February 10, 2016

City resident issues plea for flood relief

FLOODBob Ellis/staff photographer
Eric Riccardi on Tuesday points out a drain that’s supposed to take care of water that flows into his yard. During a heavy rain, more than a foot of water collects at this point and in his backyard.

Staff Reporter

The city will widen a culvert on Otter Creek this year, but a South End homeowner says the flooding it’s meant to prevent has already cost him half the value of his house — plus thousands more to repair the damage.
After heavy rains and flooding that caused thousands of dollars in damage countywide in 2013, the city will begin implementing a plan to mitigate flooding, starting with the widening of a main culvert along Otter Creek later this year.
But one resident living on the South End of the city says the flooding issue has only gotten worse in his neighborhood, and he is demanding somebody do something to abate a problem he has been facing for10 years.
The issue surfaced during last week’s joint 5th Ward and 8th Ward meeting at Randall Elementary School where at least four residents expressed frustration with flooding in and around Fox Hollow Road, Sunnyview Drive and Kent Drive neighborhoods.
Among them was lifelong city resident Eric Riccardi, of 1 Fox Hollow Road, who said Tuesday he has experienced significant flooding since 2006. He alerted the city Common Council and then Mayor Tom Gallagher about flooding, which he links to work done at Cortland High School.
But things got much worse in 2006 when a small piece of wetland off Pendleton Street was filled in and used as a parking lot, Riccardi said, essentially turning a retention pond into a funnel for rainwater.
“That (wetland) would suck up all the water like asponge,” he said. “They filled that in, there’s no place for the water to go so it crosses the street ... and it all comes crashing right down towards my property every 2 1/2 years on average.”
Riccardi has filmed the flooding. Standing Tuesday afternoon in his backyard,he showed video footage of a torrent rushing along the side of his house and into the street.
Another video shows where rainwater had pooled in his backyard, with only the tops of lawn chairs visible above the standing water.
The flooding is more than a nuisance; it’s expensive. Riccardi said an appraiser assessed his house, once valued at $85,000, as now worth roughly half of that. He has also spent thousands of dollars for repairs.
And Riccardi said he is not alone. The house to the north of his property has visible water damage, and he pointed out the homes of two neighbors he knows have had to pump water out of their basements or repair their foundations.
After his home was flooded twice in one month during 2013, he filed a lawsuit against the city, the Cortland Enlarged City School District and the Cortland Housing Authority, which Riccardi said did work behind his property that has made flooding worse. The suit is pending.
Mayor Brian Tobin declined to comment on the lawsuit Tuesday but said he and other city officials have been to the neighborhood to address other flooding issues in the past, specifically along Kent Drive, and he said he was not aware of the extent to which flooding remained an issue.
After the joint ward meeting, Tobin stayed behind to talk with a couple of residents from Riccardi’s neighborhood and he said this morning he learned more about the challengesresidents face on the hill.
“After talking with a couple of residents, the question in my mind became how many people were actually impacted by this,” he said. “It’s obvious it’s a concern for people. How many other people are impacted?”
He added he has already spoken with City Attorney Ric Van Donsel and Public Works Superintendent Chris Bistocchi and others to discuss the city’s options and he will meet with Aldermen Bill Carpenter (D-5th Ward) and Tom Michales (R-8th Ward) within the next week to discuss what needs to happen next.
“We want to make sure were all on the same page,” hesaid. “The city didn’t createthis problem, but we feelthe city can and should do something.”
Riccardi said at this pointhe isn’t looking to blame the city, the school district orthe housing authority — it’s much too late for that — hejust wants to be reimbursedfor repairs, damages and attorney’s fees.
What’s more important,Riccardi said, is that somebody, anybody, fix the problem once and for all — not just forhis family, but others in the neighborhood, as soon aspossible.
“I’m not asking for millions of dollars. I’m just asking to do the right thing,” he said. “Make this right. I don’t think I’m asking for much.”


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