By Gina Martinez
After more than five years of construction, the new149th Street bridge in Murray Hill is finally open in a move that should help the area’s business community, which is largely composed of Korean-owned businesses, recover some of their losses. The ongoing bridge problems have closed off a major street in the neighborhood, blocking traffic and making it difficult for potential customers to reach businesses.
The bridge over the Long Island Rail Road tracks has had a long history of setbacks and false starts. It was first barricaded in 2010 for reconstruction and set to open in November 2011. Construction ended in May 2011, but defects were found and city Department of Transportation never allowed the bridge to reopen. In 2014 lawmakers announced that the bridge would need to be completely rebuilt.
The city sued the construction company, Gandhi Engineering, for “breach of contract and professional malpractice,” according to court documents filed in State Supreme Court. After another set of delays, work on the new bridge actually began in November 2015. Perfetto Contracting Co. took over construction and the bridge was finally completed last week.
State Sen. Toby Ann Stavisky (D-Flushing) was joined by Councilman Peter Koo (D- Flushing), Councilman Paul Vallone (D-Bayside) and state Assemblyman Ron Kim (D-Flushing) in announcing the opening of the bridge. Queens Borough DOT Commissioner Nicole Garcia and members of the 149th Street Merchants association also joined the ribbon-cutting.
“I am so happy to finally cross the 149th Street bridge off my list of things to do,” Stavisky said. “After five years of frustration, countless meeting and phone calls, I cannot tell you how relieved I am. The Murray Hill business community will no longer face financial struggles because of a damaged bridge and residents will not have to walk past this eyesore again.”
During construction surrounding businesses suffered. Many businesses were forced to shut down. Young Hwan Kim, president of the Murray Hill Merchants Association, acknowledged the challenge.
“Over the past six years due to the delayed 149th Street bridge reconstruction, there was an enormous damage to the minority-owned small businesses nearby,” he said via a translator. “However, Sen. Toby Stavisky and her staff actively fought for this long-neglected neck of woods and finally brought the opening of bridge with help from DOT. We merchants deeply appreciate …. all endeavors.”
In addition to opening the bridge, the DOT installed two-hour metered parking . The meters will ensure quicker turnover so that patrons will have more parking available.
“Reopening the 149th Street bridge puts it back on the map for pedestrians, drivers and bicyclists,” Garcia said. “By restoring all access to this important north-south connection in the Murray Hill transportation network, we are making it easier for residents to get to their homes, students and seniors to meet friends and customers to visit local businesses.”
Reach Gina Martinez by e-mail at gmart