Tag Archives: Department of Design and Construction

$8.2M renovation of Kew Gardens Hills library to be complete in 2015


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Renderings courtesy the Queens Library


The $8.2 million revitalization of the Queens Library at Kew Gardens Hills is set to be completed in the summer of 2015, according to the organization.

Representatives from the library and the city’s Department of Design and Construction (DDC) informed the community about the construction at Tuesday’s Kew Gardens Civic Association meeting.

The library is being expanded by 3,000 square feet to about 10,500 square feet. The renovation will include technology updates, a separate area for teens, a new sloped-concrete roof and a full interior renovation. Outside the library, there will also be a new handicapped accessible entrance ramp, new sidewalks, trees, a bicycle rack and flagpole.

 

Funding for the library was allocated by Mayor Bill de Blasio, Borough President Melinda Katz, Councilman Rory Lancman, Assemblyman Michael Simanowitz and state Sen. Toby Ann Stavisky.

 

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Stalled Maspeth, Ridgewood, Middle Village transportation projects suffer more setbacks


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

Follow me @liamlaguerre

 

Ridgewood residents were hopeful that reconstruction of the Metropolitan Avenue Bridge would finally start this spring, but it’s been delayed again.

The path, which is elevated over LIRR tracks where Metropolitan Avenue intersects Fresh Pond Road, carries major truck traffic and is long overdue for repairs. In 2007, city officials informed Community Board (CB) 5 it was in danger of collapse.

Financial troubles delayed its original reconstruction start date back in 2009, and at a recent CB 5 Transportation Committee meeting, it was said that it’s been pushed back yet again, because the project has to undergo review and redesign.

The bridge is just one of a few major transportation projects, together worth about $115 million, in CB 5 that just keep getting delayed. The Metropolitan Avenue Bridge alone could be a $25 million project, CB 5 District Manager Gary Giordano said.

“You are talking about a lot of money for one district,” Giordano said. “We keep bringing them up at our transportation meeting because we believe that they need to be done and want don’t want to forget about them.”

Developers are now considering building an abutment, eliminating one track under the bridge, to help the building process.

There is also the Grand Street Bridge project, which connects Maspeth to Brooklyn over Newtown Creek.

The 111-year-old bridge is so narrow that it can’t support two-way traffic, although it is a two-way span, with all the big rigs and city buses that traverse it. The new bridge would cost about $50 million.

The plan for a new bridge was ready to go when Sandy struck in 2012 and flooded the area. Now plans are being redesigned to meet new flood regulations.

Besides the bridges, major street rebuilding plans have also been set back.

The Wyckoff Avenue Reconstruction Project, estimated to cost about $20 million, was supposed to start during the summer of 2010, but has been pushed back to 2026, according to the city Department of Design and Construction (DDC).

The project would give Wyckoff Avenue new sewer lines, new water mains to replace the 70-year old ones, as well as a new concrete base on the roadway, new sidewalks and new curbing from Flushing Avenue to Cooper Avenue.

The community has been waiting on a similar project in south Middle Village for about two decades. The area from 73rd Place to 80th Street, between Metropolitan Avenue to Cooper Avenue, are due for new sidewalks, sewer lines, new water mains, signage and street lights, estimated to cost about $20 million. The project has a due date of 2022, according to the DDC.

The projects are pushed back because the city keeps putting funding to higher priority initiatives, CB 5 Chair Vincent Arcuri said. But Arcuri said the planned repairs would help boost the community and should be pushed.

“When you rebuild the streets, the property value increases,” Arcuri said. “It becomes an economic boost to the community.”



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‘Safe Routes’ coming to four Queens schools


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

Safer streets are coming soon to four Queens middle and elementary schools.

The Department of Design and Construction (DDC) confirmed it has selected a construction company to make adjustments around the schools to increase safety, as a part of the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Safe Routes to Schools program.

The safe routes program is a city-wide initiative that seeks to improve safety to city schools with the highest accident rates.

A DDC representative said the $3.3 million improvements will begin by the spring of 2014 around I.S. 77 in Ridgewood, St. Stanislaus Kostka School in Maspeth, St. Joan of Arc School in Jackson Heights and P.S. 108 in South Ozone Park.

The work around the schools will include adding speed bumps, adjustment of streetlights and traffic signals, ramps to the sidewalks, work to improve the curbs for pedestrians, placement of bus pads in the streets and infrastructure and utility work.

These four schools are on DOT’s list of 135 priority schools for traffic safety improvements, which was originally created in 2003 by the city agency. Overall, there are 33 priority Queens schools on the list that are slated to see the improvements.

The work on the four schools is expected to be completed by the spring of 2015.

 

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Far Rockaway residents call for promised fixes to flooding issues


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of the Office of Councilmember Donovan Richards

Far Rockaway residents are flooded with problems, and say they have no life raft.

