By Mark Hallum
Councilman Paul Vallone (D–Bayside) is drafting new legislation that aims to make the Department of Design and Construction integrate its efforts with those of the Landmarks Preservation Commission in the future. The two pieces of proposed legislation would make the DDC check LPC standards before any project takes place.
Vallone’s effort comes in the wake of an August project that, according to Vallone, replaced a pedestrian ramp in the Douglaston Historic District with a steel-faced concrete curb instead of the granite blocks required for curbs in landmarked districts. Images from Google Earth show the intersection in question, which is at Grosvenor Street and Douglas Road, in winter. The northern corner of the intersection had a pedestrian ramp which was severely cracked and submerged in melted snow. But despite the state of the ramp, the corner was to the standards of the LPC. After its replacement with the concrete curb, that was no longer the case.
The DDC will now be required to correct the error, a Vallone spokesman said, and the Douglas Manor Association has received reassurance from the DDC that the change will be completed.
“The City must preserve the character of neighborhoods throughout construction projects. What good is a landmark designation or historic district if a simple oversight can quickly erase what has been fought to be protected?” Vallone said. “It’s unfortunate that additional resources now have to be spent to correct this mistake. Communication is critical in ensuring that we can protect our landmarks, and my legislation will go a long way to preventing an error like this from happening in the future.”
According to the Douglas Manor Association website, residents are required to gain approval from the LPC before making repairs to their homes, and sidewalks being repaired by residents must meet color requirements. The DDC, at this point, is not required to consult with the city agency before moving forward with a project.
The curb is not the only instance of problems neighborhood residents have had with the results of DDC projects. In March, DDC infrastructure work in Douglas Manor sought to reduce flooding in the area by installing storm sewers. Instead, residents found their basements flooding and their septic tanks requiring draining on a monthly basis.
Mary Gallagher, a longtime resident of Douglas Manor, once lived in a house there with her seven children and husband, who died a decade ago. Now living by herself, she finds more issues with her home’s septic tank than she did when there was a full house.
“We had seven children living here and we never had a problem with the cesspool. Now every few weeks it has to be cleaned out,” Gallagher said in June. “They did so much work by the dock. Pipes had to be put in wrong, or there’s a leak in one of the pipes and it’s backing up into my cesspool.”
Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhall