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Ozone Park residents up in arms over project delays

The HWQ411B project has been delayed once again, causing Ozone Park residents to wonder if they will ever see the day when the streets and sidewalks of Centreville will get renovated.
Tempers flared at March’s Ozone Park Civic Association as residents of the community met with representatives from the DDC (Department of Design and Construction) and DOT (Department of Transportation) to discuss the latest updates on the HWQ411B Reconstruction of the Albert Road Area project. The meeting, which held hopes of allaying residents’ concerns, turned up nothing except angry protests by some of the attendees.
The DDC and DOT left the residents of Centreville hanging by announcing that the planned reconstruction of Albert Road Area won’t begin until 2011 at the earliest and may begin even later if the DDC is unable to acquire titles to many of the streets that comprise the construction area.
The meeting left a sour taste for many of the community members that have been waiting nearly 25 years for improvements to the neighborhood, including Ozone Park Civic Association President Howard Kamph, who was obviously irritated.
“I am completely disgusted. We are in the same scenario we were in two years ago, and three years ago before that. We have nothing at all,” Kamph said.
Lew Simon, Democratic District Leader, was even more vocal in his displeasure and was applauded by those in attendance for summing up the feelings of many.
“It’s a disgrace. I’ve never seen any part of the city that looks as bad as this area. You are coming here and telling us now 2011. You guys have to come up with something now to temporarily help these people because it’s unacceptable. Absolutely unacceptable. All of these years we’ve been waiting. You can’t even walk down these streets without falling. You guys have to do something,” Simon said.
Narayanan Venugopalan, DDC Assistant Commissioner, gave a brief presentation on the scope of the $40 million project that has been decades in the making. The plan calls for reconstruction of roadways, sidewalks, curbs, storm and sanitary sewers, and a water main in the Albert Road area. The design, which is 25 percent completed, is to be finalized by October 2009 and construction is expected to commence in 2011.
Venugopalan stated that the main reason for delays has been the acquisitions of the streets in the construction area. Many of the streets in the affected area are not owned by the city, so they must obtain the titles to all of these streets before any work is done.
“The city can not do a project without having a full title. We have to have full ownership of those streets in order to rebuild the roadways,” Venugopalan said. “The roadways are public use, but some of these sidewalks do not belong to the city of New York. In order for us to do the sidewalk, curbs, and everything we need to buy the piece of land from the property owner.”
Venugopalan says that every property owner will be compensated before work starts, but how much money they will get remains to be determined. Some residents who have land that will be affected by this construction are skeptical of the agencies.
Maria Miliante, who lives on Bristol Avenue, has property that may be sliced up as part of the project.
“I am concerned about the property they are talking about taking. It concerns me because they are not able to answer some of the questions that we have as far as how much property they are taking and how much they are going to compensate the homeowners,” Miliante said.
Maura McCarthy, Queens Borough Commissioner of the DOT, was on hand to hear the concerns of residents and admitted that there was difficulty in getting this project off the floor.
“We did not know that we had to acquire as much property as we do now and we didn’t find that out for an entire year. So we went through this whole acquisition process and we couldn’t go [ahead] because the streets have to be legally titled to the city,” McCarthy said.
Mitch Udowitch, representing Senator Serphin Maltese’s office, made a case to have the streets temporarily milled and paved while the community waits for construction to get under way. Under city law, if streets are newly paved, you must wait five years before any new paving is done.
“This project keeps getting delayed. We are presently in fiscal year ’08 of the city budget. In theory we’re not going to start the project until fiscal ’12 of the city budget,” Udowitch said. “Why can’t we push it back one more year and mill the streets? That’s your five years. Five years is what’s legal. Five years we could do. Five years I’m sure these people would be willing to wait since they are going to wait ten more years anyway. I don’t think the people here would mind waiting one more year.”
McCarthy responded hesitantly, warning everyone that the project could be in jeopardy if delayed by a paving of the streets.
“We could delay it. I would not recommend it. Your community delays it and it [the project] won’t be a priority anymore,” McCarthy said.
Resident Julie Falcone likes the idea of getting the streets fixed temporarily, but at the same time doesn’t want to see the major work get pushed aside.
“You got a double edged sword there. Because if you do that, they are going to delay it even more and push it all the way to the bottom, then it will be 40 years more,” Falcone said.
Kamph was resigned to just letting the project be and waiting out the whole process.
“There is nothing to do anymore. It’s pretty much in their ballpark. They’ll get to it when they get to it and they can’t put a shovel in the ground beforehand.”

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