Neighbors say 92nd Street construction stinks

Residents nearby the ongoing sewer construction on 92nd Street say that their quality of life is going down the tubes – literally.

In the wake of the sinkhole that formed on 92nd Street off of Third Avenue on June 28, representatives from the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and Community Board 10 held a meeting on August 9 at the Shore Hill Community Room to update infuriated residents, tired of the stench and the noise from the ongoing work, about the extensive project.

According to James Roberts, an engineer speaking on behalf of DEP, the sinkhole is 70 feet below street level. “Age is not the only factor,” Roberts contended, adding that repairs should be completed within one to two months of the meeting date.

Earlier this year, he said, the agency had inspected over 11,000 feet of sewer lines, and, “No signs indicating the potential for any imminent failure were evident.”

Roberts added that since 2002, 3.59 miles of roadway has been reconstructed within the confines of CB10, costing $18 million. DEP installed 12.6 miles of water mains at a cost of $46 million. In addition, the city is currently spending $250 million on a new siphon from Bay Ridge to Staten Island.

But Councilmember Vincent Gentile contended that the sinkholes were due to the “aging infrastructure of Bay Ridge” on a wider scale. Both he and State Senator Marty Golden would like to see DEP get ahead of potential problems.

As Golden noted in a statement to this paper, “We need the city to commit to a 21st century repair and upgrade of the existing sewer system. Anything short of that leaves our city and community open to ongoing repairs that damage the current water system, block streets for lengthy repairs, and burden our quality-of-life. We need to be pro-active, not reactive, so that we can avoid these issues in the future.”

Bob HuDock, chair of CB 10’s Environmental Committee, agreed. ”I feel very reassured that you have an ongoing inspection program,” he told Roberts. “However, it’s a pretty big coincidence that we had two major street collapses within a month here in this neighborhood. My question to you is, this inspection program that you have going on, will you be able to anticipate areas where we might have problems in the future so we aren’t reacting afterwards?”

At the moment, National Grid is making repairs at the site. The steps in the repair process include: securing the area; protecting adjacent property; and building a temporary bypass sewer which will spill into the bay.

Residents were still outraged.

Lauren Grant, who lives on Shore Road near 91st Street, said that the “stench” from the site goes into her building’s lobby and up to the seventh floor, where she lives.

“The smell is unbearable,” she said. “I smell more gas in my apartment house than I do when I walk past the hole on Third Avenue. It’s heading towards Shore Road and no one is giving any credence to it.”

The timing of the repairs was a particular sore spot. “We are not interested in these long term projections,” Grant said.

Another resident complained about the loudness of the generators at the repair site, which run 24 hours a day. “How long are the generators going to be on? The noise is horrible,” she contended.

Marianne Casey said that she worries about the construction compromising the stability of nearby buildings. “The biggest problem and the biggest concern of the owners of the properties are about the foundation of their homes, possibility rodents, and of course the smell which is a problem throughout the neighborhood on this block,” she said. “It is an on-going concern.”

A resident living on 91st Street who wished to remain anonymous said she is worried that the work may affect her health.

“My concern is the sewer gas odor emanating from the manholes and whether it is hazardous to our health,” she said, adding that the smell is worse towards Shore Road. “[I want to know ] if it is a carcinogen and what steps are being taken to protect the residents.”

That question went unanswered, but Roberts did tell the crowd, “If the smell is associated with what we are doing, we will do everything we can right now to make that better.”

As for the two major sinkholes the neighborhood has experienced this summer, Roberts noted, “I know it sounds like a big coincidence, but I think it is.”

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