How Calamus Avenue became a catastrophe - JuniperCivic.com
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Originally published in the September 2017 Juniper Berry Magazine

How Calamus Avenue became a catastrophe

JPCA President Robert Holden offers advice to Calamus Ave residents

This story begins about 4 years ago with the start of a $24M reconstruction of a combined sewer and replacement of water mains. The New York City Department of Design and Construction (DDC) will call this project SE-814.

The construction firm awarded this job is CAC Industries and the engineering firm overseeing the work is HAKS.

The project, in Woodside & Maspeth, was to run from 74th Street and Calamus Avenue to 69th Street and Calamus and then turn south on 69th street to its end across Queens Boulevard, a distance of about 8/10 of a mile. The original dates, start to finish, for this project were Winter 2014 to Fall 2016.

Before the sewer could be placed the electric, water and gas lines had to be moved from below the street surface to below the sidewalks. Telephone poles and street lights had to be relocated as well and unfortunately wound up inside residents' fences and in one case the fence was removed. To date it has not been replaced. This was all done so that the new sewer could be placed alongside the old one. In addition, bus service was halted on November 14, 2014 and it too has not been restored.

After all utilities were relocated, all homes on the northside of Calamus Avenue beginning at 74th were temporarily attached to the water main by rubber hoses. This was done so as not to disrupt water service. While watching the work on my street (70th to 71st) I notice that the hose being used was a red rubber hose and wondered if it was safe for drinking water. I was lucky enough to find packaging for the hose and contacted the manufacturer who told me that it was an industrial hose and was not safe for drinking water. The following morning, I mentioned my findings to the CAC project manager and told him to replace the hoses. He reluctantly said he would, and sometime later showed me a data sheet for an FDA approved hose that CAC should have used in the first place. The next day he replaced the hose with what I believed was the proper hose, only to find a terrible odor and taste in my tap water that evening. Once again, I contacted the manufacturer on the data sheet that I believed was for the new hose. He told me, and it was obvious, that the second hose installed was not his because it had no name or identifiable markings on it. We later found out that some additional 40 plus homes were supplied drinking water from the sub-standard hoses for over 2 years. Health effects are yet to be determined.

In addition to those concerns is the damage to many homes on Calamus Avenue. Homes have sustained damage to their fences, walkways, stoops, decorative walls at the front and sides of their properties. Several home owners have stated that there are cracks to the interior walls and foundations of the home. Numerous electric lines were ripped from the ground while CAC was excavating and Con Edison had to run temporary lines which are still in place. Telephone lines were pulled down by the large equipment leaving homes without telephone service. I am aware of at least 2 sewer lines from adjoining homes were destroyed. There was nothing but finger pointing from the contractor and utilities and NO ONE would assume responsibility for the damage. The result was a $7000 bill for one home owner and a $15,000 bill for the other. Some homes have no concrete sidewalks at all and there are others where the blacktop runs up their walk to the front door. The temporary repaving of the street has been done in such a haphazard way that the indentations are so deep that if you are in a low riding vehicle it bottoms out.

Our fight continues with the contractor and the New York City Comptroller's Office because most homeowners insurance does not cover the damages mentioned. The insurance companies are saying that the insurance required to cover these types of damage is common in areas that are prone to earthquakes. Two residents took the contractor to court over the damages ‒ and lost.

We are extremely grateful to Bob Holden for his concern, support and first-hand knowledge in dealing with situations as complex as this, and for his advice on how to proceed to make us whole again and restoring some normalcy to Calamus Avenue. Enough cannot be said about our new Assemblyman Brian Barnwell and his efforts to get answers from the Comptroller's Office. Assemblyman Barnwell was instrumental in getting Comptroller Stringer to walk Calamus Avenue and view all the damage created by CAC during this stage of the project.

Unfortunately, this drama is nowhere near ending.

September 2017 Juniper Berry Magazine

September 2017 Table of Contents