Merchants along 86th Street who hoped that a proposed two-year water main replacement project would be done in two segements didn’t get everything they asked for — but officials did promise to finish the job six months ahead of schedule.
The project, which will replace water mains from Shore Road to Gatling Place, is now slated for completion by autumn 2008 instead of April 2009.
“These water mains really need to be replaced,” said Community Board 10 District Manager Josephine Beckmann. “In Bay Ridge, we have a very old infrastructure.”
The expedited timetable pleased many, but some were taking a wait-and-see approach.
“I am still concerned about the overall impact of the project,” said Councilman Vince Gentile (D–Bay Ridge) said. “It will be something we keep a close eye on.”
Gentile and other area leaders said the lengthy project should be broken up.
“While this plan represents an improvement over the previous one, residents and small business owners still have legitimate concerns about it,” said Rep. Vito Fossella (R–Bay Ridge). “We all agree that the ideal option is for the project to be divided into two phases.”
The 18-month renovation of 86th Street will begin in the next few weeks as sidewalks will be torn-up for work on an underground water main.
Pols and community leaders met last Thursday with the city departments of Transportation, Environmental Protection, and Design and Construction to remind the bureaucrats that tearing up the sidewalk will hamper local businesses.
That reminder not only led to the expedited repair schedule, but also a promise to put an “overlay” on the sidewalk so that the flow of foot traffic is unimpeded when construction is not actively going on.
News of the compromise didn’t alleviate the concerns of all local merchants, especially those who depend on their outdoor sidewalk cafes.
“Between the costs of lawyers and fees in trying to figure out what to do, this is just killing me,” said Leo Lykourezos, who owns Casa Calamari on 86th Street and Third Avenue, and also supported a two-phase project. “But what choice do we have? I’ll just have to take it day by day.”
No one likes construction, but the work is a necessary evil, according to Patrick Condren, executive director of the Bay Ridge Business Improvement District.
“We are talking about a water main that was built in 1896. It is unquestionable that this work needs to be done,” Condren said. “I have no doubts that 86th Street businesses will continue to thrive despite the disturbance.”
Condren also mentioned that he was impressed that the Design and Construction Department will issue a monthly “reconstruction newsletter” that will keep area merchants updated.
But Ridgites have a good memory. These projects don’t always go according to schedule. A city water- and sewer-line replacement at the corner of 92nd Street and Fort Hamilton Parkway took 18 months — six months longer than promised.
“That was a mess,” said Beckmann. “Let’s hope this time there is no comparison.”