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Photo by Ryan Kelley/QNS
Photo by Ryan Kelley/QNS
Traffic backs up in the construction zone on Fresh Pond Road at the intersection of Metropolitan Avenue on Feb. 23.

Nearly three months after the Department of Transportation (DOT) defaulted its contract with Mugrose Construction to reconstruct the bridge deck on Metropolitan Avenue near Fresh Pond Road on the Ridgewood/Middle Village border, the agency announced on March 19 that a new contractor is finally in place.

According to a press release, Travelers Casualty and Surety Company of America has taken over the contract for the long-overdue repairs, and it has selected Beaver Concrete Construction Company Inc. to do the work. There is no official target completion date for the project now, but a DOT spokesperson said that the department is currently working with Beaver Concrete Construction to develop an updated timeline.

Valentino Rizzo, president of Beaver Concrete Construction, said he was not allowed to comment on the project, but his company appears to be more qualified for the job. The DOT said Beaver Concrete Construction has completed a number of bridge rehabilitation projects for the City, including repairs to the Trans-Manhattan Expressway Connector Ramp in Manhattan, and is currently under contract for other bridge rehab projects in all other boroughs.

For Steven Vinas, owner of Tropical Restuarant in Middle Village, the appearance of workers on the site preparing to get started is a breath of fresh air. His restaurant is tucked away behind a temporary concrete barrier next to the bridge that has been anything but temporary. The traffic problems from the stalled project caused his sales to decline by 40 percent, he said.

“My landlord gave me another 60 days, so I’m trying to come up with new strategies, I’m trying to hang in there,” Vinas said when QNS caught up with him on March 20. “My deliveries are still on point, so we’re going to try to stick it out.”

When QNS last spoke to Vinas inside the dining room of Tropical, the 13-year restaurant was empty during the lunch hour and Vinas said he was going to seriously consider closing it down. He was facing a 60-day deadline to decide whether he would re-sign his lease or not, and there was no end to the bridge project in sight.

Today, he said that his new strategies and cutting back on certain costs is helping slightly. His landlord decided to extend his deadline and is working with him and being fair, he said. But he also gave credit to the QNS report about how the construction was hurting him.

After the report, Vinas said, several customers who came into the restaurant or called in delivery orders told him that they saw the report and wanted to “show their patronage.”

While it appears that Tropical has a chance to survive through the Metropolitan Avenue project, it still depends on how soon the work can be finished. At a Feb. 28 meeting of the Community Board 5 Transportation Services Committee, Queens Borough Deputy Commissioner Jason Banrey said that DOT is still aiming to have the construction completed in August, and one of the biggest components of the selection process is being sure the new contractor can meet that deadline.

At the Board 5 general meeting on March 14, however, district manager Gary Giordano said that the DOT is hoping the project will be done by September.

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