2007-12-07 / Front Page

Is Broad Channel Bridge Collapse Imminent?

By Nicholas Briano

Asmall but critical drainage channel passes under Cross Bay Boulevard near West 5 Road in Broad Channel. A driver, pedestrian or bicyclist would hardly notice it. But the structure supporting the roadway as it passes over the channel has serious structural damage, locals charge, adding that they are concerned about the safety of the roadway should nothing be done to remedy the situation.

Dan Mundy, President of Jamaica Bay Ecowatchers, points out the sinking pavement and the fault line that extends across Crossbay Boulevard. Dan Mundy, President of Jamaica Bay Ecowatchers, points out the sinking pavement and the fault line that extends across Crossbay Boulevard. "This is serious," said Dan Mundy, President of the Jamaica Bay Ecowatchers and resident of Broad Channel. "The structure is all eroded and has already partially collapsed."

Mundy refers to the eroded sidewalls of the tunnel-like structure that supports a small section of Cross Bay Boulevard. The street above is visibly cracking along fault lines that run from one side to the other. Mundy is afraid that a road collapse would rupture water mains, sewer lines, and disable Broad Channel's only means of transportation off the island for what could become an extended period of time.

The erosion of the foundation wall can be seen, as well as the already collapsed upper beam. Mundy is afraid the erosion will stretch all the way through the underpass, potentially leading to a collapse. The erosion of the foundation wall can be seen, as well as the already collapsed upper beam. Mundy is afraid the erosion will stretch all the way through the underpass, potentially leading to a collapse. The narrow passage (about 12 feet in width) circulates water freely between the wetlands of Jamaica Bay and back out to the west end of the bay.

Known to locals as "Sluice Way," it separates the land mass on which the community of Broad Channel is built (formerly known as Big Egg Marsh) from the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, also known as North Rulers Bar Hassock. When Cross Bay Boulevard was constructed in 1924, the roadway was built on top of the narrow waterway and served as a small and barely noticeable bridge that connects the two areas.

Therefore, "Sluice Way," and the roadway over it, even though small and seemingly insignificant, is critical to preventing the isolation of Broad Channel. If this section of road were to collapse, it would not only paralyze travel for Broad Channel, but would also disrupt an already delicate part of Jamaica Bay's ecosystem.

This satellite image, highlighted by the arrow, indicates where "Sluice Way" is located along Crossbay Boulevard. This satellite image, highlighted by the arrow, indicates where "Sluice Way" is located along Crossbay Boulevard. "The street is already cracking," Mundy said. "We need someone to come and look at this and fix it as soon as possible."

According to Mundy, it appears that no maintenance has been done underneath Cross Bay Boulevard since its inception; he wouldn't be the least bit surprised to find out that the Department of Transportation isn't even aware that the roadway passes over "Sluice Way," considering that no one has ever taken care of it.

Mundy says that the DOT held a public hearing six months ago in Rockaway to address transportation issues. The issue of the crumbling roadway was brought up then, but no one has been out to inspect the corrosion, Mundy said.

According to Mundy, people have been lighting up 311, hoping someone will hear them, because concerns are growing.

"People are calling and saying that they can feel their house shaking whenever a bus or truck rolls over," Mundy said. "Their dishes and cabinets rattle from the vibrations; that can't be good."

A Department of Transportation spokesperson, Craig Chin, says that the DOT is not sure whether or not the structure in question falls within their jurisdiction.

"We are trying to determine who is responsible," Chin said. "We sent someone out to determine the problem because it may fall under someone else's responsibility."

What Mundy wants now is for surveyors and engineers to come out to Broad Channel to assess the situation and repair the damages. The city has vowed, ever since the bridge collapse in Minnesota, to beef up on the inspection of bridges and water crossings. Even though this rather small underpass of water is not officially considered a bridge, it would still have a huge impact on the community if it were to collapse. Broad Channel's water supply would be disabled due to ruptured water mainlines, and sewage pipes would also burst, contaminating the fragile wetlands of Jamaica Bay.

"I thought that the restrictions were supposed to be getting tighter with the bridges," Mundy says. "Not here, I guess."

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