Frustrated Park Slope Residents Say City Sewer Repairs Are ‘Breaking Our Homes to Pieces’

Construction on 6th Avenue. Photo by Susan De Vries

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Park Slope residents are fed up with the lack of answers about damage to their homes and sustained interruptions to their lives connected to a multi-year water main replacement project in their neighborhood.

More than 150 people gathered at a town hall Wednesday evening at St. John’s Episcopal Church, an event organized by the St. John’s Place Community Association (SJPCA) to address the issue with local politicians and members of the Department of Design and Construction, who are managing the project.

“Overall, the project has been really poorly managed,” said Nicolas Rossier, vice president of the block association. He mentioned that hundreds of people have complained about health and safety issues, vibrations and flooding that is causing damage to their homes.

Officials address the crowd. Photo by Craig Hubert

It is not the first time Park Slope residents have had problems with flooding and vibrations due to sewer main repairs. In 2011, residents complained of both during sewer main replacement on Berkeley Place between 7th and 8th avenues, one block away from the current repair work.

The current project, stretching along 6th Avenue from Union Street to Park Place in the Park Slope Historic District, is dubbed BED798. Triumph Construction Corp. won a bid to handle the work, including the replacement of trunk and distribution water mains and sewers, at an estimated cost of $38,603,889. Repairs began in February 2018 and are expected to continue through the summer of 2021.

The impetus for the meeting was the neighborhood organization’s request for the city to “temporarily cease work in order to pursue a thorough investigation and to address existing issues,” according to a press release the group sent out prior to the meeting. Residents expressed anger over the situation frequently during the meeting, which stretched on for almost three hours. Despite the presence of Council Member Brad Lander, who apologized to residents over not taking action sooner, as well as representatives for Mayor Bill De Blasio and Borough President Eric Adams, residents were still upset.

“Why is this even happening?” one man shouted from the crowd during the Department of Design and Construction’s brief presentation, which outlined the project’s status and future.

Construction at the intersection of 6th Avenue and Sterling Place. Photo by Susan De Vries

The Department of Design and Construction’s response: All water bound for the southern parts of Brooklyn travels via the mains on St. Johns Place, 8th Avenue and 6th Avenue. And those water mains, they claim, are more than 100 years old, made of old brick and have been leaking for years.

“We’re upsizing everything to meet the needs of the community,” said Jeffrey Margolies, who handles Intergovernmental and Community Affairs for the Department of Design and Construction.

So the work, they said, is necessary. So far, they have installed new distribution water mains and fire hydrants, a new combined sewer on 6th Avenue between Union Street and Sterling Place, on Park Place between 5th and 6th avenues and on St. John’s Place between 5th and 8th avenues.

park slope

More than 150 people attended the meeting

But the project is only halfway complete. Sewers still need to be installed on 8th Avenue between St. John’s Place and Lincoln Place, which will begin at the end of 2019, at the intersection of Flatbush Avenue and Sterling Place during mid-winter 2020 and on 6th Avenue between Park Place and Sterling Place in the fall of 2020.

In the meantime, residents are still searching for solutions. According to the Department of Design and Construction, 31 homes in the area have reported flooding, with an unknown amount having reported structural damage. Residents complained of dust, rats, safety issues, and intense vibrations they said are knocking pictures off their walls and books off their shelves.

Answers were slow to come and vague. Residents were encouraged to call 311 and report claims to the City Comptroller, which many in the crowd accepted as, essentially, non-answers.

Toward the end of the meeting, a local resident expressed a general frustration felt among many. “Our homes are being broken to pieces!” he yelled, to a round of applause.

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