Local architects dive into flooding issues in Port Jefferson Village

Port Jefferson Village frequently floods due to high tides from the harbor. At low tide, a line of algae shows how high water levels can rise on a normal day.

By Arielle Noren and Duffy Zimmerman

Port Jefferson Village awarded Campani and Schwarting Architects a $9,800 contract in early February for a study on extreme flooding conditions that will be included in the June 2019 request for state grants.

Using geographic information systems, the team will map and document elevations, while also analyzing changes in tide levels in the last five years to determine root causes of flooding and look for potential solutions.

The architects are in the beginning stages of this study. “We have started mapping and the research of design precedents,” Campani said. “We will continue that this week.”

The Port Jefferson Village Board commissioned the study just months after one of the worst flooding events in recent history. Last September, four inches of rain water accumulated in one hour and left $500,000 worth of damage in its wake.

“I lost my car in the flood,” Josh Darbee, owner of Red Shirt Comics in Port Jefferson, said. “It was under three feet of water.”

The Village of Port Jefferson and Campani and Schwarting Architects worked on a revitalization study in 2013 which emphasized connecting downtown Port Jefferson with the waterfront. “We realized there should a new emphasis on the issues of flooding,” Campani said. “We still think it’s a good idea to make a better connection between the waterfront and pedestrians.”

The new study is expected to locate the watershed, an area of land where precipitation either runs off or collects, in and around the village. Campani and Schwarting say that once they determine these points, they will map low elevation areas where the water accumulates and high altitudes from which water flows during rain storms.

One known epicenter of groundwater lies several feet below the intersection of Broadway and Main Street. Campani and Schwarting speculate that this water table spans hundreds of feet to the south, and can contribute to flooding when combined with outdated drainage systems and high tide.

“There’s so many drainage issues in this town, even during normal rain, all the corners get extremely puddled up,” Shannon Mcgarr, an employee at the Port Jefferson Motorcycle Store, said.  

Port Jefferson Mayor Margaret Garant called the village “Drowned Meadow” in an interview with News 12. This name is a reference to when European settlers began building on the land in the 1600s because it flooded twice each day during high tides, according to the Port Jefferson Historical Society.

Although Port Jefferson has been named for being waterlogged in the past, the unprecedented cost and frequency of floods like the one in September 2018 motivated officials to take action. “It was like a 500-year storm,” Bruce D’Abramo, a Port Jefferson Village Trustee, said. “Perhaps with global warming, they’re occurring a little more frequently”

The architects are expected to conclude their study by the end of June. At that time, they will enter the final portion of their current contract with the village, which requires them to write a proposal for a state grant.

“This current study is research plus a visioning study in the hopes of actually doing a much broader, deeper study, with more consultants and really trying to put into place a project,” Campani said. “The current study is not to design a specific project, but to look at the issues and propose some potential remedies.”

 

About Arielle Noren 2 Articles
Arielle Noren is a journalist and student at Stony Brook University. She grew up in Ithaca, N.Y., and was born in Kansas City, Missouri.