2013-03-08 / Top Stories

Rocky Roads Of Rockaway

Mixed Messages About When It All Ends
By Katie McFadden and Dean Hickey

Rocky-way Beach Boulevard and Beach Chan-hell Drive might be more appropriate names for two of the main roads in Rockaway due to the condition they’ve been in for several months.

The roads from 87th street to 94th street on Rockaway Beach Boulevard and Beach Channel Drive, and those in between the boulevards, have been a nightmare for drivers. As they dodge traffic cones and huge sewer pipe sections, drivers encounter holes, uneven pavement, loose rocks and other debris that give their cars a beating on a daily basis. The New York City Department of Design and Construction is working to install water mains, sanitary sewers and storm sewers along these roads in a $26 million project that started about a year before Sandy hit. The DDC was ahead of the game in making progress on this project until the storm came. “Mother nature kind of messed us up here,” Jonathan Gaska, District Manager of Community Board 14 said. The City is given two years to complete projects such as this one and Gaska said the DDC was on their way to finishing early before Sandy hit. According to a DDC Newsletter, they completed 80 percent of the water main along Beach Channel Drive and nearby side streets, 82 percent of sanitary sewers along BCD and RBB and 10 percent of the storm sewers on Beach 91st Street before the storm. The DDC started back up again in January by working on installing a storm sewer in the outfall on 88th street, which is a section off to the side of BCD that connects to the bay. The work has since extended from the outfall to the actual road. DDC workers have started to rip up half of 88th street and BCD to install storm sewers which will extend to 91st street. While the work takes place on the road, drivers are being directed down side streets, causing an even bigger inconvenience during commutes.

When Beach Channel Drive is complete, they’ll move on to Rockaway Beach Boulevard to finish the water main and sewer installation.

Gaska was hopeful that all of this work would be ready in time for the summer to accommodate the residents and the summer visitors. “We’re hoping, fingers crossed, that before Memorial Day, the streets will be done and paved and smooth,” he said. The Community Board is pushing to have the work complete by at least June and they petitioned to get the DDC to resume the work as soon as possible after Sandy. The DDC workers are at the site from Monday-Friday, but the contractors working on the job said that reaching the summer deadline isn’t likely. Certain sections may be complete by the summer, but the entire project, which spans across several side streets, may not be done for several months.

As we go to press, Gaska said that DDC contractors told him that the work on Rockaway Beach Boulevard would be mostly done, with the roads paved and smooth, by May. According to the DDC website, the entire project has a completion date of September 17, 2013. The Department of Environmental Protection also said the completion date would come sometime in the fall. A contractor on the project gave it an even longer deadline, saying it won’t be complete until “the end of the year.”

The damaged roads are just another headache for local businesses that are trying to get back to normal after Hurricane Sandy.

Deuces cab service, whose main office is on RBB vented frustration at the state of the local roads. One staff member stated “92nd street is the worst. Just one look down the street and you can see how bad it is”. They said that some of their vehicles were damaged by glass and nails along the boulevard. “We’ve gotten a lot of flat tires,” a Deuces employee said. They’ve noticed that the streets are being cleaned but smaller rubble and pieces are being left behind. They also cited pot holes and discarded garbage along BCD as a problem for their vehicles and other drivers. Once the job is complete, the DDC promises that area will be in better shape. The roads will be paved and sidewalks and trees will be added. One worker said it will be “one of the nicest areas in Rockaway” by the time the project is done, yet the DDC has kept many locals in the dark in regards to what is planned and when exactly it will be finished.

The Wave tried to reach out to the DDC for more information about the status of the project and they were not cooperative. For Robert Kaskel, the owner of Thai Rock on Beach Channel Drive, the DDC’s secrecy is a bigger concern than the damaged roads.

He explained that before Sandy hit, the DDC impacted his restaurant directly as they had to turn the water off on two separate occasions. He gave some credit to the group for giving him warning and turning the water off at a time that business would be slower than usual, but he’s concerned over the DDC leaving residents out of the loop.

“This stuff is going on without communicating to the community. The community at large doesn’t know what’s going on out there,” Kaskel said. He heard that when the project is finished, there will be a new park in the area, in addition to the newly installed storm sewers.

Seeing the project as an “asset to the community,” Kaskel wishes the DDC would be more open about it.

“Let us know what’s going on. Let us have something to look forward to,” Kaskel said. He suggested that the DDC should be more transparent by posting large signs indicating what’s going on in the area, when it’s expected to be complete, contact information and maybe even a photo of the planned finished product.

Once this project is complete, it won’t quite be the end of the rocky roads on the peninsula. According to a City project map, there are plans to install a trunk water main even further down RBB from 88th street to about 73rd street, which has an expected completion date of July 13, 2016. Another project, which seems to include an entire reconstruction of Shore Front Parkway, has an expected completion date of August 30, 2018. The City will continue to move toward the east side of the peninsula with even larger projects that won’t be complete until 2021 and 2022.

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