from driving through the salt water by waiting an extra half-hour, it makes a big difference.”
More importantly, it will give the volunteer fire department another tool.
“I’m a firm believer in as many tools to make the job easier,” Gendron said. “It’s not the end all be all, but it’s a step in the right direction.”