‘You Can Smell the Poop:’ East Williamsburg Submerged During Widespread City Flooding

Elias Guerra Oct 2, 2023

All photographs by the author.

On the corner of Broadway and Wallabout, a small group in front of Sosa Diagnostic Repair huddled and watched the water rise. The cars that attempted to brave Wallabout Street and then turn back were trapped as Broadway jammed up. Gabriel Soto, who works at the repair shop, says the flooding occurs often but not usually with such severity as on Friday, when the city was inundated with rain. FloodNet NYC registered 25 inches of flooding in the area. 

Flooding around Throop Avenue and Wallabout Street registered 25 inches according to FloodNet NYC.
New York City Councilmember Lincoln Restler on Harrison Avenue as cars splashed by.
The flooded basement at Or Chaim Synagogue in Williamsburg.

City Councilmember Lincoln Restler (D-Williamsburg) stood in the rain staring down the flooded avenue clutching his CitiBike as cars drove by and sloshed water onto his feet. His district suffered extensively from the deluge. The area around Throop Avenue and Wallabout Street, which saw dramatic flooding, was formerly an industrial zone according to the Councilmember. “We just don’t have the infrastructure to keep up,” Councilmember Restler told The Indypendent. 

As Joe and a friend waited to go down Wallabout, they complained about the recent work to the drainage system not being effective. Joe is the manager of Or Chaim Synagogue on Throop Avenue and Wallabout Street. When the rain had subsided a bit, he was able to go over the synagogue, where he started working on the basement. It had turned into a giant swimming pool. He says the synagogue floods “everytime there’s a big rain.”

Idania Chavez, 24, works in Williamsburg and waited on the corner of Throop Avenue and Gerry Street for two hours before she was able to pass through the water to the house where she works. She tried taking a taxi but was still not able to pass. Two other workers, Maria and Rosa, also waited nearby. I argued with Rosa’s boss — who insisted that she find a way into the flooding — and explained that even the cars were getting stuck. 

Councilmember Restler said half a dozen calls with the Department of Environmental Protection to address the repeating problem had yielded some repairs to the streets, but that were clearly not sufficient.

“This is our new climate reality. And it’s going to keep happening again and again, and we’re not moving fast enough to make improvements,” he said.

This didn’t stop some people with rain boots or none at all from entering. Trash floated across the streets and a kid played in the water. As the Councilmember put it, “you can smell the poop.”

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