A major gas main replacement project in Bay Ridge has fanned the flames of angry residents who allege the work has left the neighborhood in complete disarray for far too long.
The work, being done at a hastened pace by gas supplier National Grid in order to comply with new building codes by the end of the year, has generated the most construction-related complaints at the local community board of any project performed by the utility in recent history, according to the district manager fielding them.
“The work on Third Avenue has generated more complaints, by far, than I can recall on any other National Grid project in the neighborhood,” Community Board 10 District Manager Josephine Beckmann told this paper.
Since January, the board has received 46 complaints regarding unkempt and unsafe conditions relating to the work along Third Avenue.
“Part of the problem has been that the contractors that are being used really have a complete disregard for maintaining a clean site — a safe site — and the residents aren’t taking that lightly,” Beckmann said. “We’ve heard of seniors that have fallen and hurt themselves just trying to get into their homes. Never mind that when you’re driving down the avenue, it doesn’t feel like it’s a secure roadway — it’s frightening.”
The replacement project encompasses the thoroughfare from Ovington Avenue to 80th Street and along 72nd Street from Third Avenue to Fourth Avenue, a National Grid spokesperson confirmed, though, neighbors maintain the construction has negatively impacted the shopping strip in its entirety.
“While I understand the need for a frenetic pace. . .your contractors have left one of the main commercial thoroughfares in my district looking more like the surface of the moon,” wrote Councilmember Justin Brannan in a recent letter to National Grid President John Bruckner. “It is truly despicable.”
“The asphalt along Third Avenue between 68th Street and 82nd Street is now a complete disaster — all thanks to your contractors Hallen,” Brannan argues. “Indeed, Third Avenue has been reduced to a torn and tattered panoply of potholes, loose and noisy steel plates, defective street cuts, humps, bumps, hummocks, cave-ins and more!
“Driving on Third Avenue now feels more like being a passenger on an off-road Kilimanjaro safari in the back of an old Soviet UAZ,” he continued.
Third Avenue resident Petr Michalakis couldn’t agree more.
“I’m at my wit’s end,” said Michalakis, who lives on Third Avenue between 76th and 77th Street. “This has been going on for goodness knows how long now. There’s been no recourse, no oversight and [National Grid] is doing whatever they want with no accountability.”
To make matters worse, Michalakis said, is the feeling that it might last forever.
“I’ve repeatedly heard [work will be done] by the end of the month, by the end of the week, so on and so forth,” he contended. “I don’t know who the timelines are coming from or if they’re just trying to get people off the phone but the estimates they’re providing are completely ludicrous.”
National Grid told this paper on Friday that the project itself was completed on April 29 with final paving slated to be finished by June.
“The work is part of our commitment to enhance safety and reliability for our customers and communities,” a spokesperson said via e-mail. “We have met with [Brannan] and take these concerns very seriously and are working diligently to remediate them.”
Michalakis hopes the end is truly in sight.
“I’ve lived in Bay Ridge all 30 years of my life,” he said. “I, for a long time, was advocating for this neighborhood saying, ‘We have the best everything,’ and, unfortunately, I’ve had to stop doing that.”
Hallen Construction did not immediately respond to a request for comment.