149th Street Bridge renovation to start after long delay

By Madina Toure

The city has approved a contract to reconstruct the 149th Street Bridge in Murray Hill. The bridge has been barricaded and closed off to cars for five years.

Preliminary work on the bridge, located between 41st and Roosevelt avenues, will start Monday when Perfetto Contracting Co. Inc. will officially be allowed to apply for various permits and prepare to put shovels in the ground.

Two-hour metered parking will be installed at several locations in the area in response to local business owners’ concerns over a lack of parking.

A new two-lane bridge was set to open in 2012, but that bridge was found to be unsafe for cars. The structure remained barricaded and unused while a replacement bridge was planned for development. Surrounding businesses, mostly Korean-owned, suffered major losses in revenue or went out of business as a result of the closed bridge.

State Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Flushing), state Assemblyman Ron Kim (D-Flushing) and City Councilman Peter Koo (D-Flushing) worked with the city Department of Transportation to open the bridge. They credited the new Queens DOT Commissioner Nicole Garcia with helping to ensure construction would begin.

Stavisky said the project has been one of her priorities for a long time.

“The 149th Street has been on that list for the past five years,” she said. “This morning I crossed it off.”

Garcia said more visible construction work will likely take place in March and that the pouring of the concrete will occur by summer 2016.

The earlier bridge replacement project cost $4.2 million and the city is seeking damages from the designer, Gandhi Engineering, Garcia said. The DOT is funding $1.6 million for the concrete deck bridge replacement, the only part of the bridge that needs to be reconstructed, she said.

“You won’t be seeing a lot of active construction right away,” Garcia said.

Koo said his office, other elected officials and community organizations have been working to expedite the project.

“The 149th Street Bridge has been a blight on our community for far too long, causing severe inconveniences for residents and commuters in the Murray Hill neighborhood in Flushing,” he said in a statement.

Community leaders also expressed gratitude over news that the project will begin.

Min Sun Kim, president of the Korean American Association of Greater New York, said the project would not have been possible without the work of both elected officials and community leaders.

“Through this, we learned again that without everyone’s cooperation, it would not be possible,” Kim said.

Paul Yoo, president of the Korean American Association of Queens, said the association has been bringing up the bridge issue for the last three years and that there have been many accidents in the area.

“People were afraid to come to the area restaurants for shopping,” Yoo said.

Assemblyman Kim said he is relieved that construction will start on the bridge.

“Merchants have grown sick and tired of the issues the five years of delay on this bridgework have created,” he said.

Reach reporter Madina Toure by e-mail at mtoure@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4566.

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