By JON CRONIN
Elected officials representing Middle Village and city Comptroller Scott Stringer dropped by the community on Tuesday to evaluate a sewer project that the city has delayed for years.
Stringer joined state Sen. Joseph Addabbo (D-Howard Beach), Assemblyman Brian Barnwell (D-Maspeth) and Councilman Bob Holden (D-Middle Village) in touring Pleasantview Street between Juniper Boulevard South and Penelope Avenue, where they spoke with residents about the frequent flooding and water damage with which they contend as a result of poor sewage infrastructure.
The project was initially instigated by a severe storm in 2007, when the city’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) allocated $22 million for an upgrade to the neighborhood’s sewer system.
The project didn’t begin until 2017, but was stopped and then the ground was filled in after the DEP discovered high lead contamination at the site.
Another $8 million was allocated to clean up the hazardous materials in the soil and allow the workers to use proper gear and disposal.
“Holes were dug up, left open for months and then backfilled,” said Anthony Torre, a Middle Village resident. “They work, and they go away, but we live here and it’s not right. We want our street back, we want the flooding to stop, and we are counting on our elected representatives to help achieve that.”
Ian Michaels, a spokesman for the city’s Department of Design and Construction (DDC), said the city intends to complete the job as quickly as possible.
“The comptroller has received the request for an additional $8 million to properly manage soil contamination,” he said. “Once the request is approved, we will immediately direct the contractor to restart work.”
But Stringer said that the city’s slow pace in completing the project was negligent.
“The city chose to drag its feet on critical storm upgrades for years, putting the people of Middle Village directly in harm’s way,” said Stringer. “This community deserves better—their livelihoods should not be threatened by bureaucracy and city agencies. We are here today to stand with residents to let them know we will do everything we can to remedy this issue immediately.”
The elected officials touring the site admonished the DEP and DDC for moving slowly to rectify the issues.
“Flooding has been a problem in Middle Village for decades, and area residents have had enough of the red tape and bureaucracy of our city agencies,” said Holden. “Not only do my constituents deserve better infrastructure, but as taxpayers, deserve it on time and under budget. We need the city to step up and get this project completed. Enough is enough.”
Addabbo said that residents in the area “live in fear of flooding with every heavy rainstorm,” while Barnwell said that upgrades to infrastructure in the neighborhood are long overdue.
“The damage is evidence of what we all know: The city’s infrastructure is outdated and needs immediate improvements,” said Barnwell.
A similar problem plagued Calamus Avenue in Maspeth last year. A project on that street had been delayed for four years—and although some progress has been made, residents have informed local politicians and the comptroller that a clear timeline has not been established to remedy the situation.