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South Queens Speaks: Centreville says work on streets needed now

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"Unacceptable," was the cry of many at last week's Ozone Park Civic Association meeting as Assistant Commissioner Naraynan Venugopalan from the Department of Design and Construction explained the plan of action. According to Venugopalan, the reconstruction process will start in January 2011 and be completed by December 2012. He said by April 2009 there will be a fully detailed map of the area, which will then be viewed at the civic association."The project will cost approximately $40 million and will include 150,000 square feet of sidewalks, curbs totaling 7.50 miles, three miles of water main replacement and two miles of sewer replacements," said Venugopalan. "The area that will be reconstructed includes some streets on Pitkin Avenue, Albert Road, Cohancy Street, the widening of Bristol Avenue, 95th and 96th streets, 135th Drive and several other Albert Road sites." But Ozone Park residents Grace Benitz, Maria Milante and Cheryl Taormina, who own homes on Bristol Avenue, were not pleased with the plan. "How much property will I lose to eminent domain when the project is completed?" said Benitz. "I am worried about the cost of the new sewer system and the loss of a large portion of my property." "Property loss will be minimal," Venugopalan said. "It would include part of the sidewalks in front of homes and some front yard property." The city cannot begin construction until it owns the titles to each of the blocks in Centreville. Venugopalan said each homeowner will lose between 100 and 1,000 square feet of land and only after compensation can construction begin.Howard Kamph, president of the civic, said flooding in front of homes in these areas is getting worse and even temporary work must be done now to address the sewers and the floods. He said people risk falling when the water turns to ice and it poses a danger. Democratic District Leader Lew Simon said that for many years residents have been asking for help to fix the streets in Ozone Park to no avail. "The streets are an abomination and something has to be done now," Simon said. "Also, the threat of West Nile virus is another factor concerning the sewers. Why can't the streets get paved temporarily?" Queens Borough Commissioner Maura McCarthy from the city Department of Transportation said a temporary patching of the streets can be done, but the repairs would not last long. She said the project requires CCO documentation and a lot of other legalities, which is why it is a lengthy process. CCO, which means Corporate Council Opinion of Dedication, is a full title legal document required for the reconstruction of this project, McCarthy said. "Full damage maps will be completed in June 2008 for the project." The civic's second vice president, Charlie Gisondi, said the wait has been too long and something needs to be done sooner, not later. He also said he cannot understand why some of the work cannot start now. "We were promised funds in 2002 for this reconstruction and nothing happened," Kamph said. "Now it's 2008 and still nothing and we are now told it will start in 2011. Let's see what the next excuse will be."

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