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.

  • Joe R.

    The sad part is the speed of progress here is all too typical of any number of ongoing projects. 50 years ago a project like this would have been done in a few weeks. Is anyone in a position of power ever going to find out exactly why infrastructure projects take so long and cost so much these days?

  • Walter Crunch

    Analysis paralysis and change orders. Time to sue.

  • davistrain

    Here in California, it takes longer to build eight miles of light rail line than it did to build 800 miles of railroad back in the 1860s. Of course it was a lot faster when the builder could have the US Army clear away any recalcitrant native tribes, and the buffalo hunters could kill off any bison that got in the way. Nowadays between the various government entities, public utilities and NIMBY groups (and their lawyers), it’s no wonder that some projects seem to take longer than the Pharaohs took to get their Pyramids built.

  • The Pershing Square work is taking an inordinate amount of time as well.

  • AnoNYC

    This is very frustrating because E 148th St is an important low-stress alternative eastbound route to E 149th St.

    Navigating the Hub can be dicey, even for an experienced bicyclists. There’s very heavy automotive traffic during business hours.

  • Kevin Love

    It is because the USA has become a “Can’t do society.” See:

    http://www.thepaincomics.com/weekly080730.htm

  • bolwerk

    No. Because they’re enablers.

  • ahwr

    Would it? Or are you just romanticizing the past? ~50 years ago is around when construction on the 63rd street tunnel started. Half of it is still unused. The other half took 20 years for partial service, another 10 to connect to QB.

  • neroden

    Contractor problems again.

    Maybe it’s time to take this stuff in-house. Have the city hire its own workers.

  • Joe R.

    Maybe 60 years ago would have been more like it. I know we did most things pretty fast at least up through the mid 1950s. IIRC the major cause of the 63rd Street tunnel delays was money problems, not an inability to get it done quickly. During the same era each of the original WTC towers went from breaking ground to finished in under three years.

  • r

    Which means it’s a management problem. Is anyone leading DOT?

  • Ari_F_S

    Same thing with Myrtle Avenue Plaza in Clinton Hill. But the staging area on Myrtle isn’t as bad as the photo in this article.

  • Richard Propper

    This project is substantially over budget as well. Additionally no plan has been announced as to what agency will be responsible for maintaining the plaza, cleaning it and providing security once it is completed The new Tappan Zee Bridge will take less time to build and open than this plaza. What a shameful display of mismanagement!

    Richard Propper, former president of HUB 3RD AVENUE BID.

  • Shemp

    Capital construction is DDC not DOT – read the actual story above

  • Shemp

    Agency statement is useless standard boilerplate, not communication about the project

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

Seven Street Redesigns That DDC Is Taking Forever to Build

|
How long does it take the Department of Design and Construction to build out a pedestrian plaza with permanent materials? How about a protected bike lane separated from traffic by concrete curbs? Sidewalk extensions? The answer, if you can call it that, is “anyone’s guess.” Or, to be slightly more specific, “anyone’s guess, but at […]

Four More Street Redesigns That Are Taking Forever to Build

|
On Monday, we posted a list of seven street redesign projects that remain unfinished years after they went through the city’s public planning process, with the Department of Design and Construction far behind schedule. DDC gave varying reasons for the delays, citing subsurface infrastructure work that precedes above-ground construction, as well as “changes and updates during the design phase of the project,” and “additional work […]