Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Centreville Street Project Still Stalled by Lisa Fogarty - Queens Chronicle

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When members of the Ozone Park Civic Association meet next Tuesday evening to discuss — yet again — the ongoing saga that has become Centreville’s HWQ411B street construction project, President Howard Kamph will not be holding his breath for good news, or much news at all.

Throughout his civic career, Kamph has endured 25 years of start-and-then-stop action when it comes to the project, which calls for the reconstruction of all streets, sidewalks, curbs and pedestrian ramps along 28 blocks in Ozone Park.

Since 1984, the Departments of Design and Construction and Transportation have provided myriad explanations for why the project has not been started yet, including difficulty acquiring property in the area and the latest excuse: that the residents on Bristol Street do not want their road redone. Kamph says excuses are not good enough.

“I call this the ghost project of the DOT,” he said. “We’re frustrated with useless meetings and projects that never get done. All I can say is: if they were working for Donald Trump, they all would have been fired.”

Residents and community organizers say the area’s streets are dangerous and neglected. HWQ411B, which calls for the replacement of water mains and sanitary sewers, also includes plans to construct new storm sewers, an urgent fix in a neighborhood that suffers from an overwhelming flooding problem.

“I’ve walked down each and every one of those streets during the last 15 years at different times of the year and that area is a complete abomination,” said Democratic District Leader Lew Simon. “There are potholes that would make it impossible for a mother to get around with her carriage. And when it rains, the water stagnates there — there’s nowhere for it to go.”

Like Kamph, Simon doesn’t expect much to come out of another community hearing with representatives from the DOT, DDC or mayor’s office, all of whom are expected to attend the meeting. The best hope, he said, is to convince the city to, at the very least, go forward with minor construction projects to make the streets safer.

Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park), a former Community Board 9 member, has been involved with the project for several years and said he hopes next week’s meeting will provide more than just a temporary solution.

“Capital Project HWQ411B has been stuck in a logjam for far too long,” Ulrich said. “I remain optimistic that we can finally make progress on this issue.”

State Sen. Joe Addabbo (D-Howard Beach) said that, although it’s unacceptable for the DOT and DDC to sit on the issue for more than two decades, it isn’t uncommon. While serving as councilman, Addabbo undertook Project 176E, a 20-year-long plan that eventually resulted in the reconstruction and enhancement of streets and sidewalks in Tudor Village. A more pressing issue, he said, is the rising cost of the initiative. “With every year that passes, the cost of the project goes up,” he said.

Four years ago, the cost leapt from $24 million to $40 million. Addabbo said he is worried that, with the economic downturn, residents will receive news that project funding is no longer available.

A lesser, but existing concern to be addressed at the meeting is the DOT’s decision to halt an upcoming Green Street project in the area until the HWQ411B project is completed. The Ozone Park Civic Association encourages residents to attend its next meeting, which will take place on Tuesday, June 16 at 8 p.m. at 97-14 135th Dr., to address any concerns they have with the project’s delay.