2005-05-11 / Features

DEP, DOT Commissioners Face UCCA Members

by richard gentilviso

When more than one million gallons of water gushed from a ruptured main into nearby homes at Ditmars Boulevard and 70th Street last February, the city of New York admitted liability quickly, rushing to aid an afflicted community. But more than nine months after two huge chunks of pre-cut concrete, weighing a combined six tons, fell from the Steinway Street Bridge on July 23, severely injuring a driver on the Grand Central Parkway below and creating economic havoc for the merchants above, the city is taking a very different path.

In what could be called a “tale of two commissioners,” New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner Emily Lloyd and Queens Borough Department of Transportation (DOT) Commissioner Constance M. Moran both spoke at the May meeting of the United Community Civic Association (UCCA). Reviewing the water main break, Lloyd said DEP’s admission of partial liability enabled homeowners to file claims with the city but when asked to give an update on the Steinway Street Bridge by the Gazette, Moran had little to say.

“I don’t have an update, no,” Moran said, referring the inquiry to the DOT press office.

Following up on the question, UCCA President Rose Marie Poveromo, who is also a member of Community Board 1, asked about the Steinway Street Bridge situation too.

“The contractor was defaulted and we’re working on getting a new contractor,” said Moran. That information was released by DOT during the first week of April after it was determined that in preparation for demolition, sections of the bridge cut into thirds were not strong enough to hold their own weight.

However, in its initial investigation, DOT found that scenario to be the case back in July when the two 65-foot long, three-ton concrete slabs first fell. At that time, DOT spokesperson Tom Cocola said, “Our engineers determined that since both the west- and east-bound slabs had been precut, they should be removed immediately, but unfortunately they fell prior to being removed.”

Lloyd said a similar initial investigation by DEP affirmed the city had contributed partially to the water main break. Another investigation is underway to determine if a plumbing contractor working at the site is also liable.

In the case of the Steinway Street Bridge, the city is attempting to hold only the contractor at fault. However, when the concrete collapse happened, the contractors were certainly working under the supervision of DOT.

“Community is where we (DOT) get what we need to do,” said Moran, explaining that the DOT is responsible for street lights, traffic signals, traffic signs, roadways, and “many bridges”.

“What can be done to stop the Governor George Pataki and the siting board from putting more power plants in Queens?” Poveromo asked Lloyd.

In an effort to comply with federal clean air standards, Lloyd said, the city is primarily focusing on the reduction of emissions from cars and trucks. “I think the area that has not been aggressively treated is emissions from power plants,” she said.


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