By Gina Martinez
At the College Point Civic and Taxpayer Association’s meeting last week, the main topic of conversation was the MacNeil Park renovation that caused many in attendance to question a Queens Parks official as to why funding had not been secured sooner.
Vincent Cerrito, team leader of all capital projects at the Queens Parks Department, illustrated the upcoming repairs with a PowerPoint presentation.
“I’m really happy to talk about MacNeil Park because we’ve been doing a lot of work there in the last five years,” he said. “We have work that still planned, there’s still funding and we have the seawall project. Over the past five years we’ve spent a million dollars in the park on various items. We did a sewer upgrade and drainage improvements around five years ago, we started asphalt parkways which are in really good shape now.”
He said Parks hopes to replace a missing section of the sidewalk along the sea front next spring.
“We do have the entry plaza that we’re hoping to get funding for with grant money,” Cerrito said at the Oct. 19 meeting at the Poppenhusen Institute. “The next section of the sidewalk is currently underfunded, but the commissioner is making it a priority.”
He said the project design started in June 2013 and was completed September 2015. The public bidding bid opened Jan. 28 2016.
There are requirements for bidders, one being an apprenticeship requirement. When bidding went public, there were five bidders with a $2 million spread between the lowest and highest bidder. Parks worked with the low bidder since Jan. 28. Trouble arose when the bidder did not meet a mandate from the mayor’s office that says contractors that work on projects over $3 million need to have an apprenticeship program, a program for the unions to allow people learning on the job to be on the site.
“We tried as hard as we could because we did not want to lose him,” he said. “But he couldn’t come up with the documentation that said that he had an apprenticeship program. We want to get this project done, so we’re looking at a second bidder. That is our quickest way to get this done.”
Cerrito said Parks was scheduled to meet with the second bidder next week to decide whether to go with him.
That is when things went downhill at the meeting. Attendees spent over 40 minutes complaining about the bidding process and questioning why the initial bidder was not vetted more thoroughly and why the department still tried to work with him despite knowing he was not qualified and wasting more time. Eventually attendees calmed down after Queens Parks Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski intervened and Cerrito was able to finish his presentation, although it was clear residents were upset.
On the day of the meeting a MacNeil Park petition targeting Lewandowski and Department of Environmental Protection Deputy Commissioner Eric Landau was posted on thepe
“The crumbling seawall and waterfront path at MacNeil Park in College Point should have been repaired years ago, but work hasn’t yet begun and is years behind schedule.” the post said. “Funds are allocated, and bids are in. Demand that the contract be awarded ASAP so that work can begin this fall and we can get the path fixed and reopened! College Point has been ignored for too long – make your voice heard!”
Reach Gina Martinez by e-mail at gmart