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What Readers are Saying About A New York Neighborhood’s Fight Against Flooding

Documented’s interactive story, “Surviving the Water: New York City’s Flooding Crisis in the Age of Climate Change,” illustrates how basement apartments, which are already vulnerable to flooding, are also concentrated in areas with a high flooding risk. These areas — primarily in Queens, Brooklyn, and the Bronx, according to Census data — are often home to immigrants and people of color, including the main person featured in the story, Amit Shivprasad. 

Many readers were moved by Documented’s latest report and shared their thoughts via email and across social media. 

Amit’s family and other residents on 183rd Street in Queens have taken several measures to cope with the frequent flooding in their area. They have spent tons of money modifying their homes, monitored storms to alert other residents, and risked their lives by venturing out during storms to ensure sewers and catch basins are unobstructed.

But all of their efforts were in vain during Hurricane Ida. The storm wiped out their attempts to avoid a catastrophe.

What readers are saying:

City Councilmember Shahana Hanif shared the story on Twitter, saying “We need action to safeguard our vulnerable communities from catastrophe.”

Reading through the other responses, a few common terms stood out. 

‘Thoughtful coverage.’ ‘Changes must be made.’ ‘Tragic and powerful.’ 

Sandra Tindale, an Early Arrival reader who was born in Astoria, Queens, in the mid-1940s and lived there until 1970, said she and her family didn’t experience major flooding. But “those who deny climate change are getting a big wake-up call and better take heed of the warning,” she said.

Tabitha Yong, a designer and documentary filmmaker doing a master’s program at the School of Visual Arts in New York, called it compelling and thoughtful coverage. “As climate change worsens, stories like these will only become more prevalent unless changes are made.” She’s working on a documentary about Amit’s block. 

Amit Shivprasad, who only recently completed repairs on his house this year, about 18 months after the storm, also shared his gratitude. The hole in his property’s wall left by Hurricane Ida has been covered. And in the basement floor, workers have installed multiple 3-inch wide holes designed to direct water into a new pump system that can expel 3,000 gallons of water per minute.

The driveway has been redesigned, too, with an indentation in the middle that resembles a canal “so that the water can flow out onto the street,” Amit said to my colleague Rommel Ojeda in the story. “We are trying to do the best that we can to make sure we are prepared for the next flood.” 

The renovation has taken an emotional, physical, and monetary toll— Amit’s family spent $328,000 on repairs, including $125,000 from their life savings.

Residents of the block we wrote about in Hollis, Queens, have also reached out to Rommel with gratitude that their story was told. They called it “a great write up and reporting” and thanked Rommel and the team for dedicating so much time and legwork to work on the story. 

This reporting actualizes the media’s role as watchdogs. I want to thank everyone who has spent time writing to us and opening up about their experiences, and I hope you take some time out of your day to share the story widely.

This summary was featured in Documented’s Early Arrival newsletter. You can subscribe to receive it in your inbox three times per week here.

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