Hurricane Ida brought record – and catastrophic – rainfall to the city last September. Over six inches of rain fell in just a few hours.
City infrastructure was flooded: 11 people drowned in basement apartments during the storm.
“We need a framework to legalize secondary suites, which is like a broader term to define what a basement apartment is,” said Marcel Negret, senior planner at the Regional Plan Association.
The Regional Plan Association is an independent, nonprofit civic organization that strives to improve the environment and quality of life in the tri-state metropolitan area.
The group released a report Monday on flood prevention measures for basement apartments in central Queens. He focused on Jackson Heights, Woodside, Elmhurst and Corona.
According to the report, there are 31,000 buildings in the region with basement basements, which landlords frequently convert into unlicensed apartments.
“Right now, basement apartments are illegal across the city,” Negret said.
The report concluded that their legalization would help regulate and improve safety. He also finds that Central Queens needs about 40 times more green infrastructure to better manage stormwater. Currently, there are approximately three acres dedicated to flood mitigation, including curbside rain gardens that help divert excess water.
“The intention was to capture the first inch of water,” Negret said. “When there’s a more extreme event — like Ida, which was about 3.5 inches per hour of intensity — that’s more than the capacity this kind of topology can handle.”
Mayor Eric Adams said he supports legalizing basement apartments, but needs the support of the state legislature to make it happen.
A bill that would allow a program to code unauthorized apartments in the city died in Albany at the end of the legislative session.