Olive branch on City Island Bridge feud; concerns over contractor

The current City Island Bridge, opened over 100 years ago at the start of the 20th century.
By Patrick Rocchio

City Islanders have gotten a ray of hope over opposition to an unwanted design of a new bridge.

New city Department of Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg recently reached out to City Island Civic Association second vice-president Barbara Dolensek to say the city would look for ways to work with local leaders on the new bridge design.

Dolensek said Trottenberg did not make any promises, but the call seemed to signal a change in tone from the Bloomberg administration, which islanders charge ignored their concerns over the 160-feet tall new bridge – a “cable-stayed” design with a soaring tower in the shape of a sail.

Many islanders argue the modernistic design is not in keeping with the island’s nautical atmosphere.

Under review

“I was very impressed,” Dolensek said of Trottenberg’s call. “She said ‘We can’t promise anything, but our engineers are sitting down with [bridge contractor] Tutor Perini engineers and that we are trying come up with some kind of resolution to this.’”

Meanwhile, the city remains mum on a letter the CICA sent to the Department of Investigation, alleging Tutor Perini has a history of underbidding on projects and then billing for cost overruns.

Tutor Perini History

The contractor won the low bid of $102 million to build the new bridge.

But the CICA letter to DOI Acting Commissioner Victor Olds noted Tutor Perini has a history of coming in with a dramatically low bid to win construction contracts and then citing cost overruns to dramatically raise costs.

The letter and supporting news articles cited a number of examples:

•Suing New York City for $170 million for cost overruns on sewer projects in the 1990s, then settling for $22 million

•San Francisco International Airport

•Bay Area Rapid Transit System (BART) in California

Tutor Perini spokesman Jorge Casado said its “executive management” was reviewing the documents produced by the CICA.

“We are aware of the matter, and we decline further comment,” said DOI spokeswoman Dianne Struzzi.

Klein ‘heartened’

Senator Jeff Klein, who aided the CICA in filing a lawsuit against the new bridge, said “I am heartened by the goodwill already shown by DOT Commissioner Trottenberg.”

“In the coming weeks, local residents, key stakeholders and I will welcome Commissioner Trottenberg to City Island, where we can show her firsthand our concerns with the current bridge design.”

City Councilman JimmyVacca said he has already met several times with Trottenberg.

“I pointed out to her that the cost was prohibitive, that we could save the city significant amounts of money,” he said. “If they went with a reduced scope bridge…we could have a win-win,” he said.

Reach Reporter Patrick Rocchio at (718) 742–3393. E-mail him at procchio@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @patrickfrocchio.

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