Maspeth residents should be paid for damages from sewer main project: city comptroller

Stringer in Maspeth 2
Photo courtesy of Comptroller Stringer’s office

Following his tour of an area of Maspeth suffering under the Calamus Avenue sewer project, City Comptroller Scott Stringer wants the NYC Department of Design and Construction (DDC) to meet with him to resolve the myriad issues plaguing residents near the construction site.

During his tour — which was requested by Assemblyman Brian Barnwell and Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley — Stringer met with residents who pointed out damages to their sidewalks, the outside and inside of their homes, and other construction-related problems, prompting him to say the neighborhood looked “like a war zone.”

“When I visited, I met seniors who told me their property was ripped up and discarded without notice. I spoke with families who were deeply fearful about the stability of their house foundations,” Stringer said in a statement. “Residents reported that the project created leaks, cracks and damage in numerous homes. The work site looked like absolute chaos in a residential community — and it must be remedied as soon as possible.”

Following his tour, Stringer wrote a letter to the DDC acting commissioner Ana Barrio, outlining the complaints of the community.

In the letter, Stringer alerted Barrio to the various complaints made by residents including the following:

  • Significant structural damage to the exterior of some homes and the surrounding grounds, of numerous residents along Calamus Avenue between 74th Street and 69th Street that residents claimed did not exist prior to construction;
  • Internal cracks in some homes that residents said were not there before construction;
  • Reports of little to no notice related to water service interruptions;
  • Concerns regarding the safety of the drinking water of residents within the affected area due to the use of temporary hoses that residents believe are not suitable for potable water transmission;
  • Claims from residents of lack of responsiveness from the project’s Community Construction Liaison;
  • A lack of meaningful translation services of project information for the area’s Mandarin and Cantonese speakers; and
  • The sudden posting of “No Parking” signs along Calamus Avenue that did not give residents enough notice to move their vehicles leading to tickets.

Making the problems worse, Stringer added in the letter, residents were told by DDC to only file their claims with the comptroller’s office, even though the contract for the work includes an indemnification clause.

“Residents should file claims here to preserve their rights, but as you know, my office cannot adjust these claims given the contract provisions that favor the city,” Stringer wrote. “This will only add to residents’ understandable frustration and feelings of being ignored by the city.”

Since Stringer’s visit, DDC has agreed to post more information about parking and water shutdowns in advance and engage better with the community.

According to Stringer, his office plays no role in claims for property damage as a result of this project because the third-party vendor — CAC Industries — is insured. Stringer encourages all residents to document damage, as well as write and call the company for repairs, and reach out to DDC’s Community Construction Liaison, Bita Mehrpour, at 718-424-1058 or through email at SE814CCL[@]gmail.com.

“We’re going to keep demanding accountability, and we’re going to keep holding DDC’s and the company’s feet to the fire,” Stringer said. “This community deserves better. Every person with a legitimate claim, no matter how big or small, deserves to be made whole.”