The Long Island Expressway pedestrian overpass at 84th street connects Middle Village to Elmhurst. Two years ago, in April 2014, I noticed that the gate of the overpass property on the Elmhurst side was open. This led to a secluded area where a group of youths had a hangout area with a table, chairs and a mattress. The walls were full of graffiti and empty spray cans were strewn around the ground, there also was a lot of garbage and debris including the area along the sidewalk. The group of teens was non-threatening and when they saw me with my camera, they left.
I called 311 and the operator couldn’t find the overpass in their computer. I called Councilwoman Crowley’s office but I was informed that the location was in Councilman Dromm’s district. After a few calls and waiting periods it was determined that NYSDOT was the agency that would handle this problem, not NYCDOT, and I would be dealing with State Senator Stavisky’s office. In the meantime, the police were notified and they chained the gate. Nothing was done by the NYSDOT.
In April 2015 I noticed that the gate was unlocked again and the condition was the same. After more calls and waiting periods the gate was chained by NYSDOT and they fenced off the area under the overpass where the hangout was. They did not do any cleanups or graffiti removal because of budget problems, according to Sen. Stavisky’s staff. Shortly after, I noticed there was a hole in the fence near the gate. I walked through it and saw that a tent was set up in the area that the DOT fenced off and someone was obviously living there. After more calls and waiting periods it was revealed that the Department of Homeless Services had visited the site in February and didn’t see anyone, but I was instructed to call them if I were to see someone squatting there. At a recent inspection I noticed that the door of an electrical wire panel was removed, probably by scrap metal thieves (photo right). The wires go from one end of the overpass to the other and are for the lighting for the overpass. If they are damaged it will no doubt be a long time before they are repaired.
So here it is – two years later – and there is still no date for when NYSDOT will clean up the area, including removing the graffiti and fixing the fence. There is a nice bit of green space here with trees and shrubs that help block out the LIE, but the way it is now it is just one big eyesore. I find that being a concerned citizen to be very frustrating when having to deal with city agencies and political staffers. The bottom line is that this overpass and the area around it is owned by NYSDOT, so why is this agency not being held responsible for the routine maintenance of it?