If Nostrand Avenue were a person, it would undoubtedly be feeling pretty left out.
After all, when the $ $4.5 million Junction streetscape project finally gets underway next year, after more than a decade delay, it will not include the thoroughfare between Avenue H and Glenwood Road.
While the strip is at the center of the area being renovated, underground sewer and water main problems have caused it to be axed from the long-awaited project, Sandy Tomas, from the capital projects division of the Economic Development Corporation (EDC), which is overseeing the work, told members of Community Board 14’s Transportation Committee, gathered at the board office, 810 East 16th Street, for their January meeting.
Tomas said that EDC had been told by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) that they do not have the money for the multi-million dollar work that would be required to bring the mains and sewers up to snuff. “We couldn’t do the new sidewalks if sewer and water mains underneath need to be done,” she stressed.
“It’s really unfortunate, because we are losing what to me was really the heart,” Tomas remarked. “The thought was, do we wait or do we try to move forward? It’s been a long time in coming.”
Therefore, Tomas said that EDC had decided to press forward with the portion of the project that could be done, namely Flatbush Avenue, between Avenue H and Farragut Road, Hillel Place, and Glenwood Road between Kenilworth Place and Flatbush Avenue, and between Flatbush Avenue and Nostrand Avenue.
Those areas will get new tinted concrete sidewalks, new granite curbs, new trees and plantings, new tree guards, new benches, new garbage cans and Flatbush light poles.
In addition, a couple of areas — Avenue H’s intersection with Flatbush Avenue, East 31st Street and Flatbush Avenue and Glenwood Road and East 29th Street — are being redesigned by the city’s Department of Transportation (DOT) with neckouts “to make (them) more pedestrian friendly,” Tomas told the group. The result of the change, she added, will be to “narrow the crossing.”
The elimination of Nostrand Avenue from the project’s scope did not go down smoothly. Horace Camillieri, the vice chairperson of the Flatbush Nostrand Junction Business Improvement District, expressed “frustration” over “the fact, that after all this time, you are going to do three quarters of the project. All the businesses along that section of Nostrand Avenue must feel robbed. We’re assessing them all, collecting money to maintain the sidewalk and the poles and the trees, and they’re not getting any of it. And there’s no plan. Let it all collapse, must be the city’s attitude. Let the water go into people’s basements, must be the city’s attitude. Let it run right into the subway, must be the city’s attitude.”
“There’s money for other things,” added board member Barbara Sheeran, who contended that the Junction, after the project is finally completed, “Really isn’t going to look as good as it should look, and the merchants paying their fair share of BID money are getting shortchanged.”
EDC plans to put the project out to bid by July, and expects to begin work in spring, 2011.
The project originated in the late 1990s, the brainchild of then-City Councilmember Lloyd Henry who funded it. While designs were done at the time, they were never implemented because the city required that an organization be in place to maintain some of the improvements that were made.
Nonetheless, the funding for the project was kept in place by Henry’s successor, Kendall Stewart, who also added to the original amount of the allocation. Finally, during his term, the formation of the Junction Business Improvement District (BID) fulfilled the city requirements that had previously been unmet, allowing the EDC to restart the long-languishing project. However, Stewart left office after eight years before the plans could be completed. The current councilmember, who took office at the beginning of this month, is Jumaane Williams.