Fort Ham Parkway residents wait for relief

While people living on or near Fort Hamilton Parkway are still holding their noses, they are not holding their breath when it comes to the city finding the cause of the odor that has plagued them ever since sewers were replaced some three years ago.

Last week, City Councilmember Vincent Gentile announced that the city’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) had agreed to hire an independent consultant, Webster Environmental Associates, Inc., to monitor and study air and water flow, as well as the catch basins in the affected area where homeowners report a smell like rotten eggs rising from catch basins, and even seeping into their homes.

Marine Avenue resident Irene Rivera -whose home is suffused by “unbearable” odors every so often, thanks to the so-far-unidentified problem – said that, at this point, she is not optimistic.

“I’m really at the point that I don’t trust anybody. I’m tired of them saying it’s high tide, it’s low tide, it didn’t rain, it rained too much, it snowed,” remarked Rivera.

“There’s still an odor in my house,” Rivera went on. “Is it bearable? Yeah, because we got so used to it. Do I have people over for holidays? No, because I don’t know when it’s going to start.”

The problem began for residents living on or near Fort Hamilton Parkway between 92nd Street and 101st Street, as well as for parishioners attending St. John’s Church at 99th Street, and senior citizens who go to the Fort Hamilton Senior Center at 100th Street at the close of the $6.8 million sewer replacement project.

That project, which commenced in 2004 and lasted until 2006, was intended to address the issue of flooding that had plagued area homeowners.

Some portions of the area have it worse than others. Two intersections are particularly problematic, said Rivera: 99th Street and Fort Hamilton Parkway, and Fourth Avenue and Marine Avenue. In addition, homes between 96th and 99th Street, and on Marine Avenue are more likely to be afflicted by the stench, said Josephine Beckmann, the district manager of Community Board 10.

Initially, Beckmann recalled, DEP had treated the problem by masking the odor, while attempting to track its source by a variety of means, including sending a camera through the sewers to “take a look”.

“They smell it. They know it’s there, but they don’t know where it’s coming from,” Beckmann noted.

It was the fact that neither DEP nor the city’s Department of Design and Construction (DDC), which oversaw the sewer replacement, was successful in their attempt to locate the source of the odor that had him suggest hiring an outside consultant, said Gentile.

“The odor is affecting residents’ quality of life all along Fort Hamilton Parkway and so far, despite city agencies’ best efforts, the cause is a mystery,” he stressed. “I believe that a private expert is our best chance at this point to determine and resolve the problem – residents have been dealing with this nuisance for far too long, and it’s high time that the nuisance was taken care of.”

The $8,000 contract is for a preliminary evaluation, said Michael Saucier, a DEP spokesperson. “Then, they will submit a proposal to solve it. There is no cost for that yet.

“We know folks are complaining,” Saucier stressed. “We want to figure out how to solve it, the sooner, the better.”

Relief can’t come too soon for those who have to endure the odor, day in and day out.

Over three years later, residents are both discouraged and disgusted, said Rivera, who never had flooding before the sewer project but whose family now copes with the ongoing odor problem.

“I know the community board and Gentile’s office are working really hard on this,” she told the paper, “but it’s really frustrating.”