Rome wasn’t built in a day, but it may have taken less time to build the city than it has to build the ramp to Shore Road Park at 97th Street in Bay Ridge.
The project’s successful completion — which began after the ramp partially collapsed in April 2016 — could well be due to an ultimatum City Councilmember Justin Brannan delivered to the Parks Department in February that was first reported in this paper.
At that time, the Parks Department announced a further delayed completion date for the reopening of the ramp, due to what it claimed were construction-related problems found during inspection.
However, Brannan, at the end of his rope after over three years of delays, threatened to sue if the ramp, which provides convenient access to fields in the park below, was not reopened by the end of June.
Well, apparently Parks Department officials took his threat seriously, and reopened the ramp on Saturday, June 30, just in the nick of time.
“I don’t want to take too big of a victory lap because it took too damn long, and no one is more aware of that than me. I live right up the block and I saw the inaction every day,” Brannan told this paper.
“But I said, look, I’m not gonna let another summer go by without access to this park. I grew up a couple of blocks away and that park ramp that I grew up on needed to be replaced since I was a kid,” he added. “It was a mess. It was a 90-degree angle. It was not a ramp. It was like climbing up Mt. Rushmore. So we needed something that was ADA-compliant because that’s the law.”
The ramp saga began when Brannan’s predecessor, Vincent Gentile, was still in office, and structural engineers from the Parks Department determined that the partially collapsed ramp had been completely undermined and needed to be closed immediately for public safety.
In July, 2017, plans were revealed for the new ramp’s design, including making it ADA-compliant. It appeared that the work, at a cost of $2.7 million allocated by the mayor, would begin shortly. But the start of the repairs continued to drag on.
“What happened was they went through a bunch of different contractors and some of the concrete work wasn’t good,” explained Brannan, who called the delay in completing the project a case of “bureaucratic dysfunction and indifference.”
“I said, look guys, I’m tired of excuses,” Brannan told this paper. “We’ve just got to get it done. People walk by it every day and it became this monument to government inefficiency. I gave them a deadline of June 30 and that seemed to have gotten them moving.”
For some residents of the neighborhood, getting to Shore Road Park without the ramp has not been an easy task. Coaches carrying large bags of sports equipment, including bases, bats, gloves and other gear, must walk for blocks in order to get down to the field.
With the 97th Street entrance closed off, the closest entries are at 93rd and Shore Road, and at 100th Street. However, both of those entrances require the use of stairs; the nearest ramp entrance is by the Belt Parkway, which is a greater distance away.
Romeo Petric, athletic director for St. Patrick Catholic Academy and Fontbonne Hall Academy, told this paper that he was glad the ramp was finally completed but disappointed in the manner in which the project had been handled.
“Where does one start? April 2016 to July 2017 for ‘plans to be presented.’ Fifteen months? Really? Then there was one contractor after another, not being able to complete the job until now. Taking over two years to put a ramp and staircase up?” said Petric.
“Working for the city allowed engineers to get away with not being able to get this done in a timely manner,” he contended. “Being able to blame the mayor is one way to look at it but there’s a heck of a lot of people to blame for this disaster.”
Rushing to meet Brannan’s deadline, the Parks Department said it was happy to open the ramp but admitted there still remained more work to be done.
“I am thrilled that we have reopened this ramp to the public and increased accessibility in the neighborhood. I am grateful to the community for their patience throughout this process,” said Brooklyn Parks Commissioner Marty Maher.
“In the interest of public safety we had to ensure the work met our quality standards,” he said. “While the ramp is now open, we will continue to work throughout the summer to make targeted improvements at this site, including paving, fencing and landscaping.”
Brannan is pleased with the new ramp. “What we had before was this primitive ramp. Before, when you sat in these benches, you couldn’t see anything. Now you have a spectacular view. There’s nothing else like this here right now,” he added.