Woodside and Maspeth residents rail against city agencies over sewer project problems

Calamus Avenue meeting
Photos by Anthony Giudice/QNS

Maspeth and Woodside residents have been angered over months of delays in the reconstruction of sewers under Calamus Avenue and 69th Street — and they were even more upset on Thursday night, when they learned the project’s completion is still 15 months away.

Nearly 50 concerned residents of the affected neighborhoods filled the parish hall of St. Mary’s of Winfield on Thursday night to hear why the Calamus Avenue Sewer Project — which has left Calamus Avenue and the surrounding areas a virtual mine field of potholes and craters, detoured the Q47 bus for nearly three years, and been a headache for anyone trying to commute in the area — has yet to move forward.

“There was a huge error, an unforgivable error in this project that has put us to this point where we’re at today,” said Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley. “And that had to do with construction documents not being accurate and a project being in the midst of construction that had to be halted and brought back to the drawing board.”

Ali Mallick, assistant commissioner for the Department of Design and Construction (DDC) North Queens Construction, clarified what documents weren’t accurate and why that was such a major problem for the project. The delays have pushed back the projected completion of the project to May of 2018.

“When I took over about a year ago, I found out that this project was dead, nothing was happening on the project,” Mallick said. “And there were problems with the design due to some unforeseen conditions in the ground because the drawings that we had did not match what was in the ground, so we had to do a major redesign with the work.”

Understanding the communities’ frustrations, Mallick and the DDC are looking at ways to work with the contractor to have the workers expand their work day and even work on some weekends to hopefully expedite the construction process and get the job done before the end of this year.

Other members of the DDC, Department of Transportation (DOT), and the Department of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) were on hand to listen and respond to the residents’ concerns.

Noticeably absent from the meeting was a representative from the MTA. Several of the local elected officials reached out to the MTA, alerting them of the meeting and asking them to send a representative.

“By the MTA not being here, they will know tomorrow morning how upset we were, how not happy we are with them not being here,” said state Senator Joseph Addabbo. “We need them to be partners with us, on the same page, if we’re going to address the issues that have to do with the Q47 or any other transportation issue that we may have because they provide such a critical service.”

Although the MTA was not at the meeting, Mallick, however, mentioned that the MTA told him that they refused to bring the Q47 back to its original route, even though work was suspended on the project, until the work was complete so they would not have to reroute the bus again once construction started back up.

Residents were furious with the lack of communication between the city agencies, elected officials and the community.

To make sure this lack of communication is remediated, Crowley has vowed to identify community leaders who will be a part of weekly community meetings with the contractor and members of her staff to keep the public up-to-date on the project.

Even though construction on the project has finally picked back up, there is one final snag. Three buildings near the intersection of 51st Avenue and 69th Place need to be closely monitored because of vibrations caused by driving piles into the ground during construction. Because of these concerns, that area has been removed from the current project and will have to undergo a redesign and be part of another project at a future date.

On Friday, Feb. 24, DDC sent out a community advisory notice regarding the temporary elimination of curbside parking and restriction to driveway access on Calamus Avenue between 71st and 72nd streets beginning on or about Monday, Feb. 27, and lasting until further notice, for the instillation of combined sewers.

Residents are asked to move their cars from driveways prior to 7 a.m. Monday morning so the contractor can begin mobilizing materials to resume the project. Work is expected to be performed Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Anyone with questions or concerns about this project are advised to reach out to Bita Mehrpour, the Community Construction Liaison for this project, at 718-424-1058 or email se814ccl[@]gmail.com.

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