When the city came to residents in the Centreville section of Ozone Park and proposed an overhaul of the neighborhood’s sewer lines, Ed Koch was in his first term as mayor, Blondie was topping the charts and the neighborhood’s current representative on the New York City Council was not even born yet.
More than three decades later, the project, referred to locally as “the Albert Road project” or its official designation “HWQ411B,” is still in limbo, even after the city promised work was imminent. Residents and some civic leaders see HWQ411B — the random set of characters uttered as often at civic meetings as Jean Valjean’s prison number in the first act of the musical “Les Miserables” — as nothing more than a running joke played on them.
The project is to include reconstruction of nearly 12 miles of street with new asphalt, sidewalks, curbs, pedestrian ramps, storm drains and trees in the Centreville area — a section of Ozone Park bounded by 135th Avenue and Linden Boulevard to the north, Cross Bay Boulevard to the west, Aqueduct Race Track to the east and North Conduit Avenue to the south
Almost three miles of water mains and two miles of sewers will also be constructed.
The project is necessary because the section of Ozone Park is lower lying, many of its streets are decaying and new sewers and water mains are needed. A section of Centreville Street between 149th and Pitkin avenues near the Ozone-Howard Little League fields does not have a sidewalk and pedestrians often walk in the street. A new sidewalk is to be constructed there as part of the project.
The entire project is estimated to take three years and cost $45 million — whenever it starts.
At a Community Board 10 meeting last May, the Department of Design and Construction presented plans for a separate project — the “Jewel Streets” plan to raise the streets in the “pit” section of Lindenwood on the Brooklyn border. When they finished, DDC’s representatives got a series of questions on HWQ411B instead.
“Penelope didn’t wait this long for Odysseus,” one CB 10 member said at the meeting to laughs.
The DDC officials told the board members that they had planned on bidding the project in the fall and starting work in February or March of this year.
The bidding never happened and ground will not break next month.
Howie Kamph, president of the Ozone Park Civic Association and a member of CB 10, noted that he has been waiting for the project since before his son, now 30 years old, was born.
“This goes back to 1980,” he said. “We’re still waiting.”
Two months prior to the CB 10 meeting, Kamph received a letter from DDC saying the bid would begin that summer.
That wasn’t the first time there was a false start. In 2009, the city Department of Transportation warned the project would commence in 2011. That, too, turned out not to be the case.
And now Kamph said he hasn’t heard from DDC in months and doesn’t know why it is still on hold.
At the core of the problem, according to DDC, is the acquisition of land needed to do the work. More than 600 parcels of land were needed to be acquired by the city in order for the project to be done. In a statement, the agency said that process is almost done and the project may move forward this year
“The property-acquisition process can be complex and time-consuming, particularly when hundreds of parcels are involved,” the DDC statement read. “Fortunately, the project’s design is complete and we are in the final stages of property acquisition. If all goes well, we expect to bid the project in the spring and begin construction in early fall.”
But Kamph is skeptical. He noted that many residents have put off work, such as repairs to sidewalks, for years and sometimes decades because of the project.
“I’ve heard this before,” he said. “I’ll believe it when I see it.”