BY JAMES FARRELL
The long-stalled project to repair MacNeil Park’s decrepit seawall has been delayed again, after the top two qualified bidders for the project rescinded their bids.
In December 2016, the two qualified bidders withdrew their bids, delaying the anticipated completion of finding a contractor from spring 2017 to fall 2017, with construction set to begin shortly after. At the time, the Parks Department said that construction was set to begin following the completion of the procurement process.
The Parks Department now says that it hopes to begin construction by spring 2018. The agency added that it is currently vetting a third bidder and is hopeful that it will complete procurement this month.
Following news of the latest delay, community members and elected officials expressed frustration, with some suggesting that Parks was not suited to carry out capital construction projects.
“They seem to be incapable of doing any construction whatsoever,” said state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside), who announced the latest delay at a recent College Point Civic Association meeting. “I personally think that any construction, like the seawall, should be given to the Department of Design and Construction, because it’s been excuse after excuse after excuse.”
James and Kathryn Cervino, the husband and wife team who runs the Coastal Preservation Network—a College Point based-environmental group that has long fought for the seawall’s restoration—suggested that DDC might be more able to complete projects such as this one.
“I do feel like they are more adept at getting capital projects done from my experience,” Kathryn Cervino said. “There’s a role for Parks, I don’t know that that role should be capital construction.”
The seawall has been in disrepair for years, with gaping potholes and uneven pavement. The first bout of repairs was slated for 2015, but no work has begun, and the area is fenced off. The path along the seawall traditionally provides a scenic view of the College Point waterfront and Manhattan skyline. But that path is now closed off and in disrepair, undermining a “gem” of the College Point community, Kathryn Cervino said. And according to her husband, a marine biologist, the seawall is also an important infrastructural development that prevents erosion and helps mitigate the effects of sea-level rise.
“Climate change is intensifying the normal hurricane patterns,” James Cervino said. “They’re getting worse, between erratic hurricane behavior as a result of global warming and intensified storm surges and sea-level rise, this is a matter of urgency.”
The Cervinos added, however, that they were “cautiously optimistic” this could be the last delay. That optimism stems from a meeting, hosted last week by Councilman Paul Vallone (D-Bayside) with the Cervinos and staff members from the Parks Department.
The agency said that the meeting was meant to walk everyone through the delays and answer questions on the process. There will be a follow-up meeting with them in January, during which the agency will provide an update.
“The delays incurred during the process of finalizing a contractor for the MacNeil Park seawall project are, unfortunately, beyond the scope of Parks’ control,” said Parks spokeswoman Meghan Lalor. “We are just as eager as the community to see this project move forward.”
In a statement, Vallone similarly expressed optimism following the meeting.
“I am as upset with these nagging delays as anyone,” he said. “We held a productive meeting with the Coastal Preservation Network and the Parks Department to go over the timeline for the project and address the many concerns that residents have about the park’s condition. We made it clear that this project needs to be prioritized and we will continue working with the Administration and the CPN to move this long-awaited project forward. We and the entire College Point community have our fingers crossed that a contract is awarded expeditiously.”
Reach James Farrell at (718) 357-7400 x 127, email@example.com or @farrellj329.