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Tibbetts Brook Daylighting Project May Ease Flooding On Major Deegan Expressway

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) - The Major Deegan Expressway was one of the many places in our area to suffer catastrophic flash flooding from Ida.

Dozens of cars and trucks were partially submerged.

The roadway has a history of flooding, and calls for change are growing louder.

New Yorkers worried about wastewater flowing into the Harlem River have been advocating for a solution that starts in Van Cortlandt Park.

As CBS2's Vanessa Murdock reports, flooding swallowed cars along the Major Deegan -  water five feet deep in spots – as Ida swept through, bringing the normally hectic expressway to a standstill.

"The water come up big time," said Dave Riley.

There was no water in Murdock's way on the Deegan in the Mobile Weather Lab en route to Van Cortlandt Park Monday. The parking lot there acts as a staging area for vehicles totaled nearly a month ago - some are still sopping wet.

"It's not something we can keep pushing down the line," said Stephanie Ehrlich, executive director of the Van Cortlandt Park Alliance.

Ehrlich and Christina Taylor with the Bronx Council for Environmental Quality both say the Tibbetts Brook Daylighting infrastructure project needs to happen sooner rather than later.

"We've been screaming saying that this needs to get done for over 20 years," Taylor said.

Tibbett's Brook Feeds Hester & Piero's Mill Pond, known to many as The Lake. From there, fresh water flows directly in the city sewer system - four to five million gallons a day.

"The overburdening of the sewer system has all of these residual effects," Ehrlich said.

"The largest number of combined sewer overflows into the Harlem River," Taylor said.

Flooding happens regularly along Broadway in the 230s with just a couple of inches of rainfall.  During Ida?

"It comes up and what we had just now it it came over the dam," Ehrlich said.

The water followed the path of least resistance to the Deegan, a ravine. Interestingly, the same ravine the Tibbet's Brook Daylighting project will utilize for good.

Instead of the water washing into the sewer system into darkness, it would be rerouted above ground into the already existing ravine. The water ultimately ends up in the Harlem River.

"Explain to us how this project would help to reduce flooding," Murdock asked.

"What could happen with this project is to arrange for the lake to be lowered," Taylor said.

"We're not thinking that by daylighting if there's another seven inch storm in 24 hours that its going to solve all flooding issues, because it's not," Ehrlich said.

However, flooding would be less extreme and happen less often in surrounding neighborhoods.

"Not only does it take some of the water out of Van Cortlandt lake, but it also offers an amenity to the community," said Bob Bender, vice chair of Bronx Community Board 8.

The project would also increase park access by expanding the footpath and beautify the space.

So, what's the hold up?  We reached out the city. The NYC DEP shared a statement it "added this project to its plan for improving the health of the Harlem River in 2019."

And the DEP is working to acquire private properties necessary for project completion.

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