East Houston Reconstruction Project is 3 Years Behind Schedule, Hurting Business and Angering Locals

Posted on: October 14th, 2015 at 5:00 am by
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​This is the real-life Neverending Story.

Already three years behind schedule, there is no end in sight for the East Houston reconstruction project. Large swaths of roadbed between Bowery and Orchard Street remain torn up with random real estate cordoned off for staging areas. It’s a mess. It wasn’t supposed to be like this.

The ambitious capital works project began on the west side of Manhattan over a decade ago and reached the Bowery around June 2010. That was the beginning of East Side clusterfuck Phase II, initially slated to last three years. Not surprisingly, the estimate was twice revised – first to December 2015, and most recently to September 2016 – with a price tag that ballooned to at least $88 million. Hell, what’s another year, right? The smart money says the date will probably change again soon.

Spokesmen from the Department of Design and Construction paid a visit to Community Board 3 last night to provide an update, but it’s not what you want to hear.

Blame the delays on unforeseen obstacles and the ensuing quibbling between city agencies and utility companies over responsibility. Apparently such “unforeseen utility interference” requires “specialty work” that can only be handled by one company over another. For instance, Con Edison or Verizon called down to relocate certain equipment or maintain abandoned gas mains before the water piping infrastructure goes in. But no one involved owns up to the responsibility when there are delays or issues encountered.

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Caught in the crossfire, as always, are the neighborhood residents and businesses left holding the bag. Noise, obstructions, traffic, and pollution are commonplace. For instance, Susan Stetzer relayed an encounter outside Russ & Daughters where weekend contract work began on the Sunday just before Rosh Hashanah, typically one of their busiest days. No one seemed to care.

The Transportation subcommittee of CB3 ultimately drafted a resolution that memorializes some of the following unsolved problems:

  • DDC needs to hurry the fuck up and finish the project already. That also entails consolidating the numerous staging areas to return space back to the community, and better maintenance of the Greenstreets areas (litter problem, rat infestation).
  • The temporary M15 SBS bus stop on Chrystie and East Houston (southbound) is dangerous. Roadwork, Whole Foods garbage mountains, and construction of Ian Schrager’s Public Hotel conspire to create an unsafe waiting environment for the bus.
  • There is no oversight, nor any accountability, for workers and the continued delays. There are few incentives in place to motivate a timely project completion.
  • DDC, Con Edison, Verizon, DOT should return jointly to CB3 for bi-montly project updates.

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