Angry Allentown residents are blaming the city for late August flooding that damaged homes and destroyed dozens of cars in their West End neighborhoods.
During a two-hour meeting in City Hall Thursday night, several of them accused the city of negligence.
They said the city has known about the need to improve storm sewers in that part of town for nearly 30 years but has done nothing, while residents have faced “flood after flood after flood.”
They want the city to fix the stormwater sewer system to stop the flooding. Based on responses by city officials, any fix probably is well over a year away.
“The city has been negligent in taking care of this,” declared Gail Tannenbaum, who lives at 22nd and Allen streets. “This is not a natural disaster. This is not environmental. This is the city not taking care of the drainage. This is negligence.”
“Don’t sit here and tell us that you have no responsibility,” said Atty. Don Klein, whose office is at 19th and Allen streets. “You have all the responsibility.
“You don’t have immunity if you’re negligent. And you’ve been negligent for 30 years. It could have been fixed. I’m sure plenty of attorneys will take this case and I think they’re going to win.”
Another man in the audience stood to advise officials: “It’s always a lot cheaper to fix it before the lawsuit than after the lawsuit, because you’ve got to fix it anyway.”
Many residents said they face many thousands of dollars in uninsured damage to their homes and garages from the Aug. 29 flooding.
“We lost 43 cars just in our little section of the West End,” reported Tannenbaum.
Residents reported garbage, dumpsters and even empty cars floating down streets.
Cars were coming down 22nd Street from Liberty Street “like a flume,” said one. “Almost every street was flooded,” said another.
Residents talked about water being up to their calves, even up to their belts, and completely submerging cars. One woman said a child was saved from being washed away in the flood.
Some said it was the third damaging flood they’ve faced in just three years.
The impacted neighborhoods are not in low-lying flood-prone areas along streams; but they are down slope from Chew Street to the south.
Near the end of the meeting, city officials said a new hydrology study, which could take up to one year to complete, must be done before any work is done to end the problem. That study will identify specific projects, said Richard Young, the city’s public works director.
“I don’t know that they presented a solution,” said Stein after the meeting, “but I’d like to believe that they will. They did say that they’re going to do something.”
Tannenbaum said she was satisfied with the city’s response, but added: “We’ll see if they do act. I’m not going to let go. I’m going to follow up and follow up. I don’t care about the report. I want the action after the report.”
At the beginning of the meeting, Tannenbaum took issue with a city news release that stated Mayor Ed Pawlowski agreed to organize Thursday night’s forum because he wants citizens to be heard.
“I organized this forum,” she declared. “I went down to the mayor’s office and I made this happen.”
She was applauded.
Pawlowski was not at the meeting. Klein criticized the mayor for telling people to go to the meeting, but he didn’t attend it.
Tannenbaum estimated about 40 people attended. She hoped many more would be there.
She handed out 550 flyers about the meeting to residents and businesses from 23rd and Liberty streets down to 17th and Tilghman streets.
She said the Aug. 29 flood waters crossed Tilghman Street and ran down to Sumner Avenue. She said she talked to people at every business from 18th to 6th streets on Sumner Avenue, adding: “All but three got flooded.”