Recovery road block: Build It Back prevents bus from taking autistic kid to school

Recovery road block: Build It Back prevents bus from taking autistic kid to school
Photo by Jordan Rathkopf

The city must reign in disaster-recovery contractors who are flooding Gerritsen Beach’s streets with trucks and dumpsters and ruining locals’ quality of life, residents say.

Build It Back construction within the peninsular neighborhood’s famously narrow streets has made it difficult for residents to get in or out of its many dead-end blocks, Beachers say. And the congestion is so bad that a school bus for special-needs kids can’t reach a 3-year-old autistic boy living there — forcing him to forgo a week of school, according to his mom.

“He can’t get on the bus, he can’t get off the bus, the therapist can’t get to the house,” Kay Court resident Dawn Santiago said of her son Logan. “Any type of change in his schedule sets him off, so the fact that the bus doesn’t come to the house and we have to walk to the bus, he doesn’t know what’s going on, and it causes a meltdown for him.”

Even missing a few days can undo progress teachers have made helping him learn to live with the condition — which typically includes social and linguistic impairment, over-sensitivity to unfamiliar stimuli, and a predilection to repetitive behavior — his mom said.

“It’s a scary thought to have to think about — my son needs a steady schedule with this autism, he needs to go to school, he needs to be there.”

The construction has been a thorn in Gerritsen Beachers’ sides for months, but it has gotten worse as the city ramps up repairs in an attempt to meet Mayor DeBlasio’s self-imposed deadline of fixing every Sandy-damaged home by year’s end, said Santiago, whose home is not being repaired under the program.

“It’s gotten worse within the last month, only because now we have more houses that they are raising. The whole neighborhood’s just going up at once, more problems with more dumpsters. The dumpsters are too big for our neighborhood, a fire engine, an ambulance can’t get through.”

Careless contractors even park in front of people’s front gates, blocking them in their homes, Santiago said.

“There’s times where I’m literally blocked in. They have the truck blocking my exit, my only exit that I have,” said Santiago. “I was screaming all over the place. You are literally a foot away from my gate and there’s no way I can get out. His attitude was ‘I really don’t care what you have to say right now.’ ”

And the Santiagos are not the only family impacted — it’s a neighborhood-wide problem for residents who can’t leave their own street because of contractors’ machinery, another neighbor said.

“This is a small area, if there’s parked cars and they have to do work, they just leave their car there so you have to detour around,” said Kay Court resident Billy Durando, who is also not participating in the program. “It’s like driving through a maze, there are so many cars there. They just drop their machines and leave them, it’s annoying. It’s an inconvenience. Parking is limited down here to begin with, we’re not a normal-size street where there’s parking on both sides. Everything’s small down here. It’s not right — the constant disregard makes it not right.”

Build It Back is trying to work with residents, but they should only expect work to pick up over the summer, said a spokesman for the federally-funded city-run recovery effort.

“We’re aware of these issues and are working with Sanitation and our contractors to rectify the situation,” he said.

Residents with problems can call the program’s customer service line at (212) 615–8329.

Reach reporter Julianne Cuba at (718) 260–4577 or by e-mail at jcuba@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @julcuba.