Whitestone Bridge leak spurs MTA to action

Whitestone Bridge leak spurs MTA to action
Photo By Gina Martinez
By Gina Martinez

Whitestone residents are calling on MTA Bridges & Tunnels to fix flooding problems on the back service road of the Whitestone Bridge.

State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) and Whitestone residents gathered May 4 at the base of the bridge to call on the MTA to be more transparent and take responsibility for the flooding caused by water runoff from the leaking structure.

Residents claimed that whenever there is excessive rain, the bridge begins to leak water into the residential area below, causing flooding conditions.

Just in time for the news conference, the MTA responded to Avella’s complaints and had temporary maintenance done to stop the flooding.

In a letter to Avella, MTA Bridges & Tunnels Acting President Tim Mulligan said that for short-term maintenance, workers for the agency combed the area and cleared the two heavily clogged city street drains, removed dirt that had eroded from the curb onto the street, and replaced the curb fillings. In addition, sweeper vehicles made multiple rounds. Unhealthy trees and paintings were moved and will be replaced.

“While I assure you that all drainage systems on the bridge are working,” Mulligan wrote, “the bridge retaining wall was re-grouted in the area where minimal seepage occurred, and epoxy applied to a minor gap in an expansion joint on the retaining wall, which should eliminate any overflow into grounds and greenery. Regarding the issue of debris left around the bridge approach, facility-based crews will continue to conduct their regular sweeps, to monitor this area and address build-up of litter on our property.”

Avella started off by telling residents that despite the work done by MTA, he was only cautiously optimistic the effort would address all the leaking problems. He also said he believed the fix-ups were only done because of the threat of his news conference.

“Bridges & Tunnels came out within the last few days and they have regrouted those spots where the water has come out.” Avella said. “There’s always been a lack of drainage in the area, but it’s never been as bad as it is until they finished the reconstruction of the bridge. So in addition to the work they did in the last few days, they promised to set up an on-site meeting with DEP, the community, the civics and myself to go over a more long-term strategy in terms of landscaping and draining the area.”

He added, “I’m optimistic but not completely that the steps that they took are going to resolve this. I get the feeling the steps they took may not be enough because such a serious flooding problem is not usually addressed with grouting. We’ll wait and see.”

After the rainy weekend, Rob Trombley, second vice president of We Love Whitestone, said there was no flooding. A meeting date between the MTA and Avella has yet to be set up.

Reach Gina Martinez by e-mail at gmartinez@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4566.