Bay 32nd Street regularly experiences heavy flooding. In August, those concerned came together with the Department of Design and Construction (DDC) to voice their concerns.

DC representatives in charge of repairs and upgrades explained, in detail, the overall improvement plan and temporary fixes that were to be implemented to alleviate the area’s flooding. However, three months later, those plans have yet to be put into action.

Enid Glabman, president of the Bayswater Civic Association, said responses received from the DDC were “courteous, but always the same.”

“New plans had to be drawn and new money had to be appropriated,” she said.

Glabman added the DDC requested “time – a few days, a few weeks,” but nothing has changed.

“These improvements are essential to the resiliency of Rockaway,” Councilmember Donovan Richards said. “We have to ensure that we are prepared for emergency situations and DDC’s lack of commitment to this project is very concerning.”

The DDC acknowledged that flooding has been a problem in this area “for decades, and we know that residents are anxiously awaiting a remedy,” said an agency spokesperson. Also, DDC engineers determined temporary fixes would be inadequate.

After August’s meeting, the agency changed and improved its design plan, which required more money. Now, they have given the project a green light and said residents will see construction soon.

Offsite, at Dwight Avenue, they have begun work on an outfall – a pipe that will channel floodwater into Jamaica Bay.

On November 8, Richards and community members gathered on Bay 32nd Street to hold the DDC responsible for having yet to begin making improvements.

“This project should have re-started months ago,” said John Gaska, District Manager of Community Board 14. “DDC needs to get its house in order.”

Residents experience extensive flooding during heavy rainfall and even more so during last year’s superstorm.

“Over one year after Sandy damaged our sense of security, we need to feel that our city agencies have not forgotten about our community,” Richards said.

 

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Second Myrtle Avenue pedestrian plaza gets community support


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Rendering courtesy of the Department of Transportation

Call it the Myrtle Avenue makeover.

Community Board 5 (CB5) is in favor of the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) plan to transform the corner of Myrtle and 71st Avenues into a pedestrian plaza.

The plan to makeover the space was almost fully accepted at the board’s most recent transportation committee meeting, except for a few minor changes.

Photo courtesy the Department of Transportation 

“It’s a nice attribute for the community,” said Ted Renz, executive director of the Myrtle Avenue Business Improvement District (BID) and a member of the community board. “Pedestrian plazas have become very popular throughout the city.”

The DOT will install new lighting, bike racks, plants, chess tables, chairs and umbrellas for shade, and raise the sidewalk for the new square.

Renz said the BID will look to create art and music programs and variety of services at the plaza for the community to enjoy when it is completed.

But before that, the DOT has to tweak the plan and present the final designs to the community board’s transportation committee for approval at an upcoming meeting.

The plaza is just one of two coming to Myrtle Avenue. The city’s Department of Design and Construction is in the final design phase for another public square at the intersection of Myrtle and Cooper Avenues in Glendale, which is known as the Glendale Veterans Triangle. It is expected to go out to bid and start construction by next year, according to Renz.

Rendering courtesy of the Department of Design and Construction

 

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Glendale underpass fix will ease flood problem


| mhayes@queenscourier.com


A deteriorating Glendale underpass is getting a makeover. Come summer, it will be safer for both cars passing underneath and trains chugging overhead.

However, the community says there are still issues in the area that need to be addressed.

The Department of Design and Construction (DDC) took on the current $6 million capital reconstruction project in January 2012 on behalf of the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the Department of Transportation (DOT). As of February, 65 percent of the work had been completed.

For the project, DDC is rebuilding the underpass’ retaining wall and installing new sidewalks along with six catch basins underneath.

“The retaining walls were in a state of disrepair,” a DDC spokesperson said. “We’re building a brand new underpass with new concrete walls, and we’re also installing additional catch basins to help remove storm water more quickly.”

However, community members are concerned about the potential for excess storm water.

“I don’t believe [this project] is going to do anything near what needs to be done to solve flooding problems in the Glendale community during heavy rains,” said Gary Giordano, district manager of Community Board 5.

Giordano recalled two incidents in which the underpass area collected a significant amount of water, once reaching 12 feet.

Giordano said possible fixes include enlarging the sewer line or installing a retainer tank to hold storm water until sewer plants can handle it.

“These rains are getting stronger and more frequent,” he said.

The community has been in talks with Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley and the DEP to resolve the issue.

Still, community members are glad about the DDC project.

“Panels on top of the retaining walls in some areas were so deteriorated, you could see the steel beneath,” said Giordano. “You don’t want those falling down on the street.”

 

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Sandy changes Hunter’s Point library plans


| aaltman@queenscourier.com

Exterior_roof_terrace

Fear of another Sandy is altering plans for the Queens Library’s upcoming Hunter’s Point destination.

