By Matthew Wolfe
Residents of Flatbush, irked at the city’s refusal to follow through on a promised street reconstruction of Church Avenue in Flatbush, brought the Department of Transportation’s Brooklyn Borough Commissioner, Joseph Palmieri, on a tour of the street’s sorry condition firsthand on Thursday. While declining to speak to the press, the commissioner spent more than a half-hour walking up and down Church Avenue from Rogers to Flatbush avenue. Residents have been waiting for a full reconstruction of that section of the street since 1990, when plans for a reconstruction were first announced by the city. In 2006, the city again promised the street would be remade, but a recently announced delay has sent residents into a furor. Church Avenue has long been plagued with road problems. The street, true to its name, is home to many congregations of Christian faith, of various denominations. Catholics give praise in the high spires of the Church of the Holy Cross, while Seventh Day Adventists settle themselves in the Brooklyn Community Church of God, a simple brick-work structure slung low across the first floor of a building running from Veronica to Rogers avenues. But to pray in a church, one has to get there first. And for more than a decade, Church Avenue suffered from some of the city’s worst potholes. “We were all worried about the parishioners not getting to church because of the potholes,” said Jessica Welch, a spokesman for the Community Action Project, a local group fighting for the avenue’s reconstruction. “The joke at church was ‘Where is Martha,’” said Welch. “’Oh, Martha was going to church, but she fell in a pothole.” Residents have waited for a solution since the last full reconstruction began in 1990, when the city planned to redo New York Avenue to Flatbush Ave. New York to Rogers was completed in 1993. But the Rogers to Flatbush section was left undone. In 2006, the city performed a patch job with asphalt that covered many of the potholes, but created many new problems for cars and pedestrians: a manhole cover on Rogers has been partially paved over; a curb near Bedford Avenue has a person-sized hole torn out of it; a city bus bumps to a stop in the middle of a pothole in front of the Clean Rite center, one the city appears to have missed. The roads are in many places uneven. Cars rollick up and down over the pavement as they head past the Ellsworth building towards Woods Place. Suddenly, the high-carriage SUVs that trundle down the block blasting rap and dancehall appear less ostentatious than downright practical. But even the SUVs, elevated as they are, are not immune to the street’s problems. A Cadillac Escalade parked on Flatbush is rim-deep in two-day old garbage that’s collected in a depression by the side of the road. In 2006, city officials said a full reconstruction was planned for summer 2007, but the city now says a study of congestion running from Utica Avenue to MacDonald Avenue takes precedence. A DOT spokesman said that the study must be completed first so the city can know how to reconstruct the street. “It’s being studied for a congestion corridor,” said the DOT’s Craig Chin. “We’re not going to replace the street and then have the study say we should have done other things.” While the date the study will end is unknown, the city now plans to make further temporary repairs to Church Avenue while the study is completed, says Chin. “Roadway crew go out and fix some of the hummocks and bumps,” said Chin. “We’re going to fix it up as best we can.” For now, the street will remain an exciting if unplanned adventure. “Yes, take a picture!” a pedestrian yelled, as this reporter leaned over to take a photograph of a pile of asphalt a foot high that has somehow piled up along the curb of the sidewalk. “I almost fell and broke my damn ankle,” she explains.