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Worst than a San Fran earthquake - Gardens residents all shook up over ongoing street construction project

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There are some bad vibes in Carroll Gardens. Vibrations, that is, according to residents enduring a massive street reconstruction project. “It shakes my house worse than the earthquakes I lived through in San Francisco,” said David Lutz, a Van Brunt Street resident. The project, which began in late 2005, entails the reconstruction of a host of local streets, including Columbia Street from Atlantic Avenue to Hamilton Avenue; Degraw Street from Columbia to Van Brunt Street; Van Brunt from Degraw to Hamilton; Woodhull Street from Columbia to Hamilton; and Carroll Street from Columbia to Hicks Street. “This is a wetland and you are using a backhoe,” Lutz told city officials gathered to update the status of the project at a recent meeting of the Transportation Committee of Community Board 6. “People have been killed in building collapses [in the past],” he warned. “We don’t want to lose any of our neighborhood.” Lutz said he feels compelled to be home any time there is construction—for fear of the worst. The city says it continually monitors vibration levels. “We want to keep the level of vibrations below the threshold that would cause any damage,” said Richard Zetterlund, the associate commissioner for infrastructure construction for the city’s Department of Design and Construction, which is overseeing the project. John Spavins, a DDC spokesperson, noted certain homes on Columbia Street have been “sinking over time.” “That soil just isn’t as firm as the rest of the city,” he said. “As we work by those homes we are looking to see if there is settlement of the soil.” Originally slated for completion in the fall of 2007, the street reconstruction will now stretch into the spring of 2008, officials said. The city’s contractor, Trocom Construction Service, has been working on Van Brunt between Hamilton Avenue and Degraw Street. When that’s completed, according to the DDC, the installation of a 48-inch trunk water main will commence. The reason for the delay, according to the DDC, is that the trunk water main, a large pipe that services smaller mains, was not where it was expected to be. “It wasn’t exactly where we thought it was,” DDC spokesperson John Spavins said. The project’s design was based on old—and apparently inaccurate—documents. “Normally, the records are pretty good,” Spavins said. Columbia Street last saw a resurfacing back in 1929. The side streets last saw reconstruction work in 1904 and 1936, officials said. “We discovered a number of sewers at a different elevation or location, causing the design to be changed,” Zetterlund said Another change has been in the cost of the project, which has now jumped from $18 million to about $20 million, Zetterlund said. The additional money will pay for work that was not anticipated in the original design, he said. Aside from the work to the roadway, the project will includes water main and sewer work, new lighting, new traffic signals, the planting of 110 new trees, a bicycle path and an art project by Nobuho Nagasawa. The project entails blasting images depicting tree shadows into the bluestone at discrete locations throughout the project area. William Blum, the chair of Community Board 6’s Transportation Committee, said that there has been concern about the progress, “or lack thereof” of the project. “There’s still a long way to go,” he said. Kijana Wright, a community liaison for the DDC, said the end result will be worth any short-term pain. “I do understand this is an imposition on the residents of Carroll Gardens, But we want this to benefit you,” he said. Aside from the vibrations and noise, residents have also been enduring re-routed bus lines, as well as trucks rumbling off route because of roadway diversions. Captain Michael Kemper, the commanding officer of the 76th Precinct, said his cops at first issued warnings to off route truck drivers, but have since hardened their stance. Thirty five summonses were recently issued, he said. “I think we’ve been very fair. We do this to protect lives,” Kemper said. So far, no injuries related to the roadway work or diversions have been reported, Kemper said. Board member Jerry Armer said better signage is still a must, as well as more traffic agents on the southern end of Columbia Street. Carroll Street resident Jennifer Lambert said the project isn’t all bad. “I love the smoothness of the pavement on Columbia Street, for my scooter,” she said.

Posted 7:08 pm, October 10, 2011
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