The land supporting the 21,500-square-foot facility, to be located at Center Boulevard and 48th Avenue on the banks of the East River, will be graded an extra foot higher to avoid any possible flooding that could occur during another Sandy-type storm. While initial plans already placed the structure above the 100-year-flood line, library officials, architects and members of the Department of Design and Construction (DDC) agreed an extra measure of caution was necessary.

“The building hasn’t been built yet,” said Queens Library spokesperson Joanne King. “There’s no reason not to make it even higher.”

According to a spokesperson from the DDC, the library, which will sit 150 feet from the shoreline, will be built to withstand dangerous weather, as are other Queens Library facilities.

“Since the lowest floor of the library will be above the level of the floodwaters from Sandy, it is not likely that the building would be damaged by a similar storm,” said the spokesperson. “In addition, the building is designed to withstand winds considerably stronger than Sandy’s. Nevertheless, out of an abundance of caution, the project team decided to increase the elevation of the lowest floor by half a foot.”

According to King, none of the branches of the Queens Library existing in the hard hit areas of Arverne, the Rockaway Peninsula, Broad Channel and Seaside suffered structural damage. Aside from broken glass, minor flooding and damage to interior equipment and books, the buildings remained intact. The Broad Channel branch had been graded up, similarly to what will be done at the new Hunter’s Point location, which kept the building from experiencing as much damage as the other branches.

“Anything that could have been done had been done in the sense that any precaution that had been taken when they were built near the beach was taken,” said King. “There are no basements, they were built on one level. They were as safe as they could have been but it was a very extraordinary circumstance.”

Changed to the building’s plan will not affect the timeline, cost or the design at this stage of construction, said the DDC spokesperson.

The structure will feature a cyber-center, roof terrace and communal garden as well as separate reading spaces for adults, teens and children. According to King, the building will place an emphasis on environmental preservation, implementing ecologically-sound features to create an entirely carbon neutral structure.

Group wants to preserve ‘historic’ Elmhurst library


| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

Elmhurst 2007w

Over 106 years, some structures become staples of their communities.

This is the sentiment one Elmhurst civic association has expressed regarding the neighborhood’s historic library, which is set to be torn down and replaced with a larger, more modern facility.

Members of the Newtown Civic Association are puzzled by Queens Library’s decision to destroy the community “landmark,” which opened in 1906 and is one of the last remaining libraries built with funding from philanthropist Andrew Carnegie.

“The existing design that they have shown us doesn’t work on many levels,” said Robert Valdes Clausell, treasurer of Newtown Civic and property manager of the Continental, a co-op building located next to the library. “Not only does it not do justice to the area of Elmhurst and the historical structure, but the actual design is a disaster. What we have advocated for is that the original library’s exterior, the part from 1906, be preserved. It deserves and warrants restoration because it will teach future generations about the history of Elmhurst, public libraries and contributions of men like Carnegie to the democratic process.”

According to a representative from the Department of Design and Construction, the Landmarks Commission deemed the library, which is set to be demolished this winter, did not warrant landmark status due to the numerous restorations it received over the century it stood in Elmhurst. The contractors are incorporating some of the bricks from the old library in the new structure, according to the spokesperson.

Queens Library officials say the new structure, which is scheduled to open in 2014, will adequately service the community, while also paying homage to the library’s legacy in Elmhurst. The preservation of the existing structure was also cost-prohibitive, according to a library spokesperson.

“Elmhurst is a thriving neighborhood that needs a state-of-the-art library to support education, job growth and intellectual development,” said the spokesperson.

While Clausell agrees with the need for more space for what is currently the second busiest branch in Queens, he does not feel that warrants a “lack of inspiration.”

Clausell, Nicholas Dovas and Thomas McKenzie, the organization’s president, recently met with officials from Queens Library to voice their concerns and offer their input.

Along with classifying the new design as a “failure of imagination,” the Newtown Civic trio has expressed apprehension regarding the new building’s potentially negative effects on traffic, parking and daily life in the community. The association has also taken umbrage at the lack of library access the community has had since the branch closed in November.

“[The new library] eliminates any parking for a facility that relies on massive deliveries and pickups of books,” said Clausell, who claims no transportation study was conducted before committing to a design. “They are also planning on opening up the back of the building to the public. This will disturb the peace and quiet of the rear of the building. They are looking for litigation and confrontation from their neighbors. It is opening up a Pandora’s box.”

According to the library spokesperson, officials are working with the Elmhurst community to address their concerns, and the new structure is expected to “be a beautiful community magnet that will add significantly to the quality of life in Elmhurst.”

Although many in the community will be saddened by the loss of their landmark, Queens historian Jack Eichenbaum believes the benefits of the modern facility will also be significant.

“Carnegie libraries are beautiful, but that library was built a century ago when the population of Elmhurst was very small,” said Eichenbaum. “That population has grown dramatically with many immigrants, and libraries are very important to immigrants. It is a shame to lose these kinds of buildings, but in this case it is counteracted by the need for a bigger, and hopefully better, library.”