It’s a classic case of the right hand not knowing what the left hand was doing.
Residents living on Larnark Road, an isolated dead-end street that sticks out into Jamaica Bay on the east side of Broad Channel, have no sewer connection. When their homes were built more than half a century ago, their sewage just drained into the bay.
But 30 years ago, the city Department of Environmental Protection promised to connect their sewers to the city’s system to prevent sewage from seeping into the bay, which had been classified a federally protected habitat. They’re still waiting.
Patience wore thin and was completely sapped when $30,000 fines were issued to the residents of Larnark Road and nearby Church Road by the state Department of Environmental Conservation. They had ruled it was the residents’ fault their sewer system was not legal.
Angry and despondent residents went to Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder (D-Far Rockaway), who called in city and state officials to his office for a meeting on Oct. 10.
Residents and other local officials wanted the city to take responsibility for the fines because it had reneged on its agreement to build new sewers. The DEP said it never went through with the sewer project because the Department of Transportation ruled Larnark Road was a private road since it was not on a map, which would mean the city was not responsible for the sewers on the street, the residents would be. The state, believing the DOT’s assertion that Larnark Road was a private road, fined the residents.
“The city does not do sewer projects on private roads,” Goldfeder said.
But Larnark Road residents argued they do not live on a private road. The street, which extends from Noel Road near the neighborhood’s subway station to about 300 feet into Jamaica Bay, is clearly a city road, they say. Local officials agree.
“It’s clear that this is the city’s responsibility, and they need to acknowledge it and move on to design and construction,” said Jonathan Gaska, district manager of Community Board 14, which includes Broad Channel.
The meeting on Oct. 10 was productive, Goldfeder said, and ended with the city taking responsibility for the sewer problem and the DOT agreeing that Larnark Road is officially a city road, allowing the DEP to move forward with a sewer project. The city will also be responsible for the state fines and are expected to pay them.
“I think it’s a great first step,” Goldfeder said, noting he hopes the sewer project will get off the ground sooner rather than later.
Goldfeder gave special credit to the DEC’s regional director Venetia Lannon, who attended the meeting. He said one resident of Larnark Road was brought nearly to tears by the situation and Lannon went out of her way to go from the meeting at Goldfeder’s Rockaway Park office to the resident’s home to see the problem with her own eyes.
“She went with him to Broad Channel to see the lay of the land,,” Goldfeder said. “I give her a tremendous amount of credit for that.”