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No quick fix for 74th Street - Needed repairs delayed to 2011

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Forget about schlepping to Coney Island to ride the roller coaster. Bergen Beach residents have a version of the Cyclone much closer to home—and admission is free. On East 74th Street between Avenues X and Y, the uneven street makes for a bumpy—and potentially dangerous—ride for motorists, and the sidewalk isn’t in much better shape. Portions are noticeably higher than other sections, while other parts recall the neighborhood’s more rustic past—as swampland. In front of one home, the sidewalk isn’t even a sidewalk—it’s a long stretch of beat-up grass. All these problems were supposed to be resolved this year, when the city was expected to overhaul the block, as it had done on 36 nearby blocks during a six-year period ending in 2004 at a cost of $42 million. But now, residents recently learned, they will have to wait several more years. The work has now been put off until 2011, city officials confirmed late last week. “In the meantime, our roadway crews will patrol the area and make sure it is safe until the streets can be totally reconstruc­ted,” said Craig Chin, a spokesperson for the city’s Department of Transportation (DOT). Block resident Sal Calise said it’s time the city stop ignoring East 74th Street. “Drive up my block and come and look for yourselves—if they did that, there’d be no way to deny it,” he said. He said cars slam into the street because of its unevenness. “You hear them come crashing when they go over the hump.” Sometimes, he said, they even swerve out of control. “If you are sitting in your kitchen, you can hear your glasses clanging,” he continued. As for the sidewalk, Calise said, “It goes up and down and up and down. It is more than just uneven.” The Bergen Beach reconstruction project was coordinated by the city’s Department of Design and Construction (DDC) in conjunction with the DOT and Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). Aside from a full street and sidewalk reconstruction, work already completed included the installation of storm and sanitary sewers, and water mains, done under the purview of the DEP. Back in 2004, the DDC said that East 74th Street and roughly 16 others, were removed from the project because of title issues that require the city to acquire private property, “as well as drainage issues” that needed to be addressed, according to an agency letter. As a result, the work was put off until 2008. Anthony Felicia has lived on the block since 2004. “When I bought my house, we heard that [the city] was planning to repave in 2005.” “But when this neighborhood was getting every street paved, they just bypassed us,” Felicia recalled. He said the “severe slope” in the street, combined with jutting manhole covers, may combine to create a hazardous cocktail for motorists. “When a car comes speeding up the block they basically come up the hill… and land. You definitely know about it,” he said. “This block is filled with little kids. At this point in time we have been lucky there haven’t been any tragedies.” City Councilmember Lew Fidler, said residents should be careful what they wish for. “I don’t know how anxious they should be [to have the work done]. We didn’t have a great experience with it in 2002,” he said, noting that a lot of residents were upset with the inevitable inconveniences that reconstruction work brought. Fidler said no agency bothered to inform him of the postponement of work on East 74th Street. “I don’t know how they know and I don’t know. It was nice of DDC to let me know too,” he quipped. He vowed to look into the situation, and encouraged residents to contact his office. Dorothy Turano, the district manager of Community Board 18, which encompasses Bergen Beach, said the expectation was for the work to be done in the spring. “But then in checking in with the DOT, we were told 2011. That’s criminal,” she said. “These are roller coaster streets,” Turano continued. “I don’t think there are many much worse.” Diane Gallo’s corner house sits adjacent to the grassy sidewalk. “In 2004 they sent us a letter that they were going to fix the street…but here we are now, in no man’s land,” she said. “We try and keep it nice around here but it’s not happening,” she continued. She said the street and sidewalk can be particularly challenging for the elderly or infirmed. “Definitely if an older person doesn’t have their equilibrium, they can trip and fall. It’s very uneven and unsafe,” Gallo said. “Everyone in Bergen Beach is trying to better their properties. How do we do that when the city doesn’t do its part?” she wondered.

Updated 6:58 pm, October 10, 2011
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