A presentation of the Kosciuszko Bridge reconstruction project was met with strong disapproval at a public forum organized by the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) and the design and construction firms overseeing the project, at a meeting held at the Warsaw last week.
Chief among Greenpoint residents’ complaints were noise disturbances that will be caused by construction and drilling, the possibility of damage to the structural foundation of homes, potential rodent control issues, and the state of damage on the current bridge.
“They just come in with all their big ideas and plans and it all looks good on paper, but why haven’t we been consulted about it?” asked Alice Wilkowski, who has lived at her residence at the intersection of Meeker Avenue and Apollo Street, close to where the reconstruction will commence, since 1979. “What will happen when they start drilling, and what about all the vibration?”
Last month, Governor Andrew Cuomo awarded $555 million to a construction team that includes Skanska, Kiewit Infrastructure, and ECCO III, the single largest such construction contract awarded in NYSDOT’s history.
As the project stands at present, the first phase will see the construction of an eastbound span running parallel to the existing 1.1 mile stretch of the bridge. The new bridge will have six lanes – three going each way. Construction is expected to start this fall, and the project is expected to be completed by early 2018.
The second phase, which does not yet have a fixed timeline, will see the demolition of the existing bridge and the construction of a westbound span that will finally complete the massive cable-stayed design bridge, which has been modeled on the Tappan Zee Bridge reconstruction project.
At Wednesday’s meeting, project manager at the NYSDOT, Robert Adams said the new bridge will help overcome several issues associated with the existing bridge including the deteriorating structure, the speeds driving on the bridge, and the heavy congestion.
NYSDOT also told residents that a separate contract is under place that will maintain the current bridge, which in recent times has come under criticism for structural damage and shoddy repair work.
But many present were unimpressed.
“This bridge is a deathtrap,” said long-term Greenpoint resident Rosalie Washack. “It’s not being maintained and the patchwork is bad. It is unbelievable that there haven’t been a million deaths on that bridge.”
There was particular confusion in regards to the exact intersections where the construction would take place. And representatives from the NYSDOT and the construction firms were unable to provide concrete answers despite repeated questioning from concerned residents at Wednesday’s meeting.
The NYSDOT did however clarify the details in an e-mail the day after the event.
The construction will take place along the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway (BQE) halfway between Kingsland and Morgan Avenues. This is where the transition for the new bridge will begin and end just past Vandervoort Avenue, after which vehicles will be on the new BQE, according to a press spokesperson at the NYSDOT. This will be made possible by moving Cherry Street south on to land that has already been purchased by the department.
The community disapproval comes despite the fact that a Stakeholders Advisory Committee was setup to provide early feedback on the project.
The NYSDOT also appointed a community liaison recently, Christine Holowacz, whose office will be located at the site of construction for the entirety of the project.
Questions and concerns for the project can be directed towards Holowacz at 347-988-4412 or at Kosciuszko@dot.ny.gov.