Lawmaker displays road rage at long-closed Flushing bridge

Photo courtesy Tony Avella
By Joe Anuta

A Queens lawmaker took to the 149th Street bridge in Murray Hill yet again to denounce its continued closure and the horrendous traffic conditions that it causes.

The bridge, which spans the Long Island Rail Road tracks between 41st and Roosevelt avenues, was first barricaded in 2010 for a reconstruction project and slated to reopen in November 2011, according to state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside), who visited the ill-fated crossing last week to call on the city to expedite its opening.

The city Department of Transportation never took away construction barriers after it identified defects that are preventing the agency from signing off on the work and opening it to vehicular traffic, although it was opened to pedestrian use.

“This project has been plagued with delays and interruptions from the very beginning. It is clear that this contractor performed sloppy and substandard work that could have potentially put lives at risk,” he said. “This is simply unacceptable and now the community is made to suffer because of these transgressions.”

The bridge actually lies in the district of Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Whitestone). She and recently elected state Assemblyman Ron Kim (D-Flushing) held a similar news conference complaining about the bridge last summer, when Kim was running for his seat.

Store owners told TimesLedger Newspapers at the time that the closed road is a nightmare for local businesses since it is preventing customers from reaching them and also a source of accidents for people pulling U-turns and finding alternate routes. It is becoming a nighttime hangout for drunks, others said.

This time around, Avella is calling on the city to resolve the issue with the contractor as soon as possible.

A list of current DOT contracts shows that a company called Unicorn Construction Enterprises Inc. was authorized to work on the bridge Jan. 22.

It is unclear whether the same company was responsible for initially tearing down the old bridge and building the new one. Representatives DOT said safety is a priority and that it is considering legal action action against the contractor. Representatives from Unicorn did not responded to a request to comment.

The company is heavily involved with working on bridges all over the city.

In May 2008, Unicorn began a $17 million contract with DOT to refurbish 10 bridges around the city, according to documents on file with the city comptroller’s office, but it could not be determined if the 149th Street bridge was part of this contract. The city has paid out more than $11 million to date, and the contract is set to expire this May, according to records.

In spring 2010, Unicorn started another contract with DOT to refurbish 12 bridges citywide, this one worth $7.6 million, according to records from the comptroller’s office. Just less than half of that has been paid to date.

Unicorn’s website shows the locations of several bridges it has worked on the city’s behalf, though the only Queens bridges listed are the Triborough Bridge and a crossing in Glen Oaks.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at januta@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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