SUNSET PARK — As the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and other agencies continue to work to repair the damage from the massive water main break at 44th Street and Fifth Avenue that occurred on Sunday, Nov. 24, local businesses continue to worry about the impact it will have during the all important holiday season as well as the effect it has had on residents, according to Sunset Park Business Improvement District (BID) Executive Director David Estrada.
“There is pretty good progress with DEP engineers working on the 44th Street water main but we do have ongoing issues with our businesses because there have been some intermittent water outages,” Estrada told this paper on Monday, Dec. 2. “I’m still not confident that the city has touched all the people who may have been affected by flooding. There’s still community outreach work to do but DEP workers were moving giant steel plates, digging and really active this afternoon when I visited the site, so progress is being made.”
According to Assemblymember Felix Ortiz, there has been water stoppages
“Due to the water main break from 45th to 41st along 5th Avenue in Sunset Park, DEP announced that there will be water shut-off starting at 8:30 am Monday morning,” he wrote on Facebook on Sunday, Dec. 1, including the image of a sign saying that the shut-off was expected to last eight hours. “Please plan accordingly.”
The Sunset Park BID Facebook page gave an update on Wednesday, Dec. 4.
“Sunset Park Residents and Shops near the 44th Street water main repairs, please take note:
The Dept. of Environmental Protection will activate the water regulator at 4th Ave and 44th St after the completion of nearby emergency repairs on Friday, December 6, 2019. They wrote: ‘There is a possibility of discolored water and pressure fluctuations during the operation. Hydrant flushing and pressure checks will be performed to minimize discolored water in Community Board 7 (Sunset Park)’ So, Friday and shortly after, your water will continue to be safe, but may look rusty. You might see water pressure fluctuate a bit, and you could see City workers opening fire hydrants to flush the system. Thanks to everyone hanging in there during these emergency repairs, which are progressing quickly.”
Estrada said that traffic during construction has caused some headaches.
“My contact has been mostly with the businesses and it’s a rough few weeks to have traffic disrupted on the avenue,” he said. “Even though they are letting traffic go in both directions and the bus is moving in both directions, a lot of time they have to do it one way with a flagman, so that means there is a big back-up delay on Fifth Avenue.
“My concern is that shoppers will avoid Fifth Avenue just as we need them to visit the stores the most,” he said. “That’s an ongoing concern.”
However, Estrada did applaud the work of DEP and the Sunset Park BID Facebook page posted daily pictures of DEP and Con Edison hard at work during the holiday weekend.
“It’s worth seeing the work in progress,” he added. “It’s quite an engineering feat.”
DEP spokesperson Edward Timbers told this paper that an end is in sight.
“All residents/businesses have had full water service since the 25th,” he said. “There have been occasional pre-planned short-term water shutdowns to allow for pipe connections over the last week. All water system work should be done by this weekend. Then utility, and roadway restoration will be done next week.”
The BID is also making sure that those that sustained damage get the help they need.
“The agencies have been trying,” Estrada stressed. “Small Business Services, DEP, NYPD, the Fire Department and other agencies are out there trying, as is the congresswoman’s staff, but you never catch all the stores on one pass. Sometimes, you speak to the store staff that’s on site but you need to return to talk to the manager. Sometimes, it’s the building owner you need to contact, and it takes a little time to find them. The lesson here is community outreach. You can’t just make one pass on the avenue and sort of check off the box. You need to go back and talk to people before you discover who needs the most help.”
Estrada also voiced concern for residents.
“There are two or three purely resident buildings with no commercial storefront offices in Sunset Park so they’re not likely to get the same outreach, because you can’t just go in and speak to the building owner on a whim,” Estrada said. “A shop could be open or closed but at least you know where to go. So, that’s going to be the work of the BID in the next weeks, to coordinate all the agencies that might be involved.”
He added that the 90-day window to make claims for damage and the ability to substantiate them are critical.
“That’s just going to take good door-to-door knocking and a couple of meetings with agencies and shopkeepers that want to come talk to us,” he said.