It’s a bottomless pit with no end in sight in Sunset Park.
The massive 20 feet wide and 20 feet deep Sunset sinkhole that opened up at the intersection of Fifth Avenue and 64th Street last August remains under significant construction, despite previous estimates that the area — which has been closed to traffic since the chasm opened — would be repaired by this past November.
Now, however, there is a growing belief that construction won’t be complete until next year, leaving residents and merchants upset at the slow pace and lack of communication.
Last month, Executive Director of the Sunset Park Business Improvement District Renee Giordano inquired about the progress from the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).
“Supplies have arrived to continue work on the sinkhole,” she said. “[Construction company] Moretrench has been hired to put them in. The next step is building a platform inside the hole for their machinery, and installing the piles, which will take about two months.”
Giordano added that the DEP and contractor John P. Picone then have to do construction on the manhole and whatever else is needed to secure the inside, slated to take another two months.
“Then each utility will get a permit from DOT to put their equipment back, including MTA cables for the subway,” she said. “My guess is that it will be completely, completely done by February, 2017.”
“It’s outrageous that it’s taken so long,” said Chris Robles, co-counsel and legal representative for the Village of Sunset Park. “It’s typical incompetence. Part of the problem is that we don’t spent enough money maintaining infrastructure. Sunset Park gets shafted. The sinkhole is a result of years of neglect.”
Sunset resident and mother Jovita Sosa is also upset with the long wait. “I know many utility companies work in just about every working condition,” she said, pointing out that, with the sinkhole, there have been stalls throughout the repairs, resulting in unsafe conditions. “I’ve seen inactivity for weeks. The biggest inconvenience is a family having to look three ways before crossing the street. Cars speed up and down the block.”
According to Tony Giordano of Sunset Parker, the whole process was stalled because the City Department of Design & Construction dragged its feet on determining how many support pilings were needed. “There was no excuse for them taking weeks to make a one-day decision,” he said. “But the good news is they issued the number needed and the contractor did one as a test. This stood up to the test, avoided unnecessary vibrations to surrounding buildings, one of which has seen a crack develop and a shift on its foundation. They have been moving along nicely now and the project is back on track.”
Still, Sunset Parkers are upset at the lack of answers. “I stopped by recently to take a look. It seems that it’s lacking priority,” said former Assemblymember Javier Nieves. “A lack of communication is part of the problem. There is no info being given to community as to what is taking so long, what the time frame is for the work to be finished.”
“So many residents are complaining to me. I live not too far from there,” added Robles. “You’re creating more traffic down side streets where kids are playing. It’s unfair for people that there’s this endless flow of traffic.”
Contacted for comment, a DEP spokesperson did not provide a time frame for completion of the work .“DEP is working to make the necessary repairs to the subsurface infrastructure as quickly as possible,” the spokesperson said.