Pols take on curb complaint

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A group of Auburndale residents are upset over the handling of a recent repaving in their section of the sleepy residential neighborhood, saying the city failed to address problems with curbs before fixing the street.

Their situation has gained some traction with local officials, as Borough President Helen Marshall, City Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone) and state Sen. Frank Padavan (R-Bellerose) are working to try to get the issues addressed.

On Aug. 19 the city Department of Transportation repaved a section of 46th Avenue in Auburndale split into two lanes by a series of well-tended planted malls that have been tended by area residents since 1973.

The paving was a welcome improvement to the roads, which had been worn down by years of snowplows, school buses and general traffic, but it left the caretakers of the malls — who call themselves the 46th Avenue Beautification Committee — in a lurch as the city failed to upgrade the curbs before performing the paving work.

The committee lobbied the city Parks Department and local elected officials to get something done to fix the curbs before paving over the street, because the repaving raised the level of the street so high that vehicles can easily roll from the pavement onto the three 100-foot-long and one 75-foot-long gardens when making tight turns or drifting while driving.

Five of eight curbs at the ends of the four malls on 9th Avenue between 192nd and 195th streets were also completely covered over by asphalt.

The combination of destroyed and missing curbs has caused a dangerous situation, according to 194th Street resident Mary Donahue, president of the beautification committee and tender of the malls, which have featured flowers, shrubs and other adornments since she and several neighbors founded the group in 1973.

“We continue to lose soil and wood chips from these prize-winning malls due to the 80 feet of missing curb on the mall and the many, many large gaps and openings in the remaining curbs,” she said. “Rainwater is seeping through all the openings and this will eventually undermine the new resurfacing. The uneven curbs remain a tripping hazard and a liability to the city of New York and a constant eyesore.”

Halloran has told residents for months that he is willing to request funding to replace the curbs in the form of city capital funds, but area residents sais they want to have them fixed before that funding comes through and in a manner that grants them greater oversight over the work.

He said that could mean a long wait, but is willing to explore other options, such as leasing the malls from the city and raising money to do their own funding.

“At this point, it’s a matter of the city will eventually get to it and they’ll get to it on their own time,” Halloran said. “Because right now the DOT has no contract pending to do sidewalk work in that area, there’s no way I can guarantee they’ll get to that work without allocating capital funds.”

Marshall sent a letter of her own accompanied by one drafted by Donahue to DOT Queens Borough Commissioner Maura McCarthy Aug. 16, asking that the department look into the curb issue.

Michael Vukobratovich, head of the Auburndale Improvement Association, has also been advocating for help replacing curbs on 42nd and 46th avenues.

Donahue said she has not heard a response from the DOT. In 2007, the concerned citizens asked the Parks Department to install two-tier cobblestone curbs to replace the existing cement ones, but were told it was too expensive.

She emphasizes that she believes her group’s request to be simple and reasonable.

“All the 46th Avenue Beautification Committee wants is a simple curb,” she said. “This is done by slicing out the old curb, building a form and pouring concrete without devastating all the shrubs and plants growing on the malls.”

Reach reporter Connor Adams Sheets by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4538.

Updated 6:07 pm, October 10, 2011
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