Dig, yes. Park, no

Photo by Patrick Rocchio

Dig they must, but park their equipment? Not so good.

While major work continues on the Country Club sewer reconstruction project, the contractor has been denied space to park all his equipment, upsetting local residents.

Talks had been underway between the contractor and the state Department of Transportation for the use of vacant land next to the Bruckner Expressway as a staging area for the ongoing project, but they fell through.

Senator Jeff Klein weighed in on the matter as well, saying that by giving away free parking permits to the contractor the city has scuttled chances for the having a staging area for the project.

Staging areas are not commonly used in New York City sewer reconstruction projects, and the city does not budget money for contractors to lease staging areas, said Community Board 10 district manager Kenneth Kearns.

The board approached the state DOT, he said, only because they had a piece of vacant properly, near Layton and Hollywood avenues, that the board felt could be used to store materials and equipment used in the ongoing sewer reconstruction.

“The state of New York is under absolutely no obligation to provide a staging area,” said Kearns. “This isn’t their project, this is a New York City project. We asked that they do this as an accommodation.”

According to Kearns, the state DOT determined that the contractor, JR Cruz, could use the land, but would have to make improvements, including installing fencing and lighting.

Kearns said that the contractor decided that since his city contract already allowed him use of Country Club streets to store equipment and materials – as is commonly the case in New York City projects – the contractor declined.

“This contractor has been so helpful in so many other ways,” said Kearns, “so we can’t really fault him.”

After receiving a flurry of complaints at a 45th Precinct Community Council meeting on Thursday, Dec. 5 from some local residents about materials stored on the street, Kearns said that he would work with the contractor on what he termed “housekeeping” issues.

These include making sure the streets are washed down after excavations, doing rodent abatement, and using “silk-fencing”, which catches dust, he said.

But that all might not be enough for local Waterbury Avenue resident Sy Newdell.

Because material and equipment is blocking the street in front of his home, Newdell, who has trouble walking, often has to park his car blocks away.

He also believes dust from the project is causing possible health hazards.

“There should be a lot of communication from them in terms of the problem,” said Newdell. “The fact is they are parking all their equipment on the street and taking away people’s parking, and it is disgraceful.” The most recent phases of the project are digging a 28-foot deep hole at a diamond-shaped intersection at Wilcox, Waterbury, and Vincent avenues and a 36-feet deep dig at Wilcox and Waterbury avenues, said Country Club Civic Association president Marcia Pavlica.

These digs will allow boring machines enough room to work underground without disturbing streets above, she said.

The project is designed to make improvements to storm and sanitary sewers, which should stop flooding in some basements. It has been in the works since about 1990.

Klein weighed in on the matter: “Working with state DOT, we identified and reserved a suitable staging area, just a short distance away from the site. So far, the contractor has refused to move there, since the City has already issued him free street parking permits.”

He continued: “By giving away these free permits, the City is now contributing to the exact problem we’re trying to fix. I will continue working with the contractor, DOT, and the community to find a solution, but for now, the contractor is simply not cooperating with what we believe is a reasonable compromise. I hope this serves as a lesson to New York City DOT that by providing free street parking permits to contractors, they’re contributing to quality of life problems in communities like Country Club.”

Patrick Rocchio can be reach via e-mail at procchio@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 742-3393

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