Avenue of death may be street of darkness

The Brooklyn Paper
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Brooklyn’s Avenue of Death and Destruction might just get a little darker.

The Brooklyn Papers has learned that the Department of Transportation [DOT] may uproot the Victorian-style light posts that line Atlantic Avenue if a local organization doesn’t settle a debt for repairs.

The popular lamps, which supplement the avenue’s standard streetlights, aren’t covered in the city’s general budget — forcing a local business organization to pay the DOT for their maintenance.

According to a source close to the conflict, the Atlantic Avenue Local Development Corporation [LDC] and the DOT haven’t agreed on the fee — and no money has changed hands in half a decade.

“This is a dispute and we are in negotiation,” LDC President Ian Kelley confirmed.

A spokeswoman for the DOT agreed that a conflict did exist, but declined to answer e-mail questions regarding the dispute after citing DOT’s irritation over a Papers’ story last week that suggested the agency downplayed the frequency of traffic accidents along the same strip.

The tussle between the DOT and the LDC began when a contract for the care of the replica lights between Hicks Street and Third Avenue expired six years ago, with some fees still unpaid after the funds the organization had raised to pay for the maintenance ran out, according to Candace Damon, a former president of the LDC who negotiated the original contract with the DOT.

A new contract was never signed and the debt never resolved, yet the LDC believes that the city should continue to maintain the lighting.

“The money was all used to pay for the lamps and then the contract expired and there is no agreement over what is owed now or what the city must be doing to take care of the lamps,” Damon said.

Damon also claimed that 80 percent of the lamps are knock-offs of the historic knock-offs that the LDC requested and paid for nearly two decades ago. That alone, she said, is enough to challenge the city’s contention that the group should pay at all for the lamps.

Neither side will say how much money is in dispute.

Meanwhile, storeowners are caught in the middle. Most say they don’t want to see the lamps replaced.

“The period lighting adds to the charm,” said Rachel Leibowitz, the owner of Circa antiques near Pacific Street.

Other advocates stressed the importance of extra lighting on the busy commercial route. Over the last 22 months, there have been 346 accidents within the 10-block, lantern-lit stretch, The Papers reported last week. If the area gets darker, residents fear that even more accidents could plague the avenue.

“The lights make a big difference for pedestrians and their safety on a busy street that will only get busier as the avenue’s economic development continues,” said Sandy Balboza of the Atlantic Avenue Betterment Association.

Antiquarian Leibowitz said the historic lamps were “quite good” replicas of lights that might have stood on what was once a bustling highway to Brooklyn’s ports.

A spokesman for the DOT said that the city would continue to negotiate with the organization before removing any lamps.

Updated 4:00 pm, November 10, 2010
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