Residents and business owners who have been waiting since 2010 for the reopening of the 149th Street bridge between Roosevelt and 41st avenues in Murray Hill still have a long wait ahead of them, according to elected officials, who announced last week that shoddy workmanship is forcing the city to demolish the structure and start over.
Among those meeting behind closed doors at Queens Borough Hall last Friday were state Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Flushing), Assemblyman Ron Kim (D-Flushing), Councilman Peter Koo (D-Flushing) and New York City DOT Queens Borough Commissioner Dalila Hall. The elected officials then held a press conference outside.
Stavisky reported that about a dozen representatives from the city, including those involved in the legal and engineering aspects of the project, were also there.
The bridge, which was originally built in 1924, runs over the Long Island Rail Road tracks. It was considered “in fair condition” when it was inspected in 2007 and, three years later, in March 2010, was closed for reconstruction. It was expected to reopen in May 2012.
Pointing to a photograph of the barricades on the bridge, Kim said, “Every time I see this, I get frustrated,” blaming “bureaucratic failure” for the multiple delays.
In May 2012, the bridge, which cost around $7 million, was inspected by the Department of Transportation, that found cracks making it unsafe to carry vehicles. The pedestrian sidewalk was reopened in June of that year.
According to Kim, it was determined that there is a “need to demolish and rebuild” the bridge. The project is in the “re-design” phase, to be followed by the bidding process
The city is suing the contractor, Gandhi Engineering.
Stavisky looked at the bright side, saying, “Finally, we’re beginning to see some solutions. The meeting was long overdue.”
According to the senator, the design phase is “60 percent complete.” She estimated it would take another two months to complete the design and between nine months and a year for the bidding process.
The bridge would then be demolished and a new one constructed. Plans now call for the entire project to be completed by November of next year, Stavisky said.
There’s got to be more accountability by the city agencies involved, she added.
In its current state, Kim said, “The bridge is not usable.” He expressed optimism that with the new city administration in place, progress might finally be made.
Koo indicated that “we expressed our frustrations” to the commissioner who, he said, promised that if everything goes well, a new bridge would be open by November 2015.
“We learned from this mistake,” he added, referring to the millions of tax dollars already lost as a result of the project.
The city has had to pay the LIRR “in the millions” for shutdowns during construction, according to Stavisky.
She has also been concerned with how the disruption has affected area businesses and residents. Located in the vicinity are several apartment buildings, a church and a few businesses, mostly Korean.
Kim said two years ago that business was down 20 percent because people don’t come to the area due to the detour. Not even foot traffic will be able to cross when demolition begins.