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Riverdale businesses, residents say retaining wall is the cause of flooding when it rains

Riverdale business owners, residents blame retaining wall for flooding
Riverdale business owners, residents blame retaining wall for flooding 02:31

NEW YORK - What sounds like a flowing body of water is actually the product of heavy rain seeping out of a stone wall on Riverdale Avenue.

"Every severe rainstorm, there's anxiety of am I going to get washed out again," said Dr. Peter Wasserman, of Wasserman Cosmetic & Family Dentistry.

Just 30 minutes of heavy rain on Sept. 11 was enough for Dr. Wasserman's dentist practice to fill up.

"It was probably up to about three quarters of the base board," he said.

It's a new reality for Dr. Wasserman, who has never experienced flooding like this in the 48 years his family's practice has been here. It's caused him to cancel over 100 appointments since 2021 and thousands of dollars worth of damage.

"It's the volume of water that overwhelms that one little drain," explained Wasserman.

The water is coming in from their small back courtyard that gets overloaded with water when it rains. Wasserman says the water is likely from the retaining wall that sits above the property that was built for a school.

"When it rains very hard, the water just overflows, comes down that wall, you can see it. It looks like Niagara Falls," he said.

Other properties next to the dentist office in between West 260th Street and West 261st Street also experience flooding.

"It was almost 3-4 inches of water here," said Vincent Chiaramida, who lives next door.

Chiaramidais still fanning out his apartment from last Monday's flood.

"Every time it rains I have to hold my breath," he said.

It's not hard to find the streaming water even a week after the storm, which is why Chiaramida permanently leaves sand and a pump outside. 

"Whoever approved that property, I don't know how it got through. But they have no drainage. We are the drainage," said Chiaramida.

The Department of Building thanked CBS New York for bringing the issue to their attention. They said an inspector tried to ring the doorbell at the school after a complaint on Sept. 11, but they didn't receive an answer. They did confirm people have complained about flooding since 2008 and will send an inspector out to investigate the issue further.

"This is my livelihood, my business, my life," said Wasserman.

We reached out to SAR Academy, where the retaining wall is located, and we're waiting to hear back.

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