Prospect-ive delays: Park fixes could be stalled due to problematic contractor

Walk this way: Park patrons Nechumi Yaffe and Reafel Yaffe were furious to learn sidewalk repairs along Flatbush Avenue would continue into the summer.
Photo by Natallie Rocha

Contractors failed to meet their November deadline for a $2.4-million project to repair sidewalks and install other beautifying elements along Flatbush Avenue bordering Prospect Park, according to a Parks Department spokeswoman, who said the agency chose not to fire the company behind the job, which could lead to additional delays.

The so-called Flatbush Avenue Perimeter project is one of several capital initiatives meant to improve the borders of Brooklyn’s Backyard, and was originally set to be completed well before a roughly $3 million scheme to construct two additional Flatbush Avenue entrances to the park between Grand Army Plaza and the Prospect Park Zoo kicked off this summer, according to spokeswoman Maeri Ferguson.

But contractor Akal Builders ran into trouble early on in the project, and work stalled in the spring when workers unexpectedly stumbled upon problematic underground infrastructure, and then again in the fall due to heavy rains, Ferguson said.

And, while the Parks spokeswoman couldn’t say when or why, the contractor at some point stopped coming to work, which caused agency officials to scramble to get the project back on track.

In January, Parks reps told members of the Prospect Park Community Committee — a body representing various local groups that meet with city reps on a monthly basis to discuss the park — that they were considering defaulting their contractor, but the agency has since chosen to continue relying on Akal, according to Ferguson, who said ditching the contractor would only result in further delays.

The project is now expected to be completed sometime this summer, according to the Parks spokeswoman, who noted that, while the project’s budget has increased over earlier estimates, the project did not suffer any cost overruns as a result of the delay.

As is, less than a quarter of the total project area — which extends from Grand Army Plaza to the zoo — has been completed, and the new sidewalk that has been laid remains surrounded by muck and fenced off to pedestrians, with barricades erected on Flatbush Avenue providing pedestrians a narrow path around the construction area. Akal is also responsible for installing new fences, benches, and light poles as part of the project.

Park patrons were not happy to learn that work would continue into Prospect Park’s busy season, and demanded the city pick up the pace.

“It’s not fair to do this in the summer,” said Borough Park resident Nechumi Yaffe. “This is their job, to have it fixed.”

But an early advocate for the sidewalk remediation project said he hopes locals don’t blame the Parks Department for their contractor’s failings.

“It’s frustrating when the park, the city, and elected officials have all done their part and then the contractor disappears,” said Seth Kaplan, a founding member of Parks4Us — a park advocacy group.

— with Natallie Rocha

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at cmixson@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505.
Get a move: A large portion of Flatbush Avenue near Prospect Park remains fenced off and unfinished, while work on the remainder hasn’t even started.
Photo by Natallie Rocha

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