Some Bergen Beach residents say that the $52 million infrastructure upgrade and flood remediation construction project that has been going on in their neighborhood since February 2019 has turned out to be an absolute nightmare. They claim that both the Department of Design and Construction (DDC) and the company they contracted out to complete the job have been operating a stockpile yard that does not comply with the zoning regulations of Lot 1, Block 8338, for the last three years, denying them the right of the peaceful enjoyment of their property.
Since the project began, there have been a myriad of complaints, some of which were a matter of inconvenience – noise, parking issues and increased traffic – the kinds of quality of life issues that are annoying, but to be expected. However, there have also been much more serious issues like concerns about air pollution and fears of construction-related illnesses stemming from years of exposure to the dust and debris that have surrounded the stockpile yard, which is located directly adjacent to residential homes. There was even a terrible incident where the company’s gasoline oil hose exploded, injuring a local woman and leaving a hazardous, potentially flammable mess that affected multiple homes.
In 2020, residents of Avenue T reported to another publication that they had their water shut off all day for weeks on end and that they were afraid to use the water again when it was finally restored. Some feared it might have been contaminated by rust and heavy metals when contractors disturbed century-old valves and various water mains underground. It would seem that the list of grievances just goes on and on.
For years, a group of residents who live in the four houses directly across from the stockpile yard on Bergen Avenue, in particular, say they have suffered a great deal. One resident told the Canarsie Courier that she and her family are often jolted awake as early as 6 a.m. on weekdays and on weekends by the noise and vibrations caused by the pounding, breaking and compacting that occurs in the stockpile yard. The NYC Noise Code states that construction may occur during the hours of 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. on weekdays only in residential areas, unless an after-hours authorization is filed, which the residents have requested to review, but the company has yet to produce for them.
The group also believes that the stockpile yard the company is operating out of is illegal in and of itself, because it is in such close proximity to them; the law states that such areas must be situated at least 400 feet away from residential homes, and for good reason. Since construction commenced, several homes have sustained various levels of damage. One resident, who followed the City’s procedures and contacted the Community Construction Liaison to obtain an honest assessment from an independent contractor as part of the claims process, felt deceived when he later discovered that the engineer sent to inspect his home and those of his neighbors was on company payroll, posing a possible conflict of interest. As well, the requests he filed a year and a half ago with the DDC, under the Freedom of Information Law, which allows members of the public to request records from New York State or local government agencies, have not yielded results, as the agency has claimed the documents in question are not available.
After a meeting of all the parties involved, brokered by Community Board 18 District Manager Sue Ann Partnow, who says she and the board are neutral and only provided the meeting space, it was agreed that the construction company would have one week to vacate the stockpile yard and move all heavy equipment to a different yard on Farragut Road, no later than July 12th, but have still yet to do so, with residents reporting ongoing operations there as recently as last week.
With nothing but broken promises from the DDC and a very distant projected project completion date of June 2023, it is still unclear how this group of Bergen Beach residents will manage to get the relief they seek.