Water main project to span four years, spurting tension

The stretch of Broadway between Ann and John Streets, which has already been narrowed due to construction of the Fulton Center, will become even more jammed when the city begins to tear it apart next spring. Downtown Express photo by Sam Spokony

BY SAM SPOKONY  |  As if Financial District residents didn’t have enough noisy construction projects going on in their neighborhood, another one is on its way.

The city Department of Design and Construction (D.C.C.) presented its plan for a four-year reconstruction project on Broadway, between Ann and Rector Streets, to Community Board 1’s Financial District Committee meeting on Tues., July 10, amid groans from committee members.

The project, slated to run from spring 2013 to spring 2017, will involve replacing water mains, sewers and other elements of utility infrastructure that date back to the 1960s, according to D.D.C. Assistant Commissioner Thomas Foley. The road surface will also be replaced, including the removal of trolley tracks that have a longer life span than the underground utilities.

The agency will begin reconstructing Broadway on the two blocks between Ann and John Streets next spring — moving further southward after about 18 months. It will affect eight heavily trafficked blocks, including the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Fulton Center site, which won’t be completed until summer 2014.

The project carries a price tag of approximately $48 million, Foley said.

“There’s been no major reconstruction on Broadway for the last 50 years, and our intent in this case is to make sure there’s no major work needed for another 50,” he told the C.B. 1 committee. Accompanying him was Maria Centeno, the D.D.C.’s executive director of Community Outreach and Notification.

While the majority of the work will take place on and underneath the roadway, the project will also include building a new sidewalk extension at the intersection of Ann Street and Broadway.

Committee member Joel Kopel couldn’t hold back his frustration while listening to Centeno’s presentation of the plan.

“You’re coming to us just as the World Trade Center is almost finished, and you’re telling us we have to go through another four years of this — and four years of our water being turned off?” he exclaimed.

Kopel’s fellow committee members prevented him from continuing in order to allow Centeno to finish, but acknowledged they were also displeased.

In an interview with the Downtown Express following the meeting, Foley said he didn’t believe the water shutdowns would be extensive or overly disruptive.

“It’s not as if the business and residential communities will be without water for four years,” he said. “The impact is basically that there will be two or three days where people are without water from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.”

Centeno, in turn, stressed that her office would provide an on-site community construction liaison to act as a point of contact between the D.D.C. and the residents. The liaison, along with a D.D.C. staff person, will be charged with giving general project updates and notifications about temporary water shutdowns resulting from the water main replacements, she said.

Aside from the utility issues, Financial District Committee Chair Ro Sheffe voiced concern about vehicular traffic problems that could arise once the D.D.C. project overlaps with construction on the Fulton Center (formerly known as the Fulton Street Transit Center), which will be situated at the intersection of Fulton Street and Broadway.

“We all recognize that the work needs to be done, but it’s just incredibly unfortunate timing,” said Sheffe. “I don’t see how this project could possibly begin until the lane of Broadway that’s been closed by the Fulton Center construction is reopened, because it’s going to become too narrow.”

Foley stated that the D.D.C. was well-aware of potential traffic flow problems and would attempt to mitigate them by placing more traffic enforcement agents on the street than are generally provided for similar projects. He added that “hundreds of thousands of dollars” would be invested in both vehicular and pedestrian flaggers.

The D.D.C.’s project is meant to begin prior to the completion of the Fulton Center so that the agency has the sufficient amount of time to complete the necessary work and  subsequently clear out before the Fulton Center opens its doors to the public.

“What we didn’t want to happen was to have the M.T.A. doing the station’s ribbon-cutting while we’re simultaneously reconstructing the street right in front of them,” explained Foley.

In addition to the Fulton Center, construction on a new Pace University dormitory at Broadway and John Street has placed strain on Financial District residents and roadways over the last several months. The D.D.C. also has ongoing water main replacement projects on Hudson and Chambers Streets.

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2 Responses to Water main project to span four years, spurting tension

  1. This is frankly unbelievable.

    After September 11th, which I can easily say without hyperbole was the worst experience I ever went through, as it probably was for everyone who was down here that day, a strange thing happened. People would ask me if I felt the attacks were personal. Personal? I wondered. I would have to be pretty delusional and self-centered to think that. How could anyone think they were personal? I chalked it up to the many ways we all react to tragedy.

    But this — this feels personal. After all the truly insane degree of infra-structuring we have endured down here since September 11th, all of it engineered by people who claim to have the best interests of the area at heart, this feels like the last straw. Just as the most onerous and troublesome project of all, right in the heart of the hood comes to a close — the grandiose, $10 billion subway entrance that MTA officials have misspent more than a decade completing at the corner of Fulton and Bway — the idea that the same &%$#$#@ stretch of Broadway is going to be ripped up to replace water mains is just infuriating.

    Do the people making these incredibly stupid decisions ever come to the area? Spend the night? Take a good hard look at the kind of destruction their construction has wrought? Do they have any idea the kind of atmosphere they have created down here? It is a war zone, pure and simple. What is saddest of all is that the gallery of criminal nitwits is so broad — greedy, thoughtless developers; inept, unprofessional, thoughtless ConEd officials; grandiose, corrupt, thoughtless MTA officials; bumbling, thoughtless city planners. There's a heaping helping of @#$%& idiot pie for everyone, and I for one am really, really tired of watching them all gobble it down like there's no tomorrow.

  2. This is a case where people are expecting quick and vast results minus the expected hassle. Once the project is complete, this will make water delivery for the neighborhood much easier. plumber melbourne

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