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Pols announce funding to study LIC seawall repairs

Calling the crumbling East River seawall a threat to children’s safety, politicians and neighborhood residents stood together in Queensbridge Park Friday to announce that funding had been secured to examine the deteriorating structure and determine how to repair it.

A yearlong study financed by $100,000 in federal funds will determine whether the aging wall should be rehabilitated or removed, said U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights).

Another $250,000 in city funds will assist the study and any remaining money will go toward emergency repairs of the seawall, said City Councilman Eric Gioia (D-Woodside).

The repair of the seawall, which holds back the East River, is important in a community where children from the nearby housing complex have been seen playing around gaping holes and crumbling concrete, Crowley said.

“An instrument of protecting the public has become an instrument of endangerment,” he said.

After the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers surveys both the underwater and surface damage to the barrier and promenade, its findings will determine how much money will be needed to fix the problem.

“It’s going to be a huge fight,” said U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Astoria). “We will need the support of other colleagues, such as U.S. Sen. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Clinton (D-N.Y.), and members of the community.”

On July 9, Maloney drafted a letter to members of Congress requesting the estimated $6 million needed for repairs, said her spokesman, Phil Craft. It is expected that the federal government will provide 65 percent of the funding, and the remaining 35 percent of the costs will be split by the city and state.

City Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe said there were two possible solutions to repairing the rotting retaining wall, which is made of logs that are more than 70 years old.

“A relieving platform that would be built from the edge of the land and rest on pilings or wooden timbers could be an option. The logs could be coated with plastic” he said. “We could also replace the seawall with rip-rap, or large boulders.”

The Queensbridge Houses, one of the nation’s largest public housing projects, is across the street from the park and a KeySpan Energy plant is adjacent to it.

Queensbridge Tenants Association President Nina Adams, who has lived in the houses for 23 years, said the crumbling retaining wall was dangerous for residents, especially for children.

Of the approximately 3,081 families living in the complex, 43.8 percent are minors under 21, said Howard Marder, spokesman for the New York City Housing Authority.

A fence was erected two years ago to prevent access to the sea wall, but Queensbridge residents such as Cynthia Concepcion, 22, who has two young children, said trespassers cut through the fence. “People still go fishing,” she said “and kids can go through the holes in the fence.”

Queensbridge Park warden Elizabeth McQueen, who has lived in the Queensbridge Houses for 50 years, said she first started noticing cracks in the seawall in 1999.

“I didn’t know what was causing it,” she said. “I thought it was because of work being done on the bridge and the heavy equipment being used.”

The continuing attraction of Queens, in light of the Museum of Modern Art’s move to the neighborhood three weeks ago and PS1’s popular programs, makes the reconstruction of the retaining wall especially vital, said Gioia.

“Queensbridge Park is a unique venue from which the people of Queens can enjoy the waterfront and view of the Manhattan skyline,” he said in a news release.

Benepe said rotting waterfronts are a problem all over the city.

“Mayor Bloomberg’s focus is to recapture the waterfront for public use. It is a chance to get people back to the water,” he said.

Crowley said it was important to have an open waterway in terms of homeland security.

“We don’t know to what extent terrorists will make use of natural facilities,” he said. He said federal interest that waterways be navigable and free of obstruction in case of an emergency might favor increased federal funding.

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