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Fort Totten renovation to proceed

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The change may be a way to keep the $112 million project to reshape the interchange between the LIE and the Cross Island Parkway on schedule to meet the November 2002 deadline, DOT Project Engineer Bob Carbone said.

Other announcements at the CB 11 meeting at MS 158 in Bayside included an update on the renovation of the unfinished Water Battery at Fort Totten in Bayside by the state Northeast Queens Nature and Historical Preservation Commission and the appointment of Bayside community activist Loretta Napier to the board.

Lucile Helfat, chair of the NQNHPC, informed CB 11 of a $475,000 grant from the state Parks Department that enabled the commission to initiate Phase I of a four-step plan to beautify and improve the 14-acre Water Battery, or "Old Fort," at Totten.

Community Board 11 covers Bayside, Little Neck, Douglaston, Oakland Gardens, Auburndale, and Hollis Hills.

Original plans called for the state DOT to renovate the Marathon and Douglaston Parkway bridges over the LIE separately during the two to three year project to reshape the LIE-Cross Island Parkway interchange.

Carbone said engineers hit an unexpected snag during initial work to repair the Marathon Parkway bridge in Little Neck when they discovered underground telephone line encased in concrete. Engineers had expected to find the lines with a steel covering, which Carbone said is easier to handle and remove than concrete.

"We're already six weeks behind schedule," Carbone said. "If we open Douglaston Parkway simultaneously with Marathon, we can get back on or ahead of schedule."

The LIE project is an alternative plan created by the state when northeast Queens residents and politicians protested the idea of widening the LIE for High Occupancy Vehicle lanes in 1996.

In addition to bridge work at Marathon, Little Neck, and Douglaston parkways, the LIE project includes the permanent shutdown of the Douglaston Parkway exit on the LIE; the buildup of West Alley Road to handle traffic that would have used Exit 31; and the addition of 12 acres of park land to Alley Pond Park.

While the LIE project is underway, the work to refurbish the heart of Fort Totten in Bayside has been dependent on the state Northeast Queens Nature and Historical Preservation Commission's ability to find funding for its plans, Helfat said Tuesday.

With a $475,000 grant from the state Parks Department and an earlier $250,000 grant obtained by state Sen. Frank Padavan (R-Bellerose), Helfat said the first phase of the renovation could proceed.

"We have three more phases to go into," she said. "Hopefully, we'll get money for them."

Fort Totten, a Civil War-era fort, was decommissioned by the U.S. Army in 1995. Part of its historic significance lies in the Water Battery, which includes unfinished fortifications abandoned by the Army.

Those fortifications, which were left after new technology in the 1800s made them obsolete, constitute what Helfat called "a work in progress."

"The first phase is really about making it safer," she said. Work will include clearing trails, adding lighting to the tunnel and sea wall of the Old Fort, and installing hand rails.

In other news, Loretta Napier was appointed to Community Board 11 last week by Borough President Claire Shulman.

Napier's grandson, Christopher Scott, 11, was killed in an auto accident in August after he attempted to ride his bike across the pedestrian bridge at the southbound Clearview Expressway service road and 46th Road.

Posted 7:02 pm, October 10, 2011
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