8 Street Redesigns That DDC Is Still Taking Forever to Build
How long does it take New York City to build out street redesigns and plazas in concrete? In a word, forever.
Across the city, capital projects overseen by the Department of Design and Construction consistently miss one deadline after another. The delays keep the public waiting for street improvements and saddle surrounding businesses and neighborhoods with interminable construction activity.
NYC DOT has gone so far as to develop an extensive toolkit to implement its street designs without waiting for DDC’s capital construction process, using paint and other low-cost construction materials whenever possible. “Our capital projects take too long,” Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg told City Council members at a hearing in March. “We are bound by a lot of processes that make capital construction very slow in the city.”
The long waits, which can drag on for more than a decade, are sometimes attributable to budgeting issues or other red tape beyond DDC’s control. But even once funding has been secured and a construction timetable announced, when a project is in DDC’s hands it almost always takes longer to finish than expected.
DDC Commissioner Feniosky Peña-Mora has not articulated specific obstacles to timely construction or laid out a plan to reform current practice. “Each location has a lot of different complexities,” he said at last month’s ribbon-cutting for the Times Square pedestrian plazas, which took five years between design and delivery. “We try to learn from each one, but each one is unique.”
Last January, we highlighted 11 street redesigns where DDC had fallen far behind schedule. One year later, a few of those projects have been completed, while most are still facing delays. Here’s a look at how long those projects have languished. For the purposes of this post, “behind schedule” refers to the original construction timetable — in many cases this substantially undercounts the time between design and completion.
Roberto Clemente Plaza: Three years behind schedule
After years with little visible construction progress, there’s finally some momentum at Robert Clemente Plaza, located in the heart of the Bronx’s Third Avenue shopping district, according to Michael Brady of the Third Avenue-The Hub Business Improvement District. “There have been a couple of delays that have hampered the progress, but we’re starting to see the footprint of a plaza, which is a good thing,” he said.
Project timeline: DDC broke ground in 2013 with an 18-month construction timetable. When we checked in last year, the projected completion date was August 13, 2016.
DDC says: Construction will wrap up in the spring.
Brooklyn Bridge Gateway: One Year Behind Schedule
Construction finally got underway in 2016 on the redesign of the biking and walking approach to the Brooklyn Bridge, which was first proposed in 2009. The design was finalized in 2011, but not funded until 2014. Construction appears to have wrapped up south of Tillary Street and moved on to the bridge approach itself.
Project timeline: Community Board 2 endorsed the project in February 2014. Phase 1 was supposed to break ground in late 2014 or early 2015.
DDC says: DDC’s online database still says this project will be done by June 16, 2016. An agency spokesperson tells us it will actually finish sometime this summer.
MYRTLE AVENUE PLAZA AND STREET RECONSTRUCTION: TWO YEARS BEHIND SCHEDULE
This project will turn two blocks of a Myrtle Avenue service road in Clinton Hill into a pedestrian plaza. It’s been in the making for more than a decade. Design wrapped up in 2011, four years after the Myrtle Avenue Revitalization Partnership (MARP) cooked up the original concept, but construction didn’t start until the fall of 2014. It was put on hold just weeks later after the discovery of an underground water main.
The extended construction timetable has wracked surrounding businesses, MARP’s Meredith Phillips Almeida told Streetsblog last year. Construction didn’t wrap up in April as Almeida expected, so her organization put together a campaign encouraging shopping at impacted businesses.
“It’s certainly not the panacea to the woes of construction, but it’s something we developed with input from the merchants, and it’s helping to communicate an important message,” Almeida said back in June. “Many of our businesses are suffering, and reporting a fraction of sales and foot traffic as compared to before construction started.”
Project timeline: Construction began in August 2014 with an anticipated 18-month timeline. Last January, DDC’s database said it would be complete by June 17, 2016.
DDC says: Construction will wrap up “late Spring 2017.”
BROOKLYN WATERFRONT GREENWAY, WEST STREET: TWO YEARS BEHIND SCHEDULE
The West Street segment of the greenway is now beginning to shape up south of Java Street. The design was developed over the course of a multi-year public outreach process, which ended in 2012 when CB 1 gave its approval. That process was a distant memory by 2015, when people showed up at CB 1 meetings trying to stop construction from starting.
Project timeline: In 2012, Streetsblog reported that “construction could begin in 2014.” The projected completion date has been listed as October 31, 2017 since at least early last year.
DDC says: “We are coordinating with the pier property owners and Con Edison before we continue further with additional construction” north of Java Street.
Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway, Flushing Avenue: More than two years behind schedule
Flushing Avenue is slated for a raised two-way bike path and sidewalk expansion along the Brooklyn Navy Yard, one of the most important links on the Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway. Brooklyn CB 2 approved the plan in October 2013, but construction is just getting started this month.
Historical project timeline: Work was originally set to begin in fall 2014. Last January, the projected completion date was listed as June 4, 2017.
DDC says: “This project had been delayed by National Grid’s work to relocate their gas main, which interfered with our construction. Weather permitting we anticipate beginning construction [this month].”
DUMBO/VINEGAR HILL STREET AND PLAZA RECONSTRUCTION: TWO YEARS BEHIND Schedule
This project will repair cobblestone streets, improve sewage systems, add flat stone strips for cycling, and expand the Peal Street Triangle Plaza. Brooklyn CB 2 voted for it in mid-2013.
Project timeline: Construction was set to begin in fall 2014 and take two years. Last year, the projected completion date was listed as July 18, 2019, and construction had yet to commence.
DDC says: “We are still pending resolution of the underground vault which is in legal review, however we are still moving forward with the project while it is in the design phase.” The online database now lists the projected completion date as May 1, 2020.
CHURCH AVENUE RECONSTRUCTION: MORE THAN THREE YEARS BEHIND SCHEDULE
In 2013, Church Avenue BID director Lauren Collins said improvements along a busy stretch of Church Avenue between Coney Island Avenue and Flatbush Avenue would be built over the course of 2014. Four years later, this project is still waiting to break ground.
Project timeline: Construction was initially expected in 2014. Last year, DDC listed the projected completion date as March 2, 2017.
DDC says: “We have not started construction yet due to the holiday schedule and unforeseen field conditions.” The online database now lists the projected completion date as June 14, 2017.
PERSHING SQUARE WEST: THREE YEARS BEHIND SCHEDULE
The Bloomberg administration brought this Koch-era plaza proposal near Grand Central Terminal back to life, but it’s taken most of Bill de Blasio’s first term to get it done. In 2013, the Times reported that the project would be completed in 2014 “if all goes according to plan.” Construction didn’t get started until spring 2015.
Project timeline: After the initial report of a potential 2014 finish, this time last year, DDC’s database expected the project to be done by June 11, 2016.
DDC says: Construction is expected to wrap up this summer.