Some Hamilton Beach residents reject James Court capital project plan

james court
THE COURIER/Photos by Salvatore Licata

Hamilton Beach is set for a multi-million dollar project to help alleviate tidal flooding issues on James Court. But residents living on the street smacked the plan down, saying it was more than they need.

“Why is it that when the city comes in they give you this”—James Court resident Rich Lynch widened his hands to represent something big—”when you only want this?”—he closed the gap between his hands to represent something small.

The city’s Department of Design and Construction (DDC) came to present their new project for the street at the Hamilton Beach Civic Association meeting on Jan. 22. They were met with residents from the street who weren’t so sure this would be a beneficial project.

The DDC calls for adding a bulk head to the end of the street, adding up to two feet of asphalt in some places to have a higher street elevation, and pitching the street in a way that the water would flow into the middle, where the sewers and catch basins would be installed. Moreover, they would move the utility poles from the north side of the street to the south side and were talking about the possibility of a shared street concept.

This would mean that both the sidewalk and street would be on the same level, leaving no heightened curb. The DDC is working on a project like this in Broad Channel, where they got every resident of each of the streets they are working on to sign a consent letter for the construction. But the residents of James Court aren’t convinced.

“We just want the end of the street fixed, a bulk head put in and maybe to pitch the street correctly,” said Lynch, who has lived on the block for six years. “We will deal with the flooding.”

The end of the block, where the street meets the canal, is eroding into the water. It is so bad that there are cement barriers placed in front of the ditch, because if a car or pedestrian were to fall into the ditch, they would end up right in the water. As years have gone by, the erosion has gotten worse, which is why some type of project is paramount.

James Court does have tidal flooding issues, approximately 7 percent of the year, that this project was designed to specifically address. The project would not address extreme weather events such as flash floods or another storm like Superstorm Sandy.

By raising the street, in some places up to two feet, tidal floods would not be high enough for water to make its way onto the street. The street would also be pitched to the creek. But raising the street would mean that residents’ sidewalks and stairs to get into their houses would be affected.

This would mean that some of the first steps people use to get into their house would have to be buried or reconstructed, if they are located directly on the sidewalk, so that the full street would be level.

Furthermore, because now people’s driveways would be substantially lower than the street, the DDC would construct a down ramp to the driveways and provide a pit for the homeowner to put a sump pump in so that rainwater falling down from the elevated street wouldn’t puddle up on the property.

“I’d rather you take this money and help every block in Hamilton Beach,” said Lynch. “Give every block in Hamilton Beach bulk heads.”

After the presentation, DDC’s original plan was to go to each resident individually and talk specifically about how it would affect their property. But because so much animosity about the project was voiced at the meeting, the DDC will send down three consultants and talk to the homeowners one-on-one to go over what exactly would happen to their property.

“I think we can all agree that simpler is better,” said Roger Gendron, president of the Hamilton Beach Civic Association. “Ultimately consent letters would have to be obtained by every resident. I appreciate that the city came in and heard the concerns of the residents. Now they can go back and look at other ways of doing it.”