Merchants: DDC Taking Forever to Finish Plaza at Bronx Hub [Updated]

Progress has been hard to spot at Roberto Clemente Plaza in Mott Haven, according to BID director Steven Fish. Photo: Steven Fish
Construction at Roberto Clemente Plaza in Mott Haven has seen minimal progress this year. Photo: Steven Fish

In 2008, DOT repurposed street space at the Hub in Mott Haven to greatly expand and improve Roberto Clemente Plaza. The first version of the project was made with low-cost materials — paint, planters, and gravel. Afterward, the city committed to building out the project in concrete. But the agency in charge of delivering capital projects, the Department of Design and Construction, has been working on it for years and still has no definite timetable for completion.

DDC broke ground on the project more than two years ago, with an expected 18-month construction timeline. Today the site is still a jumble of construction equipment and vehicles. Local retailers say the construction zone is an eyesore, providing cover to gangs and drug users and driving people away from surrounding businesses.

“General consensus is that this is a hellhole and there’s no end in sight,” Third Avenue BID Director Steven Fish told Streetsblog. Fish organized a forum in October for local business owners and residents to vent their frustrations with the project delays.

Representatives from DDC attended the forum but could not give a concrete completion date, Fish said. DDC’s online database says construction will wrap by August, 2016, but officials at the forum said it was more likely to last through 2017.

Roberto Clemente Plaza in Mott Haven is supposed to look like this, someday. Image: Garrison Architects
A rendering of what Roberto Clemente Plaza in Mott Haven will someday look like. Image: Garrison Architects

The idea for the project dates back to the early 2000s. In 2008, DOT redesigned the streets in the area, known as “the Hub,” to be more pedestrian-friendly, increasing public space by 15,000 square feet with sidewalk and curb extensions, pedestrian islands, and the reclamation of car lanes to expand Roberto Clemente Plaza. In 2010, DOT proposed to improve the plaza environment through a $12.7 million capital project that would increase green space and seating zones.

The 2008 improvements were lauded by local electeds. Local residents do much of their commercial shopping in other parts of the city, and the changes at the Hub were expected to bring that business back to the neighborhood. DDC’s interminable construction timetable has foiled those expectations.

In lieu of a quality public space that attracts people from the neighborhood, the construction zone has repelled potential customers while providing a haven for illicit activity, according to Fish. Two businesses bordering the plaza have already shuttered, he said, and another has seen its profits drop by about half.

The project is being built by Trocom Construction, which the city dropped from another delayed project earlier this year for undisclosed reasons. Streetsblog reached out to Trocom and DDC for comment but has yet to receive a response.

Update: DDC sent the following statement…

DDC is working closely with our general contractor for a successful completion of the Roberto Clemente Plaza. Our contractor was experiencing financial difficulties and have filed bankruptcy. While there is no apparent work currently due to the holidays, we are working diligently with our contractor to complete this project and to minimize further delays. We will continue to remain good neighbors to the residents and businesses in the communities experiencing our construction activities.