Puddle puzzle: City points fingers instead of fixing flooding outside Terrace subway station

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City officials are passing the buck when it comes to who is responsible for fixing infrastructure that floods outside a Windsor Terrace subway station, where straphangers had to cross a makeshift brick footbridge when a massive pool formed inside the hub itself last week.

But the puddle that pooled inside Fort Hamilton Parkway station on May 17 pales in comparison to the much larger bodies of stagnant water that form on a sidewalk leading to it, according to many commuters, who said a continuously clogged drain on the path results in frequent flooding, forcing locals to shimmy along a fence bordering the pavement just to stay dry.

“People end up holding onto the gates and then moving down,” said Rebecca Malukoff, who has lived near the station for 20 years.

Officials at the Department of Environmental protection previously maintained the drain on the sidewalk — which runs beneath Fort Hamilton Parkway to the station wedged between Greenwood Playground and an iron fence that separates the path from the Prospect Expressway — but abruptly stopped tending to it in 2014, according to a staffer at the local community board.

“Previously DEP had been cleaning it out, but then said it was not the agency’s jurisdiction, and that it wouldn’t do that anymore,” said Community Board 7’s district manager Jeremy Laufer.

Later that year, leaders at the civic panel and the state-run Metropolitan Transportation Authority — which is responsible for keeping up the station, but not its surrounding infrastructure — organized a visit to the problematic pathway, inviting bigwigs from the city’s Transportation and Parks departments to determine which oversaw cleaning the drain after the environmental agency washed its hands of the task.

And four years later, the issue is not resolved, according to Laufer, who described the combination of sidewalk, drain, and nearby green space as ideal conditions for a classic game of hot potato when it comes to who has jurisdiction over the grounds just outside the Fort Hamilton Parkway station.

“It’s a catch basin making you think its DEP, but it’s on Parks land, and it’s also on a path, making you think it could be DOT,” he said.

Officials at the transportation authority would like to fix the sidewalk’s pooling problem, but the state-run agency isn’t authorized to renovate city-owned land, and therefore can only push a municipal agency to take responsibility for the issue, according to a spokesman.

“We can’t go in changing things that belong to the city,” said Shams Tarek.

But the transportation authority isn’t entirely off the hook, according to Malukoff, who blasted the station’s recent interior flooding as a chronic problem left unaddressed for years.

“It didn’t surprise me,” she said. “There are lots of things like this. This is total abandonment.”

A Parks Department spokesperson said its jurisdiction includes part of the sidewalk, but ends where the path dips below Fort Hamilton Parkway — precisely where the flood zone begins — claiming a highly technical map she provided is evidence that the problem area is part of the parkway.

And the parkway is under the city’s jurisdiction, according to a rep for the state Transportation Department, who couldn’t say what agency is responsible for the overpass and associated sidewalk.

A rep for the city’s Transportation Department said it will review the sidewalk-flooding issue, but didn’t immediately answer when asked whether the agency is responsible for maintaining Fort Hamilton Parkway.

— with Saul Marquez

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at or by calling (718) 260-4505.
Updated 5:44 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

AMH says:
No one cares under whose jurisdiction a given drain falls, they just want the problem to be fixed. Perhaps it is time to erase some of the arbitrary bureaucratic divisions that facilitate endless finger-pointing.
May 23, 2018, 12:10 pm

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